Monday, March 25, 2013

Facing Burnout

By Virgil R. Carter 
Chief staff officers in nonprofit organizations are interface between an organization’s members, customers and staff.  Chief staff officers are always “on stage”, always being observed and often being evaluated by a host of volunteers and staff, each with varying perspectives and motives.  Sound familiar?  Year after year of this can easily bring a chief staff officer face to face with burnout.  Have you experienced burnout?  Do you know CEOs who have gone through burnout?  The continuous, never-ending burden of top leadership can wear anyone down.

Are there some ways to reduce or avoid burnout? 

A recent Internet article from LeaderPoint notes that while the weight of being in charge can overcome the most successful leaders, burnout is often a function of not delegating and working through others effectively.  Harvard Business Review blogger John Baldoni is quoted as stating that the “best way to overcome the drive than made (CEOs) successful in the first place—the relentless pursuit of perfection—is to shift focus from one’s own success to the success of the executive team.”

Here are some suggestions from the article to help avoid burnout:

--Lead through others:  Being a CEO widens the scope and increases the magnitude of the results to be achieved.  Assign others the significant outcomes so that the CEO is not the bottleneck, consumed with personal problem-solving.

--Knowing everything:  No CEO can do everything well.  Accepting that no one can possibly know everything allows one to ask more questions, learn more and allows the work to remain with those show should be doing it.

--Enabling others:  Motivating others is a challenge.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Instead, focus on the work to be done, the desired outcome and assign these to key staff.  Big jobs with significant outcomes tend to motivate people.

The bottom line is about getting results, consistently over time.  It’s hard to do that without the support and assistance from others. One of the best ways for CEOs to achieve success is to drop their invincibility posture.  Successful leadership and successful organizations are not a solo act.

To read the article “Avoid Burnout by Focusing on Your Team”, by John Baldoni, go here:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Communications Planning

By Virgil R. Carter

How many of you have been ambushed in the communications trap?  I have and it’s often not very pretty.  For example, at a meeting of the respected Past President Committee, and esteemed member says, “This organization does a crappy job of communicating.  I never know what’s going on, except for my annual dues invoice!  What should I renew when this organization can’t communicate any better than that?”  Does this ring a bell?

Of course you have a beautiful 4-color monthly magazine, a wide variety of newsletters or a range of subject, you have a web site, a blog and monthly postings.  And you send emailed and snail mailed communications to members on a regular basis.  When you remind the speaker of this, the response is often “well, I never read any of that stuff”!  It would be funny if it wasn’t so true!

Communications are vitally important.  The challenge is that most associations have a wide range of audience segments.  These segments are interested in some messages (and media) and not others.  This is a case of “I want what I want when I want it (the way I want it).”  There is no simple, single solution for communications with diverse members and customers.  We are not all a size 6, living in one geographical area!

What to do?  One useful proactive tool is creation of an annual communications plan.  Conceived at the outset of each fiscal year, and modified as may be necessary during the year, the plan contains a small number of high priority messages for the year.  For example, the messages might focus on new technical information, strategic priorities, and/or association achievements which improve the value proposition for members and customers. 

A communications plan also includes a schedule of key events and appropriate media to reach desired audience segments during the year.  Your public relations staff can use the communications plan and schedule as the guide for creating messages, presentations and articles throughout the year for volunteer and staff leaders.

For an annual communications plan to work, it must have the understanding and support of senior volunteer leaders, senior executives and communications staff.  These are the folks who will be doing most of the communications during the year.  Volunteer and staff leaders must understand that their individual, personal messages are secondary to the consistent presentation of the important messages from the organization each year.   This is what makes for better, more effective communications which reaches more and more of your important members and customers.

Reaching your members and customers effectively is aided by repetition. Yes, I said repetition!  Repetition enables more audiences to become more aware of and understand important communications. Have you ever wondered why commercials are so repetitive?  One-time messages simply don’t have much impact.
If you want to improve your association’s communications, try working with your volunteer and staff leaders to create an annual communications plan, and update it every year.  And to ensure the plan’s effectiveness, consider an annual communications assessment process with members to see which messages are understood, which media may be more effective, and those that are not. 

An annual communications plan and a communications assessment process are some of the surest ways to reach members and customers—even the members who are challenging to reach and may not read! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Emerging Markets City by City

By Virgil R. Carter

Many organizations considering a global growth strategy consider a national or regional view when formulating their growth strategy.  But another, alternative strategy is taking shape—focus on fast-growing urban areas!
A tremendous wave of urbanization is fueling growth across the emerging world.  It’s said that this urbanization trend will create an over four-billion-strong global “consumer class” by 2025, up from one billion in 1990.  Nearly two billion will be in emerging market cities.  Few organizational leaders, however, focus on the importance of cities when considering global growth strategies.  Researchers Richard Dobbs, Jaana Remes and Fabian Achaer, writing in a recent McKinsey Quarterly issue comment that “fewer than one in five executives makes location decision at the city (rather than country) level”.
“Our research indicates that 440 emerging-market cities…will account for close to half of expected global GDP growth between 2010 and 2025”, the author write.  “Crafting and implementing strategies that emphasize such cities will require new attention from senior leaders, new organizational structures that take account of urban rather than just regional or national markets, and potentially difficult choices about which activities to scale back elsewhere to free up resources for new thrusts”, they say. 
In addition to supporting geographic priority-setting, a city-level view can help companies sharpen their marketing strategies.  For example, non-profit organizations in the math, science and engineering fields would want to study demographics to find those cities where universities are located, where there is a growing research and manufacturing base and where young professionals in these disciplines reside.  These demographics, combined with a study of household incomes and spending patterns will help organizations to sharpen their global strategies.
As significant global economic activity shifts to developing nations, non-profit organizations should be aware of the growth dynamic taking place in cities.  Giving an organization’s growth strategy a global dimension may enable non-profits to be positioned to allocate resources more effectively and to more readily seize global opportunities.  For the full member edition article, go to

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Boss or Leader?

By Virgil R. Carter

For existing and aspiring CEOs, it’s always good to ask, “Do you aspire to be a boss or a leader”?  What’s the difference?  It’s an important question.

In a recent article, author Terry Starbucker took a look at this question.  He notes that “in a fast paced, high stress business environment, it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode.”  In other words, stop being a leader and start acting like a boss.  

A boss tends to be someone at the top of the hierarchal, command-and-control type of organizational structure.  And Starbucker says, “A boss supervises a staff, the staff report to the boss like it says on the organizational chart, and, of course, the staff does exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “he’s the boss!”

The downside of “being a boss” is that “a leader, at any level, can become a not-so-pleasant person that creates a not-so-pleasant work environment, and brings progress to a screeching halt”, according to the author.  So how can you tell what type of person you are, whether you are a boss or a leader?
Starbucker identifies “the 15 most significant differences between Boss Man syndrome and real leadership, as follows:
  • A boss only sees things in black and white, while the leader also sees the grey
  • A boss likes to tell, while the leader prefers to teach
  • A boss likes being on a pedestal, above the fray, while the leader likes to be among those they lead
  • A boss gets lost in the details, while the leader keeps the big picture
  • A boss rules by fear, while the leader inspires with trust
  • A boss displays great hubris, while the leader shows quiet humility
  • A boss likes to talk, while the leader prefers to listen
  • A boss wants to dictate, while the leader would rather collaborate
  • A boss outlines the “What”, while the leader also always explains the “Why”
  • A boss thinks first about profit, while the leader thinks first about people
  • A boss gets lost in process, while the leader gets absorbed in performance
  • A boss is a disabler, while the leader is an enabler
  • A boss criticizes, while the leader coaches
  • A boss manages to an end, while the leader serves for a purpose
  • A boss demotivates with impassiveness, while a leader inspires with caring & empathy
The author concludes by suggesting, “Keep this list handy, or better yet, post it on your personal bulletin board as you continue on your leadership journey, so you can recognize any Boss Man tendencies and stop them in their tracks.
Be a leader, not a boss!