We all understand balance, it's yin & yang, light & dark, heavy & light, just enough stuff on both sides to keep the equilibrium. But, in the world of nonprofit leadership, do we really understand what that means?
While, board & executive staff relationships fall on both sides of the fulcrum, all too frequently, they land on the downside of sustainability. One well-know organization recently lost it's founding executive director because a new board didn't feel they should be responsible for fundraising. Another has recently tossed out team-work, inclusivity, and transparency deciding to deliberately set aside time at their board meeting sans executive director. Of late, I've been coaching several executives and they all have the same complaint, it's me vs. them! Yes, I too have found myself staring at this same chasm.
Why is there often a delineation between staff and board? Frequently, a leadership job description requires passion for the mission. That passion should indicate there is a mutual bond, a shared vision, interest, and a collective soul. So, why is there often this permutation, which considers the operational leader an outsider? Peter F. Drucker in his article titled: "Lessons for Successful Nonprofit Governance" wrote:
"Boards of nonprofit organizations malfunction as often as they function effectively. As the best-managed nonprofit organizations demonstrate, both the board and the executive are essential to the proper functioning of a nonprofit organization. These administrative organs must work as equal members of a team rather than one subordinate to the other. Moreover, the work of the executive and the board does not divide neatly into policy-making versus execution of policy. Boards and executives must be involved in both functions and must coordinate their work accordingly."
I became involved in the nonprofit community with the high-minded ideal of an elevated process for achieving the greater good. All for one, one for all, let's make the world a better place! Through trial and error, I've learned that top down management is not always effective in a collaborative environment and debate, dialog, and creative difference is healthy. Teamwork is a beautiful thing when implemented in an environment of inclusiveness, common interest, and confirmed direction.
So, as to boil this down to the essential, I urge nonprofit leadership to remember the following…
- It is not about you, or even us, it's about them: our constituents, our consumers… yes, THE mission.
- For high-level effectiveness and mission success, both vision & leadership should be shared.
- Remember, we're all in this together; check your ego at the door.
Work to make this an integral part of your organization and embrace all stakeholders, both paid and volunteer as equal partners. Let everyone know, their business and life experiences are important and they are welcome to the TEAM.