Monday, November 26, 2007

What to do?

(I've got to be vague so as not to tip my hat as to the subject of this rant - for which I apologize.)

There's an organization in town, a nonprofit, whose mission is one of the most vital to our entire community. The only problem is, its executive director seems to be a well-meaning flake who is impeding its success, and its board.... Oh, boy.

I witnessed a recent interview with the current president of the board: he quite literally has no idea about some of the most important accomplishments and upcoming campaigns of his organization. I'm not exaggerating; he couldn't name them or give any specifics. I was embarrassed for him, but it didn't seem he knew enough to be embarrassed himself.

Then I broke bread with the incoming president and another board member - two very nice junior executives with no real business acumen and no vision for the organization. I know this may sound odd coming from a guy who's only 40 - they may very well be my age, and they're certainly close to it in any event - but they were like two kids playing at businessman (and -woman).

Basically, this organization is not doing much toward realizing its mission because of incompetent leadership, and that does not look to change in the near future.

What it seems will happen is that this nonprofit will continue to fail to serve the community very effectively - and that's a big problem, because the work that it could do under different leaders could transform our county and beyond.

(I hope I didn't give anything away.)

Dear readers, the leadership of your organization is by far the most important aspect of its success. The leaders name the direction, set the pace, instill the culture.... They are only the beginning, but they are the necessary beginning.

The board of directors is your organization's most important body. In a nonprofit, they are the executive director's boss; in a business, they are the CEO's boss.

Then comes that leader, the titular head of the endeavor. With the wrong person at the helm, all is lost - or, almost as bad, little is gained.

I understand that Naples is small and the pickings are therefore slim when it comes to nonprofit directors. but please, do yourself a favor - whether you are local (to Naples) or anywhere on earth - choose only the highest-caliber people you can to run your board. Better to have a board of three superstars than of twelve dodos.

Then - and this is your sacred charge - rid yourself of your CEO, president, exec., or whoever your leader is if that person is not top-notch. You have to. Do it!

If they're nice, or well-connected, or talk a good game? Tough for you. Do it!

Finally, in order to find the right replacement, pay at least a slight bit above the going rate. Contrary to popular belief, we humans do not work for money; but pay is a sign of respect from the organization to the individual. And, when it comes to low-paying fields such as most of the nonprofit realm, pay does matter, because your people cannot concentrate on their work if they are distracted by their bills.

Yes, even if you're a nonprofit, pay well.

Do it. Your organization's success depends on it.