Fundraising Professionals: Decorating Your New Office? Don’t Bother. You Won’t Be There That Long!

P6Summary of a 2-Part Presentation for the Las Vegas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (March 25 and September 23, 2016)

Decorating your new office?  Don’t bother.  Fundraising professionals change jobs on average just 16 to 19 months after being hired, so you won’t be there very long.  Although the days when workers stayed with an employer for many years is a thing of the past, a turnover rate of 16 to 19 months is extremely high.  Even our most job-mobile generation, the millennials, stay in a job about 5 years—three times longer than fundraising professionals.

This high turnover rate is bad for a nonprofit’s bottom line.

Turnover is expensive in general. 

Replacing an employee can cost as much as two times that employee’s annual salary in recruitment costs and lost productivity.  Additionally, it can take six months or more to replace a professional level employee.  When that employee is a fundraiser, development activity grinds to a halt—and the cost in missed development opportunities may be immeasurable.

A tenure of a year and half is too short for effective development activity. 

Stepping into a position that has likely been vacant for six months, it takes newly hired fundraisers as much as a year to get “up to speed” while they build relationships within the organization and rebuild neglected relationships and lost trust with donors and funders.  During that time, they may be able to do little more than gather low-hanging fruit.  Then six months later they are off to a new job, and the cycle repeats itself.

This high turnover rate is bad for fundraisers—personally and professionally.

Changing jobs (even voluntarily) ranks among the five or six most stress-creating life events.

Changing jobs creates a level of stress that ranks up there with getting divorced and experiencing a major illness or accident.  People who change jobs every year and a half are living with a perpetual stressor that can wear them down physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.

Frequent job changes can stall a career.

In the nonprofit world it is often the case that the only way to increase your income or advancing your career is by changing jobs (a problem we will come back to).  When potential employers see a pattern of changing jobs frequently after a short tenure, however, here is what they are thinking:

  1. Since the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, you probably will not stay with them any longer than you stayed in any of your previous jobs. We just suffered through a “development drought” while we went through a long, expensive and annoying recruitment process—and we do not want to be doing that again a year and a half from now.
  2. If you haven’t been in any one job for even two years, you probably have really just spent most of your time finishing up someone else’s work and going after low-hanging fruit—and probably have not really acquired and developed the advanced skills we need.
  3. Let’s keep looking.

Is it Burnout?

I have no doubt that people in the fundraising profession do experience burnout, but burnout does not sufficiently explain the revolving door trend.  Even fundraisers who report being happy and satisfied in their current positions take part in this ongoing profession-wide churning.

Additionally, I am always wary when people start talking about burnout because the tendency is to treat burnout as the employee’s problem, and therefore solutions focus on how the employee can deal with burnout.  Develop better time management skills.  Get more exercise.  Once the talk shifts to burnout, however, we rarely turn out attention back to what is actually going on in the organization.  And with an average turnover rate of about a year and a half for fundraising professionals, something is going on in nonprofit organizations.   In fact, many factors coalesce to create an environment that encourages fundraisers to move on—but there are steps you and your organizations can take to slow down the revolving door trend.

Compensation:  low compensation is the number on turnoverreason that fundraisers give for changing jobs.

Many nonprofit organizations do not (and some cannot) pay a competitive salary.  The smaller the organization the less able it is to meet its workers’ salary needs.  Additionally, our compensation needs naturally increase over time.  The salary that works for a new college student in a small apartment does not work for a couple or for a family that needs to plan for college and retirement.  All this works towards encouraging you to move from smaller to larger nonprofits that can pay more (leaving smaller nonprofits with less expensive and less experienced fundraisers).

Strategies for Fundraisers

Sharpen your career management skills. 

Given the current “turnover tarantella” in the fundraising profession, most fundraisers should anticipate looking for a new job sometime in the not-too-distant future.  If they want to slow down their participation in the rapid and frequent turnover trend, they should develop the skills they need to make good decisions about their next position.  With improved career management skills, they are more likely to be offered and accept positions in organizations that are a better fit for them—and when the fit is better, they are more likely to stay longer.

 Strategies for Leaders/Managers

 Pay a competitive salary to all employees. 

Easier said than done.  Few organizations are in a position to simply raise everyone’s salaries.  But if your organization does strategic planning (and it should), then that plan should include goals and objectives for bringing salaries in line with industry standards.  It is a matter of fairness, and people like to be treated fairly.  Additionally, when people see there is an actual strategy in place for getting them to fair compensation, that tells them that they are as important as programs and services or the new building that is being planned.  When people feel they are being treated fairly and are important to the organization and its leaders, they are less likely to move on.

 Find other ways to make working for the organization attractive.

Be creative.  Think of things that make the working environment better for fundraising professionals.  Think of things that can save them time.  Think of things that make it easier for them to maintain a balance between work life and personal life.  All these things help eliminate unnecessary stress—and when the level of unnecessary stress goes down, people feel good about where they work.  And when people feel good about where they work, they tend to stay around.  They also tend to be more productive.

Make a habit of acknowledging people’s efforts. 

We all like to know that our efforts matter and that our work makes a difference.  We feel good when those efforts are acknowledged.  Being thanked makes us feel good about ourselves. about our work and about the company where we work.  Letting people know that what they have done matters keeps them engaged, excited and motivated—and engaged, excited and motivated people are more likely to stay around.

Career Advancement:  Lack of career advancement opportunities is the second most often reason given by fundraisers for changing jobs.

Development departments tend to be small with limited opportunities (or none at all) for advancement within the department.  Also, nonprofits tend to have small executive leadership teams; while many development people hope to move into leadership positions—even executive director positions—a small leadership team offers very limited opportunities for advancement within the organization.  Fundraisers quickly realize that if they want to “move up” they have to “move out.”

Strategy for Fundraisers

Be proactive when it comes to your career development. 

Fundraisers shouldn’t wait for employers to provide training and development opportunities.  Rather they should plan their own development program.  This decreases the need to move from one organization to another in order to develop new skills and abilities.   They may still have to “move out” to “move up” but it takes fewer intermediate job changes to get where they want to be.

Strategy for Leaders/Managers

Make a commitment to staff development—even if you can offer little or no actual career ladder to climb—and think of it as an investment rather than an expense.

 The payback of investing in staff training and development is immense.

  • Knowing that an employer is willing to provide training and development makes an employee feel valued—and that breeds loyalty. Loyal employees are not prone to leave.
  • Employee development keeps work from being boring and can keep your employees engaged at work. Engaged employees are more likely to stay around longer.
  • Employee development is viewed as a benefit and helps with the compensation difficulty discussed above.

But the payback goes beyond employee retention.

  • Investing in training and development produces well-trained, confident and engaged employees who are going to do better work in the long run—and that is going to save money as they become more proficient and efficient.
  • Employee development makes an employer more attractive to potential employees. When an organization invests in its people, it attracts the best staff, while offering training, continuing education, conference attendance—or even something as simple as a book allowance—attracts employees who are looking to better themselves.
  • Being committed to employee development improves the organization’s reputation. When staff members do leave to work elsewhere they take the message that they come from a great place to work.

Structural Issues

At some point every organization is challenged by structures and processes that seem to impede rather than support its ability to meet goals and achieve its mission. Simply put, what got them from Point A to Point B in the past no longer works—or at least it is harder and takes longer to get from B to C.  Reporting structures can become roadblocks.  Communication slows and requires a magic decoder ring.  Silos develop inhibiting collaborating and stifling innovation and creativity. New skill sets are needed that no one seems to have.  The structural challenge most often cited by fundraisers as a reason for leaving involves leaders, managers and board members.

Poor leadership and managerial skills drive employees to look for work elsewhere.

When you ask employees what would improve retention rates, in addition to better compensation and more advancement opportunities, they cite strong leadership.  They want leaders who, among other things, can:

  • Communicate well (including the ability to listen)
  • Facilitate change
  • Strategize and connect their people to that strategy
  • Empower people and engage them in decision-making
  • Build trust, bring people together, inspire and motivate people and show appreciation.

These are all skills that leaders can learn and develop.  But it is easy for nonprofit leaders to focus their attention and efforts exclusively on immediate needs and to pay less attention to the systemic issues that ultimately drive an organization’s long-term success. One area that they often neglect is their own development.

Lack of board formation drives fundraisers to look for work elsewhere.

One of the frequent consequences of structural challenges in an organization is a lack of clarity about who does what and how.  That lack of clarity can extend to an organization’s board.  Often board members don’t understand their own role on the board in general and in fundraising in particular.  Many board members do not actually understand how fundraising works, nor do they understand the specific strategies fundraisers use to generate contributions.  They only know that they are supposed to assist with fundraising.

Without a clear understanding of what is expected of them and without training on how to support fundraising efforts, some board members will offer no assistance or support to fundraising efforts at all.  More problematic and frustrating for fundraisers, however, are board members who go off on their own with activities that conflict with the work of fundraising staff.  This independent activity is not just frustrating and stressful for fundraisers; it is frequently damaging to the agency’s development efforts.

Strategy for Fundraisers

 Claim a seat at the board room table.

Be proactive with board development around fundraising.  Fundraisers should push for opportunities to join board meetings to inform board members on what fundraising is, how fundraising and development works, what the current development strategies are and what assistance is needed from board members.

Strategies for Leaders/Managers

Make your own leadership/management skills development a priority. 

Get help in evaluating your leadership and management strengths and weakness—then create a strategic leadership program for yourself.  This requires a certain amount of humility:  you have to be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that there is room for improvement.

Make board formation and ongoing development a priority.  

Create a clear picture of the board’s role, recruit board members based upon needed skills, develop job descriptions for board members, and educate board members on their role.  Incorporate development into regular board processes.  In the area of fundraising, bring in fundraising staff to explain what they do and how fundraising works, their goals and objectives, and their strategies.  Facilitate the building of relationships between fundraisers and board members.

Cultural Issues

An organization’s culture consists of the values, beliefs and attitudes that are operative in the organization.  These operative values, beliefs and attitude may be the same as the organization’s espoused valued, beliefs and attitudes—or they may not be.    It is, however, the operative rather than the espoused that guide behavior and practices and sculpt a worker’s experience.

Fundraising professionals consistently report that their organizations’ attitude towards their development work is not altogether positive.  In some organizations (perhaps even most organizations), development work is perceived as not being part of the core of what the organization is about.  Development work is (regrettably) necessary so that they can do the real work of the organization.

When the culture doesn’t view and value development work as a mission-aligned program of the organization, fundraisers do not stay around very long.  Fundraisers often find themselves isolated and without the support they need within the organization.  When they reach out, they are politely told in a dozen different ways, “It’s not my job.”  They often find they are left out of strategic discussions and parts of the decision-making process—and then find themselves unexpectedly saddled with unrealistic expectations and unattainable goals.  By the way, conversely, when fundraisers are left out of strategic discussions and the decision-making process, organizations miss out on the possibility of fundraisers saying, “Wait a minute!  We can do more than that!”

Strategy for Fundraisers

Work on building relationships within the organization.

A culture of philanthropy is rooted in relationship-building.  Don’t ignore relationships within your organization.  Giving attention to those relationships can help shift people’s perception of and attitude towards development work.

Teach your coworkers about what you do.

Create opportunities—both informal and formal—to help people understand what philanthropy is, what you do, how what you do impacts what they do, etc.  Information goes a long way when it comes to building relationships and partnerships.

Strategy for Leaders/Managers

Start shifting the culture from a culture of fundraising to a culture of philanthropy. 

The most effective organizations embrace a culture of philanthropy.  In a culture of philanthropy fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program along with the other work of the organizations.  Everyone in the organization—from the janitor to the board chair—promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving, and most people in the organization act as ambassadors and engage in the relationship building that is the heart of philanthropy and development.

Cultural change is unquestionably difficult, but it is not impossible.  Leaders can start by increasing the visibility and involvement of development staff in planning and decision-making—and by setting an example by increasing their own commitment to and involvement in fundraising.  For a full-scale cultural shift, they may need outside assistance.

One Size Does Not Fit All

High turnover among fundraising professionals impacts the success and well-being of nonprofit organizations and of the fundraising professionals who support them.  No two organizations, however, are exactly the same.  What may be behind high turnover in one organization may not be an issue in another.

If the Development Office has a revolving door, and you want to do something about it, take the time to assess and understand your own specific situation so that you can apply the right solution to the problem.  “Random Acts of Problem Solving” only work by happy coincidence and more frequently waste valuable time, energy and resources.  But with the right tool for the right job, you’ll get the outcomes you need faster and with a lot less work!

Kevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: Kevin P. Dincher

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Leadership is Like Skiing: You Can’t Learn it by Reading a Book

Kevin P. Dincher

I may be wrong about this, but from my reading and conversations with colleagues and clients, I get the impression that relatively few supervisors and managers and even fewer C-level executives, entrepreneurs and board members actively pursue disciplined professional leadership development. They read books, articles and blogs about leadership, and they attend workshops and seminars—so they know about leadership. There is, however, a world of difference between knowing about leadership and becoming an effective leader.

“Born Leaders” and “Made Leaders”

Leadership coach and author Erika Andersen (Leading So People Follow) writes that like most human capabilities, leadership capability falls along a bell curve.  There’s the 10-15% at the top of the bell curve; they are “born leaders” who start out good and tend to get better.  At the bottom of the curve are the 10-15% of people who are never going to be very good leaders no matter how hard they try; they simply do not have the innate wiring.  In the middle of the curve is the vast majority of us; most of us have some degree of innate leadership capability that can be developed. This is where the real potential for “made leaders” lies.

Most of the people in the middle of the curve can actually become very good leaders—and even great leaders. Over time, they can acquire new leadership skills. They are not, however, likely to acquire and perfect those skills simply from reading books or attending an occasional seminar.

Leadership Can be Taught and Learned—but Reading Isn’t Learning

Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keep’s book title ” target=”_blank”>Telling Ain’t Training has become an axiom in the learning field. The goal of training is not simply to pass on information; it is to teach new skills and change behavior. When you tell people about leadership or they read about leadership, they might intellectually understand what you want them to know, but that doesn’t mean that they have acquired any new skills. 

Think about learning to ski. Let’s say someone explains to you how it is done, shows you a video, and provides you with a how-to manual to read. Are you ready to head off to Aspen, strap on some skis and hurl yourself down the advanced slopes? There is a world of difference between knowing about skiing and having the skill to ski. Most people need someone to help them practice new skills (like how to stop) on the bunny slope. They need to practice—and they need someone to work with them on the slopes.

Leadership development works the same way:  we need to practice—and we need someone to work with us in the field so the leadership skills we learn become firmly ingrained and habitual.

You Can’t Learn Leadership Alone 

Many leadership lessons, however, are not just about acquiring new skills. Many leadership lessons are about unlearning old habits, default reactions, and assumptions about human nature in order to adopt new and different choices and behaviors.  The key to this unlearning—and the becoming a good leader—is self-awareness.

By becoming self-aware I don’t mean becoming self-absorbed. I’ve worked with far too many “it’s-all-about-me leaders” who are way too focused on themselves, on their own evolution, on their own  drama to ever become really great leaders. Becoming truly self-aware means to cultivate an accurate sense of how you stand in the world—and includes such things as:

  • Knowing your real strengths and weaknesses not only as a leader but also as a person.
  • Having an accurate picture of the impact that you have on others.
  • Knowing what you most care about.
  • Having a moral compass and using it as a guidance system.
  • Knowing how your actions line up with your promises.

This kind of self-awareness will never be found in a book or achieved in a 3-day seminar. You need someone to challenge you when you say you think you have great relationship-building skills but people actually find you somewhat insensitive and overbearing. You need someone who can agree that you have excellent communication skills—and then ask you what keeps you from speaking up and using them.  And you need someone who can give you a “thumbs up” when you nail it!   None of us can really see ourselves with total clarity without assistance. As Andersen says, it’s like trying to know what you look like without having a mirror.

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to learn certain skills through practice and coaching—but you also need to have an accurate picture of how you operate in the world. To get that picture you need someone (or perhaps even a group of people) who knows you well, wants what is best for you, and is willing to be drop-dead honest with you in the service of that.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Leadership: Get to Know Yourself – and Then Realize It’s Not About You

Kevin P. Dincher

Did you see Star Trek into Darkness? It’s an enjoyable and entertaining movie—which is the most I expect from the crew of the Enterprise. A moment early in the film, however, made me sit up. Spock is in a volcano trying to abort an eruption. [Vulcan in a volcano? Someone been reading Roman mythology?] Although the mission is successful, it violates Star Fleet’s Prime Directive against interfering with the development of alien civilizations, and Kirk is demoted. His mentor, Commander Pike, summarizes the problem:  “There’s greatness in you, but there’s not an ounce of humility.”

Humility carries a great deal of negative baggage. Humility evokes timidity, indecisiveness and weakness. Humility smells of pretense; under the guise of humility, people portray themselves as less than they really believe themselves to be—and in the extreme become like Dickens’ Uriah Heap:  obsequious, insincere and the ultimate “yes man.” In addition, there is a long history of equating humility with self-deprecation and embracing a negative self-image; such “humility” is self-hatred and not conducive to developing exemplary leaders.

Consequently, despite research (e.g., Jim Collins, Good to Great) and claims that “humility in leadership is back on the executive conference room table” (Executive Ethics: Ethical Dilemmas and Challenges for the C-suite), we don’t often talk about humility and leadership—except for religious leaders.  Remember how after the election of Pope Frances the media hyped his every action as signs of humility? Of the dozen leadership books on my bookshelf only one mentions humility—and it devotes barely a page to something the authors say is characteristic of exemplary leaders. Additionally, they present humility merely as an antidote to excessive ego rather a value itself:  you’ll be a better leader if you recognize you aren’t infallible. True enough. But is that there is to humility?

Humility is Self-Knowledge 

The word humility comes from the Latin humus, meaning ground or earth—which was sometimes used in the sense of being grounded. To be humble is to be grounded in reality with a strong and healthy sense of self.”   Humble leaders know their real talents and accomplishments—and are comfortable enough in their own skins to talk about those talents and accomplishments honestly. They have no need to inflate themselves, to brag or to be competitive. On the other hand, they don’t deflate themselves either. If you are smart, you are lying—not being humble—if you act as though you are not.  Humble leaders also know and acknowledge the reality of their weaknesses, biases and blind spots. We all have them—although successes can make us forget that, and fear of failure can keep us from admitting it. This is not beating up yourself, and it is not seeing yourself as less talented than you are. Humility is honestly knowing yourself and becoming comfortable in your own skin.


Self-Knowledge is Strength

Grounded in the reality of genuine talents, humble leaders start from a position of strength. They know what they are good at and can tap into those talents and abilities effectively. With a deflated self-image, people start from a position of weakness; seeing themselves as less talented than they are, they deny their talents and gifts—and can’t access them or use them effectively. An inflated self-image also weakens people. They struggle to access talents and skills they only think they possess. And with even a modicum of self-awareness, in the back of their minds they keep Oz saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” All that smoke-and-mirrors is stressful and wastes energy.

A Creative Environment

Paradoxically, humility’s strength also comes from being grounded in the reality of our own shortcomings—and being comfortable with not being perfect. Humble leaders know that they can’t do it alone—and aren’t threatened by other talented people. Consequently, they don’t surround themselves with people who are exactly like themselves or who think exactly as they do. They select talented, self-confident people who complement their own strengths and weakness, who have different personalities, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and who are willing to question and challenge them. They don’t micromanage people into acting exactly as they would; they trust people to succeed by doing things their own way. This diversity of personalities, perspectives and skills generate a dynamic, creative, learning environment. level5It’s Not About You.  Strength also comes from knowing it’s not about you. Leadership is never about you. If it is, you’re not a leader—you’re a narcissist. One hallmark of exemplary leaders is selflessness. George Bradt, who writes for, explains:  “One of the most fundamental lessons of leadership is that if you’re a leader, it’s not about you. It’s about the people following you. The best leaders devote almost all of their energy to inspiring and enabling others. Taking care of them is a big part of this.” In Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the leader who combines personal humility with professional will as a “Level 5 Leader”— the top of his leadership hierarchy. In 1996, Collins began researching what makes a great company. He started with 1,435 companies and ended up selecting 11 truly great ones, all headed by “Level 5 Leaders.” What these leaders had in common was an it’s-not-about-me mindset. They focused on others. They shared credit for success easily—and readily accepted responsibility for mistakes. They were not threatened by other’s success; instead, mentoring and molding other leaders energized them. As a result, people followed them because they wanted to.

In short, humility gives strength through growing self-knowledge, supporting creative environment and focusing on others. Humble leaders desire success so that their organizations and people can thrive. I am not sure humility is really back on the executive conference room table, but it never should have been off the table—even for those of us not likely to captain a starship or become pope.

moonKevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: kevindincher           Twitter:  kdincher


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Become a Manager who Leads

Kevin P. Dincher

A long-time client surprised me last week. He called to update me on his pursuit of a new position within his company and in the course of our conversation said that his CEO “is an extremely talented manager but not much of a leader.” The assessment itself didn’t surprise me; I have known this CEO for over 30 years and agree completely. What did surprise me was hearing Dave make the distinction. We have often talked about the differences between managing and leading. Like most people, however, Dave generally use the terms interchangeably and doesn’t really make a distinction day-to-day—just the kind of thing that drives leadership experts like John Kotter crazy.

For over 40 years, Kotter has been on a mission to get people to think about the distinction between management and leadership. Our ongoing transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, however, has made Kotter’s work much more difficult. We still need to understand the difference between management and leadership, but it is increasingly difficult to be an effective manager without also being a good leader.

In the Industrial Age, ownership of capital—i.e., factories—was the basis of wealth, and in those factories, manual workers were to a great degree undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine to be managed. Managers didn’t have to give much thought to what they were producing or to the people who were producing it. Managers followed orders, organized the work, allocated resources, assigned the right people to the necessary tasks, and ensured completion of the job as ordered. A good manager was one who could keep a large, complex organization operating reliably and efficiently.

Things are different in the Information Age when the basis of wealth is access to people’s knowledge. As management guru Peter Drucker foresaw, the rise of the knowledge worker has profoundly changed the way business operates (Management Challenges of the 21st Century).  If you are a manager in the Information Age, to be successful you can no longer simply organize work and assign tasks. You need to be a manager who leads.

  • You need to define purpose and inspire results. While manual workers could focus narrowly on the specific task assigned them, knowledge workers can only produce if they know how their work fits into and contributes to the big picture. They need to know the purpose of their work—and they look to you to provide that purpose.
  • You need to nurture skills and develop talent. Continuing innovation is part of knowledge work; therefore, knowledge work requires continuous learning.  In the Information Age, it has become your job to create a climate for learning and to design work not just for efficiency but to build competence. You now need to be a coach and a mentor while facilitating formal and informal learning opportunities.
  • You need to treat workers as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” These days we hear a great deal about employee engagement, satisfaction and retention—and the high cost of turnover. The crux of the matter, however, is that the basis of wealth in the Information Age is access to people’s knowledge. Disengaged manual workers may become slow or sloppy—but the assembly line keeps them moving, and they still need to get the nut on the bolt. However, when knowledge workers become dissatisfied and disengage, then you lose access to your primary asset—their knowledge. Knowledge workers need to want to work for you and your company. Therefore, you have to create the working and cultural conditions in which employees not only feel challenged by their work but are recognized and valued as well.

Engage employees. Nurture skills and develop talent. Define purpose and inspire results. Now we’re talking about leadership rather than management.  There are still good reasons for understanding the difference between management and leadership—and one of them is that it is increasingly necessary that good managers learn to be good leaders. In the world of knowledge workers, Drucker said, “one does not manage people. The task is to lead people. And the goal is make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Personal Branding: How Do You Spell “Success”?

Kevin P. Dincher

I was once told that I am persnickety when it comes to grammar. Okay, I have been told that more than once. Apparently, it was supposed be a criticism.  Having lived abroad and experienced the frustration of conversing in a language I hadn’t mastered, I do admire those for whom English is a second (or even third) language.  But it is also true that I cringe inwardly (and probably visibly) when I hear native English speakers say “between you and I” instead of “between you and me.” And truth be told, I will never really understand why it is so difficult for native speakers to distinguishing among (among, not between) there, their and they’re. Most of the time, however, I will probably understand what you are writing with no real harm done beyond my momentary psychic spasms.

Paying attention to grammar can be mildly amusing. The title of Lynn Truss’ book bemoaning the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States, ” target=”_blank”>East, Shoots and Leaves, is a joke derived from bad punctuation.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. “Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “Well, I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Sometimes Spelling Counts

In a 2004 review of Truss’ book in The New Yorker, Louis Menand pointed out several dozen punctuation errors in the book—including one in the dedication. If you are going to write a persnickety book about grammar and punctuation, then you probably should get your own punctuation right.

Most people generally know that it is a bad idea to show up late for an interview. But hiring managers consistently report that having a spelling or grammatical error on applications or in resumes is worse that arriving late for an interview—and worse even than swearing during an interview. This is not about being “grammar fascists. It is about the impression you create:  if you are careless with something as important as a resume, the first impression you create is that you will not care enough about the work you send out representing the company and your boss. Your personal brand suffers.

Your Personal Brand:  Who You are and What You Want to be Known For

These days there is a great deal of talk—both pro and con—around creating a personal brand. What a personal brand boils down to is this:  whenever you interact with people, they build up an image of you. That image can either help you or hinder you in achieving success.

You are constantly creating impressions—sometimes purposefully, but more often unintentionally. What can you do to manage those impressions so that what people see about you is what you want them to see?

Be genuine.

  • Know yourself, and be yourself. Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” Branding is not about creating a false persona. It is based on what is authentic in you. Authenticity is the reason we put our trust in certain brands and not in others. Being yourself ensures that you are seen as genuine and trustworthy. Being yourself also means that you will be able to deliver on what you say about yourself.

Be clear.

  • Know the impression you want to make. Personal branding is successful when you are clear on the message you want to send about yourself and what you have to offer. You want people to know what you are good at, what sets you apart from everyone else. If you are not clear about that yourself, then you will send mixed messages.

Be consistent.

  • Rolex would destroy its brand by selling watches in drug stores for $19.95. If you are trying to establish yourself as a dedicated and hard-working employee in the mind of your boss, don’t contradict yourself on Monday morning by complaining about how tired you are even if your boss doesn’t mind—or is complaining too. If you want to establish yourself as a good communicator or as someone who has an eye for details, do not undermine that message with spelling and grammatical errors. Once you are clear about the impression you want to make, you need to deliver that message with consistency—regardless of how you are communicating, with whom you are communicating or where you are communicating.

We all have a personal brand, whether we realize it or not. Our brand at its best helps us achieve our goals; at its worst, it sabotages our efforts and limits our chances for success. But your personal brand is ultimately in the eye of the beholder; it is the impression that people have of you. And sometimes spelling counts.

We all have a personal brand. Is yours intentional?

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , . Comments Off on Personal Branding: How Do You Spell “Success”?

Team Building? Oh, No! Wait a Minute!

Kevin P. Dincher

So, someone at your weekly staff meeting just said two words that sent shivers down your spine:  team building.

You’re hoping that no one noticed you rolling your eyes, but you know you saw the person sitting next to you cringe.  There must be someone somewhere who has had an experience with team building that was a success and not a waste of time, but you’ve never met them—and you certainly aren’t one of them.   When the exercises are over, everyone just goes back to doing what they were doing before—having learned little more than that Bill is allergic to peanuts, Liza has four cats and Jack is just as annoying outside of work as he is on the job.  It is easy to become cynical.

There are many reasons why many team building effort fails.  An unskilled facilitator.   Poor planning.  Bad or inappropriate exercises.  Unclear goals.  But a common reason team building efforts fail is that you shouldn’t have been doing team building in the first place.  Team building is not a panacea; there are problems that cannot be solved with team building—and trying to solve them with team building is counterproductive.

Do not do team building to try to solve individual performance issues.  Team building is not a substitute for supervision.  When an individual’s performance is negatively impacting the effectiveness of the team, deal with these issues one-one-one. Using team building to address individual performance issues will backfire and damage morale.  Everyone  knows that they are suffering through this only because George is a poor performer.

Do not do team building when the problem is a lack of resources.  If a team does not have the people, budget, materials or technology that it needs to succeed, team building will not make up for that.  You need to work with your boss to determine how to acquire the needed resources.  Doing team building when the real need is for additional resources will only increase frustration.

Do not do team building when the problem is that team members do not have the skills needed to do the job.  Do training instead.  It can be difficult to determine whether the problem is team related or skill related, particularly when it comes to issues such as poor decision-making, communication, priority setting, etc.  But careful assessment is needed to determine whether to do team building or training.  To do team building when the real problem is lack of skills will result in frustration and morale problems.

Do not do team building when the team has had a bad experience with team building.  In these situations it is important to hold off on team building.  Effective team building results in a change in the way people work individually and together–therefore, team building requires commitment.  It is important that everyone on the team—both the leader and the team—understands this and commits to making these changes happen.  When your team has had a bad experience with team building, they will not be able to commit either to the team building process or to the changes that team building might require.    Instead of an all-out team building initiative, leaders need to look for ways to help your team improve its effectiveness during regular meetings.  As the team makes progress, it may eventually become ready for a full-fledged team building effort.

The concept of team building has been around since the 1960s, and team building efforts will continue to multiply as leaders increasingly embrace developing people and teams as an indicator of their own leadership success.  Effective team development requires knowing when to do team building—and when not to do team building.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Organization Development (OD), Teams. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Team Building? Oh, No! Wait a Minute!
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