"Intention Does Not Equal Impact."
I would love to tell you that “at the tender age of 3, I knew I wanted to help nonprofits”, but that is simply not the truth. I was drawn into this work by accident rather than by design. When I first started my consulting practice in 2010, my “ideal clients” were the types of for profit businesses I had worked for previously… corporate law firms, banks, apparel design, etc. After all, those businesses understood the value of leadership development. However, the universe had other plans for me.
Shortly after I began my consulting practice, I became a pro bono consultant with a great organization called the Taproot Foundation which recruits professionals to deliver much needed capacity-building services to nonprofit organizations. That was an eye opening experience for me. I was immediately disconcerted by the dearth of leadership best practices within the social sector, and at the same time humbled by the commitment of the people working in those organizations to make our world a better place. I knew I had to help in some way - the first whisper from the universe.
After completing one of the pro bono projects, I was approached by the executive director at CitiWide Harm Reduction to work directly with them - the second whisper from the universe. After working with a few organizations, it was painfully obvious to me that the challenges and frustrations many nonprofit executives face stem from the lack of leadership best practices in place in those organizations. My challenge was clear – help them make the connection and support them in owning the solution.
Not easy…why? Well, as Einstein says “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” I work with my clients from that space because I know sustainable change for them and their organizations only happens when they are thinking differently about the same problem.
While I haven’t worked directly for a nonprofit organization before, I don’t see that as a detriment to my client’s success. Instead, I use it to our advantage. As an “outsider”, I’m able to see the challenges my clients face without being personally invested in the story of how it has been. I get to ask the “dumb questions” that insiders often neglect to ask such as “Does it have to be this way?” and “What do we have to let go of to change it?” In the process, I get to know my clients better and at the same time help them shift their existing paradigm - the third whisper from the universe.
I have more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience in Human Resources working for a variety of for profit businesses (i.e. international bank, corporate law firm, apparel design) helping them unravel complex interpersonal and organizational dynamics. As a former HR executive responsible for strategy, advocacy, and operations, I understand the balancing act. I narrow my experience down to a few core insights that help me develop a results-based leadership strategy for my nonprofit clients:
INSIGHT #1: The battle of leader vs manager is moot. Leaders today must be innovators and implementers and managers must have good leadership skills; you don’t get a pass with today’s worker.
INSIGHT #2: An organization only has as much potential as its leaders.
INSIGHT #3: It is not about having the most resources. It is about using the resources you have wisely.