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The charge from the executive director to the board members was daunting, although the intent was to be inspiring: Raise $80,000 from new donors.

Yet instead of rising to the challenge, board members are cowering in their seats.

The scene is reminiscent of a high school classroom where the students aren’t prepared – people sink lower and lower in their chairs, hoping not to be called upon.

How can we turn this around?

How can we transform a board goal into a guiding light, not a looming threat?

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Posted on in Fundraising

The over-promising board member.


So much to give…so able to ask…so bursting with knowledge and rarified expertise…and so willing.

Yet not so able, after all.

It’s the great frustration. Sometimes the adage “you ask a busy person, they get the job done” is true.

And sometimes it’s “you ask a busy person and they don’t want to say no but they’re too busy to get it done.”

(And sometimes, quite frankly, they’re not too busy, but they still don’t get it done.)

Yet their intentions are good.


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Posted on in Nonprofit
Keep ‘em happy.

Or at the least, help them do their job.

Ever since I got my first full-time job in my early twenties, I’ve followed the principle of letting my boss see the “good job” I’m doing.  It helps build trust, has been my philosophy – if they think I’m competent, they’re more likely to let me do the job my way and not be all over me.

In our coaching practice, we see this in its rawest state with founders…and development directors.  Development directors get paid a good amount of money, proportionally, in many a founder-led organization.  To get the founder to the point where he or she doesn’t get so frustrated they decide “I could do this better myself” (a thought always lurking just below the surface for a founder) – a development director has to build up trust, with a big quick win.  Or two, or three.
Interestingly enough, this also works for board members and executive directors.  As an ED of one organization and a board chair of another, I know how frustrating board service can be.  You want to help, yet you’re not right there.  You have all the right intentions, but you’re on the outside looking in.  The stress can be pretty debilitating – and it’s pretty much out of our control. In other words, it’s not an easy job.

So it’s the least we can do, those of us on the ground, to pass along encouraging news as well as warnings of an impending budget gap (and goodness knows there’s a lot of that around!).

Motivation by encouragement.  When I’m on the receiving end, I’m pretty grateful.  And what could be better than giving your board the impression (which is hopefully correct) that they’re on a winning team?  

Making a difference.  That’s what they’re in it for.  That’s what we’re in it for. 

An optimist always sees the bright side.  A pessimist sees the dark edges.  But a smart manager finds the light and spreads it around.  Giving us all the strength to continue.
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