Category Archives: Michael Kogutek

Nonprofit Board Accountability

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Board accountability is always an issue in the nonprofit world. Dr. Eugene Fram, Emeritus Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology has written a terrific article that is spot on!! 

“Clearly the purpose of a nonprofit board is to serve the constituency that establishes it—be it community, industry, governmental unit and the like. That said, the “how” to best deliver those services is often not so clear.

An executive committee, for example, can overstep its authority by assuming powers beyond its scope of responsibility. I encountered this in one executive committee when the group developed a strategic plan in an interim period where there was no permanent ED. The board then refused to share it with the incoming executive. In another instance, an executive committee took it upon itself to appoint members of the audit committee—including outsiders who were unknown to the majority on the board.

The fuzziness of boundaries and lack of defined authority call for an active nonprofit system of checks and balances. For a variety of reasons this is difficult for nonprofits to achieve:

  • A typical nonprofit board member is often recruited from a pool of friends, relatives and colleagues, and will serve, on a median average, for four to six years.   This makes it difficult to achieve rigorous debate at meetings (why risk conflicts with board colleagues?). Directors also are not as eager to thoughtfully plan for change beyond the limits of their terms. Besides discussing day-to-day issues, the board needs to make sure that immediate gains do not hamper long-term sustainability.
  • The culture of micromanagement is frequently a remnant from the early startup years when board members may have performed operational duties. In some boards it becomes embedded in the culture and continues to pervade the governmental environment, allowing the board and executive committee to involve themselves in areas that should be delegated to management
  • The executive team is a broad partnership of peers–board members, those appointed to the executive committee and the CEO. The executive committee is legally responsible to act for the board between meetings–the board must ratify its decisions. But unchecked, the executive committee can assume dictatorial powers whose conclusions must be rubber-stamped by the board.

Mitigating Oversight Barriers: There is often little individual board members can do to change the course when the DNA has become embedded in the organization. The tradition of micromanagement, for example, is hard to reverse, especially when the culture is continually supported by a succession of like-minded board chairs and CEOs. No single board member can move these barriers given the brevity of the board terms. But there are a few initiatives that three or four directors, working in tandem, can take to move the organization into a high-performance category.

  • Meetings: At the top of every meeting agenda there needs to be listed at least one policy or strategy related item. When the board discussion begins to wander, the chair should remind the group that they are encroaching on an area that is management’s responsibility. One board I observed wasted an hour’s time because the chair had failed to intercept the conversation in this manner. Another board agreed to change its timing of a major development event, then spent valuable meeting time suggesting formats for the new event—clearly a management responsibility to develop.
  • “New Age” Board Members: While millennial managers are causing consternation in some nonprofit and business organizations, certain changes in nonprofits are noteworthy. Those directors in the 40- and- under age bracket need some targeted nurturing. I encountered a new young person who energized the board with her eagerness to try innovative development approaches. She was subsequently appointed to the executive committee, deepening her view of the organization and priming her for senior leadership.Board members who understand the robust responsibilities of a 21st century board need to accept responsibilities for mentoring these new age board people, despite their addictions to their electronic devices.
  • Experienced Board Members: Directors that have served on other high-performance boards have the advantage of being familiar with modern governance processes and are comfortable in supporting change. They are needed to help boards, executive committees and CEOs to move beyond the comfortable bounds of the past. They will be difficult to recruit, but they are required ingredients for successful boards.’

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Remote Leadership

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

As you navigate the the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 storm and its impact on your organization, it is essential that you develop remote leadership skills

My colleague, Dr. Alex Abramin, Leadership coach and an Organizational Psychologist from LA writes a terrific article on remote leading. “With everyone transitioning current business processes into the virtual world, managing teams virtually can be relatively new and challenging for some leaders.

For those with experience managing teams virtually, this is a nice refresher and reminder. Through my research, I’m pulling information that could shed some light and provide guidance for those who may be experiencing challenges engaging and managing their teams virtually.

We are aware that virtual teams can be more challenging to lead, so keep in mind that in order to effectively lead your team, you’re going to have to spend more time and effort toward these recommendations below. The time you use to implement these will immediately be noticed, recognized, and appreciated by your team. 

1. Embody Respect

Through the midst of challenging times, we must remember to respect one another and still hear the voice of your team members. Try to make some time in your virtual meetings to ask questions and gather opinions from the people on your team. Expressing their opinion is a way for them to stay engaged and be heard. This creates a form a of mutual respect. Take more time than you used to to hear your team’s opinions.

2. Engage in Positive Predictable Behavior

As individuals, we tend to have some level of resistance to change. In order to reduce some of that resistance, it’s important to institute some predictable behavior so that there’s some sense of structure or norm in the midst of change. When working virtually, this can mean being early or on time when leading your meetings; checking in with your team on a personal level before every meeting; asking each person to share gratitude moments before the meeting begins; or honoring the commitments you’ve made or at least addressing them. 

3. Apply Positive Intent

There are times that our judgment and bias can kick in while working with others, and when working virtually, this can enhance those challenges. There’s a lot more room for misinterpretation when working virtually, so here’s what you can do to alleviate those judgements and biases. For example, when reading an email, notice your emotional and physical reaction. Take a step back to see the perspective they are coming from. Take a deep breath or even walk away for a minute to drink a glass of water. Come back with a fresh perspective and ask for clarification through phone or video-chat. It’s better to hear from the individual rather than misinterpret an email or message with assumptions.

4. Be Present

When working from home or remotely, there are constant reminders and distractions among us. It’s important to model the behavior of being present during virtual meetings. This means being off your cellphone and disregarding other notifications and emails that are coming in. Notice and mention facial expressions on camera or tones of voice through audio. Show your team that you are just as engaged as you were while working in the office. 

5. Contribution

Be clear on what the team’s goal is at the beginning of the meeting so that your team knows what you are all working towards. After establishing the team’s goal, build clarity throughout the meeting on everyone’s role and expectations that contribute to the success of the team’s goal. Your team wants to know that they are taking part in contributing to the whole rather than just feeling like a cog in the machine. 

6. Establish Regular Meeting Times

During times of change, establishing routine is important. As much as employees appreciate autonomy, we tend to like some form of structure when it comes to our teams and work we produce. With working virtually, meetings need to be more established so that employees know what’s expected of them. To enhance this further, asking your team for input on the agenda of the meeting can create more engagement. This way you’re creating an open forum space while also setting the tone for the meeting to come. 

7. Revive Engagement Rules 

Being clear about the “ground rules” might seem obvious, but when working virtually it can be a helpful reminder of what to expect from your team. Be clear and concise, whether it’s being dressed appropriately; waiting to share your opinion; being respectful of everyone in the room; or asking for honest feedback. 

8. Use Visual Forms of Communication

Technology has improved drastically over the years to help us with making virtual interactions more engaging and effective. Meaning that we can utilize more visual forms of communication rather than just video conferencing. We can share documents, screens, videos, use polling features, create breakout rooms, and more. When working on projects that require some ideation and collaboration, try using breakout rooms so have team members engage in smaller groups and come back with options for an even greater solution. Using different forms of communication during virtual times keeps the team engaged and interested in what’s to come next.

9. Agree on use of technology and platforms for collaboration

With having many forms to technology around us, we tend to have access to multiple communication platforms. Bring this up to your team and ask for input on what platform options would be most effective for efficient communication and collaboration. Examples of platforms consist of Slack, WhatsApp, Jabber, WebEx, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and others. Gather opinions from the team, assess the pros and cons, and commit to specific platforms so there’s more clarity and less confusion.  

10. Ask for Feedback

As leaders, we feel as though we need to have all the answers. In reality, that’s not the case. Some of us are not familiar with leading virtual teams or meetings. It’s okay to admit that. This is a time where we are all learning to appreciate and utilize technology. Be open, transparent and honest about it. Ask your team for feedback on how we can improve working virtually. Ask your team what support they need. It creates a sense of vulnerability and comfort know that they can come to you with their thoughts or ideas. 

11. Be Available and Share it

It’s hard to establish an open-door policy when there’s no actual door. Be more clear about when you’re available and how. Your team wants to know when they can reach you. Leaving your availability vague or up in the air can create discomfort and uncertainty for some employees. Employees want to be able to know how to reach you when they need support. In your next meeting, share some ways you’re available to them and how.

12. Follow-up

After every meeting, I highly recommend a follow-up email that shows what was discussed in the conversation as a way to show that you were present and engaged. As a leader, your employees want to know you are engaged. A follow-up email will provide them with clarity on expectations moving forward and your modeling positive predictable behavior by being present. Although follow-up emails can be time consuming, the benefits outweigh the effort. 

13. Encourage Informal Off-Line Conversations 

We need human interaction. When entering a virtual world, it can be a challenge for those who have never experienced it. We took our interactions with team members for granted. Now that we don’t have physical access to our team members like we used to, encourage your team to connect with one another outside of the regular meetings that are scheduled. Just because the team is working virtually doesn’t meant that you can’t have informal conversations like you used to. 

Just a reminder, these are all different practices of making virtual work more convenient and effective for all. Take this one step at a time and try a new method every week. You are not going to become a guru virtual leader overnight. These are options on how to improve and collaborate more effectively, virtually. 

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review: “The Self-Evolved Leader” by Dave McKeown – Greenleaf Press (2019)

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

I am honored to write a review of this book by my ECofOC coaching colleague Dave McKeown. This is a book on leadership development communicated in a down to earth and no-nonsense manner.

Dave walks one through the steps and sequence of his process. He clearly makes the distinction between  managing and leading. His mantra is a good leader focuses on what is important versus urgency.

Dave makes the case that participating and enabling organization chaos drama is a no win outcome for everybody. The book is laid on in a format that makes one do home work and apply his concepts. He reinforces the notion that leadership is a hard skill. He quotes: “Soft skills make soft leaders!”

He reframes skills into thinking about developing and evolving disciplines. His coaching vignettes are right on the money. Engage this read and you will not be disappointed.

I find the style and approach of Dave to be a hybrid of Simon Sinek and Gary Vaynerchuk. It does not get any better than that!!

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review: “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

This book review is on “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown and published by Penguin-Random House (2018). Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors on leadership. She is a social worker and researcher at the University of Houston.

Her TED Talks on Vulnerability is amazing. Her recent work “Dare to Lead” is one of my top favorite leadership books of 2018. She explains why true leadership is about vulnerability and connection-not power and strength.

Brown describes the four skills needed to become a courageous leader. These skill sets are 100% teachable, observable and measurable.The first and most important skill is Rumbling with Vulnerability. Brown had assumed that the biggest barrier to courageous leadership would be fear, but her research indicated that fear is not a barrier. In fact, leaders she interviewed admitted to being fearful much of the time. The real barrier is how people armor themselves to deal with the fear. It is critical to understand that we all self-protect when we feel scared, defensive, or vulnerable.

A great tool to use when Rumbling with Vulnerability is curiosity. “When I find myself in a tough situation or I’m about to receive some hard feedback, instead of getting my armor up, I stay open and ask questions, so I can get specific information,” Brown explains. In the book she identifies 16 different ways we armor ourselves and offers ways to move that armor out of the way to become a daring, courageous leader.

The second skill is Living into Your Values. Leaders constantly must do tough things, give hard feedback, put bold ideas into motion while being unsure of the outcome, and take many risks. Courageous leaders are able to do this consistently because they operate with a clear set of values and behaviors that line up with those values. “It is important to have values as a leader, but it is critical to operationalize them. Otherwise they are just vague concepts, not guiding principles,” Brown explains.

The third skill, Braving Trust, can be tricky because many leaders don’t know how to talk about trust. Direct reports have to trust their leaders in order to have honest conversations and both parties have to be in an unarmored position. It’s no secret that the highest performing teams are built on a foundation of trust. And building trust is a skill that can be taught and learned.

The fourth skill is Learning to Rise and deals with the ability to re-set after an error or mistake. The ability to be resilient helps leaders learn from mistakes quickly, share those learnings, and continue to move forward in a positive way. And, yes, it is a skill that every leader can learn.

“Courage is a skill set we can teach, measure, and observe, but we are choosing not to because it is an investment of energy and time and it takes muscle building. But why are we choosing not to do it? If we need braver leaders, but we’re not investing in skilling them up, what is getting in the way?” asked Brown.

“Dare to Lead” is the ultimate playbook that offers practical skill-building tools for creating brave leaders in your organization. You will not be disappointed.  (Chad Gordon-BleacherLeaderChat)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Leadership Is About Coaching – Here’s How To Do It Well

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Michael Bungay Stanier is a Canadian coach. He is the author of “ The Coaching Habit.” He is one of my favorite people on coaching.

The following piece of his is terrific.” If you’re a leader or a manager, you probably wear a lot of hats. You’re a project manager, delegator, spokesperson, and most importantly, a coach.

But the problem is that no one ever tells you how to be an effective coach, or even what that means. Are you supposed to act like a sports coach? A therapist? Perform some bizarre (and arcane) HR ritual?

The answer is none of the above. In fact, it’s about making one tiny change to your behavior, one that will bring about significant impact. Being a coach is about being more curious, and being slow to give advice and take action.

But the truth is, most of us are advice-giving maniacs. We do not listen as much as we should. Being curious involves asking questions. The best question is What else?? It is based on the understanding that the first answer someone gives is never their only answer.

Coaching is an essential leadership behavior. Curiosity is the driving force in being more coach-like. Questions fuel curiosity. Remember as a leader and a manager, your job is not to have all of the answers-but to guide your employees to come up with the right ones.”

Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Conducting an Effective Meeting

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Do you dread attending the weekly staff meeting and other meetings on your calendar?? Melanie Woodword from Balance Small Business offers the following advice:

“7 Tips For Effective Meetings 

Establish the Meeting’s Objectives

Before sending out a meeting alert and putting it on your calendar, ask yourself why you want to hold a meeting and determine the objective.  Is it a meeting to bring employees up to speed on a change in management?  Are you making a decision regarding a project?  Is it a brainstorming session for a new business strategy?  Be certain that gathering employees in a room for face-to-face discussion and interaction is necessary for your objective; if the purpose of the meeting is a status update, perhaps sending out a group email is a better use of everyone’s time.

Communicate the Purpose of the Meeting

When inviting others to your meeting, be clear about the purpose of the meeting.  This will not only keep you focused but will enable employees to attend the meeting prepared either with documents or with thoughts on the matter at hand.  Communication is essential for an effective meeting.

Be Selective about Attendees

No one appreciates attending a meeting that has no connection to them or their work.  Determine who really needs to be there and why.  Whose input do you need?  Which colleagues must participate and will likely have questions on the matter?  If someone is on your list that simply needs to be informed of what was discussed, then do them a favor and take them off the list.  They can be easily updated with a follow-up email.  Time is valuable and no employer wants to negatively impact productivity by having employees sit in on meetings that are unnecessary.

You Must Create a Meeting Agenda

Holding a meeting without a set meeting agenda is akin to climbing into a sailboat and hoping the wind takes you where you want to go.  You will – quite literally – be lost at sea.  Your meeting agenda will guide you to your final destination.  Include topics to be discussed and who will be addressing each item if others are taking part.  Email the agenda to attendees ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect and comes prepared.

Stick to Your Plan

Even the best-planned meeting will go awry if the discussion gets derailed and goes off on tangential topics.  This is why most meetings fail to achieve their objective – they do not stay on track. At the outset of your meeting, establish ground rules and a specified time allotment for each item on your agenda as well as the overall meeting. For example, “Thank you for coming today.  Everyone’s time is valuable and it is my goal to keep this meeting to less than an hour.  Let’s stick to the items at hand and reserve discussion on other subjects for a later time.”  Rein in anyone who is monopolizing the discussion or introducing topics, not on the agenda.

Keep Them Engaged”

Visual aids go a long way in keeping everyone focused on the meeting and not on their phones or the clock.  Post the agenda on a Smart Board in the front of the room.  Project visuals onto a large screen using a computer; anything to keep their eyes up front.

Summarize the Meeting

Ever leave a meeting and have a totally different takeaway than your colleague?  Make sure this doesn’t happen with your meeting by emailing a follow up within 24 hours.  Include a summary, highlight key topics addressed, tasks assigned and indicate deadlines.  Sending this out in a timely fashion will ensure that attendees don’t head in the wrong direction.

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC,org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

   “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willnik and Leif Barbin, St. Martin’s Press (2017)

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

“Extreme Ownership “is written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who now head up a leadership training and  executive coaching  company.  The battlefield experiences they share in this book are intense and vivid.

The book is written in a very basic and clear way. The authors convey one main point per chapter by sharing a story from their war experiences, then highlighting the main  leadership principle of that story, and finally giving a concrete example of how this principle applies in business and organizational  settings.

The main points can be summarized as follows:

(a) The leader is always responsible and there is no blame to go around. This is the “extreme ownership” concept.

(b) The team must believe in the mission.

(c) Collaborate with other teams to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

(d) Keep plans simple, clear, and concise.

(e) Check and monitor your ego.

(f) Assess your priorities, and then act on them one at a time.

(g) Clarify your mission and plan

(h) Communicate with your leadership team

(i) Execute decisively, even when things are chaotic.

 The simplicity, clarity, and structure of this book are its greatest strength.

A weakness in the  book is that it  does not take in account how emotions factor in  leadership, management and decision making. The book is totally alpha and needs to be balanced. It is a terrific read and I highly recommend it to you and your teams!! As Jocko would say in SEAL lingo: “Get after it!”

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Judith Glaser’s book is a welcome treat for coaches and mentors looking to expand their professional horizons. Her thesis is that the relationship is central and key is providing change and transformation. She comes from a coaching perspective and states that conversations build trust that move us as individuals and organizations.Her definition of trust in human relations is that, “ I get that you authentically have my best interest at heart, not just your own.” Glaser states,”People trust us more when we have their best interest at heart.” She details the case of making sure that one sets up key parameters for enhancing this process. It formalizes the theory behind how conversations evolve and the position of the different speakers. What sets this book apart from others is that the author brings neuroscience and research into the equation to substantiate her assumptions. Glaser’s book can help take your leadership to the next level by showing you how to enhance the quality of your conversations. I highly recommend it!

“ Conversational Intelligence” Judith E. Glaser Bibliomotion (2014)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Choosing Dogs & Board Members

The history of how dogs have been utilized to accomplish a wide variety of tasks is fascinating. The unique personality and physical characteristics of the breeds makes each one ideally suited for taking on some pretty demanding challenges.

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

One of the biggest challenges that ECofOC coaches confront is helping Executive Directors figure out who are good candidates to become board members. I came across this article by Hardy Smith, a Non-profit consultant from Florida. I found it to be spot on. Haley gave me permission to reproduce it here.” When watching the annual Westminster Dog Show, I am always intrigued by comments about each breed’s particular purpose and capability traits.

There are hunters, workers, leaders, protectors, and companions.

From water repellent coats and webbed paws for working in water to thick warm coats for cold climates to small bodies with short legs to big bodies with long legs, each breed is equipped with the right tools for getting specific jobs done.

Owners have depended on their dogs and their unique performance abilities for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years. Each breed’s record of competence has been well demonstrated.

Westminster Show announcers always stress the importance of considering a dog’s distinctive personality and physical characteristics as important factors when deciding which dog to bring into a home.

Some breeds are low maintenance and are great around children while others can demonstrate challenging behavior that requires patience and a commitment to training.

The consideration process for choosing the right dog can be applied to finding a new nonprofit or association board member.

What specific talents and abilities does your board need? What personality characteristics should be present to ensure someone will be a good fit?

What are your prospective board member’s demonstrated behavior and performance tendencies? Will patience and extra training be required?

Just as not all dogs are the same, neither are board members.

If you choose your board members with as much care and thought as you would take with choosing a dog, you will have a board’s best friend!”

  Hardy Smith Consulting http://www.hardysmith.com

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, ECofOC.org

New Year Invites Reflection and Evaluation

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

On behalf of all the coaches at Executive Coaches of Orange County, we want to wish you and your family a Happy New Year. May it be blessed with good health, peace and happiness. We at ECofOC are grateful that our 150 clients have chosen to turn to us for individual coaching or for our Executive Director Forum (36 members), or for both.

For the past 16 years, we have been living our mission of helping nonprofit leaders  and managers become more effective, efficient and successful so their organizations can do more of their good work in our community.

The new year offers a time for us to pause and take an inventory of where we have been and set new goals for the future. The services of ECofOC may provide you an opportunity to move forward and up your game. Change  needs to be met with accountability.

Coaching  provides a  one-on-one relationship to nonprofit leaders. Our coaches help managers set specific goals and solve difficult issues from a nonjudgmental perspective in a confidential setting. Coaching can address virtually any nonprofit management issue, including board development, fundraising, outreach, leadership, management, finance, IT and HR issues, personal development and career planning.

Our Executive Director Forum is comprised of 10 to 12 executive directors facilitated by two experienced ECofOC coaches in monthly meetings using a proven process to guide the group to practical solutions for issues brought to the table by each participant. These sessions allow executive directors to test ideas and work though issues with a group of their peers.

We  hope you will consider getting a coach. If you are a manager with a non-profit organization in Orange County, you can apply here at www.ecofoc.org. The price is right; it is FREE! Our team of coaches are prepared to take you where you want and dream to go. The moment and power of change is now!!

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange  County,  www.ECofOC.org