It takes courage to listen. Whether it’s a first or fifth transition to a new leader role, these non-profit leadership lessons learned are timeless. Pause, reflect. choose, (from horse-guided leadership & learning.) In the first months, resist the urgent and not important to follow these practical steps to ensure your success.______________________
It takes courage to listen & learn, as a new leader.
What I learned at the University of Michigan early on was the power of the conversation. Listening builds relationship. Listening well has impact as a leader with groups of new direct reports, with peers and colleagues, ALL of them await a new leader’s first steps and actions. Each. Encounter. Equals. Opportunity. To. Connect.
John Taylor, CEO of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) had this to say about the series:
“As a new CEO, the article’s main points to invest time in learning, building relationships, and establishing priorities have been key during my first six months on the job.”
I interviewed John before he left his role at the University of Michigan. His view is a fresh insight to help this year's new leaders. Note that although we make reference to associations throughout the posts, these tips apply to any non-profit organization and are adaptable to the for-profit sector as well.
EXCERPTS from the full article derived from -- "Seven Ways New Non-Profit Leaders Succeed the First Year on the Job"
1. LISTEN to Learn
In many high-pressure environments, deep listening distinguishes the highly experienced from the amateurs. ...One association executive advised his peers to “resist the temptation to prove how bright you are; do nothing when you first arrive—just learn.”
...Develop a list for listening interviews including staff, board members, active volunteers, randomly selected members, dropped members, industry leaders, subject matter experts, external partners, and others. Everyone has something to say; they ...will be encouraged by your desire to learn. Ask open-ended questions. Prepare to be surprised. Though many relationships will deepen during your tenure, early conversations can provide unique opportunities for candid exchanges unencumbered by baggage, fears, or agendas.
...Information for your staff is usually under-communicated by a factor of four.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Staff members are vitally interested in what the boss [senior leadership team, executive committee, board] just talked about. Find a way to share it regularly.
- The board should be vitally interested in progress toward strategic goals. Find a way to check on this.
- Committees and other volunteer groups don’t know what other committees and groups are doing. Summarize, align, and share.
- Members and constituents want to know “What’s in it for me?” They will appreciate understanding the logic behind board decisions. Find a way to test, confirm and communicate this regularly.