Category Archives: Larry Tucker

What is an organization’s culture and why is it important?

Larry-pic009Your organization has a specific culture. You may not know it or recognize it, but it’s there. Your organization is different than every other organization on the planet, and knowing what that culture is will enable you to hire the right employees and manage in a more clear and efficient manner.

An organization’s culture defines how your employees interact to get work done. It is the intersecting point of values, attitudes, customs, beliefs, behaviors and philosophies that creates the feel you have when you work at or interact with an organization.

First, let’s look at some practical examples of culture to more clearly understand what it is. Then let’s discuss why it is so critically important in hiring and managing employees.

Here’s an easy example to give you an idea of what culture is: You are visiting another organization and are greeted by the receptionist. How did that interaction feel to you? Did you feel like you were interrupting her day? Or did she take time recognize you and understand who you are? Were you told to just go sit on the couch? Or were you offered coffee? Did she update you on how long your wait will be? So, what did this whole interaction say about the organization you are visiting? That they are very client-service oriented, or maybe that they seem to have enough business and that guests are just an interruption.

Now let’s ask some similar questions about your work environment:

  • Does your organization feel like a cooperative environment where titles are less important than each person’s value or is it hierarchical where employees are guessing what management wants?
  • Is the best work done in teams or is it a “star” system where a few employees really get the work done?
  • How are mistakes handled? With punishment? Are they ignored? Does the manager correct them? Are they used as a training opportunity?
  • How are employees trained? Very strong guidance or “throw them in the water to see if they can swim”?
  • Are employees encouraged to take risks? Or are new ideas suppressed with “We’ve tried that before”.
  • How critical is the quality of the product/service? Enough to take an extra hour to fix it? The whole weekend? Is the manager involved?
  • Is personal development encouraged? Are daily tasks used to instruct? Are new managers sent to specialized classes?
  • How do the board and executive director interact? The board leads? The executive director leads? It’s a collaborative effort?

These are just a few examples. There are dozens more that you can probably devise.

Do you think you know the answers to all of these questions for your organization? Try this: Test them on several employees and managers. Do you all agree? Then you have a handle on your organization’s culture. If not, this would be a good time to have these discussions.

Now, why is this important? I suggest that a majority of the hires that fail are fired or leave because of a lack of “culture fit”. Did the new employee understand what she was getting into? Did he understand how he would be treated? Trained? Rewarded? Encouraged? Did she understand the “politics”?

This also applies to current employees. Are they comfortable with the culture? What aspects of the culture create anxiety and confusion for them?

So, take a little time. Determine what your culture is or what you want it to be. Solicit everyone’s input. Communicate the results.

Author:  Larry Tucker, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Coaching a Board Member Out

Larry Tucker

In the past, we have addressed the issue of having difficult conversations, perhaps one of the toughest parts of any job, especially when it involves an employee, perhaps a long-term employee. Now let’s ramp that up a level and consider a similar conversation with a long-term board member, specifically a situation where the board member needs to resign. The role of “managing” a board member should, of course, be the responsibility of the board president or another board leader. Yet, as the executive director, you might find that you need to provide some coaching to the board president on how to have this conversation. As I was prowling around for some insights, I stopped at Jan Masaoka’s article on Blue Avocado entitiled Four Ways to Remove a Board Member. Under personal intervention, she provides some specific wording in three sample situations, all of which are helpful wording suggestions online casinos for this situation or other similar situations.

Let me remind you about the usual rules for having difficult conversations:

1. Always respect the individual and that that individual can have other opinions and behaviors that are different but not wrong.

2. Be specific about the actions that are creating the problem and (hopefully) refer to your prior conversations on these behaviors.

3. Be clear on why these behaviors cannot continue, that is, how they affect the operation, goals, or mission of the board or the organization.

4. If you intend for this person to resign, make sure to suggest that at the conclusion of your conversation…either “Maybe it is best for you to resign” or “I think it is best for you to resign” depending on the level of commitment to that person’s removal from the board.

I always “rehearse” this conversation, usually by writing out a few notes on the points I want to make. It’s usually beneficial to start with some questions, though. You may find that the person’s responses will lead you to the conversation more comfortably or will give you some clarifications on his/her mind-set that will aid in making your points.

Author:  Larry Tucker, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

In Support of Meetings

Larry Tucker

Yes, we have to attend too many meetings. And, yes, many of these meetings are managed very inefficiently, so they waste everyone’s time. It seems like we can accomplish so much more using email, phone calls and Skype.

One of the overlooked advantages of meetings, however, is the personal connections attendees make at those meetings, ultimately creating a more collaborative and effective work environment.

In Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work and Everything We Do, Ori and Rom Brafman present research that supports two popular beliefs that just haven’t been confirmed in most peoples’ minds.

A study conducted by Bell Communications Research found that the physical proximity of scientists in office space has a direct correlation to the frequency with which they collaborated on research together. Two scientists working on the same corridor were more than 5 times as likely to collaborate than scientists on opposite corridors. In fact, scientists who were simply one elevator floor away from each other were as unlikely to collaborate on a research project as were two scientists 40 miles apart. So, simple proximity plays a giant role in how workers connect.

Then, how do meetings relate to this? Meetings create an environment where people have an opportunity to connect…”forced proximity”, we might call it. Julien Mirivel and Karen Tracy, two professors from the University of Colorado, were performing some unrelated research on corporate meetings, so set up cameras in a conference room well in advance of the session to avoid any disruptions. What they recorded in pre-meeting conversations were personal interactions that connected participants on a very personal level, which ultimately extended to their working relationships.

You probably already knew this: The more you can identify with your coworkers, the more likely you will communicate and collaborate with them and give them the “benefit of the doubt” if something goes wrong.

But this is just a reminder that a meeting doesn’t just accomplish what’s on an agenda. It provides the opportunity for coworkers to identify with each other and to work together more effectively.

 Author:  Larry Tucker, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Instructive Statistics on the Nonprofit Sector

Larry Tucker



A few of us coaches from the Executive Coaches of Orange County recently attended OneOC’s terrific workshop “Nonprofits by the Numbers”. On the agenda were presentations by:

The program was introduced by a very enlightening video prepared by Philanthropy Reports that emphasized the size and importance of the nonprofit sector in the U.S. Some interesting teasers: 


  • There are 2 million nonprofits in the United States (Estimates from some other sources are lower depending on the definition “nonprofit”.)
  • One in 10 Americans work for a nonprofit.
  • $300 billion is donated annually to nonprofits. 
  • Nonprofits generate about $1.1 trillion a year.
  • 6.5% of Americans volunteer for nonprofits.  

The presentations were loaded with important information. Some figures stood out for me: 


  • The number one reason people are motivated to donate to charities is the organization’s mission. (Not a surprise!) A close second is personal experience. This simply reconfirms that finding the right donors is the key to effective fundraising.
  • 57% of nonprofits have enough cash to cover 3 months or less of expenses. This is certainly an indication that many nonprofits teeter on the edge of existence on a daily basis.
  • The average cost of medical insurance per employee increased from $783 per month in 2011 to $907 per month in 2012, a 16% increase, prompting some nonprofits to freeze wages in return for maintaining the same level of health care coverage.  

My “takeaway” from this session: The nonprofit sector in the U.S. and Orange County is not only a critical “industry” for the millions of beneficiaries of these organizations, but an important part of our national and local economy.

 Author:  Larry Tucker, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Is the Passion Still There?

Larry Tucker

Were you around when your organization was founded? If not, think about what that was like. There was probably one person that said, “This is a really critical cause, and we have to do something about it.” So the founder probably spent many sleepless nights considering how to address the problem, then she spent days and nights meeting with community leaders, potential donors and others to describe the problem by telling stories about what she had seen. Then, she spent hours and hours converting interested people into actual donors. 

This wasn’t a part of her life. It was her life. When she met with people, she couldn’t help but recruit staffers and donors. She’d just naturally start talking about the cause, and the passion would flow, and her listeners would get caught up in the current and start heading downstream with her. 

So now, the founder is gone. The current executive director came from another organization, perhaps one that was completely unrelated to this cause. He is dedicated to this cause and so is online australian casinos the staff. The board members recognize the need to address this problem, so they are interested and participatory. 

But are they all passionate about this? 

The primary difference between for-profits and nonprofits is that the foundation of a nonprofit is a passion for the cause. Without that, it may not be able to function well or function at all. 

Think about that. Why might it be that……….

  • …you’re having a hard time hiring the right executive director, or 
  • …staff members seem to want to get out the door even before 5:00, or 
  • …you can’t get the big donors you used to, or 
  • …you have a hard time getting a quorum for board meetings, or
  • …none of the board members want the board president role?

I’m addressing this issue because many of the symptoms we see at nonprofits may not be simply the logistical issues of fundraising shortages, staff recruiting or board member dedication. It may be that there is no longer someone who is so passionate that staff, donors and board members are just naturally motivated. It doesn’t have to be a founder. It might be the Executive Director, the Board President or another board or staff member. 

There are many reasons that nonprofits might be struggling. I’m suggesting that sometimes the diagnosis may go deeper than the outward symptoms. It could be about passion. 

I really don’t have a solution for this issue. Is there one? Can we create passion or find it? Or do we just keep struggling along? 

Let me know your thoughts.

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,

The Right Board

Larry Tucker

In our last Executive Director Forum session, we discussed how boards are formed and changed. We all agreed that the ultimate goal of an established nonprofit is to be led by a board that is fully functional, engaged, self-sufficient and independent of the executive director. That is, the board should truly be providing leadership for the organization, including oversight of the executive director. 

That’s how effective organizations work. For example, the Federal “Sarbanes –Oxley Act” of 2002 placed specific responsibility on boards of directors for oversight of their public corporations, imposing criminal penalties for noncompliance. Being on a for-profit board now demands independence and accountability. That should also be the goal for nonprofit boards. At a for-profit, the board protects the interests of the shareholders. At a nonprofit, the board protects the dollars invested by donors.

Yet, we recognize that this is often not the case. Many executive directors have a much more active role in the directors’ decision-making processes, most often because their boards lack the interest in, or dedication to their organizations. A disengaged board will rely heavily on the executive director for activities and responsibilities that should be in the board’s prevue. The executive director may enjoy the lack of oversight, but this is not a very effective or sustainable organization model. 

So consider these issues: 

  • Is my board taking on its share of responsibilities and roles?
  • Should specific board members be coached or “coached out”? 
  • How can I find (or how can I encourage board members to find) the right candidates for our board? 

Effective boards are a real gift to nonprofits. They can provide supplemental expertise and ideas for the executive director. They can befriend potential donors. And they can make sure that donor money is being carefully managed. 

Make sure you have the right board!

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Performance Reviews- yuck!

Larry Tucker

Each nonprofit board of directors should be reviewing the executive director’s performance annually, and in turn, the executive director should annually review the performance of her leadership team. I’ve been surprised to learn these reviews aren’t occurring, or aren’t occurring at the right frequency, at many nonprofits.  

Performance reviews accomplish some very critical goals for an organization. They…  

  • Prompt (force) discussions about performance that may not be happening on a regular basis.
  • Provide the necessary documentation for all future actions, like pay increases or firings. 
  • Ensure that all leaders of an organization are on the same page, working toward the same goals, and acting out the organization’s vision and mission. 

You can easily spot the nonprofits where performance reviews aren’t happening….sloppy processes, mixed messages, “bad apple” employees. Reviews take time and energy, and often involve difficult conversations, so many leaders conveniently forget about doing them.  

Here are some thoughts about easing your way into a set pattern of effective performance reviews. 

Use a 360 Review Process. An effective 360 review process makes certain that you receive many perspectives on the same employee and doesn’t rely solely on your observations and opinions. The feedback, then, is more credible to the employee and will likely be better accepted.  

 Start with yourself. If you are the executive director, get performance feedback on yourself from your board and your direct reports. It won’t be a surprise then when you start the process on others.  

 Start simple. If this is the first review you have done in a while, don’t try to accomplish everything. Start with a few primary critical areas, like focusing on each person’s ability to “live the mission statement”.  

 Use existing templates or create your own. The internet is loaded with 360 review templates, but creating your own isn’t too difficult. It can simply be a series of statements like “Encourages teamwork” with four choices to choose from: Strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree. 

 Use internet tools. Websites like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang allow you to design and administer a 12-question survey for free and the results are presented anonymously in summary form.  

Effective performance reviews are important for the success of your organization. Start today!

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,




Performance reviews: Yuck!

Larry Tucker

A client said to me the other day that her board had not formally reviewed her performance in a few years and she had not formally reviewed her direct reports in about the same amount of time. To quote Texas Governor Rick Perry, “Oops!”  

Admittedly, the best coaching takes place daily in ongoing conversations. But, once a year, you still must step back and consider overall performance. 

The discussions and coaching that takes place day to day, if even those are occurring, tend to focus on immediate problems, not on the organization’s mission and vision and certainly not on the employee’s goals and career.  

In addition, good performance reviews link everything together:  

  • Organization mission, vision and annual goals 
  • Executive Director goals  
  • Staff goals  

This assures that the vision and culture of the organization start at the board and Executive Director level, and then flow through to all employees, giving the organization consistency and a common purpose.

 I also tend to be a supporter of 360 reviews, where bosses, peers and direct reports (and sometimes clients) all provide input into the process. With the advent of free and inexpensive electronic survey resources like SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang, obtaining multiple perspectives in a confidential process is now quite simple. 

As usual, Jan Masaoka of Blue Avacado offers some great tips on performance reviews and provides a template for the evaluation of an executive director.

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Having Difficult Conversations

Larry Tucker

We all seem to be similar in some ways. One very common characteristic among leaders and managers is our allergic reaction to difficult conversations. My limited perspective indicates that this is even more prevalent in nonprofits, where being empathetic to others’ situations is the “minimum requirement” for a leadership role, so creating conflict and hurting someone’s feelings are not outcomes we typically try to achieve.  

You’re probably familiar with this “phobia”: You’ve been meaning to have this conversation for a while, but dread it. Meanwhile, this person’s inappropriate activities have been accumulating. You are ready to burst, and in fact, you’re a little afraid that when you have the conversation, you may overreact…spill out everything in a waterfall of past transgressions and ill feelings that could flood the whole relationship. This could be a situation with a peer, a boss or a subordinate. 

You may have talked yourself out of having this conversation: It won’t help. Now’s not the right time. It’s not my problem.

The bad news is that I don’t have a silver bullet. You will feel uncomfortable in this conversation, and someone may leave this conversation feeling “wounded”. The good news is that there are some “templates” that will help guide you through conversations like this. One excellent source is the book Difficult Conversations by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  

If you are a manager, you must have these conversations. If you have been avoiding them, start researching and practicing. As an executive director, you will likely have these conversations with employees, volunteers, board members, and maybe even donors.  

Here are a few ideas to start you on this path:   

  • If you aren’t sure if this situation merits a conversation, ask some others. Get some objective views.  
  • Don’t let it build. Say something early on.  
  • If you are a manager, don’t save all your comments for the annual performance review. Find reasons to have conversations frequently.  
  • For a manager, the best approach is direct and time-sensitive. Have the discussion soon after the event in question, BUT wait until the next day. Think about how you want to approach the discussion. 
  • Start the conversation with questions.  
  • Remember and recognize the person’s strengths and the value that he/she has added to the organization.  

This can be a noble goal for you: Initiate one difficult conversation in the next month. The first one is the toughest.

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,



What are Executive Directors talking about?

Larry Tucker

In March of 2011, the Executive Coaches of Orange County launched the Executive Director Forum program. We currently have two active forums meeting monthly. Martha Ryan, another executive coach, and I facilitate one of the forums. To some extent, the issues raised at these sessions are a barometer of what executive directors are concerned about. So I looked back at all the issues we covered in our forum during these past seven months to see if I found De har et standardisert spillutvalg, noe som betyr at du vil finne de samme generelle spillene her som hos alle andre beste online casino er verden over. any trends.  

The most interesting finding was the diversity of issues. There were about 30 issues covered during these seven meetings and the topics were all over the place: 

  • Starting an advisory board
  • Dealing with difficult board members
  • Breathing life into a development committee 
  • Reorganizing
  • Developing personal goals
  • Preparing for significant staff transition
  • The ethics of using various fund-raising organizations
  • Prioritizing an ED’s responsibilities
  • Starting a social enterprise
  • Establishing an advisory board
  • Finding a development coordinator  

There is one outstanding trend though. Of the 30 issues we addressed, 6 of them related directly to interactions with the board or individual members of the board. Half of those were about getting the board more involved in general or in very specific activities.  

The other less significant trend, at least as shown by this data, is dealing with work/life balance. Although this came up in three or four issues, it was referenced often throughout our discussions.  

Of course, this is data from only 12 executive directors in 12 organizations, so it shouldn’t be construed as a global study. But the results certainly emphasize the diversity of issues that EDs deal with day-to-day.

Author:  Larry Tucker,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,