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Monday, 12 December 2016 16:59

How Do I Re-energize my Board?

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One of the challenges I commonly see with nonprofit boards is fatigue. I’ve interviewed hundreds of nonprofit board members over the years, and in every board a proportion of individuals report feeling exhausted.

I typically come across two types of people who fit this profile.

One — the over-achiever

This might be a long-serving board chair, secretary, or just the one person you can go to who will always deliver. Maybe it’s the one person with a set of skills that you really need — real estate, or legal skills. This person is reliable, they give at a high-level, they reach out to their network, but this underneath this wealth of activity, often lies a sense of deep-fatigue and a sense of being taken advantage of. When I talk to this person, they will often report that they wish the work of the board was better balanced. Sometimes they will tell me that they have tried to resign, sometimes more than once, and that their resignation was not accepted.

The passive-resistor

This person is no longer working hard, they may have dialed down their giving (either through choice or necessity). They no longer attend every meeting. They take ages to respond to emails or requests. They often have been on the board for more than 5 or 10 years. It is not uncommon that they joined the board as a favor to a friend/founder.

So what can be done?

If you’re an Executive Director/CEO or another board member looking to re-inject some energy into your board, what are your options? Here are five things I’ve seen that work, over and over again.

  1. Reconnect to the mission and each other

    Do something that will help people reconnect to the mission of the organization. For example — you could have a board volunteering day. Have several clients come in and share their stories with your board members. Allow space and time in your agenda for social activities, a dinner, or lunch together.

  2. Do a better job aligning work-load to people’s interests

    Allow for a re-set. Ask your board through interviews or an on-line survey what time they have to commit and what they are most passionate about getting involved in. I typically see that there are a number of people on the board who are feeling under-utilized and wish their skills were being better used by the organization. Think expansively — do you have someone who loves doing graphic design, who is amazing on Twitter, or who could train your staff on how to do PR outreach? When you have a question, reach out to someone on the board you haven’t spoken to in a while.

  3. Re-balance the workload

    Take an explicit look at who is doing what. Give the over-achievers a chance to opt-out of activities. Ask them if they need a break — you’ll get more out of the them in the long run. Hand over core functions to those who aren’t doing much. Rejuvenate board roles (like chair, secretary, treasurer and committee leadership) on a regular basis.

  4. Institute formal term limits and board review

    Many boards never tackle this issue — they simply let board members hang around for as long as they want (or beyond when they really want to)! That doesn’t help anyone in the long run. It leads to fatigued board members hanging on well-beyond their tolerance limit. It also means that staff and the rest of the board don’t have an easy way to start a discussion about when it is time for someone to leave. Use term limits — 3 years is considered best practice, with an option for board members to renew 3 times, for a maximum of 9 years. Beyond that, even if they want to stay on the board — they should roll-off for 1 year. This gives everyone a chance to take a break. Being on a nonprofit board can be a lot of work. It is work that is best done with energy, and rest is one of the best ways to build up that energy. Make sure as part of this process (ideally annually), someone — a board or staff member, sits down with each board member to get check in and have a candid discussion about how things are going, both for the board member and the organization.

  5. Accept resignations

    This one can be scary for many executive directors. If you have a long-standing board member who tells you they want to resign, by all means, probe to make sure you understand why, but let them go! The only caveat I’d suggest is that you should ask for their help in filling the vacated board seat (assuming you don’t already have a waiting list of suitable candidates). The best way to rejuvenate and energize a board is to get some new members. Often, as scary as it may seem, by far the best thing that can happen to a board is to let people roll off, I’ve watched how much can change when newer members, full of new ideas, connections and excitement join the team.

 So, in summary — find ways to reconnect people to why you do what you do, align people’s interests to the work they are doing on the board, share the workload amongst your board, make sure you have some formal processes in place to keep things fresh, and when the time is right, accept resignations. All of these things will help ensure you have a high-energy, high-impact board in place.

Let’s face it — nonprofit Boards can be hard work! 

As a start in our series on Board management, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how corporate Boards and nonprofit Boards differs.  It’s an interesting frame of reference that can uncover and explain some of the unique challenges of working with nonprofit Boards.

So, here are just three ways in which nonprofit Boards differ from corporate Boards:

  • They aren’t paid.
  • They are in it for the long haul.
  • They fund your work.

They aren’t paid. So what?

Well — at its heart the biggest issue with the fact that they aren’t being paid, is that they typically have competing priorities. In a big corporation the Boards are paid, which means there are many people for whom being a Board director for a few organizations is their full-time job. They not only take it seriously, but they have the time to dedicate to making sure they have read the Board notes, thought about their questions and stepped up.

But for many nonprofit Board members, this is definitely NOT their only gig. They are also typically holding down a full-time job, may be managing a family, and may also be on more than one Board, or be volunteering with at least 1-2 other organizations. That means that pragmatically, there will be times when they need to choose between attending your meeting, or attending to their own paying clients.

Implications: Most nonprofits can’t afford to pay their Board, and no one is expecting you to. It also doesn’t mean you need to expect less of them, but it does mean you need to make it easy for them to work with you. What can you do?

Simple, you can:

  • Streamline communications (one email with all the key points, not lots of separate emails)
  • Schedule Board meetings a year ahead of time. (Get them in the calendar so people can work around them)
  • Lay out clear expectations (Do you have a give/get policy? What attendance is expected at meetings, at events? Should they be hosting their own events? Etc.)
  • Make sure you set up the systems to allow people to check in with how they are handling their multiple commitments and step-down graciously, if and when their schedule gets too busy.

They’re in it for the long haul

Wow! Yes, they are. I do lots of Board work, and I’m constantly amazed by how many people have been with the organization since its inception. They were friends or neighbors of the founder, they were asked to join when it was just an idea, and here they are, after all these years. Talk about commitment!

When I do Board surveys I ask about Board tenure, and I have a category, “more than 20 years”, and there are LOTS and LOTS of folks who fit in that category. While some corporations also have lots of older Board directors, this is generally discouraged and it compares to the average tenure on corporate Board of around 7 years.

Is it good, or bad??

It depends. People who have been on for that long share a lot — passion, a deep understanding of the organization. Their networks have grown and matured as the organization and its work does, so the reach they have from themselves out into their community and back to the organization is often deep and robust. These people can absolutely be your most passionate and loyal advocates, no question.

But on the flip side — Board members get tired. There’s only so many years you can invite the same people to the same gala; or hit up friends for donations. The secret is having a balance. Give people a chance to recommit, and take a break if and when they need it (3 cycles of 3 years per cycle with a 1 year break, is a practice that works really well).

They fund the work of the Executive Director.

If you’re the executive director or CEO of your organization, then you’ll be very aware that the Board is often paying your salary, or a good share of it, out of their own pocket. This means they often expect to have real strategic oversight of the organization.

Of course they should have strategic oversight— it’s an important part of their job description, but it can be tough to find the right balance between strategic oversight and having someone breathe down your neck. And the truth is, it never does anyone any good to be micro-managed. So how do you help a Board find the balance? A lot of it comes down to the way you set goals and share information.

Boards often get bogged down in the details because that’s all they have. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting while some Board member drills you going $50 over the allocated printing budget— my sympathy goes out to you. It’s not fun, and it’s not productive. But if you reflect on that meeting, it may be that the only concrete information the Board had about how the organization was going were the financials. You need to give them more to work with.

Ideally you have some kind of a simple set of charts that you come back to that show how you’re tracking against your goals. And by goals — I don’t just mean your financial goals, and not even your input measures (like how many training programs you’re running, or how many people have been through your program), but how are you actually changing the lives of your clients?

Of course it takes a while to get to this point. You need to have a clear strategic aspiration — you need to be clear on the outcomes you’re seeking. You also need to have some way of tracking your impact. But even before you get to that perfect system, anything you can do to share more about the actual mechanics of what you’re doing will be helpful.

You also need to remember to help guide the conversation — don’t forget, you’re not just reporting to the Board — they are there for you! Ask them for help on the things you’re grappling with. PR? Branding? Social Media? Technology? Making a decision about whether to hire or fire someone? All of that stuff is exactly what your Board is there to support you with. The more you manage and lead the conversation, the less likely they are to slip back into micro-management.

Nonprofit Boards can be a pain, but when they are working well, your Board be one of your greatest allies and assets. Hang in there, and good luck!

Monday, 01 August 2016 19:38

Is your structure holding you back?

Does your current organizational design enable collaboration? Will it allow you to evolve? Are your employees thriving?

A thoughtful organizational design makes everything easier, but how do you know if you have what you need in place?

Consider your structure today—do you have a structure that really lines up with your current priorities? Or is it a legacy of the past? Many organizations evolve dramatically over time, yet have program divisions that reflect where they started, not where they are today. 

This mismatch in structure can impact culture in subtle but critical ways. We worked with one organization that had two big program divisions—these divisions had their origins in different funding streams, but this line up of funding and program work no longer applied. Indeed, our client wanted to serve their client holistically, coordinating service-delivery across the organization, rather than having each program deal with their clients in isolation. However, these divisions made collaboration difficult. 

During interviews the depth of these silos became apparent. People blamed each other—someone from Program A would tell us "you just can't trust someone who works in Program B", or "people in Program B don't care about clients the way we do", and vice versa. The Board and the ED blamed the individuals for being insufficiently collaborative.

We hear this a lot, leaders blaming the way people are behaving on the individuals (saying 'they're not mature', 'they're not collaborative', and so on), when in fact the structure has a lot to answer for too. Indeed, over the years, we've gotten to the point where we can almost predict how people will talk about each other based on how well the organization's objective lines up (or doesn't) with their structure.

Why is this? People are inherently tribal in nature. Can you recall a time when you bonded with a group of people in a team activity (like a work-based team building exercise, or during color wars at a summer camp as a kid, or simply being part of a sports team)? Do you remember how great it felt to build up strong feelings of comradeship? It feels great. But remember how you felt towards any competitors? The feeling of antagonism or competition towards others goes hand-in-hand with feeling like we belong to a team, program or division. 

 

We have observed in countless organizations that structure and titles alone can drive this behavior, regardless of how mature or collegial people are. If you're trying to build a collaborative culture—you must look and see whether your current organizational structure is making it easy or tough.

In the case of our client, we removed the silos, and restructured the organization around the clients. Collaboration went up, even without doing much more than shifting formal titles and divisions. Of course collaboration can be supported in other ways, but getting the right structure in place is often the quickest and easiest way to get things started.

Of course there's more to think about than silos. The ideal structure has clear roles and reporting lines. It lines up cleanly behind strategy, and ensures you have the right balance of skills and functions to support you well into the future. It's not easy, but it makes a big difference!

If this is something you need help on—feel free to reach out at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We have a range of ways (at different price points) to help you build a thriving organization. 

The right structure feels like a breath of fresh air!

Thursday, 14 January 2016 18:14

How do you earn the trust of a donor?

I was asked recently about trust -- how do you build it with a donor?
I had a really interesting conversation with a very experienced nonprofit/NGO Board Member the other day. He described beautifully the process by which you involve someone in a nonprofit or charity organization. First, you introduce them to the organization. The ideals resonate. So, the donor gives a little bit of money. It feels good. It doesn't have a huge impact on their day-to-day finances and ideally, they see how that their gift is making a difference, and they feel genuinely appreciated, and they feel good.
He remarked that if that process goes well, then the best thing that can happen is that someone (a board member, a development officer) encourages them to consider giving a little more. Each time, it works best if there's a tangible sense of impact. I give this money, it created this scholarship/these children got clean water/these girls were able to go to school/this family were able to buy chickens and increase their income, and so on.
Each time the donor gives, and each time they give more, they see that somehow, they still keep managing to make ends meet, and the world doesn't fall apart. I thought that was a wonderful description, because it is, as a donor, scary -- the first time you make a major financial contribution. That must be recognized and respected. The absolute worst thing you can do is make assumptions about someone's financial circumstances and demand that they give to you, with no thought to the impact it has on them. For any first-time major giver, it is a re-shuffle of their budget, priorities, and may increase their sense of financial vulnerability. So as the organization, you should always strive to make it feel worthwhile.
Over time, you should work to increase giving and comfort. At some point, a donor will reach a point where they are giving at their maximum comfortable limit, and then ideally, you should work with them to help them act as a supportive mentor to someone else who is starting the giving journey. All donors need to feel as if they are genuinely seen and recognized, not just for their financial donations, but for the other things they may be able to contribute -- their wisdom, their experience, their relationships.
I was delighted to be asked about trust, because it is so important in the social sector. It matters. Trust comes from transparency -- a donor can see how and where money is being spent. It comes from honesty -- if an organization is having problems, worries or concerns, they need to be honest with donors about what is going on. It comes from being inclusive -- asking donors and supporters for their ideas, wisdom and advice. It comes from being patient -- not dropping someone if they have a year when they can not give, or can give less. It comes from being responsive -- soliciting and responding to feedback. As its heart, trust can only exist when there is a genuine relationship.

Someone asked me recently, is it appropriate for a nonprofit Executive Director to solicit donation for the nonprofit directly from the individual board members?

It’s a great question! Many nonprofit leaders struggle with how to ask their boards for funding, and many board members are anxious about asking their network too.

An ED can of course ask the board directly for a contribution. Some may find that it is easier to go through a peer who is already donating, but asking directly is definitely appropriate. Ultimately, the best solution is for the Board to put in place an explicit give/get policy which is part of the board recruitment process. As an advisor and a board member, I can tell you it is actually a relief for Board members to know what is expected of them. It can also be useful for a board peer to help coach another (newer) board member on how to ask their network for funding, as this is often a daunting prospect the first time around.

Remember too that as a very experienced board chair said to me recently, you just don’t know what someone has. Even if someone has a high paying job, they may be supporting relatives, donating to other causes, coping with debt or other financial strife, so ask for what you need, but respect the fact that different people have different abilities to contribute.  

Lots of nonprofits fall into the trap of thinking that the main role a board should play is as an ATM! While boards can, and should be major contributors to the work of their organizations, it is important to realize that the best way to build strong financial relationships with your board is to make sure you are really using and valuing the full set of skills they have to bring to the board. It might sound strange, but many board members are actually more willing to donate if they are making other non-financial contributions, such as sharing their insights and experience such as on legal matters, real estate transaction, program development, budgeting, or wherever their expertise lies. 

Friday, 13 November 2015 18:33

How can I find high quality board members?

Lots of nonprofits are looking to rejuvenate their Boards and are on the constant look out for great candidates. I have heard some nonprofits say — there just are no good candidates out there. Not true!! You just need to know where to look.

Of course you should always start with your own networks, make sure you let people know the kinds of people and the skills you are looking for. But beyond that, there are a myriad of organizations aiming who are keen to help you find great board candidates, and trust me, there are also lots of good candidates who want to join your Board.

Sometimes I think nonprofits believe they are asking for a favor when they want someone to join — of course you are, but if you handle your board relations well, then your nonprofit board member should be saying that was the best decision I ever made. There are lots of things you have to offer Board members. A local network or like-minded philanthropic individuals. The feeling of doing good. An opportunity to take what they’ve learned in other parts of their lives and apply it to an issue about which they are passionate. The chance to make a difference.

If you do not know where to get started, it is always smart to try your local state nonprofit association, community foundation, or United Way. Many of them run board training and matching -- a bit like speed-dating for nonprofits and prospective Board Members. In NYC, I used United Way's BoardServeNYC, a great services that trains Board members on relevant legislation, their responsibilities and some ways to think about how to be a high performing board member, and then help match them to relevant organizations. LinkedIn is also trialing features to recruit nonprofit board members, see: LinkedIn Board Connect. BoardAssist is another in New York.

If you are outside of the US, this website has loads of other international options: Board Posting and Matching Programs.

Note that, whatever service you use, the quality of the outcomes will come down to the work you do once you have prospective candidates. You still need to do your research and due diligence -- know the skills gaps you need to fill, and select accordingly. Once you have a candidate, conduct a sufficient number of interviews to ensure a good cultural fit as well as clear mutual expectations. For example, what do you expect from your board in the way of contributions, both connections, time, how much money they can directly contribute or raise on your behalf? Once you have agreed someone will join, go out of your way to create a positive experience for them. Provide an information packet for them with your by-laws, your yearly calendar of meetings, fundraising information, a list of staff and board contacts and roles. Match new board members with a buddy, create social opportunities so board members can get to know each other and the organization, and offer to provide support and coaching for those who are new to fundraising for a board.

Good luck!

Most nonprofits in the USA get the majority of their funding from individual donors, so start here. If you've got a nice focused goal, you should be able to identify who will benefit from you achieving it. If you're removing chemicals in a lake, then who lives near the lake?  Who wants to fish or swim in the river? Are there current or prospective tourist operators who would benefit? Meet folks, pitch the idea, get networking. Always be clear on what you want and what you need. "This much much money will help us do X".

Ask your friends and family for funding, if you can't convince people who love you that the idea is valuable, you may have a bigger problem. Social media or crowd funding tools can be useful in reaching a wide array of folks but be targeted—but make sure it is clear you know what you need, and what are you asking for. Talk to as many people as you can, ask them to refer you to others. Encourage people to see if their employers have matching donation programs (many do), or grants they can apply for.

Ask for what you want. Don't make this common mistake. You have a wonderful conversation, the potential donor is excited, but you feel to shy to ask for what you want. The conversation ends with them confused and you empty handed. n Building donor relationships is like dating. It is actually a two-way relationship, and you get more respect if you are clear on your needs, as well as how you can meet the needs of your donor. Remember people like giving and making a difference. It makes them feel good.

Boards. Many people establish and use an advisory or fundraising board as a source of network and donation, this is a legitimate thing to do, and can be very helpful. However -- do not ONLY look to your board for fundraising. Build a diverse board with a range of skills and find ways to use all their skills. It is okay to be clear about the 'give and get' target, how much a board is expected to give directly or to fundraise on your behalf.  Note that Registered nonprofits have minimum legal requirements for Boards of Directors.

Events. Many nonprofits rely on events to raise funds (and their profile), typically through tickets sales and sales at the event of things like donated auction items. This can be a very successful approach to expanding your donor base and reach, but it is labor intensive, and in terms of effort/reward ratio, often overrated. For example, people often focus on the total revenue raised by the event, ignoring the costs to host. I advocate pursuing this approach only if you have a lot of organized (and experienced) volunteers who want to run events. The best impact comes when you are really good at following up with people to find ways for them to connect to the organization.

Grants. There are loads of grants with all kinds of organizations--foundation, corporate and government. Most sophisticated nonprofits use a range of software and subscribe to lists that let them know what grants are coming available when.A couple worth considering are the Foundation Center and Grants.gov

Do change what you are doing to chase grants, this quickly leads to mission creep, and a dilution of focus and impact.  Respond to only those that are actually relevant to your mission and organization, though do think creatively about how your goals and approach may meet relevant criteria. Applying for grants is an art form, and there are some great grant writers who work on contract. If you are new to this space, it may be worth hiring one to help you learn the ropes. Always read the whole grant application before you think of applying. If you can, talk to the grantor before you apply. Again, think long-term relationships.

Social Enterprises broadly defined, are ventures that have dual purposes, making a profit in order to support a charitable activity. There are several different models. Some organizations, like Warby Parker, enter partnerships with a nonprofit, and feed a portion of their profits directly to them. So, you can think about if there is a business who has a natural link up with your work as a nonprofit and pursue a partnership. Others pursue a buy-one, give-one model, a model that has some questions hanging over its effectiveness depending on what is being given. If you want to pursue this model, you must be confident that the recipients will genuinely benefit from receiving the product. Others pursue a commercial/nonprofit model, like Paul Neuman's—profits go to a range of nonprofits. Others have a sideline in commercial products (UNICEF cards) that fund their work. All can be worth considering, but work best when the commercial work either is closely tied to the work at hand, or at arms lengths. You don't want to be split in two by two competing goals.

Most of allbe focused, do good work, measure your impact, tell your compelling story to everyone, and ask for what you need.

Friday, 13 November 2015 17:13

How can you design an excellent program?

Someone who is designing their first program for a nonprofit recently asked me a great question, “How do I design an excellent program?”. I love that they started with the premise of excellence first. We all want to make a difference, but challengeing yourself to do so with excellence, is a powerful motivator to get things right from the start. All nonprofit leaders should be thinking about excellence, both in establishing new programs and reviewing existing ones. Here is what I shared with them, my top four  absolute “must-do’s.” for excellence and impact.

Must do #1:  Set a very clear set of goals.

Ask yourself first: Who are you serving (your clients) and what do they want and or need need? Ask your clients directly if possible.

Then consider what are the outcomes you are trying to achieve? (Reduce incidence of a disease, reduce obesity, reduce infant mortality etc.)

Must do #2: Identify the full range of options for achieving those goals. If your goal is to reduce infant mortality you should first identify all the broad categories of options: improve prenatal care, doctor education, patient education, nutrition, hygiene, etc, then options within them. For example, within improve prenatal care: increase number of doctor visits, increase prenatal nutrition, educate about risk factors (alcohol, smoking) etc. Note that even though you’re talking about health education (which means you have already narrowed in on a particular type of intervention, it is still worth thinking more broadly to make sure you will actually reach your goal.

Must do #3: Understand which options are most likely to be effective. Consult with experts in the field to understand which options are likely to work for you. Look for meta-analyses, which aggregate the latest research and insights, and reach out directly to academics and practitioners to ask for their wisdom to make sure you are pursuing the options that actually have evidence behind them. This means you can save a lot of time, by learning from the mistakes of others, and putting your resources into the most effective strategies.

Must do #4 Track progress so you can adapt your approach. Whatever approach you decide to take, track what's happening to your outcome, even if you are not the only group influencing it, you need to know if it is moving in the right direction. If not, make changes.

Of course the best way to have impact, is to get moving. You may make mistakes, but as long as you are tracking impact, and adapting as you go, you will ultimately change lives. 

Contemplating a joining a nonprofit board? 

Years ago a corporate client and friend of mine was thinking of joining a nonprofit board and asked for my advice about what questions he should ask. I put together a list of questions to ask, he asked the questions, found the responses very enlightening, joined the board with eyes wide open, shook some things up, and the organization has since gone from strength to strength. 

I have been refining it ever since, and thought today was as good a day as any to share it! So – if you’re contemplating joining a nonprofit board, before you commit, here are ten killer questions to ask your potential nonprofit Board colleagues. 

  1. How much faith do you have in the current CEO/Executive Director?
  2. What are the current objectives for the organization and what happens if they are not met?
  3. Can I see the strategic plan?
  4. What will the organization NOT do?
  5. Who makes key strategic decisions (i.e. to serve a target group, to allocate a significant portion of funding)?
  6. What is the current funding situation & how sustainable are the sources?
  7. Do you know how much it costs to serve a client?
  8. Who are the other board members and what are their roles? 
  9. Are board members expected/required to make a financial commitment to the organization? Why, or why not?
  10. How does the Board relate to other local, national or international Boards associated with the organization? Is it clear who is expected to do what? Who gets to make what decisions?

When I first started leading teams I prided myself on keeping the peace and my cool, no matter how stressful or volatile the situation.

After one long day and an even longer team meeting, a team member asked me to stay back for a chat, and tried, once again, to get me onside in a turf war he was waging. This was a re-run. I was tired, I was frustrated, I’d had it, and after what felt like months of biting my tongue – I really lost it. I yelled at him. I cursed. I told him I didn’t want to be called at all hours, had no interest in once again being called into these kind of petty battles, that his behavior was unprofessional and selfish, and I’d had it.

That night, I was full of regret about having lost my cool– talk about unprofessional. I assumed he’d be insulted and angry. The next day – he sent me an apology note. I was stunned. When I called to discussed – he told me something that has shaped my leadership approach ever since. He said when I yelled at him, it felt like the first time I’d been honest. He told me that my efforts to be diplomatic and levelheaded were confusing to him, he could sense there was some disconnect between what I was saying and what I thought, and as a result he didn’t know what to believe. His behavior improved immediately and so did mine. While I didn’t start yelling at my team members on a regular basis—I now always tackle tough conversations head on, I have the courage to be honest. My mantra: I have no right to be unhappy with someone’s behaviour if I’ve never told them how it impacts me, and given them a chance to respond.  That one conversation, decades ago, has been such a gift, making me willing to some pretty tough conversations head-on, with consistently game changing results.

Yet, every day—in my work counselling CEOs and senior leaders, I see leaders—especially in the social sector, who do all sort sorts of things to avoid just this kind of honest encounter, with the same belief I had – that being a leader means keeping the peace and rising above it all. They make all kinds of excuses for other’s behavior: “it wasn’t such a big deal”, “I’m sure it will pass”, “they’ve been working too hard”, “they mean well” as justifications for not having the conversation (about unacceptable performance or behavior). Often, leaders really concerned that they may be perceived as the bad guy, or worried about what will happen if they lose their cool.

Yet having a tough conversation can be one of the most caring things we can do. Even nothing more than the using the old, but powerful phrasing, “when you… fail to meet your deadline; write a substandard proposal; yell at clients; turn up unprepared to a meeting etc….it makes me feel disappointed, frustrated, embarrassed”, can be a path to open the lines of communication, and drastically improve a working relationship.

In truth, we spend enormous amounts of time with our colleagues, these are, for the most part of it – high intensity, long term relationships, that bear having the difficult conversations, and practice makes perfect.

What are your experiences? What results have tough conversations yielded for you? When have they gone right? Wrong?

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