Steve Smith worked with us to re-build our board of directors in 2008. Board members came to understand "best practice" and developed job descriptions that are still informing our work. Steve helped us to pull together stakeholders and identify new community resources. We were surprised to realize the support available right in our own community! Board members felt comfortable with Steve right from the start, he took time to understand our organization and made sure that all of our work was a good fit for us. Steve tailored his work to our needs and the board took full ownership of the results
Chris Casserly, Executive Director of Rochester NH Child Care Center

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Meeting the Challenge of Change: Leadership

Nonprofit Organization leaders know that a measure of their success is their flexibility and adaptability. Or, in other words: The constant in nonprofit governance and management is change.

Funders (particularly grantmakers) are interested in knowing, before they will award a grant, in the capacity of the particular nonprofit to roll with changes in its environment. What are some indicators of that capacity?

Diversity in Leadership. Does the board and staff of this nonprofit reflect the community it serves? Is the Board packed with baby boomers? Or are there Gen X and Gen Y representatives in governance as well as staff positions?

Training in Leadership. Are board and staff leaders provided education and training opportunities to learn about current trends in their environment? Is there evidence that the group is networked in the community and in organizations that have expertise needed by this nonprofit?

Customer Focused Leadership?Is there evidence that leaders at this nonprofit communicate comfortably and frequently with the clients/customers they are charged to serve? Do leaders know how to listen, or are they always in broadcast mode?

It’s in some ways, application of the “bend-don’t-break” philosophy from sports convention to the Third Sector.

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Reflections on a Month in Vietnam

I have been back in lovely Lynnfield, Massachusetts, USA since August 24. Eleven days to acclimate and reflect.

The opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and teach classes in the MS Leadership program for Northeastern University was a terrific experience for me. The first class on Leading Teams began online June 30. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the students through the Blackboard platform. To exchange ideas. To learn a bit about their lives and what drew them to this program.

Week 5 of the Teams class got underway in HCMC the week of July 28. The warmth and friendliness of the students at first meeting was very much appreciated. I got to know a bit more about them and their lives beyond what they posted in Introductions on Blackboard. Two of the women in the class own their own successful businesses. Three students work at International University, the partner institution in downtown HCMC. One student is a gas and oil trader. The youngest in the class is a recent grad straight out of undergraduate school. One is assistant to the President of another local university. Another organizes student activities at another university.

What this group has in common is a desire to carve out their niche in a highly competitive world of work in Vietnam. There are many MBA programs. But this MS Leadership program is quite different from the rest. It helps students examine styles of leading. What makes teams tick and how best to develop this form of work; in many instances, a project management tool that draws people from across departments in the workplace to get a special job done.

The Teams class wrapped up August 9. And the Building a Leadership Development program got underway August 10. We were fortunate to have Mr Lai Minh Duy, General Director of TST Tourist, Vietnam and Mr Bruce Newton, Senior Director, HR for eSilicon a US corporation with offices in Vietnam. Both gentlemen discussed how they developed as leaders in their companies, how they worked through impediments, and what makes some people successful. The following week we had Jeff McLean, General Manager of UPS operations in Vietnam. These speakers shared how they developed as leaders and what they believe contributes most to success today in the workplace, particularly in Vietnam. A key topic was always the multicultural make-up of today’s workforce.

Departure was bittersweet August 23 when i began the long flights home to the USA. Getting the unique chance to teach overseas and to learn so much while at the same time providing some stimulating food for thought for these students was a great experience. I will always cherish it. And when this group of 12 graduates I look forward to seeing them when they come to Boston to don the cap and gown and regalia for commencement. I recommended June vs February 2015.

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In Ho Chi Minh City Talking Teams

First of my two classes in Northeastern University’s Leadership program in cooperation with International University. Wrapping up this and next week with Leading Teams class. Yesterday our focus was virtual teams. Today it was effective performance review systems to apply to teams. Teams, Teams, Teams. Spam, Spam, Spam. There are so many ways you can serve it. We work to improve keeping in mind Katzenback and Wisdom of Teams. As the economy grows and diversifies in Vietnam, young up-and-comers want an edge to help make their place in the development of their country. The enthusiasm is palpable.

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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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