Raising the Performance Bar with Scot McCarthy

Scot McCarthyScot McCarthy is a GE certified Master Black Belt, PROSCI Certified, organizational effectiveness professional with more than 20 years of Fortune 200 experience in workforce and leadership development, internal performance consulting, corporate training and facilitation, and healthcare vendor & project management.

Passionate about driving macro and micro-level performance improvements aligned with organizational goals. Professional and personal change agent skilled at uncovering shared needs, developing a common vision and facilitating collaborative solutions that drive a successful organization.

Specialties: Business Process Assessments, Professional and Leadership Skills Facilitation, Individual and Team Development, Styles Assessments, Coaching

Watch the Interview


Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: It’s Hugh Ballou. It’s another great version of The Nonprofit Exchange. We are four years into this, Russell. What do you think of that?

Russell Dennis: I think the next six we are going to blow the lid off of this thing.

Hugh: You blow the lid off every week.

Russell: And grow and grow and grow.

Hugh: We have a mild-mannered man here in Lynchburg. He has got a lot under the hood. He’s got a little hair there. He hasn’t quite reached your perfect head status yet. Scot McCarthy is a man I met at the business alliance here. We have some mutual friends here. He has referred me to folks, and I’ve referred him to folks. I’ve determined that he has some really unique expertise that is applicable for these nonprofits that we’re talking to. We try to give them really good sound business principles because we are actually operating a tax-exempt business with a lot of rules for the IRS. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange, Scot.

Scot McCarthy: Thank you. Good to be here.

Hugh: Tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background, and what is it that you say that you do.

Scot: My son doesn’t believe me, but years ago I had a full head of hair. He looks at this today and says, “No, that’s my future.” It’s kind of funny. I found a couple pictures of myself in high school where he is today. I had a nice, big, thick head of hair just like he has today, and it was sad that I kind of saw the soul sucked right out of his body. I’m trying to help my son recover.

But in the meantime, what I have been doing with my life is working in the corporate world, the nonprofit world, and everywhere in between for the last 20 years or so on organizational development and organizational effectiveness roles. I have a lot of time with individual teams and leadership development programs. I find that there is a nice translation between what we try to do in the for-profit world with our human resources to deliver for our customers and in reality we do the same thing in the nonprofit world. In fact, what I’ve found is that it’s even more important on the human development side in the nonprofit world because we tend not to have a whole lot of headcount to work with to get the job done for our customers and our client base.

I’ve had a great career about 20-25 years in organizational development work. I have had my own company, Stylewise Partners, for the last three years, and I work with for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Hugh: You work regionally, or you work nationally?

Scot: I work nationally. I do a lot of work for Stylewise Partners regionally, but because I have had such a fortunate network with General Electric and GE Capital and a number of different organizations over my career, I get called by other companies out of Richmond, out of Boston, out of Colorado, and other locations to come help them with organizational development work as well. My work takes me domestically, and in the past, internationally as well.

Hugh: Awesome. And you and I have similar work, but you do it a little differently in a different segment. We have a passion for enabling and empowering and encouraging nonprofit leaders. One of our guests a few weeks ago, Romal Tune, said we have a for-profit business, but this one is a for-purpose business. I really liked it.

What are we going to talk about today?

Scot: Today, what I thought we’d touch on is seeing the fact that nonprofits have to really get the most out of their human resources, I wanted to talk a little bit about engagement. How do you help folks in what can sometimes be a stressful or resource-restricted environment to still come in with their passion on fire and get the most out of everybody on a daily basis in the nonprofit world? I think employee engagement is the topic that is on my mind today.

Hugh: We have purposeful organizations, and it’s important to have purposeful people do purposeful work. That is a good continuity piece. HR. Talk a little bit about HR. A lot of charities don’t even think about it. You said HR, didn’t you?

Scot: Yeah.

Hugh: I heard that. By the way, Russ, we’re having a coffee. Some of my freshly roasted espresso beans with a little latte. If we could, we would share it with you, but we can’t.

Russell: Just don’t have too much of it. I don’t want you guys to look like a pair of operators before the broadcast ends.

Hugh: That’s it. We want to keep it lively. Talk about HR. Do you work with HR directors in for-profits and for-purpose organizations?

Scot: Yes, absolutely. In fact, my career was, I kind of think of HR as two legs of a stool or two pieces of the pie. There is the policies and procedures and regulatory side of human resources, and what we can and can’t do, and where we need to make sure that we remain compliant. Then there is the human development side of HR. That’s really where I focused in my career. Honestly, I just never found my passion around the policies and procedures and that side of HR. Absolutely critically important. I think that’s something that nonprofits really can take advantage of HR leaders in their communities where they can gain that expertise. I have worked for HR leaders in nonprofit health care and in for-profit financial services that were absolutely phenomenal, and both offered their services continually to nonprofits in the area to help make sure that they were taking care of all the crossing of the T’s and the dotting of the I’s.

Hugh: That is so important. Russell, in your experience working with a number of nonprofits, is there a gap in competency in this area of human resources?

Russell: Talking to people to really find out what they need is important. It begins with finding out what’s in it for them, whether you’re asking a volunteer or someone on your board or bringing them in to work: What are your motivations? You don’t always have a lot of money to work with, so you will have to find some of those other motivations, whether it’s building your personal network or getting some visibility through something they create or through some growth opportunities. Are they students? Are they padding their resumes? Are they seniors looking for a way to make a difference? It really boils down to effective relationships and having people connect with you on that level.

Hugh: And you mentioned the two sides of HR. I see this more and more. Sometimes they are dividing the work. There is a person that does culture. It’s personal growth. How do we nurture this culture development? That is my passion. The other side, you have the legal compliance piece, to keep you out of trouble, which is important. Those two really need to work together because we can do culture creation, which empowers the compliance piece. If people function at a higher level, not only are they more fulfilled personally, but their work is more efficient, more effective.

Scot: Absolutely. A lot of times, I really enjoy helping organizations, especially nonprofits, focus on what are the behaviors that make up that culture? What is our mission and vision? What are we here to do to deliver in the marketplace and in the community? What are the key behaviors that we need from our people to deliver on that mission and vision? Where I see that tie coming in is that when people are not displaying the right behavior, the right motives, the right purpose, that’s when we get into trouble with the compliance issues. That’s when people are bending the rules a little bit too far and going to the point of breaking them versus remaining compliant and again crossing all our T’s and dotting all our I’s.

Hugh: In talking about behaviors, there are tools that we can take instruments that we can do, like DISC or Myers-Briggs or some of those tools. Do you use some of those tools? What is the benefit in using any of those instruments?

Scot: Absolutely. I am a strong believer from an internal perspective on Myers-Briggs, what my own personal preference is for how I integrate with the world and how I interact with the world. From a visible behavior perspective, I think Insights is a tremendous tool. I think DISC is a tremendous tool. I use DISC all the time from an individual coaching perspective, from a leadership coaching perspective, but then as an organizational culture and team development perspective as well. I think it’s important. We have to, especially in a nonprofit, where the teams are typically smaller, and we need to be more flexible in how we work with each other during the day to be able to understand why Scot approaches a certain task or certain responsibility differently than Hugh does differently than Russell does. Not to necessarily say I am right, you are wrong, or you are right and I am wrong. But just know that this is how Hugh approaches things, this is the strength he has, this is the benefit of his thought process that he can bring to the organization. How do we get the best out of Russell? How do we get the best out of Scot? How do we get the best out of Sally and Jane and really come together to be a strong cohesive team?

Hugh: It’s good when you go through that as a staff together. I did Myers-Briggs several iterations with different church staffs. I remember one in Florida where we had been away for a three-day retreat. Part of one of the days was Myers-Briggs and the understanding of what it means and how introverts and extroverts relate to each other. I go in the choir and get them on the edge of their seats and say, “Guess what? I found out something about myself!” “Okay, what?” “I’m an extrovert!” They went, “Boo, hiss. We know that.”

Scot: That was easily read, I can imagine.

Hugh: I’m like way over. The bar was over. ENFJ. Yeah, you could figure that one out.

Scot: Get stuff done.

Hugh: Make a decision. But I also, the liabilities of that, J’s make a decision without enough information. P’s, Perceiving, need more information, but they wait too long, so having the relationship, which is the foundation of leadership, I think, having the relationship of those two balance each other out. Does DISC offer different kinds of elements than Myers-Briggs? I think a lot of people know Myers-Briggs or know about it.

Scot: Yeah, DISC is another acronym. We don’t need another acronym in life, but here it is. D is around Dominance, or how do I overcome obstacles to get things done? It’s about challenging the status quo. It’s about gathering information from different pieces, making a quick decision, and moving forward.

I is around Influence or relationships. I is the human side of things. I’s come into the office on Monday morning and check in with everybody, saying, “How is the weekend? How did the kids do on their sports teams? Did you go to church? Did you like that song that we did?” It’s all around the interactions. Meanwhile, the D’s are going, “Get to work. Come on. Let’s go.”

The S is around Steadiness, which is around the piece of, “Do I enjoy a nice steady pace in my life?” like opening up a box to put up a ceiling fan in the house. A high steadiness person would open up the box carefully and take the inventory, go step one, step two, step three, step four, and eventually put up a ceiling fan. A non-steadiness person would rip the box open and just start putting stuff together. It’s neither here nor there in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong; it’s just how you go about life. Steadiness is around the pace of life. I happen to be a higher steadiness person. If my wife, who I love dearly, comes to me on a Saturday morning and says, “Can you get this done today?” it will get me crazy because I already have my Saturday scheduled out. Sometimes, S’s have trouble with priorities because if I have my list of 10 things I am doing on that Saturday, if the kitchen is on fire and the wife asks me to put the fire out, it is #11 on my list. I have already got my top 10.

Hugh: Funny.

Scot: That’s a little bit about high steadiness. C is around Conscientiousness. How do we handle rules and procedures set by others? Do we follow the rules? Or is it more of a Pirates of the Caribbean thing where the rules are just guidelines?

So that’s a little bit about DISC. It’s very visible. The thing I like about DISC is you can see if someone is a rule-follower or a rule-breaker. You can see if someone has a preference for a step one, step two, step three approach to the world or if they like to fight fires. I have a friend of mine who is an emergency, ED, doctor in the hospital. Step one, step two, step three kind of applies, but he loves not knowing what is coming in the door next. If he was put into a cubicle and said to balance these T sheets with debits and credits, it would drive him crazy. All of that comes into play in the world of nonprofit in terms of how well leaders know their people and what their people are best at and how you can best utilize those resources that you have on your team.

DISC is a very effective tool to be able not only to have your team know each other better, understand each other better, come together as a team, but for the leader to have that information to go, “Ah, Hugh is the guy who will make sure that we are doing things with quality and accuracy. Jane is the one who is going to push us to make that decision when we have enough data and push us forward. So-and-so is the people person. They will be great in marketing these new events we have coming up.” It’s a tool that you can use to really maximize the effectiveness of your team.

Hugh: In its best sense. There is a weakness side, too. I got a couple of follow-up questions. It helps you discover yourself and your own style. Being authentic as a leader is part of what Russ and I teach. It’s also important to know that when you are talking to your donors. You said across the desk, bottom line person, get to the point, or do you sit at the corner of your desk, talk about family? Can you tell about a person? You’re not going to tell them to take a profile and then proceed from the DISC profile. Can you get to know them before you present so you know where they fit?

Scot: Yeah, I think so. In some of my DISC presentations, I have a slide that gets to that in terms of: If people are focusing on When, When is it going to be done? When do we have to have this? The decisions that are being made. That tends to be someone who focuses on the D or the Dominance. It’s time-oriented. We need to do this, make this decision, and move on.

If they tend to focus on Who, Who needs to be involved? Who do we need to communicate with? Who do we need to gain information from? Might be dealing with someone that is a Higher I or Influencer.

If they talk about process a lot, like what happens first? What happens next? What happens next? What happens next? That tends to be high steadiness because they are so process-oriented.

If they are focusing on the rules and regulations and they are trying to always focus on delivering with quality and accuracy, that tends to be highly Conscientious. You can almost pick up DISC characteristics and preferences based on what people tend to focus on and what they are asking us about.

Hugh: We need to know what people are presenting to and how they receive information and how we are going to relate to them.

There is also a negative side. I’ve seen people with Myers-Briggs and DISC try to cover up their weaknesses by saying, “This is my profile, so get over it.” They use it as an excuse because they really haven’t developed the relationships and accountabilities with people or gotten to know the usage of it well. Do you want to speak to that side? How do we prevent that from being a problem?

Scot: I think that’s really important. I think the other learning that we need to bring in there is maybe a little bit from Goleman in terms of emotional intelligence and social intelligence. We can always capitalize on our strengths, and I do encourage people to do that. Recognize that a high D brain brings certain characteristics and certain benefits to the party. No matter what our style is, no matter our blend of Myers-Briggs or DISC or any other assessment, we are going to have things that enable us to be successful. We are going to have characteristics that are potential barriers. To say, “Well, this is here I am. Tough. Deal with it,” we are cutting ourselves short in terms of our potential effectiveness.

I always go after the concept of flexing my style. Just like you’re saying, if I am dealing with a donor, they are a high D. They just want the bare bones; what’s my money going to go to? What is the benefit of me donating to this cause? When am I going to start seeing the benefits? Then I want to make sure I flex my style. Even if I’m not a high D, I am going to flex my style to that person so I can live in their world and talk their language for a little bit. If I am working with a high I, and I just go in with the facts and figures, I am going to seem very cold to that donor. I am going to need to relate to their stories and talk about the human benefits and the human stories behind this. I think you’re selling, anyone that says, “Well, this is my style, and that’s all there is to it,” they are selling themselves short. They can be much more effective if they capitalize on their strengths but also learn to flex toward the style of others to foster that relationship. That is where the social intelligence comes into play. My emotional intelligence, I can manage and understand my own emotions, but to be able to work effectively with you or with others, I have to understand where you’re coming from, what’s important to you, and how can I deliver some of that for you so that you can then in turn help me deliver what I want to deliver?

Hugh: I’m going to throw it to Russ because he is good at this flex. He has to flex every week at 2:00 when I show up. He has to accommodate my age and mental condition very often.

Scot: Oh, look at him.

Hugh: He thought he was going to get by without me pulling that card.

Russell: We’re not even halfway through the broadcast, and we have fallen onto that again. You know, we’re going to get that. Flexibility is really the key. When you’re building relationships, you develop a little bit of a compass for that sort of thing over time. The conversations we have really in the nonprofit world is about what’s important to the person we’re talking to. We can kind of get a gauge and a feel for that. It’s really going with the flow because you’re relating to each person individually. There is no good one-size-fits-all formula for dealing with people, even when we have a lot of wonderful stuff that we talked about.

Another thing we haven’t really talked about is the Strengths Finder. There was another inventory I found called an IPIP. It was really interesting. I have to look for that. That was a battery that took about a half hour. Told me a lot of things about whether I was altruistic, and it had about eight or ten other areas measuring emotionally and mentally. These are ways to learn about yourself. One thing I did for myself was to actually email and send letters to some people who know me really well to find out what they thought I did well and where I could use a little bit of help. Other people are a lot more, that get used to dealing with us, they can find our superpowers and our kryptonite and lay it out. Sometimes we are blind to that stuff. We don’t even know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. Of course, if I just had a blanket age/mental condition or something like that, that’s not going to work with new people. The people who have known you for a while are just going to go, “Oh no, not again.”

Hugh: That’s an excuse. As you’re bringing that up, Russ, I’m thinking there is a camaraderie/collaboration/encouragement that sometimes happens around people’s learning styles. I hope you got some affirmations from the people you emailed, I’m sure you did, about your skills and your talents and your presence in the world. You got some good things, I’m sure.

Russell: Well, yeah, but there were a couple that were watching this show. They said for the age that you are, your mental condition ought to be a little better. I won’t say which people said that. This other battery I was talking about, I just had that in front of me. It’s called an IPIP Ennionarrative. I found this. It was developed by a gentleman at Penn State University. The areas it measures are Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism (meaning are you neurotic), and Openness. It’s really interesting. It’s worth taking a little bit of time. It can be a little wordy. I had to go through it and pull some stuff out of the summary. It’s really good.

Hugh: Seems like a song.

Russell: I will grab the URL and drop it in there.

Hugh: Do you have a question brewing for our guest today?

Russell: I do. One of the things I was thinking about was when you walk into a business and you are starting to talk to people about things that matter to them, why is it important to find out what people want to get better at? Is that a currency you’re finding that is left on the table? People walk in, and they walk away because they don’t think there’s any chance for them to grow.

Scot: Give me a little bit more on that, Russ. In terms of, are you thinking about organizational growth? Are you thinking about personal growth?

Russell: I’m thinking about personal growth because you can’t always write a bigger check. People may or may not say out loud that what they want to do is gain more of a skillset. What sort of questions do you ask to gauge whether or not that something that is really important to them?

Scot: I tend to do as much homework up front as I can in terms of learning the person’s organization and even learning about the person themselves. Websites like LinkedIn and others are very useful to do some homework ahead of time. But then when we’re meeting, especially for the first time, there was a great book, and I don’t know if I have it with me today or not. There is a great coaching book that I found has a very strong reference. I’ll have to grab the title for you. It is something along the lines of Say Less, Ask More Questions, and Change the Way You Lead the Rest of Your Life. I might have it in my briefcase off to the side here because I was just using it with a client.

The approach in that book is really just spending some time with someone and finding out what’s going on in their life right now. Is it content- or project-specific? Is it people issues, people challenges, human interactions? Or is it any type of a pattern within their organization? So what’s really happening in their world that they would like to see some more success around? Coaching them along the lines of, “All right, so what have we tried so far? What’s keeping you up at night about this particular topic?” Start to get them to think about those challenges that they’re having and addressing them in a safe environment. Hugh, you do a lot of coaching. To me, the real kicker is creating a safe environment for people to feel vulnerable with you a little bit or safe enough to feel vulnerable to say, “This particular aspect of my nonprofit or my working with the board or this one board member I’m having an issue with,” just getting them comfortable enough to share that with you so that you can ask them some more questions or get them thinking about a more productive approach. What have you found there?

Hugh: Absolutely. As you’re talking, it’s not only that I coach the leader, but I coach the leader on coaching. I don’t know who said this, but they said that coaching is 90% listening, and the other 10% is mostly listening. I find that leaders primarily don’t know the skills they need to lead. They think it’s push to do this, and the conductor knows it’s pull. Here’s where it’s going. You want to hold that up.

Scot: Can I share this?

Hugh: We’ll put it in the podcast notes.

Scot: One of the most useful coaching resources. I have kind of outlined this book. I share it with different classes that I go to. It’s The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Stanier. Really useful. Just like seven or eight core questions that you help the other person think about. I have actually used this with nonprofit leaders. I have used it with team leaders. I have actually used it with my kids, getting them to think about an issue that is challenging them, whether it is around an academic subject, a relationship with someone in school.

Hugh: It’s really universal principles.

Scot: It absolutely is. The first question, here is my little outline of the book itself. The first question it gets you to think about: Hugh, in relationship to this topic we’re talking about, what’s on your mind? It starts out as broad as that. From there, you figure out if it’s a content issue, a people issue, a pattern issue. From there, take them down the coaching path.

Hugh: Start easy. How many sleeves in the shirt? Build a confidence and rapport. Underneath leadership is relationship. You build trust and relationship before you can really impact anybody. Actually you said you use this with your corporate leaders and profit leaders. It’s probably more difficult in the nonprofit arena. How we do anything is how we do everything. I have found in the coaching clinic I have developed over the years with my corporate leaders—I do it with my teams who have teams under them—then we have a debriefing, and they’ll say, “I worked these listening things with my clients, and they liked it.” They were able to provide more data when I listened than when I talked. One guy said, “Oh, my wife really liked this when I tried it at home.” Leadership is multi-faceted, but the top of leadership skills and the top of under-utilized leadership skills is listening. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a good reason. Russ, you’re a man with an extensive library. Is that a book you’re aware of?

Russell: That’s a great book. I have it on Kindle with Audible. I forgot about that. It’s in my library. Kindle has been very bad for my checking account. I compile stuff much faster than I read it. I read that book maybe about a year or a year and a half ago. I have it on Audible. It’s something I need to revisit.

This was the thing I was thinking. The best leaders are lifelong learners. They always got a book in their hand. They find a way to do things. They use tools like Blinkist.com, which is a service of book summaries. They have Blinks that are 12-16 minutes long, where they summarize a book and give you all of the points. You can download the points that you get in a Word document on your Kindle.

The point is really it’s this continuous learning. Some people have an interest in that. Those are people you really want to look for. They may not have all the knowledge you want them to have, but if you can find one of these people that just has that addiction, passion, whatever you want to call it for learning and improving themselves, that’s really what I have considered to be the third step to building a high-performance nonprofit. Staying on track, measuring everything you do, continuous improvement. What better way for an organization to improve than to have your people improve? As they do more, you become more.

Scot: Russell, do you find that’s even more important in the nonprofit world from a hiring perspective? Maybe finding those folks that are the lifelong learners that thrive on picking up new skills and new knowledge and applying it to their nonprofit world versus coming in with X number of years of pertinent experience.

Russell: The way that I view it, and it really doesn’t matter what sort of organization you’re running, is it’s great to have people that have a high level of skill and a lot of knowledge. But you get somebody that comes in and tells me, “Well, I know everything you need to know. I’m going to be checking to make sure my wallet is still in my pocket.”

Hugh: That reminds me.

Russell: Hugh would never do that. He will admit to knowing a thing or two about a thing or two like me, but this everything, no. The people to help you get the results dig that talent out of you because my business model is you are more than meets the eye. I use that in my relation to other people because they got a lot of juice already there. They’re already working with a certain audience, and it’s kind of like they know what they’re trying to get at. Sometimes we have to get the ideas out of people. I’ve got a great guy, Darrell Stern, who I did a Stern Storming session with. He says, “You got a lot of content, but this is a mess. We got to pull all of this together.” He is helping me do that.

Hugh: He can help you clean that up.

Russell: The genius is all there; it’s just pulling it all together and asking the right questions.

Hugh: Notice he said learnin’. That’s Southern, Russ. You had a comment here.

Scot: What you’re saying just totally aligns with how I think about engagement, as we started our conversation today. Especially in the nonprofit world, there are three ways or three avenues to really let people flourish, like you’re saying. If we can find the right people that we can unlock their potential in a nonprofit leadership role, it’s about making sure that we find the people that their heart, or their emotion, is aligned with the mission and the vision of the nonprofit that we’re working in. Do they get juiced up and jazzed up about doing this work in this nonprofit field? I’m working with a young lady now that did fantastic marketing efforts for a chapter of a nonprofit that is a national nonprofit, very large. She just made a move recently within the last year to a small nonprofit in town that has to do with the arts. You can tell just by looking at her face and talking to her that she is so jazzed up. She loved her old job, but she is so jazzed up about working for this arts academy that nothing is going to stop her from getting to work and giving it 110% every day. Her heart is engaged with the organization and the work she is doing.

The other aspect is how do you get the best out of people’s minds? No one brain in the room is as smart as everyone in the room. How do you create as a nonprofit leader a culture where everyone’s input is valued? We get the best of the diversity of thought from everyone on the team, no matter what our role happens to be in the organization. Engage my heart, engage my head, engage my brain, and allow me, no matter what my role or responsibility, to flourish and to provide my ideas on how we can serve our customer, our community needs.

Lastly, let me roll up my sleeves and do it again, a nice broad job description where I can help out in a lot of different ways. Now that you got my ideas, let me loose and let me go do it. I think that’s one of the things that really comes down to, especially in the nonprofit world, how we engage our workforce is engaging their hearts, engaging their heads and their minds, and engaging their hands. That comes from another great book I can reference that I have used in the past around this. It’s a book by Julie, and I don’t know the pronunciation of her last name. It’s Gebauer. And Don Lowman. They have come up with a book called Closing the Engagement Gap. They talk about these three elements of engagement with your heart, your head, and your hands. I found it to be a terrific resource. I found it to be true. People generally don’t wake up on a Monday morning going, “I wonder how I can sluff off today and not engage at work.” They are looking to have a good day, to have a good week. Do that by providing opportunities.

Like you were saying, know your people. Know what makes them tick. Let them loose.

Hugh: What we know as a conductor is the orchestra or choir gives you what they see. We influence them. It’s a reflection of the leader. As you’re talking about that, part of the work that you and Russ and I do with these nonprofit leaders is a work of encouragement and empowerment for them to then be the influencer. The burnout rate is 45%, and 75% of nonprofit leaders are looking at the exit door because they want to get out. There are things that we do as leaders that have negative consequences. Part of this we own. Part of what we do, Russ and Hugh and Scot, Scot with one “t,” he is saving up for the other “t.”

Scot: It’s on layaway.

Hugh: Scot would be my heritage. I’m a Scot. Part of what we do is encourage leaders to come out of their, I guess it’s blind spots. We are trapped in, This is how we do things, when really it’s not how we do things. Speak to that a minute. How do we work as a catalyst for leaders to rethink how they lead, to reinvent themselves, to build their capacity to get past some of those barriers?

Scot: I think personally my experience is, and Russell, you touched on this before, is it’s being willing to be flexible and using our ears and our mouth in that ratio. If I truly am going to approach the world as a servant leader, I am here to serve not only my customer, but I am here to serve my team. It’s a little bit easier for me to slow down and listen to others’ ideas and to see, especially bringing in talent from outside the organization that might be able to look at things with a fresh lens. If I am a strong Dominant leader, not that I can’t listen and get ideas from others, it’s just going to take a little more energy for me to do that. I am going to have to consciously and purposefully slow down and listen, and really that is where maybe we can use some other people to facilitate us through that process, to say, “All right. I know the ideas I have in my head. I want to make sure I pull the team into this discussion. So maybe I need to have a third party or someone on my team facilitate that session to get ideas from others, whether it’s something as simple as writing on Post-It notes and slapping them up on a wall or other ways.”

That is the one of the things I found in some nonprofits is that the leader has been there a while, they can be ingrained in how things have always been done. It takes a strong leader to take a step back, to say, “All right, what are some of the potential improvements that you guys see on a daily basis?”

Part of my background was a GE Six Sigma Master black belt. I am an HR guy. I am not a statistics guy. Even going through some of those learnings with Six Sigma made the little bit of hair I had on the back of my neck stand up and give me the chills sometimes. It was good learning. I pushed myself forward. Became a master black belt within the organization. I got to coach a lot of process improvement projects and change leadership projects. One of the things that I found is that if you allow the people that are working on the process every day to then share in the process of continuous improvement like you were talking about before, that is the kicker. If you create, again creating the environment where people feel safe to go, “This could be done better.”

The way I always approach Six Sigma process and work was talking with the front line associates and asking them what are the headaches that get in the way of you having a good day? Where does the process break down? Where is there rework? Where are there delays? Where is the communication breakdown between our donors and us? Where is the breakdown in communication between community efforts, what we’re doing and the community leadership? Everything we do is a process in one way or another. How do we allow the people that are doing the work every day to give us the feedback on where things can get better? What I found is they are open to that instead of, “You need to fix X, Y, and Z,” “Where are your headaches?” Let’s allow them to get rid of their headaches and support them in getting rid of their headaches every single day. That is when the lightbulbs, I worked with GE, it had to be a GE lightbulb, that is when the lightbulbs go off above people’s heads. I get to get rid of my headaches. Thank you. That’s just continuous improvement.

Hugh: Wow. I like to teach continuing improvement as personal growth. We never stop there. What we bring to the table is a paradigm shift for people. Russ, you got a question brewing. This guy has a lot of answers. He obviously has a lot of in-depth experience. There is a lot. We bring the synergy. SynerVision is the synergy of the common vision. There is a lot of what you say embedded in what we do. It’s the Pull leadership. It’s creating the space for people to function up. We as leaders tend to overfunction, and the reciprocity is underfunctioning for the teams. Often we create the problems ourselves because that’s all we know. We think the boss, which is double SOB spelled backwards, we think the boss who tells-

Scot: I gotta steal that. I love it.

Hugh: I stole it. It doesn’t work today. People don’t want to be told what to do, no matter which generation. We want to blame the millennials. I’m a boomer, and I don’t want to be told what to do either. What I was thinking when you were talking is we lead from the authenticity of self, but we respect individuals in the community and their authenticity. We are aligned in the common purpose, the common thread.

We are hitting on the last quarter of our interview; it’s the last stretch. I want to make sure we hit the major themes. Russ, you’ve been brewing a hard question for our guest. He has a lot of knowledge and experience. What are you thinking you want to ask him?

Russell: I’m thinking that good leaders build good leaders. What are some of the tools that you give your clients to help them do that or to shift their thinking in that direction?

Scot: Good. First and foremost, Russell, I think that getting to know your people is absolutely critical. It can be something as simple as what is your favorite candy bar? So that you can leave that on their desk on a Friday afternoon, thanking them for what they did this week. You made a great impact on our organization or our customer or our team. Getting to know them and taking the time to know what their personal aspirations are. Development and advancement can mean different things to different people. I may want to stay in my current role and go deeper and deeper and deeper. Maybe I am looking to go to some conferences this year, or maybe I am looking to speak on a panel discussion, or maybe I am looking to do some research on a white paper and develop a white paper on a topic that is important to our organization or industry. I have to get to know that person to understand what development and developing them as a leader looks like.

Secondly, I have to look for some opportunities. If I am a higher C in my DISC style, conscientious, always looking at things from a quality and accuracy perspective, sometimes high C’s will struggle with delegating responsibilities to others and growing other people around them. Hugh, help me out here. If you want it done right?

Hugh: Do it yourself.

Scot: That can be a struggle for delegation and growing other people. If I am not going to let go of something, how am I going to let you do it and develop?

Hugh: That’s the hardest thing I see for leaders to do. We have an idea, especially founders of nonprofits, of, This is the way it’s supposed to go, so I am going to do it. We alienate people because we haven’t given them the chance to use their passion. That’s why they are here.

Scot: Exactly.

Hugh: We have this other fallacy as nonprofit leaders that we don’t want to ask too much of volunteers. That’s why they are there. Ask them. They will tell you if they can do it or not. But in delegation, you’re right. That is so hard. That is so hard. I teach it. You teach it. I bet it’s hard for you, too. We have this passion for it; however, we are robbing a volunteer of an opportunity to connect their passion and be a cheerleader for what we’re doing. That was pretty good, Russ.

Russell: The other thing. I have a question that I would put into a leader’s head that might come from that place. It’s ask yourself: How can I get more done and get it done better so that it’s less work for me but we improve? How can I make this all better and have to not work as hard to make it better?

Scot: Absolutely. One of the things to get to that point is I talk to managers when I’m coaching them and I say, “If you have a magic wand, what would be three things you would wave your magic wand to get off your desk right now today? Boom. Done. Don’t do it anymore.” They have those ideas in the back of their minds. How can you have someone else? First of all, does it have to get done? If it does, great, but who else can do it? How can that be a growth opportunity for someone else in your organization? Be it a volunteer or be it someone on the staff or someone who is looking to move up in the organization. Looking at everything that’s on my plate, how can I use what I’m doing now to develop someone else in the organization? That’s a great way to inspire people, a great way to involve people, a great way to become more effective as a leader.

There is another book by a guy with the name of Scott Eblin. He has two T’s in his name. He is full-fledged Scott. Scott Eblin. The book is called The Next Level. What Eblin talks about is as you are moving up in the organization, and it can be micro-steps or macro-steps, but as you are moving up in the organization, what are those things you need to let go of? High D’s struggle with that. High S’s struggle with that because a high S likes to be an expert in what they do and focus on doing one or two things but do them well. High C’s really struggle with that. How do you not only develop yourself, but develop others in your organization as you are moving up through the different levels?

Hugh: We as a conductor know that we are only as good as the people around us. It’s about creating the space for people to function at a higher level. We do shoot ourselves in the foot more often. Totally unaware of it.

Scot: Many cases.

Hugh: Conflict is going to happen. It’s the sign of energy. We don’t need to make it worse. We don’t need to make it destructive. Sometimes we do as leaders by our lack of clarity or inconsistency in directions and overfunctioning do set up some conflict. Then we don’t know what to do about it. We ignore it and it gets worse.

Scot: I would have- When I was internal, now I help people from an external perspective. When I was internal, I would get a lot of managers calling me for team building. “Scot, please come help us do some team building. We are just not working right.” Russell and Hugh, you have probably come across this model before, but maybe other leaders haven’t heard of it yet. It’s called GRPI.

The G is Goals. Do we have clarity and agreement on what the goals are? It’s around clarity and agreement.

The R is around the Roles. Do we have the right roles? Do we have the right organizational structure set up? Is there role clarity between what we are doing to reach those goals? I am not supposed to do that. Hugh is supposed to do that. Hugh is saying that is Russell’s job. Now all of a sudden, we have this ehh going on on the team.

P is around Process. Do we have the right processes in place? Russell, I don’t know if you have found this to be true, but I have always found there are three versions of every process map. There is the current process map that we have. There is the real process, as it really works, other than what’s going on in the process map. Then there is the third version, which is the future version of how it should ideally work. Do we have our ducks in a row? Are we heading toward that third version of the process map? Clarity and agreement on the goals, the roles, and the processes.

I in GRPI is the interpersonal Issues. What I find is that teams are not functioning well when we have that lack of clarity around the goals, the roles, and the process. It’s almost like a gift with purchase. You get something else. If you don’t have clarity and agreement on goals, roles, and process, you will automatically have interpersonal issues. And that’s what matters. You always come to us and say you need team building. You don’t need team building. You need to clear up goals, roles, and process.

Hugh: Sometimes team building is a game that is a copout. Connect them to something substantial.

What is it that a frustrated nonprofit leader needs to know? What would be your tip for that leader? Not just to go to the next step, but to the top of the rungs. You get the parting thought.

Scot, this has been a lot of good information today. I am going to give you the last- What do you want to leave people with?

Scot: I would say as a closing thought today as a nonprofit leader, focus on getting a GRPI. We say get a grip. Get a GRPI. That is the one thing that can truly bring you and your team to a higher level. Make sure that you and the whole team have clarity on what your goals are for the year. People always say, “Focus on SMART goals.” I found that there is a gentleman out there, Brendon Bouchard. Bouchard often talks about making sure that we have DUMB goals as well. DUMB starts with D. D is all about your Dream. What is the dream of your nonprofit? Why are you here, your mission and your vision? Start with the dream.

Make sure that people understand what those goals are. Listen to, engage people. Know them and grow them and engage them in the process so that they can help you determine the best processes and where they can be improved and what the right goals are. Who should be doing what in the organization? There is always an opportunity to review those job descriptions and make them work. What should that job look like 12 months from now, 24 months from now as your nonprofit organization continues to evolve?

Making sure you have the right team in the organization. If you don’t have the right talent, you’re not doing yourself a favor, you’re not doing that person in the wrong slot a favor. Work with your local HR professionals that can help you on that side of the equation. Get the right people in your organization that have the heart and the passion to do the work that you’re doing. Empower them to figure out what the right roles and processes are to reach your goal.

Hugh: That is good stuff. That is good stuff. Russ, thanks for good stuff today. Scot, thanks for sharing your wisdom with us on The Nonprofit Exchange.

Scot: It’s been a pleasure.

Leave A Comment