The Leadership Dilemma
One of the things I’ve noted in my time in the Nonprofit sector is NOT the lack of leadership, but the lack of effective leadership: leaders who trust their staff implicitly with responsibilities and skills for which they were hired. Often, the President/CEO/Executive Director who lacks this trust and interferes in the work of subordinates is not as well positioned to perform these very tasks, thus sub-optimizing the overall effort.
I often hear my 20’s and 30’s something peers complaining of being stifled in their careers, not being encouraged to build their skill sets to help them to be more effective, not only for their careers, but for the organization for which they are currently working.
Clearly, there are organizations making a concerted effort to increase skills of their staff. However, for those who aren’t. I ask that they look at the long-term needs of their nonprofit. Many leaders acknowledge that many of their millennial staffers are not likely to stay with the organization forever, but most would love to have job security for five years, sufficient time for the organization to gain a significant return on their investment. Enabling growth of a recent graduate often produces a huge asset to the organization. As these young workers grow in their careers, they return more and more in productivity, efficiency and professionalism.
I feel like every time I broach this subject with current management, I invariably hear a version of a story of an organization paying for so-and-so to get their Masters, PhD etc, only to have that particular staffer leave the organization once they had finished their degree program. Every group is unique, so I’ll try not to generalize, but I can say from personal experience that it feels great when an organization helps a staff member to grow and increase skills. If that organization isn’t prepared to continue to invest internally through appropriate promotions and increased responsibility then it should really come as no surprise to that organization that an individual will shop around their new degree.
Another way to look at career development in staff is more of the lifelong learning approach. Learning should be a part of everyone’s job, including those in leadership positions. In fact, one quality essential to a great leader is the ability to continue to learn and encourage staff to do the same.
If you are in a leadership position at your organization, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:
Am I utilizing all the assets in my staff?
Is it in the organizations best interest for my staff to be doing work outside of their strengths?
Do I have the right people in the right jobs?
I also encourage managers to be discerning about the kind of “career development” approved for staff. Everywhere one turns, there is a program about Leadership, but how many of them really teach useful skills? Incidentally this is one of the reason’s that I hate talking to anyone about leadership and cringe when I read this blog post title, but frankly, I am talking about leadership.
One quick caveat: each of us is primarily responsible for our own growth in our careers. Ultimately we are the main beneficiaries, so we need to take initiative, utilize opportunities and work diligently to return investment to our employers as well as to our long-term career goal. Along that line is a quick plug for one of my favorite peer-networking groups; The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, or YNPN.
Copyright 2011, The Good Counsel, division of Toscano Advisors, LLC. May be duplicated with citation.