Category Archives: Strategy

The Changing Role of Nonprofit Leadership

Dave Blankenhorn

Some time ago I wrote a blog about the skills a leader needs to adapt to our fast-changing world. Little did I realize about how fast and how dramatic it would be.

I talked about the need to be nimble and innovative, the need to create a larger vision for their organizations and the importance of uniting people behind a common mission. Beyond that I talked about navigating changing cultural, regulatory, technical and social needs. Was I ever right about the last ones.

Who would have thought we would be caught in a pandemic that has literally affected our all our lives, socially and economically? The skills you have been using now need to be redirected to help your organization survive and perform its mission in the most difficult times. New priorities need to be set. In addition to your normal activities you must develop new skills that will allow you to manage your group remotely, redesign properly distanced spaces for those who need to work together, provide the mandatory masks and gloves, sanitize various areas and organize the staff.

Your motivational skills will be tested in as never before with your staff, the Board and donors.  Figuring out new ways to raise funds will be a major challenge and might entail altering your primary mission.

How you cope with the new world will dictate how your organization will survive and prosper. None of us can predict the longevity of the crisis or what other problems might befall us as a result. I do know good leadership will carry you through.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Strategic Leadership: What it Means in Nonprofits Today

David Coffaro

Leaders are called to look beyond current conditions. That doesn’t mean we have a crystal ball or overlook today’s reality. It means we have to ask – what’s next for our organization? Not always easy, particularly in the midst of turmoil, yet essential. As evidence of the importance of looking beyond, consider findings from Gallup.

For more than 80 years, Gallup has studied people and organizations during times of crisis. They’ve observed perspectives dating back to the Great Depression through the Covid-19 event. Their research suggests that in times of crisis, there are two directions human nature can pull people – toward fear or self-actualization and engagement [i].

On the engagement front, when leaders present a clear path forward, people demonstrate great resilience. There’s a rallying effect as we pull together toward a common vision to move beyond crisis. That’s why mission and vision for the future are more important in organizations today than any time in recent memory. Per Gallup, one thing is clear. People look to leadership for a crisis management plan, and to provide confidence that there is a way forward that they can contribute to.

Strategic leadership means leading for today, tomorrow, and beyond. In today’s environmentas the next new normal is being defined, strategic leadership manifests through helping shape a new paradigm for your organization. Leading the long view takes place by engaging team members in creating co-ownership of the future state vision and strategy that will bring the vision to life. Vision is distilled into actionable priorities which become the day-to-day operating plan guiding all team members in performing their work.

Strategic leadership recognizes the next stages of new normal will be iterative. Some sectors of the economy will move faster or undergo greater structural reshaping than others over the next 18 – 24 months, resulting in a series of new normals; this impacts for profit and nonprofit organizations alike. Agility in adapting to a fragmented recovery matters. Even with clarity that things won’t be getting back to the normal we knew, strategic leadership today requires acknowledgement that the landscape will continue to change. Context for this perspective helps; the old normal was only a temporary point on a continuum of change; Covid-19 accelerated moving us to the next point.

Strategic leadership capitalizes on opportunities for Adaptive Disruption. Something happened that changed our world. Instead of waiting to see how things play out and what everyone else does, strategic leaders define how to move forward based on what we know today, by proactively adapting strategy.

Vision connects what an organization does to the external world. When the world changes, it is essential to revisit the future state vision to see if it still resonates. Ask – all things considered, will this vision still fit our business in the next new normal, or do we need to refine our future state picture? Needs of the customers you serve might have changed. Structure of the industry may be in flux. The key is determining if the vision needs refinement. Vision informs priorities which anchor the operating plan.When you start with the vision, you focus on cause, not the effect. We can manage cause; we only measure effect. Focusing on cause empowers strategic leadership today.

Warren Buffet said Its only when the tide goes out that you can see who’s swimming naked. The current low-tide environment calls for strategic leadership. The Covid-19 event helped us see new strengths and development needs within the organization, including observations of the overall business model. If this event has helped see previously unrecognized development needs of your team members and the organization overall, capture it for what it is – an opportunity to grow as your next new normal begins.

There is a lot we can’t control or influence. Let’s take what we can impact and start shaping a future that helps team members see how their work connects to the organization’s future state vison as you lead during the next new normal!


Dave Coffaro is a strategic advisor, executive coach and author. His areas of expertise include leading organizations in the process of strategy development and execution, change leadership, organization transformation and innovation. Coffaro is principal of the Strategic Advisory Consulting Group, a management consultancy, and co-founder of Atticus, a fintech firm providing individuals and professional advisors with easy to use, do-it-yourself tools for fiduciary-based activities. His new book is “Leading from Where You Are” (January 2020). For more information, visit www.davecoffaro.com

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/297497/covid-employees-need-leaders-right.aspx


[i] Gallup, What Employees Need From Leadership Right Now, 3/23/20, by Jim Harper

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

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

Moving to the Next Stage of New Normal for Nonprofits

David Coffaro

There is uncertainty about exactly what follows the Covid-19 crisis phase in our daily lives, our business and the economy. Discomfort often accompanies uncertainty and may draw our thoughts to the days when everything seemed so normal.

Ironically, what we perceived as normal in the past was simply a point on a continuum of change to which we became accustomed; with the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate of change accelerated dramatically. The question for leaders today is – what comes next?

The next stage of new normal awaits being written. The economy is an aggregation of individual and organizational actions aligned with some set of objectives. Following systemic shocks, some organizations wait until after the dust settles to interpret and take actions toward a new normal. An alternate approach is to begin defining a new normal for your nonprofit organization now. Here are five ideas on how to begin defining your organization’s next stage of new normal today:

  • Recast a Rolling Quarterly Strategic Plan – Operating plans established at the beginning of fiscal 2020 have been rendered irrelevant. Economic recovery will range from gradual in some sectors to accelerated in others, and this translates to nonprofits as well. Take a strategic approach to recasting plans by revisiting the organization’s vision, then deconstructing objectives into a new set of priorities and actions starting from today’s adjusted baseline. Initially set sights on results through year-end 2021, distilled into six quarterly milestones, adjusting subsequent quarterly expectations as the economy moves toward a new normal.
  • Intentional Discontinuation – Many organizations have reduced activities to business-critical operations only. Before assuming reactivation of all previous normal activities, take inventory of what resource investments no longer serve the organization’s mission. This means identifying activities, processes or services that can be permanently eliminated. By exploring questions about which activities have outlived their usefulness, nonprofit leaders can free-up capacity to apply more impactfully in the next new normal. 
  • New Services or Offerings – What new needs has your organization observed with those you serve during the crisis phase that may be of benefit in a new normal? Throughout history, new ideas and offerings have emerged from extraordinary environments. During World War I, to help soldiers avoid being distracted by their pocket watches, manufacturers began attaching straps to the watch faces they produced. The idea wasn’t new, but demand for wearable timepieces grew significantly following the war allowing forward-thinking manufactures a meaningful long-term growth opportunity. What needs have surfaced that may warrant the attention of your organization?   
  • Adaptive Disruption to Capture Transformational Opportunities – The COVID-19 event proves there are many sources of disruption impacting nonprofit organizations. Leaders can use this unfortunate disruptor to examine their business models and reimagine their operating paradigms. 
  • Development Opportunities – Leaders learned about efficacy of business continuations plans through the Covid-19 crisis phase. They also observed strengths and developmental needs of teams and their members as the nature of engagement and operations adapted quickly during crisis. How can you use these observations and learnings to build a long-term development plan for your organization?    

The next new normal is being defined today. This is the time to develop your plan on how your organization will navigate its’ next chapter.

NOTE: This article is based on Moving to the Next Stage of New Normal by Dave Coffaro, published in SmartBrief on Leadership, April 20, 2020.

Dave Coffaro is a strategic advisor, executive coach and author. His areas of expertise include leading organizations in the process of strategy development and execution, change leadership, organization transformation and innovation. Coffaro is principal of the Strategic Advisory Consulting Group, a management consultancy, and co-founder of Atticus, a fintech firm providing individuals and professional advisors with easy to use, do-it-yourself tools for fiduciary-based activities. His new book is “Leading from Where You Are” (January 2020). For more information, visit Coffaro’s website. 

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Leading from Zero for Nonprofit Organizations

David Coffaro

These early days of the new decade are the perfect point to consider practicing the concept of Leading from Zero.  Perhaps a more familiar strategy is Zero Based Budgeting – the approach where each new budget cycle starts from a baseline of zero assumed recurring expenses.

No incremental expense increase over the prior period. Every dollar invested for existing or new activities stands on its own, justified in the current time period, not the past. The objective of Zero Based Budgeting is to assure manager accountability for expenses and the activities they fund to create value for the organization.

Leading from Zero is grounded in a similar principle. Every organization – nonprofit or for profit – starts its day from a base of zero. Zero customers. Zero donors. Zero employees. Zero volunteers. Zero revenue. Leaders must influence their organizations and earn relevance with customers, employees, volunteers, donors and other stakeholders daily. Organizations have no entitlement to customers, employees, volunteers, donors or revenue. They recognize that these stakeholders have free will and will only engage with an organization if its mission is relevant, its value proposition is clear and it continually delivers on both the mission and value proposition. Contracts exist, but in the long run, all agents (vendors, contractors, suppliers) are free agents.

Leading from Zero assumes:

  • Competition for the most valuable resources – human, intellectual, physical, economic, non-economic – is strong and will remain so into the foreseeable future
  • Barriers to entry in most sectors are malleable or nonexistent, therefore the potential for new competitors is high
  • Competitive advantages are temporary at best
  • Pricing and cost pressure are constant, coupled with an expectation of continually providing more to stakeholders

These assumptions place leaders in a position that requires a new paradigm for how they view their roles and further their organizations. This paradigm says that an organization must:

  • Differentiate itself as a resource development exemplar
  • Practice self-initiated disruption
  • Exhibit an obsession for continually adding greater value
  • Consistently demonstrate efficiency gains in operations

Each of these pillars represent ongoing processes, not one-time events or special projects. A Leading from Zero mindset informs the organization that effective execution of these processes earns relevance with all stakeholders daily. Failure to re-earn relevance over time opens an organization to suboptimal access to the best resources, weakness relative to competition, and poor economic performance. 

Leading from Zero actions you can take now:

2. Define Cultural Values in Advance of Partnership – In the movie, Ford stressed the importance of a team victory while Shelby was portrayed valuing rugged individualism. These two approaches represent different cultural values.

  1. Identify one resource area to focus upon for developing a differentiation strategy. If you chose the human resource arena, you might begin with developing an employee value proposition which authentically answers the question “why work at this organization”. This is particularly important in the nonprofit and social sectors, where alignment with the mission attracts talent to an organization. With the statement drafted, strategy work may include review of employee development resources, career pathing tools, position descriptions and recruiting practices to assure alignment with the spirit of the value proposition. The goal – Take a first step in the process of differentiating your organization as a resource development exemplar.
  2. Identify one opportunity for self-disruption. Look for candidates by examining processes, products and your stakeholder engagement approach for a candid assessment of elevated exposure to external competitive threats. The goal – Take a first step in the process of proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in processes, products or stakeholder engagement approach.   
  3. Identify one upgrade or enhancement you can offer customers this year. A prerequisite for this action is understanding where beneficiary needs are shifting in order to preemptively address demand. The goal – Take a first step in the process of creating greater value for your beneficiaries by assuring you will meet their future needs.

These actions are a starting point in operationalizing the Leading from Zero paradigm. The benefit to your organization is earning greater relevance from the perspective of your customers, employees and other stakeholders.    

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Stop Accepting Mediocrity

Dave McKeown

The new year is well under way by now and whether you set resolutions or you didn’t. Whether you’ve stuck to them or not, one thing is almost certainly true. By now, you’re back in the weeds at work fighting the day-to-day emergencies and solving the next crisis that pings on your phone. 

All of which is perfectly normal in our faster-than-fast world but which also affords you the chance to do things differently this year. You see, getting pulled into the weeds tends to bring with it a negative pattern of heroic leadership. 

Your team has a problem; you tell them the answer. Somebody screws up; you fix it. Someone’s not pulling their weight; you take up the slack. All in the name of speed and efficiency.

Don’t get me wrong; those acts of heroism are fodder for the ego. They make you feel wanted, needed, useful, and valuable.

But let’s be honest; being the hero for your team is exhausting. All those diving catches, the extra work, the stress, the burnout. Wouldn’t it be great if they could take some of that off your plate and do it to the same standard you would?

In most cases, they probably want to, but over time you’ve built a sense of learned helplessness within them. Every time you step in to save the day, to refuse to delegate (“’cause you’ll just end up doing it anyway”), to have a difficult conversation with another team member on their behalf, you build a negative mindset for them. 

Specifically, you teach them to believe that you’re there to relieve them of anything that seems too difficult. Over time that mindset solidifies, and the barrier for what they consider to be ‘difficult’ lowers.

Eventually, they develop an automatic behavioral response; an issue comes in, they ask you what they should do, and either you tell them, or worse still you do it for them.

The more you lead through heroism, the deeper their learned helplessness, the more you need to take on until something cracks or breaks. 

You’re caught in a cycle of mediocrity.

When you’re stuck here, it’s hard to break out of the tactical nature of your role and to spend time on what you should be thinking about; the long term direction of your team and the development of your people.

My hope for this year is that more leaders move away from this negative pattern toward a cycle of excellence. Here are three things you can do to make that happen.

1. Adopt a new mantra

The first thing to do is to make the conscious choice to move away from heroic leadership towards excellence. Like all good behavior change, it starts with a new mantra. 

For 2020, I hope you’ll adopt this one:

“My focus is to help those on my team achieve our shared goals and, in doing so, become the best version of themselves.”

There’s no room for heroic leadership in this mindset. Instead, it forces you to consider how your team can grow and develop as they solve their own challenges and overcome their own obstacles.

2. Take the time to push your team for solutions

“What do you think?” is one of the most powerful leadership questions you can ask when someone brings you a challenge. It puts the onus back on the question bringer to think through the answer or solution themselves rather than relying on you.

You’ll likely have some thoughts or perspectives on the issue, and at some point you may need to share those. The longer you can wait for your team members to come to their own conclusions, the better. They’ll end up learning more, feeling better about the decision, and empowered to move to implementation.

3. Back your people to succeed

Finally, you have to act as if your people will succeed. Too many leaders out there put backstops in place to prevent failure like bumpers on a bowling lane. Doing so reduces empowerment and provides limited opportunities for your people to learn.

So treat them as if they have the skillset, experience, and knowledge to put into place what you just agreed and provide support, advice, and guidance along the way to help them do so. Resist the urge to be a ‘helicopter leader,’ constantly hovering over them, ensuring they never fail.

Do these three things and you’ll find your team taking more ownership over their problems and challenges, and you’ll have the headspace to think more creatively and strategically.

Dave McKeown is a coach at ECofOC and the author of The Self-Evolved Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in a World That Refuses to Slow Down due out on January 28th. To learn more about Dave and the book go to selfevolvedleader.com

Author: Dave McKeown, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Ford vs. Ferrari Leadership Lessons

David Coffaro

The hit movie, Ford vs. Ferrari, tells the story of a partnership between famed American performance car designer Carroll Shelby and the Ford Motor Company. This joint venture came about to develop a Ford-branded race car for competition in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and beat Ferrari’s entrants – the race’s perennially winners. The story takes place in the mid-1960s when Ford sought to broaden their appeal and engage Baby Boomers, then in their late teens, with products like the new Mustang.

The plot weaves its way through the failed 1963 acquisition attempt of Ferrari by Ford, which fueled a racing rivalry between the two auto manufacturers. Ford Motor Company is portrayed as a traditional company hampered by bureaucracy; Carroll Shelby as an entrepreneurial, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants innovator. Though the partnership had plenty of ups and downs, the collaboration led to creation of the Ford GT40, which delivered four Le Mans victories from 1966 – 1969.

Notwithstanding dramatic representations of conflict and egos in the storyline, the movie offers some valuable leadership lessons. Here are my top three:

1. Establish Clear Shared Goals Up-front when beginning a new project. Ford wanted to update their brand image to capture market share with Baby Boomers coming of age in the mid-1960s. Boomers wanted cool, sporty cars and Ford executives knew they had to address demand or lose share to competitors. Ford reasoned victories on the racetrack would translate to an uptick in brand perception. Beating Ferrari in races was important, but taking the checkered flag was part of a bigger goal – attracting new customers. Carroll Shelby wanted to build high-performance race cars that won races. He was innovative and pragmatic, seeking the best design and components to win races. The subtle difference between these two goals – winning car buyers vs. winning races – was the source of great frustration in the partnership.

In your work, you may have collaborated on a project with another department in your organization. Their goal was to get the project done with the lowest price tag possible; yours was to deliver the best possible product to your customers. If you didn’t know you had different goals up-front, divergence may have fed dysfunction. Establishing clear, shared goals as a first step in collaboration increases the likelihood of a successful partnership.

2. Define Cultural Values in Advance of Partnership – In the movie, Ford stressed the importance of a team victory while Shelby was portrayed valuing rugged individualism. These two approaches represent different cultural values.

Some organizations design incentives and rewards that encourage competition among colleagues while others tout sentiment like “there is no ‘I’ in team” to inspire working together. By defining your organization’s cultural values around inclusiveness, team vs. individual, winning at any cost vs. mindful success metrics clarifies what you stand for and what is expected. Consistently living clearly defined cultural values attracts like-minded talent to the organization, which reinforces and strengthens the culture.   

3. Don’t Underestimate your Competition – Ferrari executives are portrayed not taking Ford seriously as a competitor at Le Mans. At one point, Enzo Ferrari refers to Ford as an ugly company that builds ugly cars in an ugly factory. Ferrari underestimated Ford’s resolve to be a bona fide competitor.

How many times have you seen this happen? Out of nowhere, a new entrant comes into a business and conventional wisdom said “They’ll never succeed; they don’t know the business like we do”. Category killers, market disruptors or simply new approaches, unencumbered by legacy thinking, transform an industry. The moral to the story, assume the threat is real until you can prove otherwise!

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Do You Have A Balanced Board?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have one or two members that dominate the meetings and the conversations?

If that is the case it is the job of the Chair or E.D. to bring it back in line and to prevent an imbalance in the first place. A good Chair knows that that no one member can possibly know everything and should emphasize that the Board can only thrive with input from every member.

Even with the best guidance and intentions some Board members may still drown out other opinions. While these members can add to the discussion, they often tend to eliminate other points of view. If this is allowed to continue the Board may lose its balance and engagement.

To deal with these types of members the Chair should not allow them to dominate the meeting by thanking them for their contributions and asking others to offer their opinions on the topic at hand. If this approach doesn’t work perhaps a quiet private meeting is in order to let them know they tend to stifle other member discussions which is not healthy in the long run. If the member does not change his/her behavior you might consider their resignation.

On the flip side of the issue the Chair or E.D. should also meet with quiet or disengaged members. You need to let them know their opinions are valued and needed by the organization.

Another helpful tip for a balanced Board would to have annual discussions on how your meetings are going. What the pros and cons are and what needs to be improved? Talk about the items on the agenda, the time taken on each item and whether all members are involved. This may tie in with the annual director evaluations.

Following these best practices should be very helpful for the organization in achieving its mission.

 

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Do You Have An Effective Board of Directors?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have an effective Board of Directors? Are they providing the kind of direction that is important to fulfill the organization’s mission or do they meet without any meaningful outcome?

One way to find out is to have the Board do an annual self-assessment of themselves or one another. A good self-assessment can lead to improved performance for the Directors and the organization but only if you are intentional about the questions you ask and constructive about the follow up.

To do director self-assessments you can either hire a consultant to help perform them, handle them internally or pursue a blended strategy. Handling them in house maybe the least expensive option but an experienced consultant may save you time, bring impartial outside perspective and help you gather and present results to boost group performance.

If the decision is made to go it alone the Chairman and a few key board members should meet to identify the assessment goals and design the process including questionnaires and interviews. Goals should include producing a report with a SWOT analysis, spotlighting the successes or failures of commitments made by the Board and the overall effectiveness of the Board leadership. The report should also include whether they need to add new board members with specific skill sets, identify training needs, and an evaluation of the meetings and materials. Any other specific issues should also be addressed.

Peer reviews are sometimes part of an assessment and that means anonymous questionnaires. Digital questionnaires can be delivered online and streamline the process.  When completed and compiled the report should then be presented to the Board as a group with specific goals.

 

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Working Remotely…The Challenge To Teamwork

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

A recent study reported that 41% of non-profits hire staff/employees to work off-site.

The study is noted in an article published by Blue Avocado [1], which is actually a primer that all non-profits should read if they have people working remotely.

I will capture the essence of the primer, but really recommend studying the primer with those teams involved.

Clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability. Probably the best way to establish trust and respect is to have those involved meet long enough to review clear job responsibilities. It helps if each person understands the job duties of others, so work proceeds as expected. This also means distributing leadership effectively.

Participate in Constructive Conflict. All teams have times of disagreement or conflict. It can be harder to deal with if someone is working remotely. Handling conflict well means that team members meet, focus on the work being done and not on personal behavior or attacks. The challenge is how the disagreement affects the work output. Success is when those involved understand the challenge, resolve it, put it behind them and learn from the experience.

Consistently support one another. It isn’t always easy for a remotely working person to feel like an integral part of the team, or they may feel they are providing an extremely valuable service the team can’t appreciate – for example a data analysis expert, or fundraising staff, or marketing staff. As the article says, “Team members who adjust their work based on the needs of others are able to keep the work moving while empowering their teammates to do the best possible along the way.”

Consider team success vs. individual success. Being aware of the language team members use in emails, conversations and discussions can shape the feelings of being a team. If the “I” word is often used instead of “we”it makes a difference. This may be especially true for the remotely working member.  Another quote, “ Teams who focus more on giving credit rather than seeking it understand the exponential impact on the group as a whole.”

I strongly recommend this primer for sound guidance.


[1] blueavocado.org, Remote Team Environments: A How To Primer, Rachel Renock, May, 2019

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org