An Executive Director's point of view


August 07, 2017: Job titles, yet again

I guess I'm obsessed with job titles. I think they should describe what they really are.

A charity is looking for an "Executive Director, Community Development."

One of the duties is to, "Ensure engagement and mobilization of diverse constituents, staff and volunteers for the assigned market area in a prioritized and coordinated way to meet established market and regional objectives."

And the responsibilities of the position were not mentioned until mid-way through the first of a three-page job description.

To me, this seems to be the person in charge of all fund-raising activities. Why couldn't that have been stated in terse, direct language.

September 23, 2016: Still more job titles

In an effort to eliminate negative perceptions of certain groups of people, one organization renamed a position, "Coordinator of Diverse Learners."

I think that used to be the "Special Education Coordinator."

August 05, 2016: More job titles

Associations and businesses often modify job titles to make positions seem more significant than they really are, or sometimes just to alter the perception of a position.

One organization is currently seeking a "Front Desk Associate."

I suppose that is meant to sound better than a "Receptionist."

July 18, 2016: Job titles (again)

An association created a position called, "Director of Strategic Management."

It's a fund-raising position.

Why was it given a name that hides its purpose?

July 01, 2016: Who's the CEO?

It's not always clear.

Association CEOs usually carry the title of Executive Director, President, or Executive Vice-President.

But in hospitals, universities, and many businesses, an Executive Director is merely a department head or a project director, several rungs down the ladder of authority. There may be an Executive Director of Marketing, an Executive Director of Finance, and so on. And that custom is growing.

One business that manages senior citizen housing calls its property managers Executive Director, perhaps conveying a more professional-sounding image.

There are Executive Directors who handle only administrative matters, and report to a CEO, who is actually the person in charge.

In organizations employing an Executive Director, the President is usually a volunteer Board member, not an employee and not the CEO, allowing confusion to persist about who is running the organization. (In some volunteer-driven groups, though, the volunteer President is the CEO, and the staff is merely the "help").

Some trade associations invest CEO duties in an Executive Vice-President, who often holds a dual role as a Board member and an employee, following a corporate model that incorporates both management and governance duties in its Board of Directors.

Whatever title you choose for the top dog, it would be best to add "CEO" to it, so people inside and outside of the organization know who is managing the place and whom to approach about specific issues. Doing so would also clarify the lines of authority within the group and prevent Board members and staff from inadvertently stepping on each other's toes.

December 08, 2015: Accurate job titles

Some organizations have adopted job titles that do not accurately reflect what their employees actually do.

The person who solicits sponsors may be called the "Director of Strategic Alliances."

The person in charge of fund-raising may be called the "Director of Advancement," or "Director of Community Outreach." Words like "fund-raising" and "development" are often omitted from titles.

Advocates of these changes may claim the new names better describe the intent of these positions.

But the real intent is to raise money. So why not use a title that makes that clear?
In a small association with limited staff, volunteers must often take the place of professional staff.

If your organization finds itself in that position, it may be best to select one volunteer to fill that spot, not a group of volunteers.

Some people may think it preferable to divide the workload among a group of people so nobody has to do too much. But that creates the equivalent of a person with multiple personalities and requires another volunteer to conduct follow-up on the others, to ensure that all the work is actually done.

The supervisory task may actually take more time than the job itself. And a volunteer may not feel comfortable overseeing others, especially if they are peers (and if the overseer does not possess the necessary expertise).

So, try to find a single volunteer first. Only when that is not possible, turn to a group.

And, of course, no matter how you structure the position, don't expect volunteers - regardless of their level of commitment - to be able to do as much as would full-time, professional staff.

September 16, 2015: Resolving staff conflict

When two employees or two departments are in conflict, don't stand aside and let them resolve the conflict themselves. If they could have done that, they would have.

If you are the CEO or supervisor, you need to step in and resolve that conflict in whatever way you think is best.

The two conflicting parties need to be working toward the same goal. If they are not, it may be because you, or somebody else, issued directives that are in conflict. Or, they may have interpreted their respective directives in ways that put them in conflict.

Whatever the reason, you have to ensure their efforts are aligned. So, intercede, say or do whatever you think will correct the problem, and then step back and let them do their jobs.

But don't wait for the conflict to resolve itself. You'll just be wasting time, fostering an environment of conflict rather than of cooperation, and possibly lose a valued person who was vanquished by a more aggressive colleague.
Here are some suggestions about what to avoid.

And here are some tips for doing it right. And here are more, and some more.

October 27, 2014: Turnover is normal

Don't wring your hands over the problem of retaining quality employees. Many will leave no matter what you do.

Turnover is normal.

Unless your organization is a logical place for people to end their careers, expect your employees to always be moving up and out. Young people, in particular, will almost always move on - and they should. They are still exploring the industry or profession and may be growing faster than your association.

So, instead of trying to think of ways to keep them, make the most of them while they are here and help them hone the skills they'll use during the rest of their careers.

Develop a reputation for providing a high quality employee experience. And don't fret over turnover expenses. That's just the cost of doing business.
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