An Executive Director's point of view


May 15, 2017: Dealing with problems

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
A colleague recently requested advice about how to handle a problem with her Board that she felt had become toxic.

Unfortunately, these types of queries are not unusual.

I generally suggest the person simply leave, since it may be difficult to find a way to continue working in a dysfunctional organization.

But most folks are not in a financial position to quit without first acquiring another job.

So, they need to find a way to deal with the situation right now.

Sometimes, Boards make bad decisions without staff input, such as refusing to follow plans or budgets (or even to craft those in the first place). That may simply be how they are accustomed to conducting their own businesses.

Other times, one or more Board members have conflicts of interest and either don't realize it, don't think it matters, or don't care. Or, a strong-willed Board member - often the Chair - wins approval from colleagues who are loathe to challenge a proposal.

Board members may even perform tasks that are included in staff job descriptions, leaving employees to wonder who is actually responsible for what.

What can you do?

Meet with Board leaders (ideally, two or more people) to raise concerns in as non-confrontational a manner as possible. Ask them to clarify your duties and responsibilities. Do your best to do what they want you to do.

Then update your resume and discreetly look for another job.

April 17, 2017: Respect introverts

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
You can do that by leaving them alone.

Don't call attention to them.

Don't ask them to talk in meetings, or to comment, or to share their opinions. They'll decide for themselves if they want to do any of those things.

Don't call on them in class.

Don't ask for volunteers and then pick people (like them) who didn't volunteer.

Don't demand they speak in front of groups - unless that is really, really necessary.

And if you believe it is, find ways they can do that without forcing them into situations that will trigger their anxieties and fears.

Sometimes, written correspondence, email, and social media will be satisfactory alternatives.

But if that is not enough, and your organization needs them to be more personally outgoing, help them to develop that ability, but in ways that are comfortable for them.

Don't force them to do things the way you do. That just won't work.

March 11, 2017: Religious advocacy?

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
If a charity funds social services and education but embeds religious instruction in its services, is it serving the needy or using that service as cover to win converts?

February 03, 2017: Rescuing professionals

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's how some scientists are helping their colleagues who have been barred from entering the U.S. by the anti-Muslim ban.

February 02, 2017: Pay your bills

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Not-for-profits should stop acting like they are entitled to free services because they pursue worthy missions.

Their work shouldn't matter. They should still pay their bills.

It doesn't matter if they serve war refugees, terminally ill patients, hungry children, the disabled, or anybody else in need.

While it's great if they can secure donations or discounts, they should not expect those nor think they are entitled to them.

Not-for-profits (already exempt from income tax and, sometimes, sales tax, too) should pay their rent, utilities, credit card fees, shipping costs, printing bills, internet service charges, and everything else required to conduct organizational business.

The Syrian American Medical Association is currently asking Facebook for a waiver of its fund-raising fees, which cover legitimate, online expenses. I hope Facebook stands firm and refuses the request.

This isn't the first time, and it won't be the last time, that a not-for-profit tries to avoid paying for costs it has incurred.

This self-righteous practice should end now.

January 04, 2017: Mind your own business

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
While CEO of a running association, I nixed an article about a member who conducted his marathon training in the Iraq desert while deployed on a military assignment. I felt it would appear that we were praising his service, and that had nothing to do with the work of our organization.

But we ran it as part of a larger article when we learned that then-Congressman Rod Blagojevich, part of a peacekeeping mission in Belgrade, Serbia, started his daily runs at 4:30 a.m., because he knew there would be no American bombings at that time.

And another member modified her running regimen while participating in a scientific mission in a remote location.

The message was that all of these people were so committed to running that they found ways to continue their training despite being placed in situations where doing so was not easy.

The article was about running, not about the runners' duties.

When disseminating information about your organization, stick your organization's business. For example, don't hang a sign that reads, "Support Our Troops." That's the same as, "Stop the War." Neither has anything to do with the group's business.

So, while you may occasionally voice support or opposition to a policy regarding what you consider basic American rights, that should be an exception, not a routine activity.

Just mind your own business, and don't get involved in matters beyond what is relevant to your organization.

December 13, 2016: What's old is new

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt

November 18, 2016: What friends are for

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
At a workshop stressing the impact of a satisfying personal life on career development, attendees were told to test the depth of their personal network by asking themselves to think of two people, to whom they were not related, who would loan them $500 without asking why they needed it.

Think about that.

November 04, 2016: Let it go

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Five million people are estimated to have participated in today's March and rally in Chicago to celebrate the World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs (I was not one of them).

Even if that number is exaggerated, it is still far, far more than welcomed the Pope to town, cheered the first astronaut to walk on the moon, or publicly demonstrated enthusiasm for any person of note.

A lot of association employees left their desks to watch President Obama's first inaugural address on television eight years ago, and quite a few folks may have deserted their work stations in the last few days (or, in Chicago, fled the office) to watch or attend a baseball game, root for the long-maligned Cubbies, or simply catch a glimpse of these new sports celebrities.

If something like that happens at your office, just let it go. Things like that don't happen that often. Understand your employees' passions and build their distraction into your timetable.

They're going to play hookey anyway, so let them enjoy themselves. They'll be back soon.

November 02, 2016: Political talk

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Some association leaders want to prevent their employees from engaging in heated discussions about the upcoming presidential campaign.

Well, if you are among those seeking to restrict exercise of the first amendment right of freedom of speech, you may want to start with sporting events, not political campaigns. Athletic competition often generates far more passion that does political competition.

Ban debates about the strengths and weaknesses of sports franchises. Explicitly prohibit negative comments about a home team - professional or college - that is participating in a championship game.

Ban debates about movies. Employees should not mar the workplace with arguments regarding the quality of the cinema.

Prohibit critical comments about the Oscars and don't allow statements about which deserving actor, director, theme, or movie was unfairly snubbed. Don't let people opine about which nominees are overrated.

While you are at it, you may want to create a staff position called, "Director of Agreeableness." That person can be empowered to penalize anybody who voices an opinion that somebody might disagree with, as well as anybody who replies to such a statement.

That way, we can perpetuate the fantasy that everybody in an association agrees with everybody else about everything, all of the time.
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