After our orientation meeting, Steve dove right into the task, and along the way, became an ardent supporter and coach for Blue Ocean Society. Once the board determined that developing our board was critical to ensuring our capacity to perform our mission, Steve facilitated our creation of a board member role and responsibilities document. In less than a year, we recruited 3 new board members who have brought tremendous strength to the organization. I am now proud to talk about our board and able to better articulate the organization's accomplishments. Steve is wonderful to work with - positive, accessible, and skillful at providing ideas and advice. His many years of experience in the non-profit sector make him an ideal consultant and I'm so glad we worked with him.
Jen Kennedy, Executive Director, Blue Ocean Society

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Building Effective Teams: It Starts with Team Purpose

Engaging teams in the workplace to deal with cross-functional issues needing attention is a very popular approach. But what % of all teams are organized in a way to accomplish the assignment?

First of all: Is there a clear assignment? Are all members clear on what needs to be accomplished and when it should be completed?

Second: Who is the team reporting or responsible to? Is it one senior staff member? Leadership of a department?

Third: Are the roles of all members of this team clearly defined? Does each member of the team have a specific task to complete? Clear assignments to accomplish between team meetings?

When there is clarity around these issues, the likelihood of success improves.

I’m looking forward to teaching the Northeastern University class on Leading Teams in Ho Chi Minh City starting in late-July. I’m most interested in exploring how cultural and international differences influence how teams can work, and special challenges they face.

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Coaching From the Inside

As I get ready to head to Ho Chi Minh City (which most folks continue to call “Saigon”) I’m getting acquainted with thought leaders who have something to teach us about Coaching from the inside.
I’m sure most of us are aware of Coaching from the outside.
Some of us have had the benefit of consultants who come in to help us through a sticky wicket. This can be very helpful. But does it serve the organization’s long-term purpose?
In the book The Extraordinary Coach by John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett (McGraw Hill, 2010) we get some helpful detail on how to introduce and sustain leadership through coaching.
It’s much less about giving those who report to us good advice. Or direction. It’s more about talking through how the person is thinking about resolving the sticky wicket. Being supportive in that way.
In a way, it’s akin to teaching a person to fish vs. handing over the fish.
For the recipient, what s/he learns and does following their own thinking tastes better. And the learning lingers.

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Teaching Leadership in Ho Chi Minh City

Looking forward to four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) Vietnam July – August 2014. Northeastern University has formed a partnership with International University and is offering a graduate program which got underway late 2013/early 2014. I will be teaching two six weeks classes, with two weeks from each class “on ground” in downtown Saigon. The first class will be on Leading Teams, drawing on the Daniel Levi text Group Dynamics for Teams.
The second class will be Building Bench Strength built around texts by John E Zenger, including The Extraordinary Leader co-written with Joseph R Folkman. I will be Skype-ing in people with interesting perspective/expertise to contribute. You can send me an email at ste.smith@neu.edu.

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Where are you headed? And who’s coming with you?

The effective nonprofit leader steps back now and again and asks her/himself these questions: Where am I going? And who’s coming with me?
Beyond the strategic plan of your organization with its mission and goals and annual work plan.
Beyond the budget and the staff meetings and schmoozing out in the community.
What feels fulfilling to you? What is it about the people around you and their response to you that helps give you energy?
Recently I went back to a series of interview snippets from the Washington Post with leaders from various walks in life. It’s here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-leadership/.
They talked about what floats their boat.
What it is that drives each of them as an individual…and how that translates into Leadership.
Take a listen. Pause and reflect. And think about what’s driving you whenever and however you communicate.

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What Makes a Great Nonprofit Leader?

Today (5/7/2014) Harvard Business Review broadcast a webinar featuring Claudio Fernandez-Arboz, author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who. Mr. Fernandez-Arboz is an experienced, highly-regarded executive search professional who backs up his practice with well-researched principles in leadership effectiveness.

In his webinar, the speaker focused on major influences on challenges to finding and retaining capable leadership: Globalization, Demographics, and Pipelines. The competition for effective leaders gets tougher every year because there’s just not enough to go around.

Mr Fernandez-Aboz advocates that organizations identify up-and-comers in the organization with potential. Of course, competency is essential, but the leadership quality that trumps all others is potential. And the indicators for potential: Motivation, Curiosity, Insight, Engagement, and Determination.

Large nonprofits (Budget: $10 million plus) have the ability to identify people with qualities that indicate high potential.

Small (under $1 million) to mid-size (those up to $10 million) are challenged to cultivate and identify potential because the pool just isn’t that great. So where does the nonprofit Board look to find folks with potential?

Board leaders should be networked in their communities, attend nonprofit seminars where they meet professionals in the field, and read blogs and other sources that feature the thinking and doings of a variety of nonprofit leaders. Otherwise, it’s a turkey shoot to, out of the blue, conduct a search and try to identify candidates who can fill the bill based on a resume and an interview. You need more than that to skin that cat.

Keeping up-to-date with the literature on what makes fine leaders, and then networking to get to know the folks with high potential is both an art and a science.

First, you need to know what you’re looking for when your nonprofit is out looking for a new, capable CEO. And then, you need to find some great candidates who have the qualities you seek. And it takes some work to get there.

Note: I look forward to teaching classes in Leadership for Northeastern University’s program at the campus in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam this summer, 2014.

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