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Change when you are in a position of strength!

Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Most organizations are “allergic” to change. It is time-consuming, challenging and provokes stress among staff, Board, volunteers, and clients. Yet change is a way of life in today’s contemporary organizational life. The question is not “Whether to change?” but rather “When to change?” Charles Handy, Britain’s leading thinker on management and organizational change discusses change in a number of his books. In his latest book, The Second Curve; Thoughts on Reinventing Society, he uses the Second Curve concept to talk about reinventing society. The Second Curve highlights how all organizations change over time, whether they are countries, businesses or non-profits. The Second Curve is based on the sigmoid curve which is an S-shaped curve on its side. As organizations grow they rise up the curve. Eventually, all organizations peak and begin to decline. Research has shown that businesses used to have a lifespan of about 40 years before they went into decline or were taken over. In today’s world of rapid change, this span has decreased to about 14 years. But Handy states that this decline does not have to occur. Renewal can be planned if an organization is willing to “jump” onto a Second Curve. The best time to jump onto a Second Curve is when an organization is at the “top” of its game or high on the first curve. It can then use its positive momentum and strengths to make the jump to a “Second Curve”. All change takes energy and there is often a slowdown in productivity when a change occurs, but the growth upward can be quick if an organization makes the change when it is strong. Unfortunately, organizations often wait until there is a crisis and they are on the downward side of the growth curve before changing. At that point, the initial part of the change process takes the organization even farther down the curve before it begins to move upward again. In this case, an organization often not only loses productivity during the change process but when it waits until it is already in a downward slide it often goes backward for awhile before it begins to move forward and upward again. Handy’s primary premise is that it takes much less energy to change when an organization is in a position of strength and is successful than when it is in a position of weakness and in decline. Unfortunately, there is less drive to change when an organization is in a position of strength. Hence, it is very important to be aware of trends impacting your organization or sector and identifying when to move forward with change, even if things are going extremely well… Visit Osborne-group.com for other Principals’ ideas and opinions on a...

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Everything I Learned About Management I Learned at the Opera

Posted by on Feb 27, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Part 1 – Rigoletto I was sitting at the opera last night thinking about what I was seeing and how it provides evidence of what good leadership – or, more commonly, its opposite – looks like. So, I plan to write occasionally about the management lessons found in the classic opera repertoire. First up, Rigoletto. What can we learn from this opera? (I’m not going to include a full plot summary – if you need that you should look here) Rigoletto works as a court jester for a powerful duke. Urged on by the Duke, Rigoletto has mocked and belittled other courtiers so not only do they have no loyalty to him, they actively dislike him. [Rule 1 – Build collaborative relationships and networks with your colleagues. You never know when you might need their help.] Later, Rigoletto meets with an assassin who will help rid him of his enemies – for a fee. Rigoletto doesn’t hire him but keeps his services in mind. [Rule 2 – Keep your options open when you are trying to solve a complex problem, and recognize that you may not have the needed skill set in-house.) The Duke has seen Rigoletto’s beautiful daughter, Gilda, from afar, and finds out where she lives to attempt to seduce her while pretending he is a poor student. [Rule 3 – Do thorough reference checks.] Other courtiers come to Rigoletto’s house and kidnap his daughter. [See Rule 1. Again.] Back at the palace, the Duke seduces Gilda (doing his Hollywood producer thing) while his courtiers, enablers all, egg him on and prevent Rigoletto from rescuing his daughter. [Rule 4 – Have a no-harassment policy and enforce it across the entire organization.] Far from being a poor student, the Duke turns out to be a serial womanizer/predator. While Gilda watches, he sings the famous “la donna e mobile” aria about the flightiness of women. [Rule 4a. Don’t point fingers or make up excuses for your own behaviour.] A small digression – see link to this part of the aria – elephants yeah – which has nothing to do with management behaviour but makes me laugh when I hear it. Towards the end of Act 3, the main characters sing the beautiful quartet “Bella figlia dall’amore”.  This quartet illustrates a common feature of operas, when multiple characters sing different lines of music that fit together beautifully. The problem is that they are all singing at the same time so their different perspectives are not being shared. [Rule 5 – You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in appropriate proportions.] Rigoletto hires the assassin to kill the duke, but he kills Gilda instead. Rigoletto, after paying the assassin,...

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Five Things You Can Do To Protect Against Sexual Misconduct at your Charity

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

I was asked by the Toronto Arts Foundation to deliver a short presentation on human resources for directors of small not-for-profit and charitable organizations. In January, I opened my news feed to see that the artistic director of a prominent Canadian theatre company was being sued by four actors for sexual harassment and that the theatre company was named in the suits. Suddenly, my presentation on an important but often ignored subject was urgent as well as important. Directors of not-for-profit organizations and charities need to take immediate action to ensure that their organizations are taking basic but critical steps to prevent misconduct and to provide a safe, professional and welcoming environment for staff and volunteers. Human resources are part of the risk management responsibilities of the board and are no less important than ensuring your financial risks are minimized. Wondering where to start? Here are five things all boards should consider. Be informed Directors of not-for-profit organizations are correctly schooled to be mindful of the division of responsibilities between their governance role and the role of staff to manage. This is particularly true in the area of human resources where there is often an intentional barrier intended to maintain confidentiality. However, a Director’s duty of care requires the Board to be informed about all aspects of the organization. By all means, retain the delegation of HR to staff but Directors must remain engaged. Start by increasing the board’s knowledge about human resources. Ensure board behaviour models desired organizational culture To ensure the desired culture is supported, take a mission, vision, and values approach by rooting your human resources philosophy in your company’s mission, vision, and values. This helps to ensure the HR practices fit with your organizational culture and are understood by staff, volunteers and board alike. Mission phrases such as “engenders a supportive community,” “provide the conditions for new work to thrive,” and “allows the company to build a new, cohesive and inclusive world” are foundations on which you can build your human resources philosophy. Organizational values should be reflected in human resources policies. Are you a learning organization? Are you concerned with social justice issues, diversity, or access? Look to your values when choosing among options for policies and procedures. Include human resources in risk management Many charities and not-for-profit organizations have adopted risk management practices by identifying, mitigating and monitoring risks to protect against foreseeable risks. It has become second nature to take this approach with our financial risks. Directors can protect their organizations from risks related to human resources by including HR when identifying potential risks. Common situations are working with a large number of volunteers or being overly reliant on a single staff person for...

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Five Things To Do If Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Occur In Your Charity

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

About 10 years ago, when I was directing a national fundraising campaign, I met with a prospective donor at a posh tennis club. The weather was warm, the sun was shining and the table set with crisp white linens. The conversation, however, was not nearly as sanitized as the surroundings. Every question I asked was met with a response full of sexual innuendo until finally, the man allowed that if I wanted serious answers to my questions, I could come to his place and we could talk over a couple of glasses of red wine. Ewww, right? When I reported the results of my meeting to the CEO of the charity, his response was immediate and short. “Well, I guess we can cross xxxx off our list.” Charities, need I say, are often seen as places where only the well-meaning dwell. Yet, charities, need I also say, are full of the same kinds of people that populate humanity at large, the good, the bad and the downright offensive. So, today, I’ll keep my advice short about what to do if a prospective donor is out of bounds. Cross him off your list. There’s plenty of other fish in the donor ocean that do not require sexual favours as part of their “cultivation” requirements. But if the alleged transgressor is a high profile part of your charity, such as Albert Shultz, former artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto or Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, both of whom have recently resigned amidst widespread allegations of misconduct, the situation is rightly a bit more complicated. According to the Washington Post, the Humane Society’s investigation of the allegations against Pacelle, “began on December 20 after the [charity] received an anonymous complaint about Pacelle’s behavior.” Upon investigating the allegations, the board discovered, “several former high-ranking women had warned Pacelle … that his sexual relationships with subordinates, donors, and volunteers could hurt the charity.” In Albert Schultz’s case, four women have brought civil lawsuits against him and the Soulpepper Theatre alleging “decades of sexual harassment and assault both on stage and off.” In both cases, the allegations are said to cover incidents over a period of 10 years and been known inside the charity for years. It’s a messy business. And if you are faced with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, as has happened to Oxfam, Save the Children and other international aid charities, your entire sector will be thrown into chaos. But all these situations share one thing in common.  They all have a point at which someone first learned about it. So what to do if someone comes to you with an allegation of...

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Interruption – Do you talk more than you listen?

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

It’s now post-holiday as I write this blog. Family get-togethers are history, treats all consumed and the New Year has arrived with the usual Toronto winter bluster. This is a great time to reflect and analyze what worked and didn’t work last year and perhaps implement a few behavioral changes for 2018. Over the holidays, I found myself involved in many cocktail discussions either out at public events or at friends’ homes and I noticed a shift in the quality of conversation this year. No, it wasn’t the topics, which are fun and easy to procure given the politics of the day. It was the participation and exchange of ideas that seemed to be lacking. It’s said that you always learn more if you can use active listening skills, so I was looking forward to some quality conversation while I practice. However, I found it difficult because of untethered interruption from others. While we all want to promote our ideas and points particularly around the boardroom table, I found that many people this year just butt into the conversation with their ideas and points without waiting for a good opportunity to involve themselves or really understand the points. Some shouted their way in and then abruptly left after their short and poorly crafted interjection. Others showed no concern for quality or balance…in fact no attempt to solicit quality ideas or comments, simply a high spirited point or comment that sometimes offended the other parties. I began to question: Is no one practicing active listening out there? And, perhaps even more alarming, is quality conversation lost? Having spent a large amount of time in my career facilitating large groups I know the value of a thoughtful and well-facilitated discussion. I can say with confidence that the “thoughtful” factor is missing frequently these days. Perhaps some traditional methods to ensure input and well thought out discussion need to be reintroduced by those of us who appreciate facilitative leadership. One executive leader I particularly enjoyed working with frequently used a “talking stick” when she knew a discussion needed a variety of balanced input. This ensured there was a high-quality discussion at the President’s table when evaluating options and plans to move the organization forward. I have reminded myself to consider that everybody out there is doing what makes sense to them based on their own thinking. Moving forward, I will choose to be curious about the circumstances and ideas that lead to a person’s point of view and actions. For others, perhaps I can use some inanimate object as a temporary gift signifying control of the conversation. Risky, but valuable maybe. I worry that it may be interpreted by the “interrupters” as too...

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Are the yardsticks moving?

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

I have been both directly and indirectly involved in Ontario’s Not for Profit Sector for many years, and I have observed that one of the most enduring themes has not changed –  “we need more funding from the Province”.  These requests are understandably driven by the need to raise staff salaries to remain competitive and to address continuously increasing demand for services and supports. As a board member of a not for profit organization, I watch with keen interest the management dynamics of other not for profit organizations who are struggling to manage financial challenges. The sector in which I am involved has strong grassroots community foundations which define the organizations’ histories and attitudes. This is a major asset, but can often be a liability that organizations deliberately ignore. Given the environment these organizations exist in, they are challenged to seek innovation and efficiency which can only go so far. The ultimate step is the idea of amalgamation. Once this idea begins to percolate, it most often clashes with organizational grassroots history and attitudes. In the sector that I am involved with, all the agencies support vulnerable adults. What differentiates them is, for example, the type of specialized supports provided or the organizational culture and history. All too often organizations simply feel that they do their jobs better than others. What often happens is that any thought of amalgamation as a response to challenging financial issues and sustainability immediately evokes a “not us” response. This usually comes from the belief that the org is “different/better” and doesn’t want to risk losing the identity. This is a valid concern, but one that can be very effectively addressed if managed properly. Underlying many of these “not me” responses is a fear that there will be job loss at the senior level.  The Boards of Directors do not want to lose their Executive Directors and the Executive Directors don’t want to potentially lose their jobs. In some sectors, for example, Child Welfare, amalgamations were forced and while the journey was painful, the outcome was in the best interests of children. This should be the overriding consideration for any organization facing very tough times and looking for solutions to their financial and other challenges. If amalgamation is the only way to ensure the security of support and services, organizations must set aside their “not us” response while they critically examine what is in the best interests of the individuals they support. They often need help to examine this option, but most organizations and their boards never get passed the “not me” stage due to the factors I have described above. As a consultant who has worked with many organizations that have successfully amalgamated,...

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