Drucker’s Insights On Leadership

The Effective Leader

Bob Stinson RLS Focused Solutions

leader In two previous articles, we discussed results-based leadership and some of the possible methods of making that happen. I want to share with you some of the thoughts written by the late Peter F. Drucker in an article entitled What Makes an Effective Executive published in the June 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review. In this article, he provides excellent insights into the development of your leadership style. His analysis is broken down into three major categories with steps within each. They include:

  • Get the knowledge you need
    • What needs to be done?
    • What is the right thing to do?
    • Convert the knowledge into action
      • Develop an Action Plan
      • Take Responsibility for Decisions
      • Take Responsibility for Communicating
      • Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems
      • Ensure Company-wide Accountability
        • Run Productive Meetings
        • Think and say “WE” not “I”

What Needs to Be Done?

Yes, what needs to be done, not what you need to do. Often a leader enters into a new position with a preconceived idea of what he wants to get done and, upon arrival, finds that there are issues of greater importance. This is true in business, charitable organizations and government. When George H. Bush ran for President in 1988, his most remembered campaign promise was, “read my lips, no new taxes”. But when he was elected and his understanding of the issues involved, he had to ask for an increase in taxes. The pundits ridiculed him for breaking a campaign promise, but in fact he showed great leadership in addressing the issue.

As a result of this knowledge gathering exercise, not just one but many issues will be identified. Trying to address them all at the same time will lead to a lack of focus and a diluted effort. The question becomes, “What needs to be done right now?” Prioritization of issues to be addressed must occur to effectively make progress.

What is the Right Thing to Do?

What is the right thing to do for the enterprise? Not, what is the right thing to do for me, the owners, the stockholders, the employees, or the executives?  Agonizing over the shareholders should become secondary.

The great majority of businesses in our county are family owned. Often family considerations need to be included in decision making. When it comes to promotions or the filling of a vacant position, a family member should not be considered unless they are the best qualified. Family members should join the firm at an entry level position and rise through the ranks based upon their abilities not their relationships.

Developing an Action Plan

The first stage of converting the acquired knowledge into action is the development of an Action Plan. That plan should include a step-by-step list of actions items to be completed, the reposnsibilty of those who must complete each item and a deadline for the completion of each action. The amount of time required to complete the overall plan may be 6 months, 12 months or longer. It is all dependent on the complexity of the plan.

An action plan is the basis for time management for those involved. Since the organization has focused on a priority issue to be achieved, the manager who is responsible for completing an action item should dedicate the required time to meet the deadline. The basis of any time management exercise is to establish a priority on the use of time during the day.

An action plan is a statement of intention, not commitment. Each plan needs to be reviewed on a regular basis and changes made as appropriate. It is not a strait jacket. Drucker points out, “Napoleon allegedly said that no successful battle ever followed its plan.”

Take Responsibility for Decisions

A leader must hold those who are responsible for completing action steps accountable, while also helping them overcome obstacles. There needs to be the acknowledgment of the completion of a step as a job well done. There also needs to be negative consequences for individuals who are not regularly completing tasks. Progress against the action plan needs to be the subject of regular meetings where everyone reports tasks completed and issues encountered.

Communication to all those directly affected by the plan is a key element. They must understand how it affects them personally and how it effects the things they do. Communication to those who are not directly affected is also needed to apprise them of the changing environment.

Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems.

That is not to say that you sweep problems under the rug. They need to be taken care of, but their solution returns the organization to the status quo. Opportunities produce results which help the firm grow and prosper.

Change needs to be considered an opportunity, not a threat. Look for the gap between what is and what could be. Look for unexpected failures which might be a learning experience, unveiling a new opportunity. Look for innovative processes, products and services both within your industry and in another industry. Look for demographic changes which show the way to the need for specialized services or products. Don’t be threatened by technological change, embrace it.

Think and say “We” not “I”

If you want to take all the credit for success, you may find you are on your own. In 1993, theleader computer giant was in deep trouble and on the verge of going out of business. Computer technology had changed drastically and IBM needed to go through a revolutionary strategic and cultural change. The Board brought in a new CEO, Louis Gerstner Jr, who had been CEO at RJR Nabisco, and had little knowledge of computer technology. His accounting of the turnaround at IBM is chronicled in his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance. Unlike many industry leaders who tell how they developed their organizations and take the credit, Mr. Gerstner dedicates the book to the team who made it happen and praises them for their efforts. The book is worth reading.

RLS Focused Solutions is a firm dedicated to the development of individual and organizational leaders. Through our many programs we first seek knowledge, then development plans, and finally work with our partners on implementation. Lets start a conversation today. Email bob@plangoals.com or call (910) 55-1286.

Possible Workshops

Pep Up Your Next Meeting with a Workshop

Linda Stinson

Linda Stinson

What goals do you have for your next conference or business meeting? Why go through the time and expense of bring a group of employees together? Why do association members want to spend their time and money coming to your annual meeting? It just can’t be because we always do it.

Here are some possible goals you should consider:

  • I want my employees or association members to develop a network of people who they can later contact to get help working on a difficult problem.
  • I would like participants to learn something new that becomes a “take-away” idea from the meeting.
  • I want participants to engage with each other in a focused way so they learn from each other.
  • We cannot just have a program of scripted speeches.

Let us suggest that whether it is a company retreat, an annual association meeting or even a lunch and learn, a structured workshop can help you satisfy those goals. Experts in education tell us that adults learn best when they are engaged in a focused discussion of a subject as opposed to listing to a lecture. This often provides the “take away” idea from the meeting.  Although there are plenty of social; opportunities for participants to meet others and start building a network, aworkshop provides the opportunity focused discussions of interest to all those attending. Breakout sessions with workshops give participants an opportunity to move away from the larger plenary session and meet people who they would not have met otherwise.

Over our years of working with individuals and organization on development program, we relish the opportunity to share some of that experience with others. We are often called on to do so at a lunch meeting, an organizational retreat or an annual meeting.  Our sessions are very interactive and typically consist of between 5 and 25 people. No one sits in the back waiting for the Power Point to start. Our approach with the meeting host is to select a general subject area and then customize it to the needs of the participants. We do present some basic theory, but our main emphasis is practical application.

Below are listed three workshop ideas and links to 10 to 15 minute YouTube Videos which provide a taste of each. These videos are Power Point presentations which only provide some of the basic content of each workshop. They are not representative of our presentation style or the total content of the workshops.

Hiring the Right People  

This workshop concentrates on finding methods to better improve the practice of hiring a new employee. Chick here to see Power Point Video

Better Use of Your Time

The subject in this session goes beyond the concept of time management into an overall approach of using the time available to be more successful.Click here to see Power Point Video

Developing A Customer Loyalty Plan


Consider that a satisfactory grade is a “C” and what is really needed to improve profitability is an “A”, this workshop explores that higher level methodology.Click here to see Power Point Video

These subjects only represent of a few of those possible and available. Call or email us to discuss your specific wishes and needs Bob@plangoals.com  (910) 575-1286

Peculiar Personalities Challenge Meeting Managers

By Barbara Ann Cox, CMP

As a meeting manager, you orchestrate a variety of events — board meetings, educational seminars, regional caucuses, full blown conferences, to name a few. You are organized, efficient, effective and politically correct. You prepare. You plan. You pray.

Whatever the situation, the association meeting manager must depend on others to assist with the many arduous and tedious tasks that are accomplished on site.  As an association meeting manager, you largely depend upon your fellow co-workers as well as volunteer members to provide over-and-above — and deeply appreciated — assistance during the event. Their daily jobs may not be remotely related to event management; nevertheless, they rise to the occasion.

Most likely, this select group of individuals attends the event with a certain degree of commitment to its success and the desire that their association excels. However, some on-site workers have their own attitude and agenda that can be a bit disruptive to the otherwise smooth-sailing event. Here is a whimsical look at the various types of on-site staff that, you as a meeting manager, must manage while managing your meeting.

Wally Whiner

“This box is too heavy.” “When can I take a break?” “Seven AM? Why so early?” Wally Whiner whines about everything, all the time. It is too hot, too cold, too far, too much, too late. He is like nails on a chalkboard. You could just slap him.

Patty Panic

You fantasize about stuffing Patty Panic in the trunk of your car for the duration of the event. She goes ballistic at every turn. She turns ordinarily nice people into frazzled neurotics. Her knee-jerk reaction to every situation creates stressed nerves, needless anxiety and possibly hives. She thrives on the chaos she causes. A smooth-running conference really ticks her off.

Ned Negative

Ned Negative’s knee-jerk reaction to every situation is doom and gloom. He forecasts the future of the event, hour by hour, minute by minute, as one of disaster anticipating the next disaster. His mission in life is to finger the weakness of whatever successes prevail. He would look good with a plastic bag over his head, tied tightly around his neck.

Gloria Goodness

Gloria Goodness nurtures. She mothers. She’s probably a Pisces. Gloria Goodness has a sympathetic ear to even the most egregious story of lost registration, lost nametag, lost checkbook, lost identity. She consoles. She soothes. She disrupts the agenda you have under “Rules & Regulations.” She belongs in the First Aid Room.

Harry Hotshot

Harry Hotshot comes into headquarters with his shirt buttons bursting of bravado and good will. What can he do? How can he help? Where can he serve? One firm request for assistance has Harry Hotshot bolting for the door with a litany of excuses that trail the length of the convention center. You hope he keeps heading for the exits . . . all of them.

Nora Knowitall

Nora Knowitall probably runs the association’s birthday parties.  This gives her the infinite wisdom to be highly knowledgeable about every essential detail of the meeting. She has all the answers; knows all the questions in advance. She can give out the name, address, cell phone numbers and topic title of the last five keynote speakers. No matter that much of her information is incorrect (i.e. fabricated), she stands firm in her misguidance toward attendees. You wish she would get laryngitis or maybe stuck in the elevator.

Claude Competent

Claude Competent read every memo, attended every planning meeting, memorized every session and starched every shirt he wore to the conference. He studied the floor plan, knows all the meeting rooms’ square footage, electrical outlets, public phone numbers, fire exits, etc. He not only knows the names and organizations of the attendees, he also knows their hotel room numbers and eating habits. He never misses a chance to tell you how much he knows, ad nauseam. You know, however, he needs to get a life.

Edna Efficient

Edna Efficient mans headquarters, fills in at registration, helps out in the speaker ready room, assists with lunch seating, passes out handouts and tracks down attendees who have received urgent messages. She is everything to everybody and cannot stop in her quest to personally satisfy attendees, staff and VIPs. However, if she does not get the proper recognition and constant accolades she believes she deserves for her efforts, she pouts and grumbles about how much she sacrificed of herself. You want to suggest she Google “convents.”

I have no doubt that meeting managers could come up with a few choice personalities from their own experiences. I’m sure I could conjure a few more examples as well. However, limited space permits me these few samples of the interpersonal challenges that meeting managers must endure while orchestrating the myriad tasks necessary to produce a success event.

Meeting managers celebrate their professional expertise that makes any event successful . . . despite the peculiarities of the on-site personalities.

Barbara Ann Cox, CMP, has been enduring peculiar personalities for more than 30 years as a conference & meeting management professional. She recently rebranded Meeting Makers Inc., her company of 18 years, to Barbara Ann Solutions, offering multiple services for meeting consulting, site research, speaker resources, public relations, writing, editing, proofreading, event planning and more.  Share your peculiar personalities with Barbara Ann at Barbara@BarbaraAnnSolutions.com or call 850.656.0025.

Creative Leisure

Creative Leisure
by Jeff Davidson

The trend in America in the last decade or two has been toward more frequent but shorter vacations, often boxed around holiday weekends. If you use the contrarian approach and take your time off when the rest of the world isn’t, then holiday weekends are a good time to stay at home and let everybody else compete for highway lanes and parking spaces.

In my book, the Smart Guide to Accomplishing Your Goals, I list a wide variety of possible goals in various categories such as social, leisure, and lifetime goals. Here is a small subset of the lists contained in that book, with some extended explanation.

Do Some Creative Writing
Maybe you couldn’t stand writing in high school or college. Maybe, like me, your teachers and professors marked up your papers so vigorously that you were dissuaded from writing for a couple decades. Nevertheless, you have the opportunity before you, either by turning on your PC or simply taking out a pen and paper, to let your creative juices flow. How about a short story? Some well-crafted short stories are less than 100 words. Could you write one?

How about writing poetry? You might have tried it in high school. Think about how much more wisdom you have acquired, and how that could impact your ability to get poetic. No one is saying that you have to try to get the stuff published, or even show it to anybody else. Perhaps you just keep it in a log or journal for your own edification.

Start a Card Group
Did you use to play cards on a regular basis? I did in college. We played poker on Wednesday and Sunday nights. I played more for the fun and camaraderie rather than for any meager earnings (as it turns out, I lost $85 in the course of one semester). Many people who once played pinochle, bridge, or canasta are surprised and pleased to find that the joys of card games quickly re-emerge. This is especially so when you’re playing against others on your skill level and with people you like.

Researchers tell us that playing cards, filling out crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble or Boggle, and engaging in other such activities helps to keep you mentally alert and mentally sharp, especially as you get older. There’s no need for your cerebral powers to decline.

A card group is easy to arrange. You only need three other people… and if you have a spouse or significant other, perhaps only two other people. Hence, that means just one other couple. How easy can it get?

Spectator Sports: Taming Longer Games
Are you a sports fan? Major league baseball games are running 30 minutes longer today than years ago. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that many sporting contests, even those with a game clock, are taking longer. Owners and managers have a vested interest in dragging out contests to enable media sponsors to air more advertisements and on-site vendors to sell food and souvenirs during the games.

If you’re watching any of the big three, baseball, basketball or football on TV, especially for weekend games, recognize that the inundation of longer and longer commercial breaks all but guarantees that you are looking at three hours from start to finish.  Don’t get caught up in this syndrome. What are your options?
*You can begin watching exactly at the start of games and skip the 30 minutes of commentator and expert analysis.
* If you don’t need to see the game in real time, record, and then fast forward through the commercials when you finally view it.
* Tune in from the start of the third quarter, or in baseball from the fifth inning on.

Join a Choir or Chorus
Maybe there’s an opportunity for you within a local group, or at your place of worship, to open your mouth and make a “joyful noise.” Through the ages, singing has been beneficial to one’s health. After all, you have to breathe more deeply, expand your lungs, and exercise your lower facial muscles.

You probably want to get involved with a group that meets either weekly or every two weeks, versus more often. Otherwise this can end up being a drain on your time or energy. Once you’ve found a group that meets at a comfortable interval, many benefits await. You get to open up that creative space in your brain that you haven’t tapped recently. Most groups choose songs that are among the world’s favorites. You get to participate with others who potentially are at the same place in life as you… or who are at the same place as you at least for those few moments during the week.

Join a Renaissance Festival
If there’s a group in your town that re-enacts periods in history, check it out. Many people say that they have loads of fun at such encounters, whether they be Renaissance festivals, Civil War re-enactments, or Colonial re-enactments.

Collecting Churches and Cathedrals
No, you don’t have to become a multi-millionaire and start buying up buildings. I’m talking about visiting buildings or natural settings that inspire you. My mother, who was not religious, used to “collect” cathedrals. When she was in a town and saw pleasing architecture, she’d stop and focus on it, or sometimes go in and marvel at the statues or stained glass. This was long before digital camera and cell phone cameras.

I do the same when I pass a scenic lake or happen to be atop a hillside. These are tiny moments of leisure that have a cumulative effect if approached as the true gifts that they are.

A Grander Notion
Some people like to combine their leisure time with intellectual improvement. Maybe you’re one of them. Have you ever considered educational travel? This is when people travel to a location with the primary purpose of learning something that’s directly related to the location. So, if you go to Stonehenge, or the pyramids, or the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, you act as both tourist and student.

Educational travel makes perfect sense. You study archeology, the environment, art, architecture, or natural history by actually being onsite and examining subjects in their original location or natural condition. Educational travel allows you to immerse yourself in whatever it is you’re studying and come back a better person.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., offers educational travel. Such trips are cited within the first couple pages of each issue of their monthly magazine, Smithsonian. Other institutions offer them as well, primarily universities, conservation societies, and even some professional associations.

Teach a Course That You’ve Mastered
When you teach a course where you’re already a master, there’s no heavy work involved on your part. You don’t need to read up or prepare a lot of notes or outlines. Particularly if you’re teaching in an adult education or university extension, you can walk in and let the sparks fly. The reward comes in your ability to share with people who want to benefit from your wisdom.

It’s been said that you don’t learn while talking to others; you learn only while you listen, but that’s not entirely true. Sometimes you say things in new ways, or you say things that you didn’t know you were going to say, and you actually learn as a result of your own articulation. When you’re teaching a course, you’re really opening yourself up for the chance to learn: As students ask questions, pose their views, and offer insights that represent new ground for you, you are learning as well.

Parting Ideas
Here are some additional ideas on how to make the most of your leisure:
* Start a policy of receiving only magazines that either make your life simpler or that amuse you.
* Only take airplane trips on vacation that are one-flight, non-stop. Anything else taxes you in ways you don’t need to be taxed.
* Take on new friends who engage in leisure activities that you find very alluring and who will teach, guide, train, and include you in their activities.
* Open your home more frequently to others via parties, receptions, meetings, and brief visits.
* Find others in your town who like to play in ways that you like to play.
* Frequently take walks in shopping malls, along city sidewalks, down nature trails, and anyplace else you feel safe.
* Go to the library one evening a week, and read whatever magazines appeal to you. Join a monthly book review discussion group.
* Buy a joke book, learn some card tricks, practice impersonating others, or learn juggling.
* Take an impromptu weekend trip to someplace you haven’t visited.
* Consider taking up a sport you’ve never attempted, such as golf, archery, hiking, or snorkeling. Or take a class on crafts, be it wood, pottery, metals, ceramics, leather, stained glass, jewelry, or woodworking.
* Become an amateur geologist, going on your own “fossil” hunts. This could be as simple as finding rocks and breaking them open, or looking for petrified shark’s teeth, troglodytes, or minerals embedded in stone.
* Buy a telescope and start watching the sky.
* Train a hamster, a gerbil, a cat, or a dog.
* Get on the committee that sponsors a festival, holiday parade, or street fair.
* Take a course in handwriting, calligraphy, or sketching.
* Visit one new restaurant a month or, if the spirit moves you, once a week. With your spouse or significant other, go to a restaurant much earlier than usual some evening, linger over drinks, linger over appetizers, linger over the entree, linger over dessert, and take your sweet time leaving as well. By the time you’re out of there, the world will have changed. So will your attitude.

Jeff Davidson, on the web at http://www.BreathingSpace.com, holds the registered trademark as “The Work-Life Balance Expert®.” Jeff is the leading personal brand in speaking, writing, and reflecting on work-life balance issues, and he has a passion for speaking to organizations who want to help their employees make rapid progress in this arena. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, and Lockheed, and to American Express, America Online, Wells Fargo, and Westinghouse.


Business Metrics

Finding Good Metrics for Business Success

metricsLarge organizations, with sophisticated managementsystems track performance measurements with a religious fervor. What about small businesses and individuals? Do they need and have these measurements of business success? Good metrics go beyond the traditional sales and profit figures from the financial statements. These are measurements of history or time passed. Good metrics measure the present and future trends. They indicate issues that can be addressed in the present, not issues that must recalled from the past.


Years ago, I joined a very successful privately-owned company. Within a few weeks of my arrival, I metricswas concerned that the monthly financial report was usually published four to five weeks after the closing of the month and was somewhat incomplete. I discussed the issue with the company owner, who didn’t show much concern. His comment was that he could tell the current state of profitability by walking through the plant and listening to the sound of the machinery. The higher the level of machine noise indicated higher levels of profits. He also had a unique way of measuring cash flow. Every Thursday night he would play poker. Every Thursday morning he would request poker money from petty cash. If the funds for poker were there, all was well. His managers made a point to have those funds available.

 As the plant manager of a manufacturing plant, I made a habit of walking the floor at the start of our day shift (6:30 AM). I became concerned that at the appointed time to start work, many of the scheduled machines were not running. Workers were returning from the restroom or cafeteria and some were still reading the morning paper. We decided to start a metric on the percentage of machines running at the beginning of a shift. Over the course of a week, we observed that only 60% of the machines were running at 6:30 AM. A meeting was held with all the employees to discuss the issue. Charts were posted on bulletin boards showing the percentage of machine running each morning. The following day 98 % of the machines were running and that percentage continued. No new equipment was needed. No employee disciplinary action was required. New positive habits replaced old unproductive habits. Change occurred without conflict or  any unusual expense.

As a small business owner, think about what simple metrics you can use and are easy to track. In retailing, it might be daily sales or stock-outs. In a medical office, it could be patient’s wait time. In a service department, it might be telephone response time. In a sales department it might be backlog, the value of new proposals generated this week, or the percentage of proposals closed. With the selection, measurement, and reporting of any of these or others, management calls attention to the issues that are associated with the metric and prioritizes the list of  things people must do on a daily basis.

metricsIndividuals also need metrics. Baseball pitchers track their earned run average. Track stars track their workout speeds each day. Students track their grades in class. People who want to lose weight track their calories. Salesmen track the number of calls they make each day. Having metrics is the key part of any personal development program.

In management coaching, we often find that organizations lack meaningful metrics. It is an essential part of the goal planning process. It is a statement of current conditions. In most cases, it is the first thing we do with our clients. In large organizations computerized data retrieval may be necessary. Elsewhere simple observations and a note book are all that is necessary. In many cases, just the establishing of the metric will cause positive change to occur. In others, goal setting and action plans may be required. Change starts with being able to understand and measure the current state of performance.  A good business coach works with a client to get started with metrics and achieve greater levels of business success.

To learn more about the power of Metrics contact bob@plangoals.com

Non-Profit Organizational Success


Non-Profit Organizational Success

Business Success in a Non-Profit Organization

non-profitStrategic Planning has always been a keyleadership tool in the development of successful for-profit organizations. Its format and time scope may vary, but it serves as an important function in business success. It has helped many businesses focus their priorities on future growth and profitability.

What about non-profit charitable organizations? Although their objectives are not to generate a profit or provide its stockholders with a dividend, they must look into the future to increase its service to the communities it serves and find the necessary funding to support those services. Their ultimate success may not be defined as business success, but is measured in the effectiveness of their humanitarian service. Stripped of profitability goals and materialistic rewards, these organizations face enormous challenges in focusing their efforts and motivating those involved.
Leaders and managers of non-profit organizations have learned the benefits of developing and implementing a strategic plan. We have participated in these organizations and watched how the process has transformed good organizations into great organizations. Our roles in these transformations were either as the facilitators of the process or leaders with the organization. The need is great and the results are significant.
Let’s consider the following issues:
• What constitutes a typical leadership structure in a non-profit organization?
• What effect does strategic planning have on the function of a board of directors?
• What effect does strategic planning have on the staff, both paid and volunteered?
• How is a strategic plan best developed and implemented?

Leadership Structures

It is important to note, that when discussing non-profit organizations, a wide range of entities must be included. Local charities that might help the homeless or those with disabilities, churches, clubs such as Rotary or Lions, YMCAs, and scouts are all included in this category.
It has been our experience that there are two general organizational cultures within non-profit organizations. The first culture is one driven by a single leader, usually the founder. This individual has identified a need in the community and is passionate about addressing that need. The second model is usually a more well-established organization. The founder may no longer be involved and leadership comes from the board of directors. These people are passionate about continuing the service being provided.
Let’s call the first culture the founder-driven culture. One might characterize the leader of this type of organization as the charitable entrepreneur. He or she is the visionary. They have a picture of what can be. In the earliest stages of their planning, they realize they can go it alone. They need to solicit others who can bring to the developing organization one or several of the 3 W’s (Wealth, Wisdom, and Work). The founder is looking for followers who believe in the vision and will act as an extension of his own efforts. These people may possess or have access to the wealth necessary to fund the effort. They may have a skill or knowledge necessary to develop the organization such as publicity or grant writing. Their network within the community may be strong or they are simply hard workers.
In the founder-driven culture, leadership comes primary from the founder. He or she has the vision and is totally dedicated to its achievement. They look of others including the board of directors as followers. They can help but don’t interfere with the work the founder has to do. Most decisions are made by the founder and supported by staff and board. Conflict develops when the followers do not agree with the founder’s actions or decisions. These relations continue through the early years of most non-profitable organizations.
The second culture may be called the board-driven culture. This organization is one with a history and that history may include the departure of the founder. That is not to say that the organization is without operational leadership. That role is usually provided by an executive director who was hired by the board to manage the daily operation of the charity. In this situation, leadership can come from either the executive director or the board. These are often organizations such a Chamber of Commerce, a Red Cross Chapter or a local Rotary Club.

Effect of the Board of Directors

leadershipRegardless of the organizational culture, the most critical part of the strategic planning process is the beginning with the development of a Vision and Mission for organization. The Vision is a statement of nouns. It is how the organization is to be perceived by the community. What is its role? What is its value to the community? The Mission is a statement of verbs. What will the organization do to achieve its Vision? How will it be funded? What skills must it incorporate? How will it be staffed?
If you ask everyone in the room at the start of this process if they understand the purpose (Vision) and workings (Mission) of the organization, you should receive an overwhelming positive response. But in the process of defining those statements on paper, there will be much disagreement and possible conflict. We once worked with a management group, who had been working on developing a Mission Statement for over one year. Every week they would leave their meeting with a written statement, yet a week later someone would find a point of disagreement requiring a revision. The agreement reached on these two steps by the board and organization leaders produces a more focused effort by all involved.
People who join non-profit boards are good-hearted committed people, but for the most part they are uncertain in their roles. As the planning moves through the identification of critical goal categories, goal writing and action plans, the needs for individuals to take responsibility for specific assignments develop. At this point, board members can take on responsibilities or serve on a committee assigned with a specific task. Oh, I would love to work on the website. I would be glad to be on the financial committee. We would like to work together on a monthly newsletter.
The completion of a strategic plan also provides greater structure to the board meeting. In smaller and newer organizations, board meetings spend time on what will later become committee business. Discussion may include where to get tickets for an upcoming even printed or what the food at the next fund raising dinner will be. These decisions are best performed by individuals and committees not the board of directors. The board’s role becomes focused on the implementation of the strategic plan, issues which may arise and revisions when necessary. Individuals and committees should be asked to report progress at the board meetings on a regular basis. This provides the organization with feedback and control. Board meetings become more meaningful and of a shorter duration.

Effect on the Staff

Our observations consistently show that individuals who work in non-profit organizations are both business successdedicated to the organization’s purpose and hard working. They are either volunteers or are compensated at levels below what would be expected for similar work in the for-profit world. With good leadership, they will perform at the highest levels. With poor leadership, they will perform poorly, develop unproductive conflicts and eventually sever their involvement in the organization. Good leadership is greatly enhanced by a strategic plan and its implementation.
Working with a strategic plan minimizes conflicts which might arise between the board and the staff. It also provides opportunities to acknowledge the success of individuals and groups of staff in the achievement of goals. Recognition is a key to business success in that it increases morale and improves performance.

Developing and Implementing a Plan

When developing and implementing a strategic plan let’s consider four issues:
• Who should participate in development the plan?
• How long will it take to develop a plan?
• Who should facilitate the plan development?
• What about follow-up?
It is important to get a wide range of individuals involved in the planning process, but a much smaller group in crafting the written plan. Employees, board members, past board member, major donors, and clients should have input at the beginning. They may not sit in on the actual discussions, but can be included through interviews or questionnaires. They also may be asked to comment on the Vision and Mission Statements, once they are written. The group that actually develops and writes the plan should be small and include interested board members and key operational managers. The smaller group, with good facilitation and leadership, will arrive at the finished draft in a shorter amount of time
The length of time required to develop a plan varies. It should not be a never ending process, but cannot be done in one meeting. Time between sessions is necessary to reflect on what has been completed and the next step. Assignment or homework needs to be assigned to those drafting the plan to be completed before the next session. Some would like to develop their plan in a half day or full day retreat. Two half-days is preferable toa one day session. Regardless, outside work prior to the sessions and homework between the sessions is important.
The planning sessions need to have a facilitator who is experienced and from outside the organization. Strategic Planning is not a new process. Over the last 50 years many business managers have implemented the process for either a business or non-profit organization. There are many books, tapes and computer software available to explain the process. There will be those on your board who believe they can facilitate the organization through the process. They may even be experienced facilitators, but they may be too close to the subject to ask the right questions. Good facilitators ask good questions and an outsider has fewer prejudges. There is usually reluctance by the board members to spend money employing an experienced facilitator, but the cost of an ineffective plan or not getting everyone involved can be considerably higher. Find a facilitator you trust and discuss your budget. Some outside involvement and guidance is better than none. A complete program with an outside facilitator will provide the best return on your investment.
Monitoring of the plan implementation and feedback is critical. Too often plans are developed and put in a drawer to be reviewed at next year’s meeting. The review of the plan and progress in implementation should be a regular agenda item at board meetings. Some organizations have found it effective to have the facilitator return for a review meeting every 90 days for the first year. Planning is an investment of time and money and like any other investment, a return is expected. It is part of business success

We encourage you to contact us at RLS Focused Solutions to discuss any aspect of the planning process or issues you have encountered. bob@plangoals.com

Coaching People to Think

Coaching People to ThinkBob & Linda Stinson

As a young co-op student with General Motors, one of my first assignments was to work in the personnel department (we now call it HumanRelations). People would come in to apply for work. We would tell them to fill out an application and we would keep it on file. One day I was standing at the counter talking to a supervisor in the department when an applicant came through the door and asked, “What are the qualifications necessary to work here”. The supervisor replied, “Just a strong back and a weak mind”

Decades ago those were the qualifications for many jobs in the manufacturing sector. But today our requirements for employees, even in the manufacturing sector, have drastically changed. Those simple repetitive job functions have been replaced by robotic or computerized devices. And when automation is uneconomical, the job has been transferred to a low-skill, low wage geographic area of the world. This trend is evident not only in manufacturing, but in all other sectors of the economy.

Employees now need to make decisions, do problem solving, and be creative. Delegation and empowerment are the keys to flatten organizational structures and increasing productivity. The need for a strong back has given way to the need for a strong mind. This drastically changes the role of a manager or supervisor from that of giving intimate direction and control of their staff, to that of encouraging them to think for themselves. This calls for leaders to become the coaches of their team members, requiring new skills and attitudes.

In increasing employee performance, some have adopted the iceberg model, which suggests that although some of behaviors are visible, most of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings lurk below the surface.

Many employees are highly capable individuals who want to work and be smarter. They are crying for help and it is up to business leaders to learn how to ask the right questions and conduct truly engaging coaching conversations. Dr David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership, Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work, suggests the following five-steps for establishing a coaching conversation and enabling self-directed learning:

  • Let the employee think through his specific issue. Avoid telling him what to do or giving advice. Ask questions about his though process.

  • Keep him focused on solutions not problems.

  • Challenge him to expand his thinking and stretch himself, instead of clinging to his comfort zone.

  • Focus on what he is doing well so you can play to his strengths.

  • Make sure there are clear processes behind every conversation. To be truly helpful, a coaching conversation requires permission to ask questions and explore possibilities.

As business and leadership coaches, we are continuously trying to see what lurks below the surface of the iceberg and help individuals achieve their full potential. All business leaders and managers need to develop these techniques. It is a key to business success in the 21st century and coaching can help. 

RLS Focused Solutions works on the development the full potential of organizations and individuals. Lets continue this conversation. Contact at bob@plangoals.com or call (910) 575-1286. Visit our Website: www.plangoals.com