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Leading From A Non-Leadership Position

Leadership means making a difference and you can do that from any place on the organizational chart. It means working with and through people toward a common goal. When you work with others, you do not compete — you cooperate and collaborate.

Sounds easy on paper but it is hard. One thing you need to consider is where you want to use the power you have. You may not have the formal power presented to you by where you fall on the organizational chart but you can develop informal power. Informal power is given by others and earned by you based on how you act and react….your character. For example:

• You may not have the power to formally reward people but you can thank them when you work together and something is achieved.
• You can use your personal expertise to help others without being asked.
• You can always behave in an ethical manner in all that you do.
• You can use the information you have to help others and keep working toward common goals.

Another facet of leadership is being “politically savvy”. This does not mean “office politics” but looking for the win-win whenever and wherever possible. Yes, again this means being ethical in all your dealings with everyone. This will gain trust and that is irreplaceable. Political savvy also entails putting the organization first by grasping the big, long term picture and how you can help to bring that picture to reality. It means understanding how influence and relationships work and how you treat others. Bottom line it means always acting above board in everything you do.

Someone is watching you. You may already be a leader and not know it.

Strategic Planning and FEAR

Strategic Planning — the thought can often strike fear in the hearts of many. I once read that fear stands for – false evidence appearing real. For me, the evidence of strategic planning not being worth the effort (except to check a box on a grant application) has once again been dispelled by two recent events in which I have participated. The examples below may help you change your opinion that strategic planning is not a fearful, “necessary evil” but worth the effort.

The first event was the Special Olympics of Texas ( I have had the pleasure of working with this group on two occasions in recent months…..not in the area of strategic planning but in the area of team building. The Special Olympics of Texas has a very detailed strategic plan with quantifiable goals that are known to all of their staff. What I have observed is that to make the strategic plan part of their day-to-day operations, they have been working to enhance the teamwork at all of their offices across the state. Team building is also one of their strategic goals.

The team building, which I have been conducting, comes in the form meetings/retreats where participants understand various aspects of how team members communicate (using the Communication Styles Survey), understand various working styles, and what teamwork means. This is a wonderful way to build cohesiveness and ensuring a strategic plan gets from paper into reality. Special Olympics of Texas has quantifiable goals and they are incorporating team building to help facilitate the attainment of those goals.

The second event involves the Christi Center in Austin, Texas ( I have worked with many organizations and this is the first that has gone from the paper strategic plan to incorporating it into every aspect of the organization. Board members, who lead vision priority committees, are championing those priorities. The vision priority committees have members who are working on the action steps for that priority. The quarterly board meeting agenda is developed around the strategic plan. They have already committed to updating the plan on its one-year anniversary in January.
The feedback from board members has been:

• We have structure.
• My colleagues in other nonprofits think I am crazy to be excited about our strategic plan.
• I look at the plan on a regular basis to be sure what I am doing is helping to complete a priority.

The board, paid and volunteer staff of the Christi Center can see a marked difference in the way this plan is being handled and how previous plans were handled. I think a lot of it has to do with the maturity of the organization and the competence and leadership of its board and executive director.

Bottom line—-Don’t fear strategic planning. The evidence that strategic planning takes too much time, effort, and there is little return on the investment, in my opinion, is not true. It is just fear (false evidence appearing real).

Negotiation Skills

I recently had the pleasure of working with the Veterans Administration in Tampa, Florida. Our topic was Negotiation Skills. What I like most about this course is it presents several step-by-step ideas about how to handle negotiations.

A main concept in negotiation is to understand your position and interest and the other party’s position and interest. Most of us in a negotiation know the other party’s position because that is what is often verbalized. Seldom is the question asked about why the person or group in the negotiation is taking that position — in other words what are their interest (ideas, hopes, needs, wants) that have caused them to take a position. It may be hard to remain neutral and flexible but it is important to try to understand where the other party is coming from in the process.

Relationships are about 90% in any negotiation. That is why it is very important to understand the various perceptions about the areas that are being negotiated. Communication is a key element…..checking for understanding, asking questions, listening. Remember – do not assume anything in the negotiation process.

Often negotiations end up being somewhere between accommodate (I lose – You win) and compromise (We both win and lose). Negotiation can also be a competition where it turns out to be “my way or the highway”. Needless to say this does not build strong relationship.

“Ideally” any negotiation should be a collaboration of ideas, methods to solve the problem, and mutually agreed upon ways to execute the decisions made during the negotiation. “Win-win” takes a lot of time and effort that people are often not willing to put into the negotiation process. To add to time and effort, people tend to stick with “their position” and are not willing to move from it. “Win-win” can be difficult to achieve.

If all parties involve could collaborate, it would mean an agreement is reached, both parties buy into the agreement, and they are willing to work toward making the agreement a reality. If either party has any reservations about the agreement, more questions need to be asked until a mutual “comfort level” is reached.
What happens if the negotiation does not work? Since about 90% of all negotiation is relationships, then the groundwork needs to be laid for future negotiations. Thus, there should be no threats, finger pointing, or ultimatums.

Negotiation is a process that does take time and energy but when it works well it will have been worth the effort.

Graduate School USA Delivers Training In Jamaica

The Graduate School USA and the Management Institute for National Development (MIND) worked in partnership to deliver a Management Analysis Training Program to the Government of Jamaica. The training took place in Kingston, Jamaica from February to August 2011.

Twenty-seven participants, representing the Jamaican Cabinet Offices, participated in the training program. Graduate School USA instructors Kathy McCleskey, Dit Talley, Art Casabianca, and Mark Meza worked with their counterparts from MIND to assess participants’ training needs, develop curriculum, deliver courses, and conduct assignments.

The graduation ceremony took place at the MIND training facilities on December 10, 2011. Dr. Jerry Ice, Graduate School USA CEO and Mrs. Ruby Brown, MIND CEO, welcomed the participants and awarded certificates to the 2011 graduates. Other guests who attended the graduation ceremony included The Honourable Arthur Williams, Minister Without Portfolio with Responsibility for Information, the Public Service and Cabinet Office; Mr. Wayne Jones, Senior Advisor, Public Sector Establishment Division, Cabinet Office; Mr. Oneil Grant, President, Jamaica Civil Service Association; and Mrs. Judith Ramlogan Chung, Chief Executive Officer, Companies Office of Jamaica.

For more information about the program and about partnership opportunities please contact Olena Yanakova-Lange, Program Manager, at

Review of ‘A Conversation With a Purpose’

This is a reprint of a review of my book ‘A Conversation With a Purpose: A Practical Guide To Interviewing Prospective Volunteers’, from the March 2010 edition of Volunteering Magazine and reprinted with permission.

A Conversation With a Purpose: A Practical Guide To Interviewing Prospective VolunteersWe liked the layout of this book, which is written by Kathleen McCleskey and Cheryle N Yallen.

It is divided up into eight clear and concise chapters and is packed with practical advice and tools and techniques.

The worksheets, forms to use, and mock dialogue for an interview are likely to be particularly useful.

In Getting Started, the authors outline some of the key elements they believe must be in place before the interview gets under way. This might seem like stating the obvious but it really does give structure to this process. The authors also examine the importance of motivation and communication.

In the chapter ‘The Participants’, McCleskey and Yallen look at expectations and how the potential volunteer can actually make a difference to the organisation and who in the organisation is involved in the interview process.

“The key to interviewing is ensuring the interviewer, whether paid or volunteer, is properly trained in effective interviewing skills.”

‘Interviewer Traps’ turns the spotlight on to possible barriers, including the ‘halo effect’ which happens when the potential volunteer has something in common with the interviewer, or stereotyping when the interviewer allows their own prejudices to impact on the interview, with first impressions generally formed in the first 30 seconds of the interview.

Another common trap is language, when someone may be ‘verbally affluent’ and using too much ‘agency jargon’. Time is also picked out by the authors as a crucial factor. They believe the downfalls here are because interviews are sometimes squeezed into whatever slots are available
in the day or hastily put together.

The authors go on to examine the potential volunteer and aspects such as their concerns about the interviewer or organisation if they have not done their research ahead of the interview.