Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The NFP CEO of the future

Over the next decade the majority of existing nfp CEO's will retire. You might shrug your shoulders and say, so what, the same happened in the past decade. Probably not. Even if it did, the next generation of CEO's will face a different environment to those currently in the hot seat.

The next generation of CEO's will be faced with generational change on an unprecedented scale, with labour shortages, rising costs, reduced government funding, greater accountability and greater scrutiny from Boards of Governance.

What does your organisation need to look for when recruiting its next CEO?

Any CEO works at three levels. The first level is the governance team. The second level is external stakeholder groups and the third level is with people working or volunteering in the organisation. This is not an order of preference or priority. Most CEO's would be working with all three levels simultaneously.

When working with the governance team a CEO provides two services, the first is to provide information on the emerging external and internal environment that enables the governance group to make informed decisions. The second service is to facilitate the strategic planning process. Increasingly governance groups are comprising experienced professionals, many with considerable strategic and management experience gained in the corporate world. Such people have greater expectations of the CEO;they do not believe they are there simply to rubber stamp operational decisions. They expect to be able to question the CEO as to intent and plans and progress. The CEO of the future will need to be able to demonstrate an ability to tap into the collective wisdom of the governance group while also understanding the needs of this group.

A large part of any CEO's role is liaising with external stakeholder groups. These can range from funding bodies to end users in the community. The CEO that isolates themselves from external stakeholders does so at their own peril and to the disadvantage of the organisation. External stakeholders provide access to broad collective wisdom. They provide an indicator of the emerging environment and its potential impacts.

The third group of people that a CEO is required to work with are those employees and volunteers in an organisation. Here the key skill of the CEO is the ability to listen, to explore, to understand how systems and processes act as barriers to progress, develop more effective processes and people and nurture a pathway between vision, mission, strategy and outcomes.

What should you look for in your next CEO? Firstly the ability to learn constantly from experience. A CEO who believes they know it all is a liability. CEO's do make mistakes. Many mistakes made by CEO's are errors of judgment, bought about by their inability to sense the emerging environment or their inability to develop open and transparent channels of communication. The ability to reflect upon past errors and point to the learning and development. An understanding that they as an individual can never know all the answers and have the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of all stakeholder groups.

Look for someone able to demonstrate their ability to recognise potential and to develop that potential. This is a sign of someone able to develop trusting and respectful relationships amongst employers and volunteers. This is essential for future succession planning. It will be essential for attracting and retaining high quality employees.

Nfp organisations are a business. Yes they are mission driven, yes they often have a unique set of values; yet only those with a focus on outcomes will remain around long enough to deliver on their mission and vision. A CEO must be able to demonstrate their ability to balance revenue and costs and where necessary increase one and/or reduce the other. A CEO must be able to demonstrate a record for achieving outcomes and results consistent with strategic direction.

The challenge when recruiting your next CEO is to find someone able to demonstrate their ability at all three levels. Should your CEO turn out to be deficient in one of these three areas then the success and potential of your organisation is at risk.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The truth is not always important!

A couple of years ago I publicly slam dunked a colleague in a manner that was cruel - even though the sequence of events as reported were factual. At the time another colleague said to me, the truth isn't important, you cannot treat others in this manner. At the time I apologised for the method used (email) but not for the words used. I still believe the truth is important yet I have learned there is more than one way to speak the truth.

A few weeks back the CEO of the colleague I attacked approached me and said 'you were right, this person has been nothing but problems'. Revenge isn't sweet, it isn't about being right and I write about the experience as both a means of reflection and a way of sharing the experience for the benefit of others.

We should all aspire to tell the truth; yet sometimes the price for doing so can be high. Look at the number of whistleblowers who have lost their job, despite being supposedly protected by legislation, simply for telling the truth. I recently read a report of someone being prosecuted for posting slanderous comments online on social media. Tempting as this may be for some people, it is a practice to be avoided. Stuff you place online can come back to bite you long after you thought it had disappeared.

As a management coach a part of my role is to guide others to 'see their own truth', regardless of what I believe, it not my perspective that is important it is what the client sees that is so. When I slam dunked my colleague some time ago I neglected my hard earned coaching skills and went on the attack. Despite being right in essence, the consequences to myself were significant. While it didn't cost me any loss of revenue, I certainly damaged my personal credibility and had to work very hard to regain it.

We need to think before we speak. We don't need to think about whether we should or shouldn't; we need to think about how we should, what means will be most effective while least damaging? Regrettably the world is full of liars and cheats and while none of us is perfect, when the time comes to stand up and tell the truth. Remember this, the truth is important.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO