If you don't know why you do what you do, how will you get people to be apart of it? This is a message that many, many of the nonprofits I interact with are missing. So, do you know why you are doing what you are doing? Better yet, are you selling your messages those that already believe it?
What do you believe?
One thing that I keep reminding myself of is a comment Jim Kouzes made in the Open Leadership discussion I attended a few weeks back. He said, "...leadership is a discussion; that is why social media is so important". You can't lead others without talking, listening responding. This statement seems to be the answer to many questions people have been asking me lately.
The other day a coworker was asking me, why I love twitter so much. I asked her if she remembered what it was like to send her first email (she did). Take that exciting feeling of using a new technology, a new way to communicate with someone and you have twitter. Never before have I been able to communicate with NFL players, my favorite actors, and people like Jim Kouzes without a multi-step process that would probably end up with me being disappointed. Now, they actually talk to me! I am a better follower, in this instance, because they are directly communicating with me. The people that I highly respect that are normally out of reach are having discussions with me! They are making me feel special and connected because they are taking time out of their day to send me something in 140 characters.
So, why do people still only have one way communication with their accounts when there can be such a great return on their tweets? This is actually starting to turn into a pet peeve of mine because so much can be accomplished by talking to someone with twitter.
An example: A few weeks ago, I was searching for people who talk about leadership. I found and followed a few accounts. One leadership consultant posted a tweet that asked people to fill out a survey for his new book about leadership. I was interested so I clicked over. The first questions asks if you are a leader or not. Point blank. Based on the tweets of this person, I think the question he was asking was, "Are you a CEO?" assuming that because you are a CEO you are a leader and if you are not a CEO you are not a leader. I asked for clarification to twitter. A month later, no response. Outside of completely disagreeing with the premise of the question, I really expected a response from the person! Now, they are down a follower. I want to chat with people. I want to know why you are different and special.
Another example is something that happened yesterday. One person I follow tweeted about a sale at one of my favorite stores. I then preceded to purchase a few items from the sale and my friend and I tweeted back and forth a bit about it; at one point I called her a bad influence. I wasn't expecting the store to respond, at all, even though we included them in several tweets. Then:
How awesome is it that the store responded? They did have to. We were just having a conversation about them in a positive manner i.e. we both got great deals online at a sale that we were reminded about through twitter.
Leaders can really take advantage of this. They can help develop their followers and find new ones. They can aid other leaders and connect people together. It is exactly what others are looking for! Plus, we are impressed and excited when you respond; which, in the long run, creates a more dedicated follower.
I wanted to share the post below that was originally posted on The Glass Hammer. If you have ever been curious about how Take Your Daughter to Work Day and the White House Project are related, read Marie Wilson's interview below. I find this extremely inspiring; especially as we head to the polls tomorrow.
“The first job I applied for was at DuPont. I took a test, and the results came back saying I was a candidate for management. They didn’t hire me because as they said, ‘you’ll just get pregnant and have a child.’ This was 1962,” said Marie Wilson, Founder and President of The White House Project.
Wilson, one of the honorary “Founding Mothers” of the Ms. Foundation and co-founder of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, has been advocating for women in leadership ever since.
“If you’re going to be a leader,” she said, “don’t rush to change yourself. The world is still mixed about ambitious women. You need people who will encourage you to dream big – and the world is often discouraging. You need a tough skin that is porous – slough off the critics, but listen.”
A Career of Service
Wilson studied philosophy and religion at Vanderbilt University and began working in civil rights in the 1960s. “Working in the civil rights movement, through a very political church, gave me a wonderful opportunity to see how advocacy and political change are both necessary to make important social progress – something that eventually led to my current work at The White House Project to advance women into leadership.”
She continued, “I understood the disempowerment of racism, but it took me a while to see that women of all races needed power. I got my first shot at it through lobbying for AAUW on reproductive choice, child care and environmental issues at the Iowa state legislature. Then later, through a newly minted position, building what became one of the largest divisions of women’s programming at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.”
She continued, “We built one of the largest divisions in the US to help more women enter and move up in the paid work force, and eventually to help integrate women into mostly male management teams. We went at this through changing the way individual women and men behaved – with mixed results. Then I read Rosabeth Beth Moss Kanter’s book Men and Women of the Corporation, where Kanter showed that structural issues, numbers (how many people in the leadership group are “like you”), the distribution of power, and opportunity, were key to how people behaved in these large organizations”
“To this day, I believe numbers, critical mass, is key to how it becomes normal for women to lead alongside men and put the focus on the organization’s agenda, not gender. I spent a couple of years working for an association of bankers where I put some of this learning into practice, and on the side ran a successful race against eleven men for an at-large seat on the Des Moines City Council,” she explained.
“One day I got a call from a friend daring me to apply for the executive director position at the Ms. Foundation for Women; the only national organization that came to places like Des Moines. I was intrigued and wrangled an interview that went well, because, as I learned, when you’re not really looking for a job you’re ‘irresistible.’”
Wilson got the job – and decided to take it. But it wasn’t exactly what she expected. “I must have really wanted to take the job; because I ignored the reality… they had no money. By the time I had moved to New York with my youngest son, they had moved the foundation into two little rooms. I had turned my life over – left a political office and a promising future in higher office.”
“Then I thought, ‘What would my mother do?’ So I went out and bought clothes!” she said with a laugh. She explained, “Really, people give money to organizations where people look like they are thriving.” This was 1985, and Wilson led the Ms. Foundation for 20 years.
At the foundation Wilson began to build the strategy that that had drawn her there, microenterprise; a strategy widely excepted now, but at the time, Wilson and her team had to help change the guidelines of major foundations who only funded women under “poverty” not “business development.” They also had to invent a way that institutional and individual funders could fund together and learn about this new income generating strategy. “We invented what was possibly the first donor collaborative,” she said.
One of her proudest achievements was founding Take Our Daughters to Work Day at Ms. “It was the first time I understood how important it was to give people something they could do about a large issue that needed to change,” she said. “I also found that the conflict involved in the program was important to keeping it alive: It caused people to ask questions not only about girls but about the issues that boys were facing.”
She concluded, “Finally, though, our core competency of funding women who were making amazing innovations in social policies dealing with health care, living wages and violence, I realized that until women moved beyond advocacy to sitting side by side at the power tables with men, things wouldn’t change.”
Founding the White House Project
Wilson continued, “After almost twenty years, I left the Ms. Foundation to dedicate the third act of my work life wholly to women’s leadership. At the time the US was 47th in the world in women’s political participation. Now we are 74th.”
SHhe continued, “When I saw the numbers of women in leadership, I was stunned. I had no idea it was as bad as it was. People really thought (and still think) that women occupy at least half the leadership positions in the U.S.”
The White House Project was created to advance women’s leadership across sectors, and works “at the nexus of business, politics and media.”
She explained, “Kathleen Hall Jamieson, then the Dean of Public Policy and Communications at Annenberg, told me that we had to change the conversation about women’s leadership to succeed, to change the perception of women as leaders.”
“We tackle this through training, and have now trained ten thousand women across five regions to lead in their communities and especially to run for office. Tomorrow 107 women trained by The White House Project will run in various states across the US.”
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Wilson said, “and through film, media, and popular culture we attempt to show women as leaders.”
She continued, “Finally, we have a Corporate Council, who insisted that we quantify the numbers of women in leadership and with their encouragement of our corporate council, we recently benchmarked women’s leadership across ten sectors of American culture and found that on average, women are only 18% of the leadership in these sectors.”
“The final survey, Benchmarking Women’s Leadership, is filled with recommendations about how to change this percentage – flexible schedules, sponsorship, recruitment and retention strategies, but looping around to where I began, I don’t think anything short of what the civil rights movement did – move from advocacy to accountability, and establish targets for the numbers of women in leadership will really get us there – that and a national comprehensive child care policy,” she said, the mother of
five children herself.
“I’m really interested in the whole business of how we get to the numbers we need without quotas,” Wilson explained. “And just as other countries have forged ahead of us with quotas in politics, now, led by Norway, others are following suit and mandating the 40% mark for the numbers of women on their publicly traded boards. We will see the effects the new research on diversity promises as other countries innovate and profit. We will be left in the dust.”
Women are Transformational Leaders
Wilson believes that women are sorely needed as leaders in the new economy. “We need to look long term at the issues of business’s relationship to society, beyond quarterly profits – both for the health of our people and our communities.”
She continued, “But there is anxiety about what the future holds. And women have lots of experience in toughing it out. The climate calls for the skills women have. “There are calls for transformational skills – being able to move, to shift. Women have been able to shift careers forever. Women have had to be adaptive leaders to survive.”
Advice for Women Leaders
“As much as possible, do what you love.” She continued, “and if you want a relationship, find a relationship that will support you – that will mutually support both of your ambitions.”
“It’s important to be optimistic,” she said. “If you’re a hopeful person, everybody will bring you their despair. Despair – I eat that stuff for breakfast!” she joked.
She continued, “In all of my life, I’ve been interested in young women and how they are moving in life and work. Their energy is contagious! I really enjoy helping young women understand they have the power to make something happen and opening doors for them. I have an enormous privilege that way. It’s one of the things that gives me pleasure,” she said.
She continued, “My mother says that she wishes she hadn’t taught me to serve,” she
joked, “because she says, ‘I’d be rich.’”
“But I am rich – in a way that really matters.”
The Friday before last I took an hour out of my day to listen to a webinar about Charlene Li's latest book, Open Leadership. (Shortly, you will be able to listen to this webinar and the other in the series as well.) This particular session was on redefining leadership. What exactly does leadership mean in the world of social media? Charlene had a great guest speaker, Jim Kouzes who wrote the Leadership Challenge and, his new book, The Truth About Leadership.
Two things really struck me about the webinar. The first is a comment Jim made. He said that he uses more social media tools, and uses them more often, than his 21 year old grandson. Then, he tweeted back to me:
In my day job, I utilize The Leadership Challenge to teach leadership skills; now, the author is talking to me! He provided a personality for the book that I have read and have had many leadership students read. And he says he is more effective at social media than a person who is stereotypically suppose to excel at social. This is turning into more than I ever expected to get out of a free event. He is showing that "getting" social media is a mindset, not an age requirement. He is showing how he is leading with the tool as well. He is responding to his "membership".
Second, he is leading openly. What do I mean by that? Jim is being authentic about who is and what he stands for by putting himself out there. Unlike other "leadership experts" that you can find all over Twitter, he is responding. He is making himself vulnerable. He is really modeling the way for other leaders and executives. (Area 1, anyone catch that?) He answers questions and retweets too! It is exactly what I am looking for in a leader. He is demonstrating what a leader is in a different tool that is assessable by all.
Fast forward a bit. I was in a meeting with 2 other staff and a member. The member was saying how she understands social but she isn't sure about it, but she really wants to do better. I went off on my little spiel and ended with what Jim taught me. CEOs, associations, and businesses in general need to embrace the tool as a means of leadership. It is a way to show who the organization is, what it stands for and where it is going. For the CEO, it is a way to lead your membership and inspire them in ways that haven't been attainable before. It can show your authenticity in ways that required you to be in person for in the past. In the end, the person got it. It took some time, but the added input on social not just connecting people, but allowing you to lead really hit home for her.
It takes more than leadership to get an idea through to implementation. In most organizations, you have to learn the political moves necessary to see a project through. Sometimes, that even means planting the idea with someone else.
Death by delay. Adversaries may try to put off the discussion, ask for additional information, or otherwise delay a decision on your idea, thereby slowing momentum. Keep your audience focused on making a decision. Confusion. Detractors often present distracting information or try to link your idea to several others in an attempt to confound people. Be clear about what your idea is and what it isn't. Fear mongering. Nothing kills an idea faster than irrational anxieties. Know what fears your challengers might stir up and be prepared to allay them.
I like these tips so much, I bought the book and it is currently waiting for me in my Kindle app. To make it even more compelling, a coworker finished the book in two days and is recommending it to everyone. I plan on getting through a good portion waiting in line today for the second DC Daily Show taping. (Yes, I have a "can be admitted if you get there before 500 other people" ticket.) I hope it lives up to the recomendation my coworker gave.
The other night I was at a committee meeting for a group I volunteer with. The group, in a round about way, does have an organization that it is affiliated with and a board member from that organization came to our meeting to give us an update on ways we could get involved with upcoming events. We are going to call him Al*.
Al came to the meeting about 30 minutes late for a 1 hour meeting. The committee members didn't know Al was coming, but our Chair may not have passed that information along. Al was hoping to get us all involved on an event that is this coming weekend and wanted us to come to their annual meeting. But, Al couldn't give us any information on either opportunity. Al didn't know the dates of the annual meeting, but he did know it was coming up!
Al continued talking, causing out meeting to run late. He was trying his hardest to provide all the information he knew. But, outside of the event this coming weekend, we weren't sure how we could be involved. We knew the Board wanted our aid but were confued with how they needed us.
So what can we learn from Al?
First, educate your Board members. Al had a captive audience of 20+ people including the Mayor of the city for a few minutes. He should have this information at his fingertips. I had my iPad with me and had to lookup the dates of the Annual Meeting for him. Al should have been ready to answer any questions we have, within reason, about that meeting; really sell it to us.
Second, that we, as nonprofit staff, need to teach our Board members what they should be doing in these situations. Imagine what all Al would have been able to accomplish if he would have had the right tools at our meeting? He could have inspired us to really lead our community to do more great things. Instead, we were all thinking about when the meeting was going to be dismissed. We were ready to leave and were not listening to AL. Board members need to be organization promoters and take advantage of every opportunity.
Third, Al needed to define his ask. He needed to be armed with specifics of what the organization needed from our group. Al needed to be prepared to share that with us and get us on board. Then, Al should have gotten a firm commitment from all of us.
In The End
Luckily, we have some really great volunteers and we are able to make the upcoming event. Based on the email chain, everyone has figured out everything else as well. Learn from "Al," and be prepared!
*Al is obviously not the board member's real name and I am purposely trying to hit which organization Al is a board member to.
For those of you who don't know, I love HBR. The blog, management tip of the day (links to the email sign-up), and the magazine are great. When we get issue in the office I am usually the one hoarding it. I actually have a deal with another coworker. If she gets the new issue first, she has to share it with me when she is done.
It should comes as no surprise that this article on nonprofit leadership hit an accord with me. Leadership is a must. As the article shows, you organization will not achieve all that it can without a strong leader and a shared vision. Look at how much leaders aid the organization, how much of a difference they make and how passionate are they about the mission. Those are the promoters you want as the public face of your mission. If they are a skilled leader, they are not only who you need, but the ones you should want. You should cultivate them and encourage their development.
Developing the future generations is even more vital. Yes, vital. What is going to happen when you are gone? What is going to happen when your senior and executive staff are gone? Who is going to replace them? What is your succession plan? Even at the manager level, you should be preparing your spot for the next person. At the senior and executive level, you should be training your direct reports. They need to be learning leadership and management skills that will take this, and their next, organization to the next level.
Additionally, any good leader will tell you that there is an expiration date on their leadership. At some point, for the good of the organization, they will need to move on. It will be difficult, but it happens. The life-cycle will continue. I am tired of the argument that great leaders and talent will leave if you invest in them. It is necessary. Investment is necessary for them and for you. What good is a stagnant nonprofit or staff member? You need new blood to keep the momentum going and for change to continue. It is a natural life-cycle and we should embrace it.
OK, enough of my preaching on leadership. The HBR post, Does Leadership Really Matter in Non-Profits:
Does leadership really matter? The executive director of a new foundation asked me that question earlier this year. At first I thought he was joking — after all, helping nonprofits attract and develop passionate and highly skilled leaders is part of what we do at Bridgespan. The back of my business card even says "leadership matters."
It seems clear to me that leadership is the most important of the three legs nonprofit organizations stand on (the other two being strategy and capital). Nonprofits can develop sound strategies and attract sufficient capital, but without strong leaders at the helm, they're unlikely to deliver outstanding results.
But maybe I shouldn't have been taken aback by the ED's question. Leadership often doesn't get its due in the nonprofit sector. A common sentiment is that good leaders and their teams are expensive to acquire and keep. Wouldn't that money be better spent on programs that aid those in need rather than on salaries? That fiscal response is often conflated with the belief by some in nonprofit circles that passion can overcome nearly any obstacle.
I replied to the question from the foundation head by telling him stories about nonprofit leaders who had achieved wonderful outcomes for their organizations, instances where pre- and post-trend lines of impact and performance clearly showed that something had changed for the better because of these executives' actions.
In some instances, such as that of Geoffrey Canada at Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), the leader's impact has been publicly acknowledged. President Obama selected the HCZ model as a template other cities can use to tackle the tough issues of their inner cities. The President had become aware of HCZ while still a senator, and had long endorsed Canada's work. He saw in Canada what others had — a hands-on, passionate manager with a solid track record of successful fund-raising and of developing effective community-based programs aimed at helping kids from disadvantaged backgrounds grow into productive adults.
Other leaders are less well known — people such as David Nelson, a former IBM executive who became the executive director at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NTE) and helped the organization increase the number of youth it served from 6,800 in 2001 to more than 50,000 in 2009. Nelson came to the role with a strong operations background and well-honed project management skills, both of which perfectly complemented the sitting CEO's deep fund-raising and marketing skills. Together they were able to develop and implement a business plan that increased NTE's impact sevenfold.
These and a few other stories I shared helped to convince the foundation director (and eventually his board) that he needed to expand the leadership-development efforts in his organization.
What about you? Would you have been similarly convinced?
Do you think leadership really matters? If someone asked you, how could you persuasively answer that question? If you serve on a nonprofit board, do you live out your beliefs? How do you ensure that your organization values leadership?
This morning I was pursuing the actual paper copy of Harvard Business Review and came across the article that is below: Women in Management: Delusions of Progress which HBR has thoughtfully put online. I wrote about the full report the authors had published through another outlet in early March. The fact that HBR is continuing to cover this issue makes me extremely happy. The more awareness there is about the lack of women in leadership positions the greater the chances are that we will make it through these glass doors.
About two weeks ago I was asked what I was doing to fix the fact that only 3% of Fortune500 CEO's are women. The answer I gave really surprised the individual. My position allows me the opportunity to influence the lives of many women and men. Though these programs we teach equality and that anyone can be a CEO. These young professionals are striving to gain ground in the nonprofit sector, but still, we are helping them reach their potential. I can't wait to see where they go in their careers.
The accepted message on gender disparity in the workplace has for the past 10 to 15 years been one of acknowledgment and reassurance: Yes, women represent just 3% of Fortune500 CEOs and less than 15% of corporate executives at top companies worldwide, but give it time. It’ll change. After all, women also make up 40% of the global workforce, with double-digit growth in certain countries. They’re earning advanced professional degrees in record numbers and in some areas surpassing men. Companies have implemented programs to fix structural biases against women and support their full participation in leadership. Women are finally poised to make it to the top, the argument goes. Not yet, but soon.
If only that were true. New research by our firm, Catalyst, shows that among graduates of elite MBA programs around the world—the high potentials on whom companies are counting to navigate the turbulent global economy over the next decade—women continue to lag men at every single career stage, right from their first professional jobs. Reports of progress in advancement, compensation, and career satisfaction are at best overstated, at worst just plain wrong.
“Frankly, the fact that the pipeline is not as healthy as we’d thought is both surprising and disappointing,” says Jim Turley, the chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, a sponsor of the research, which tracked more than 4,100 MBA students who graduated between 1996 and 2007. “Companies have been working on this, and I thought we’d seen progress. The last decade was supposed to be the ‘promised one,’ and it turns out that it wasn’t. This is a wake-up call for corporations.”
It’s especially disconcerting that, after a decade of aggressive efforts to create opportunities for women, inequity remains entrenched. Companies must acknowledge their failure on this front, learn why they haven’t succeeded, and come up with better programs to help talented women advance.
Even after adjusting for years of work experience, industry, and region, Catalyst found that men started their careers at higher levels than women. And that isn’t because women don’t aspire to the top—the finding holds when you include only women and men who say they’re aiming for senior executive positions. It’s not a matter of parenthood slowing women’s careers, either. Among women and men without children living at home, men still started at higher levels.
“Most companies’ systems are designed to be all about equity among a like group of jobs and roles,” observed Xerox chair Anne M. Mulcahy when we shared the results with her. “They’re not looking for inequity in terms of initial position.” Though well intentioned, “companies have gotten very good at managing grade levels and salary dispersions. If you come in the door in the wrong placement, those systems aren’t going to adjust the imbalance.”*
Firms must consider how their talent management processes contribute to the problem. This is especially critical regarding first jobs, since they set the stage for all the inequities that follow. Assumptions about demographics and life choices—women leave to start families; women don’t aspire to upper management; regional differences skew the results—have become handy excuses for gender inequity in the management ranks, even putting the onus on female employees for the discrepancies. But our results suggest they’re red herrings that don’t account for why women continue to lag.
Mulcahy proposed a simple test for companies to see if they have systemic bias. “Take the résumés of the last 100 people hired, remove the names, do an assessment of where the hires should be positioned, and compare that with where they were placed.”
After starting out behind, women don’t catch up. Men move further up the career ladder—and they move faster. In our study, the only women who advanced at an equal pace were those who began their post-MBA careers at middle management or above—and not many did. Only about 10% started at those levels, compared with 19% of men.
“Does this reflect the presumption that men are qualified and ready but women have to prove themselves first?” asks Bloomberg chief marketing officer Maureen A. McGuire. (More research will be needed to truly answer her question.) She adds: “Companies need to make sure they’re placing managers based on qualifications, not presumptions.”
Can we attribute men’s disproportionate advancement to early managerial assignments? No. Although it’s true that people who have managed others reached higher levels, the women and men in our study were equally likely at every career stage to have had direct reports.
We think that gender difference in advancement may reflect another problem altogether: bad first bosses.
Why they Change Jobs
And so we circle back to those fate-sealing first jobs. A quarter of the women in our study left their first job because of a difficult manager—nearly as many as those who moved on for more money (26%) or for a career change (27%). Only 16% of the men left because of a difficult manager. Of course, these results suggest that women and men may be treated differently by their first managers.
Once again, early-career success is proving to be crucial. “It’s very important who your first or second supervisor is,” says Rick Waugh, president and CEO of Scotiabank, another research sponsor. “Many times, that determines whether you’re going to stay with that organization and how far you’re going to advance. That first landing spot—whether you get coached, developed, and mentored or you get a bad manager—casts the die. Companies need to put more emphasis on manager–direct report relationships in that first job.”
Research shows that diverse talent supports innovation and business success, yet organizations underutilize and undervalue their highest-potential female talent. Given the commonly held misperception that the talent pipeline is robust, companies are at risk of allowing complacency to inhibit their competitive advantage. While progress has been made in many firms, more work clearly needs to be done. Even among the best and brightest managers, gender equality has yet to be attained. Despite genuine efforts to ensure fairness, some businesses may be inadvertently overlooking bias that creeps in at initial job placement. Others may underestimate early managers’ impact on employees’ career trajectories. And others may have neglected the topic of gender equality in recent years, considering it an issue of the past. Our research should indeed be a wake-up call, and organizations need to answer it with renewed efforts to combat systemic gender inequity. Not soon, but now.
*I underlined and italicized the quote.
If you don't subscribe to HBR's Tip of the Day, you should. Today's tip hit home for me. You have to be good and then great at what you are doing now before you move forward. AND in the process, it is ok to fail. That 4 letter f word isn't a bad word; it is ok to not succeed at everything on your first try. If I had succeeded at everything I tried, I would be living on the ISS right now.
Trying something new can be daunting, especially if you fall short at first. Before you get frustrated and give up, remember that practice really does make perfect. To achieve perfection, stop focusing on it. Instead, try to enjoy the process of trying. If you want to be a great manager, you need to enjoy being a poor one long enough to get good at it. If you want to be a stellar salesperson, you need to spend time being a clumsy one first. You can achieve anything as long as you are willing to enjoy striving for it along the way.