Leadership: the Winning Professional Formula
New leaders and key volunteers entering the not-for-profit world are being asked to make tough decisions relative to fundraising goals, staff training, donor prospecting, stewardship, organizational messages and board development, just to mention a few.
What’s a new leader to do while juggling 4 or 5 balls at the same time?
Surprisingly, the answer is simple, effective and time-tested – communicate, communicate, communicate, said William Stepp of Great Lakes E-Center at a recent professional meeting
So, what does communicating mean in terms of real time?
Here are several examples of what you should do and how you should accomplish it, according to Stepp’s mantra – “communicate to win.”
- Identify the communications professional on your staff and reinforce with them the importance of their role and how to expand the goal of communications throughout the organization. Create something akin to Microsoft’s Sharepoint, e.g., “Sharecomm” as a way of sharing the messages and reactions with the staff. It’s a new culture, in some cases, demonstrate that input is valued.
- Audit your organization’s existing communication vehicles and audiences – internal and external. Create a management tool, such as an operating grid, detailing audience, delivery method, frequency, staff assignment, message, and effectiveness. Look for return on investment (ROI), especially regarding staff time and technology use. Do your messages create a meaningful conversation or response?
- Create surveys to gauge what your audiences really think, want and in what form they expect communications to occur. Look at micro surveys, sub-groups of constituents who have very special connections to the organization.
- Assess historic breakdown points and resistance levels in the organization’s communication strategy. Do barriers exist between you and your committee chair on the board, the president, faculty leadership, foundation leadership, major donors, community leaders, staff, and others? Don’t make the same mistakes your predecessor made.
- Build your messages so they convey vision, results, trust, shared-responsibility, recognition and hope. Remind yourself that you are a steward of someone else’s legacy and aspirations. Convey both effort and results, present solutions to problems and encourage that the process become a two-way street: “We want to hear from you.”
- Manage your communications office as a strategic asset. Achieving your objectives and failing to communicate the outcomes is the same as not achieving your objective. Your competition understands the role of communications, and they will win constituents’ hearts and support if you are not there first and often.
- Claim the role in your organization as the “great communicator” (right behind the president, hopefully). Use brief reminders, executive summaries, and key points, so your readers know that your message is worth their time.
As a new leader in your organization, you will be distracted with planning, evaluations, meetings, committees and a host of other time-consuming opportunities. Communicating clearly and with specific action items or FYI’s should be at the top of your daily “to do” list. Remember, communicate to win!
George Washington University Approves Research Center
A new center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy within the GWU Medical School has been approved by the Board of Trustees.
Working with staff of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at the university, a Pew Charitable Trust project, the Great Lakes Entrepreneurship Center of Tiffin, Ohio, has facilitated a rebranding and fund raising initiative leading to the creation of this new Center.
“The new center will make a valuable contribution to public health and health services by designing a system that advances the conversation on public policy related to mental illness, substance use disorders and addiction,” said Ruth Katz, JD, MPH, Dean of the School.
Great Lakes E-Center provided business planning, a feasibility study and communication audits that advanced the work of Ensuring Solutions in becoming a national center.
“Our team was honored to be selected by George Washington University to provide consultative services that were comprehensive in nature, leading to the creation of this new center,” commented William Stepp, Ph.D., lead strategist on the engagement.
Business Planning Yields Roadmap for Hammond & Associates
Consulting with not-for-profits can have its challenges even for the best of the best.
“We have a strong reputation in Southeastern Michigan in working with agencies, schools and other groups, but we cannot rest on our laurels – competition and innovative processes keep us constantly searching for a better way,” said Chuck Hammond, owner of Hammond & Associates.
The folks from Great Lakes E-Center produced a business plan that was thorough and doable.
“Bill Stepp will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear – that was invaluable,” remarked Hammond.
Under contract to produce a business plan that looked at retaining a leadership position in Southeast Michigan with the possibility of expansion within 100 miles of Detroit, GLEC used a combination of market assessment, client services review and financial modeling to develop H&A’s business plan.
“To work effectively with entrepreneurs, especially professionals in a similar field, requires a comprehensive understanding of the profession and the expectations of what the owner wants by way of differentiating their services. H&A’s value propositions – trust, service, innovation and experience – made this engagement a real pleasure to work on,” said William Stepp, Chief Strategist for GLEC.
Great Lakes E-Center Partners with National Association
The American College of Mental Health Administrators retained Great Lakes E-Center to increase its membership and advance its fund raising capacity.
ACMHA, a national association for nearly fifty years, was looking to build consensus from controversy not just in its own membership, but in an ever-growing profession committed to working with clients and other health professions.
“The association needs scale and it needs private funds to advance its mission,” said Dr. Kris Ericson, Executive Director ACMHA.
In organizations where there is a strong reliance on volunteers, expectations must be very focused and very clear.
“We knew what the challenges were going into this engagement — connectivity with volunteers, market awareness, and time on task,” said William Stepp of Great Lakes E-Center.
The Center, with leadership from the College’s Board of trustees, completed a capacity building and communication assessment, eventually leading to the creation of resource development teams (RDT) and the realignment of board committee assignments.
“GLEC gave us the tools to complete a very complicated and ongoing initiative that will only continue to strengthen the college, ensure our financial viability,and lead the way in ongoing conversations related to mental and behavioral health,” Ericson commented.