An Executive Director's point of view


December 23, 2016: Bad manager

Posted by: David M Patt
The Executive Director, when hiring a professional to work on a two-person team, told the new employee that if there were any problems between the team members, the more senior person would be retained.

Well, there were problems - the more senior person worked independently, ignoring the new team member as much as possible.

The Exec did not step in to help devise a solution to the problem, claiming there just wasn't enough time to do that.

So, the new employee quit, as had two predecessors.

Why did the Executive Director allow this problem to fester?

November 11, 2016: Taking care of business

Posted by: David M Patt
The new Executive Director of a well-regarded organization shared her worries with a few colleagues during a break at an educational conference.

"I don't know if we'll still be here a year from now," she confided, much to the surprise of those who heard her concerns.

I was shocked.

I had worked with her predecessor and found him to be a knowledgeable and effective leader. I had no idea the organization was in trouble.

Apparently, he had totally ignored his management responsibilities, instead devoting all of his time to advocacy and fund-raising. He had cultivated a positive profile for himself and for the organization, but the group was ready to implode.

His successor recounted a host of problems. One of them, not the worst, was that he had opened a new bank account for each corporate and foundation grant the group had received.

Seemingly unaware of the practice of fund accounting and the designation of restricted funds, the organization possessed seventeen bank accounts, and some employees received multiple checks each payday.

The new Exec was able to pull things together, but she had to spend a great deal of time on activities her predecessor should have already handled.

Administration is an essential function of any organization. If administrative tasks are not performed in a timely and quality fashion, the entire association can crumble, and with it all of the programs that the group's audiences count on.

So, be sure to take care of business.

November 07, 2016: So, what is it that you do?

Posted by: David M Patt
Upon becoming the Executive Director of one association, I said to the President, "I know exactly what needs to be done here. But what do YOU want me to do?"

She said she didn't know. The Board, she related, really didn't understand what an Executive Director does.

That's a big problem in many associations. And it leaves the Board and Exec with an unclear notion of how the position meets the organization's needs.

Actually, Boards often don't want a leader. They just want a helper. But they don't say that.

One association sought an Executive Director who was, "a strong leader with a record of accomplishment." The Board said it should be a proactive person who wouldn't wait to be told what to do.

But the ED's duties were all clerical, and Board members complained about that person doing things they claimed had not been authorized.

When offered a job as Executive Director, always be sure you and the Board understand and agree upon the duties of the job. It may not always be what you think it is.

January 20, 2015: The seat of power

Posted by: David M Patt
If you are a CEO, always sit next to the Board Chair at in-person meetings of the Board of Directors.

It will enable you to better communicate with the Chair during the meeting, pass notes, discreetly offer direction, and interject comments when you feel it necessary.

It will also allow members to observe you as part of the leadership team, and help them recognize and accept your authority in the association.

If you don't get along with the Board Chair, sit far enough away so you cannot easily be interrupted or prevented from speaking, but close enough to command attention when you want to participate.

When you sit at the front of a meeting table or room, it is clear that you are in charge (even if you are not chairing the meeting). When you sit somewhere else, it lessens your importance in the eyes of others.

October 05, 2014: Using skills differently

Posted by: David M Patt
All CEOs need to be strategic thinkers.

In staffed organizations, they also need to be skilled at supervising and directing the people who carry out the details of the work.

In one-person offices, though, they need to know how to carry out those details because they're often the ones who have to do the work.

In one-person offices, the "staff" are volunteers - sometimes Board members - who may or may not always be available, may or may not do the work on time, and may or may not be good at what they do.

The CEO does not supervise or direct them, but instead coordinates (or tries to coordinate) and facilitates their activities. And the CEO cannot discipline them or fire them.

In staffed organizations, CEOs need political know-how to deal effectively with media, government, and other groups.

In one-person offices, CEOs need political know-how to deal effectively with volunteers so those folks will do what needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, when it needs to be done.

Same skills, different audiences.

August 05, 2014: Over eager Chair-elect

Posted by: David M Patt
Beware Chair-elects who "jump the gun" and try to assert themselves before their terms as Chair begin.

While the Chair-elect position provides continuity in succession, it also creates a lame duck Chair whose authority may be infringed upon by the Chair-to-be.

Ideally, those two should work out their own transition plan. Sometimes they do that early on, with the Chair keeping the Chair-elect involved in all major activities.

But sometimes the two don't get along and the transition becomes anything but orderly.

Politically, you don't want to estrange the Chair-elect, but you have a professional obligation to respect the leadership role of the current Chair.

So, what can you do?

1. Demonstrate loyalty to both of them and help them each succeed in their current roles. You need to maintain your job of working for the organization, not working for either of them.

2. Let the Chair-elect share a plan with you for the coming term. Show that you can be relied upon as an organizational partner when the time comes.

3. Look for opportunities to encourage dialogue between them, even if it does not yield anything positive. Although it is their relationship, not yours, poor interaction can negatively impact the organization.

4. Gently remind the Chair-elect, when necessary, that actions must be approved by the Board of Directors and that the Chair is the governing leader of the organization. The Chair-elect will probably respect that and want to avoid setting a bad precedent for the next Chair-elect.

5. Ensure, as best you can, that the organization is following an appropriate course. Speak privately with the Chair, Chair-elect, and anybody else who can help ensure that wise decision-making takes place.

June 11, 2014: Get the scoop from email

Posted by: David M Patt
The Global Executives Study found that 60% of executives get their news from emailed newsletters. Read the whole study to find out more.

Thanks to ASAE for pointing to it.

Posted by: David M Patt
Be a great boss. Don't be an average boss.

July 07, 2013: Delegate or outsource?

Posted by: David M Patt
You don't have to know how to do everything - even if you manage a one-person organization.

Delegate to volunteers or outsource to other professionals. Spend your time doing what you do best and let others do what they do best.

March 19, 2013: Outlasting the Board

Posted by: David M Patt
A CEO who serves a lengthy tenure is likely to outlast all of the Board members on the original hiring committee.

If troubles had plagued the organization when the CEO started, nobody who remembers will still be serving. Nobody on the Board will have endured the turmoil that may have existed or experienced the angst that may have accompanied change.

They may not appreciate the CEO's success at bringing the organization forward. The improvements, if known at all, may have simply become organizational lore.

So, always be prepared to meet people's expectations for today and tomorrow. What you did yesterday may not matter anymore.
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