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Experienced EDs and the Job Market

Posted by Stephen Lemire on June 29, 2012 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

During the past ten years as the economy has gone through more valleys than peaks, the nonprofit sector has been impacted many ways. Obviously, one of these has been a hit to the workforce. A subgroup that has had a particularly difficult time finding new employment is experienced executive directors. In speaking with colleagues who have shared their experiences, it seems that several trends have emerged in the last few years as to why these veteran EDs are having difficulty getting hired.
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1) Age - Boards may choose to hire an ED who could be 10-15 years younger, less experienced, and pay them $20,000 - $40,000 less per year. The nonprofit is making a tradeoff of age/experience for youth/savings.
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2) Experience - The board can select someone less skilled in working with boards/nonprofits and impact and shape their development. It appears, and I hope that it is not the case, that some boards are threatened by experienced EDs who are “battle-tested”, willing to challenge them (in a productive way), uncomfortable with the status quo, and full of new ideas.
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3) Economy - There is such a glut of unemployed people that the board can wait to hire someone who they think matches all of their search criteria. This is a very dangerous scenario for the nonprofit unless it had a strong succession plan already in place or it is in the care of a competent interim ED.
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4) Salary - How much should an executive director earn? That's the $64 question. There have been studies done by ASAE, consulting firms, and job boards. You can Google many of them but much of the information is proprietary unless you are a member or participated. There is huge variation depending on the size of the organization, the type of nonprofit, the gender of the ED (still), the geographic location, the number of years’ experience, etc.
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I've noticed that salaries appear to be going down while responsibilities are increasing. Specifically, EDs are being asked to do more of the fund-raising/development work. It's as if the boards are trying to blend the ED and development officer role which, many times, is a sign that the board doesn’t understand the role of the ED. Are boards cheap? No. They just don't realize that the ED is their #1 investment!
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Remember not to fall into the “desired salary” conversation which is so misleading, especially for nonprofit leaders. Salary is only one component of total compensation which is MORE important. There are many important considerations: a) salary and compensation are negotiable; b) benefits are extremely important; c) the mission, challenges, and opportunities for the EDs are heavily weighed – it’s one of the main reasons EDs work in this field.
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5) Anxiety – Boards are sometimes looking for “cookie cutter” responses to their interview questions and don’t wish to be challenged (see #2) or to consider a different approach. This scenario may sometimes be the case when the board is being guided through the hiring process by an HR consultant who has created a very structured search methodology.
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6) The Costanza Factor (a.k.a. The Fear of Success) – Some boards are so enamored with the status quo and are afraid of growth, opportunities, and new programs that they will hire a new ED whose style most closely resembles the outgoing ED.
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7) Free Consulting - I hate to even bring this up but I have heard the horror stories time and again. Some disreputable boards put EDs through an entire hiring process (2-4 interviews) complete with presentations, recommendations for solving case problems (theirs), and they have no intention of hiring any of the candidates because the current ED is not actually going to leave or the new ED has already been hired but will not be brought on board until all the free information is gathered. For the candidates, there is no way of knowing that they are being duped and they have to do their best with the hope of being hired. For the nonprofit, there is only the hope that someday its board will develop a collective conscience.
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From Lifelong Learning to Professional Development

Posted by Stephen Lemire on June 28, 2012 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the past 25 years, I have taught dozens of incredibly talented and motivated adult learners as an adjunct faculty member in graduate management and health services administration programs. A typical student has been an experienced medical clinician (RN, technologist) who was now earning a Master’s Degree to gain career advancement into a management role.
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The core of my classroom philosophy consists of three key points: 1) to create an environment where students are encouraged to share their professional experiences; 2) to allow students the opportunity to process the impact of what is discussed and apply it to their workplace; and 3) to challenge students to develop their own concepts, support their own ideas, and learn from each other.
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I know these principles have an impact when a student begins to think less about process (like a clinician) and more about outcomes (like a manager). The students also begin to realize that the classroom work is their first investment in lifelong learning which will give way to an ongoing commitment to professional development.
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What has influenced my classroom style and how has it evolved over time? From the outset my goal was to construct an environment that borrowed many of the elements from the most effective instructors that I had as a graduate and college student. This foundation has since been most influenced by what I’ve learned from my students. Notably, if I am successful, I can tap into the wealth of information students carry and promote a way that they can teach one another through sharing of experiences, stories, practice styles, and lessons learned.
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In each class I provide an agenda and set of objectives, as my goal is to facilitate as if we are in a business meeting. I try to keep the session crisp with short bursts of structured lecture interspersed with abundant group discussion, reviews of cases examples, and role playing of management exercises. I also add a segment called “Real Life Stuff” in which I outline non-curricular items such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, business social protocol, and professional networking. I encourage my students to be direct, succinct, and clear in all oral and written business communications. The projects that I assign, and the exams that I give, are not based on information that students are expected to memorize, but rather, on scenarios in which the students must develop their own ideas and are challenged to support them.
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Additionally, I believe that a large part of a student’s education needs to take place in the community – through internships and site-based projects. Students need practical hands-on experiences to apply what is discussed in the classroom to understand the application of the structured learning.
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A student’s overall education, though the responsibility of the academic institution and its instructors, is best served through a partnership with the region’s employers who can provide curricular input, at-work training (e.g. internships), and, ultimately, gainful employment. The critical component of this relationship is the internship so that, among many things, the student may learn practical hands-on applications while the employer may assess the student’s potential employability and, ideally, offer the student a full-time position upon graduation.
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Based on objective evaluations and feedback from students, my teaching philosophy coupled with this classroom style has been effective. I believe that this, along with partnerships with employers, has provided students with many tools to succeed.

A Call to Fund E.D. Professional Development

Posted by Stephen Lemire on April 5, 2012 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Executive directors, particularly in small staff nonprofits, often operate without a peer. Though they have access to ever-increasing avenues of virtual, professional support and on-line resources to ask questions of colleagues and share best practices, their day-to-day management can be isolating. The ED must serve as a fulcrum, as they balance responsibilities on a seesaw between the two ends of the lever represented by the board and staff.


The executive director needs the board of directors to support their ongoing professional growth by having an annual allocated fund from which they can draw. The ED may use these funds for professional items such as dues (e.g. ASAE), conferences, webinars, subscriptions, and networking events. It is the responsibility of the ED to use the funds wisely and demonstrate how they are contributing to their professional growth from year-to-year.


For the nonprofit, investing in the executive director’s professional development is a sound investment as the ED will apply lessons and new skills learned. In addition, the ED will make peer connections which are critical for asking questions, seeking advice, and searching for best practices. The ED will also make contacts with vendors and consultants with whom the nonprofit may need to work with in the future. Finally, the ED’s participation in events may be great exposure for the nonprofit, especially if the ED begins to get noticed for their views and asked to facilitate or speak at events.


The other reasons to provide for executive director professional development are that it is it a reward for performance, an incentive for improvement, and an additional component of total compensation. This perk may be offered as one of the types of offerings (like flex time) that a nonprofit may provide in lieu of higher salary or additional benefits. Also, the change of pace, a different environment like attending an event, and being intellectually challenged will bring the ED back to the organization renewed and recharged.

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Some boards may be reticent. Knee-jerk responses can include the concerns that the nonprofit will spend money on the executive director to get additional training and the ED will then take their new marketable skills to another organization or that the ED will be recruited by a new contact whom they meet at an event. These fears are short-sighted, especially since relatively small amounts need to be spent for the potential of a great return.

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When an executive director runs into opposition with the board about professional development, it is important for them to point out that one of the primary reasons that directors serve is for their own professional development, especially in the case of associations. By this, I’m referring to the professional development of an individual director (as opposed to board of directors’ professional development which is entirely separate, more important, and much broader topic.) In addition to professional growth, many directors volunteer to provide service to the community or to support a cause. Others participate in order to network, increase their personal or professional visibility, or simply to stroke their ego.

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To help support the funding concept, it can be helpful for the ED to find an event that would be mutually beneficial for the ED to jointly attend with a member of the board. For example, the ED and treasurer could participate in a workshop on nonprofit financial management. After, the treasurer could appeal to other members of the board to support the idea.

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The most variable issue is how to determine the amount of ED professional development funds to allocate. I recommend a target of 2%-3% of the total operating budget. Some organizations are not comfortable having a specified line item and choose instead to spread the expenses through other categories such as Travel, Subscriptions & Dues, etc.

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For a nonprofit that has not set aside funds for ED professional development in the past, and would now like to invest in their ED, I recommend a gradual rollout as most budgets could not handle a new 3% budget line item. For example, they could phase it in over three years. Yet, at times, it is easier to establish a set amount or to create a cap ($5,000 for example) per year. (As the organization grows, both in terms of operating budget and staff, professional development can be expanded to include more employees.)

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Another consideration is for ED candidates that have been offered a new position. I think that this is an important part of the total compensation package to be negotiated. Though not on par with salary and health benefits, obviously, it is one of the other key additional perks which can impact job satisfaction.

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The onus falls on the ED to demonstrate that the nonprofit is getting value for the line item. Readily applying new skills, submitting brief summaries of activities in which they participated, or providing a short in-service at a board meeting will validate and reinforce the ongoing need to dedicate a part of the budget to ED professional development.

Event Planning is Evolutionary

Posted by Stephen Lemire on March 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

During the past 25 years when I worked as an executive director of various national, state, and community small staff associations, one of the many hats that I wore was that of event coordinator. Leading nonprofits of this size, I was not afforded the luxury of having a professional meeting planner on staff.
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The events that I organized included community health fairs, state-wide trainings, regional workshops, and state or national annual conferences. These meetings were typically for members and the general public and would draw anywhere from 50 to 3000 attendees. (The planning of these events was in addition to the organization of monthly, quarterly, or annual board of directors’ meetings which I participated in as an ex officio member.)

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With each event that I organized I added more attractions for attendees in order to draw them to the program or to reward them for participating. It was always an exciting opportunity to create something new each time whether it was a networking social, poster session, live demonstration, or finding a way to incorporate a local tourist attraction. Over time I learned to work closely with the area’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Chamber of Commerce as well as with event site staff and any local connections I may have had.

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There are a few keys to success which I always focus on when planning events:

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1) The agenda must be timely and objectively meet the needs of the audience.

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2) The presenters roles are to facilitate (not lecture) and to meet the objectives of each session.

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3) Attention to detail is vital (food quality, room temperature, etc.).

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4) Customer service cannot be understated (the registration process, greeting everyone, etc.).

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5) Create opportunities for attendee involvement (networking, group discussions, etc.).

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6) Evaluate and measure the success of the event and make continuous improvements.

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7) Demonstrate to attendees that their suggestions and feedback are put in place.

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I created a general template (see below) that I use for planning events. Depending on the type of event (e.g. an annual conference would require more detail and a longer lead time) I would make slight modifications. But this tool was my starting point and came in handy.
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Example: QUARTERLY REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOP
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4 MONTHS PRIOR

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___SELECT DATE (Be aware of conflicts for potential attendees: vacations, religious dates, etc.)

___SELECT SITE (Which city? Contact local CVB and Chamber. Invite bids. Visit prospective venues.)

___SIGN CONTRACT (Negotiate discounts on fees and bundling. Get extended stay discounts.)

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3 MONTHS PRIOR

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___SEND “SAVE THE DATE” (& LOCATION) NOTICES (Postcards, Listservs, social media, newsletter, etc.)

___POST EVENT INFORMATION ON WEBSITE (Add links and details as they become available.)

___DETERMINE EVENT OBJECTIVES AND ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES

___SET AGENDA AND FORMAT

___INVITE SPEAKERS AND FACILITATORS

___BOOK FLIGHTS & GROUND TRANSPORTATION (Check for courtesy shuttles.)

___ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN MULTIPLE SITES, IF APPLICABLE

___SET PRICES AND SET UP BUDGET

___CREATE PROMOTIONAL FLYER AND ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

___PLAN ADD-ON EVENTS (Poster session, networking meet & greet, board meeting, etc.)

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2 MONTHS PRIOR

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___OPEN UP ONLINE REGISTRATION

___ACTIVATE ALL LINKS ON WEBSITE (To registration, to flyer, to calendar, etc.)

___CREATE ATTENDEE SPREADSHEET (For payments, dates and programs attending, etc.)

___WORK WITH CVB TOARRANGE TOURIST DISCOUNTS; GET CVB MATERIALS; PROMO POSTCARD

___ANNOUNCE VIA LSERVS & SOCIAL MEDIA OVERTHE NEXT FOUR WEEKS

WEEK 1) GENERAL ANNCOUNCEMENT/HIGHLIGHTS

WEEK 2) AGENDA AND SPEAKERS

WEEK 3) TOURIST INFORMATION WITH VIRTUAL POSTCARD

WEEK 4) REGISTRATION DEADLINE (SHOULD BE TWO WEEKS PRIOR)

___WRITE-UP NEWSLETTER ARTICLE, PSAs, ETC.

___HIRE PHOTOGRAPHER, IF NEEDED

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1 MONTH PRIOR

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___SEND PERSONAL INVITATIONS TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT REGISTERED (& EXPECTED TO)

___SEND INVITATIONS TO DIGNITARIES, MEDIA

___FINALIZE ROOMING LISTS, MENUS, A-V NEEDS

___PREPARE MATERIALS FOR ADD-ON MEETINGS (board of directors, etc.)

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2 WEEKS PRIOR

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___PREPARE MY PRESENTATION(S)/POWERPOINT(S) – (Put on thumb drive, email, & printout.)

___SEND CONFIRMATIONS TO ATTENDEES

___PREPARE REGISTRANT PACKETS (Nametags, reports, attendee list, agenda, swag, flyer, etc.)

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1 WEEK PRIOR

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___SHIP TO SITE (Attendees’ packets, banner, camera, supplies, reports, lapel pins, etc.)

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WITHIN 1 WEEK POST

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___FOLLOW-UP WITH ATTTENDEES (Send online evaluations, thank you’s, receivables.)

___COMPLETE EXPENSE REPORTS AND TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT

___POST SUMMARY, PICTURES, AND POWERPOINTS ON WEBSITE

___PUT RECAP (WITH PHOTOS) IN NEWSLETTER WITH LINKS VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

___FINALIZE EVALUATION REPORT (Share site-related comments with venue.)

___DRAFT AGENDA FOR NEXT EVENT

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The Sandwich Club

Posted by Stephen Lemire on March 19, 2012 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)


We often hear of the Sandwich Generation, the people in the age group who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. Many of us face the challenges of simultaneously caring for our elders and youngsters and are members of this Sandwich Club.

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What no one ever explained to us is that the sandwich that is referred to is no simple recipe with two slices of bread (e.g. ham & cheese, PB & J, grilled cheese). Rather, it is a multi-layered concoction with a few slices of bread. We should really be called the Club Sandwich Generation.

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The uniqueness of this club sandwich is that each slice is a different type of bread. In particular, the top half of the sandwich, caring for elderly parents, is most reflective of this. Depending on the aging process, individual needs, and character of each parent they each can be represented by very different types of bread.

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Any skills learned from caring for one parent may not necessarily be transferrable to caring for the other. The emotional, financial, and workforce impact on caregivers can be significant. Twice I have briefly stepped out of the workforce. The first time was to care for my father during an illness and the second to help my mother after his death. My sister is making the major sacrifices for my mother now. These are choices that we have made willingly and lovingly but are still difficult. We also have four siblings that have pitched in but I have seen how difficult it can be for friends who are only children or who have siblings who don’t contribute.

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The difference in the aging process between each of my parents has been remarkable. I was my Dad’s primary caregiver and he accepted, and ultimately depended on, my care. He recognized the changes associated with aging which, for him, were primarily physical. The time spent caring for him was a tremendous bonding and learning experience. My Dad, who had the greatest sense of humor, enjoyed the moments when we could make light of his failing health. For example, he particularly appreciated my suggestion that we revisit his will while I was giving him a suppository.

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During the time I was caring for my Dad my 6-year-old daughter was struck by my new role and all that it entailed. She said, “Daddy, when you get old I’ll take care of you just like you take care of Pa.” Then, after a drawn out pause, she added, “You’ll have to get someone else to wipe your bum, though.”

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Currently, my sister cares for our Mom. She is dealing with someone who is resistant to change, less appreciative of receiving help, and is dealing with more of a cognitive decline than physical one. (My parents had very different personalities; I imagine this was magnified by the aging process.)

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There are a few points that I believe are universal regardless of the slice of bread each parent represents. Safety is paramount. A constant monitoring and removal of falling hazards or addition of supports such as rails is vital. Financial and legal issues must be proactively and properly addressed. Housing and transportation needs have to be modified, as needed.

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Caring for the caregivers is incredibly important to help relieve the emotional, physical, and financial toll. Scheduled breaks for the caregivers must be worked in so that they may have planned down time, days off during the week, or vacations.

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It’s important to get other loved ones to contribute to the caregiving. Some of those that might be expected to help out do not for a variety of reasons: their relationship with the parent is strained; they have significant personal life demands; they simply don’t know how; or, unfortunately, they are lazy or unaware. But, if they cannot provide “hands-on” help there are many other ways in which they can contribute: they can make check-in phone calls on the parent; they can send money or gift certificates; they can have meals delivered; or they can give a gift to the caregivers for their hard work. Ultimately, they do need to step up from time-to-time so the primary caregivers can get away.

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My parents were the primary caregivers for my grandparents when I was growing up. In one of the final private conversations that I had with my Dad before he passed away he said, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me.” I told him that I learned it all from him. A faint smile crossed his lips and he whispered, “Thank you.”

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It was all worth it.

Priorities for Professional Associations

Posted by Stephen Lemire on March 1, 2012 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The wheel (above) is a perfect illustration for the outline (below) as it depicts the five general priorities for a professional membership association. The hub format demonstrates the ultimate equal importance and balance of each of the priorities. However, when first building the association it is important to start at the upper right (planning) and proceed in a clockwise manner.


Planning
–The ongoing and dynamic process to build infrastructure.

· Organization (mission, bylaws, business plan, strategic plan, budget)

· Fund-raising (membership dues, seed grants, in-kind contributions, donations)

· Development (program fees, program grants, sponsors, vendors)

· Sales (vendors, sponsors, and advertisers)


Perceptions
– The use of media to identify benefits and engage participants.

· Branding (consistent, positive, and proactive image)

· Vehicles (website, social media, word-of-mouth)

· Audiences (retention and recruitment of members, broader constituency)

· Campaigns (event displays and handouts, multi-media presentations, press kits)


Practices
– The transition of members’ services to best practices.

· Programs (national conference, regional workshop, local training)

· Services (annual meeting, tradeshows, discounts)

· Tools (website, directory, surveys, research, scholarships, awards)


Policy
– The growth from service to members to dependence by constituents.

· Identify (key issues and level of staff and board involvement)

· Target (legislative champions and influential regulators)

· Enable (members to advocate with policymakers)

· Publicize (positions and results of progress of efforts)


Partnerships
– The collaboration with organizations that have a similar agenda.

· Nationally (value-added benefit to the cause)

· Regionally (economies of scale)

· Locally (grass roots effort)



Observations on Effective Boards

Posted by Stephen Lemire on February 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Board of Directors Greatest Hits sounds like a Time-Life series of CDs (not sold in stores). But, rather, it is a compilation of my “somewhat editorialized” list of traits and characteristics which the most successful nonprofit boards possess. Specifically, these boards have an External Focus, Function Strategically, and have a Structured Governance - the only set in the list directed by the bylaws.

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I have been an executive director who has worked with more than twenty different boards. I count a board as being different from one year to the next even if the members remain the same but at least one director has changed office because, that alone, can significantly alter the group’s dynamics. In addition, I have been a director on a number of community boards which has provided me with an alternative perspective and, more importantly, a better viewpoint on how to perform as an executive director.

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The Board’s View is External and Long Term
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It shall be guided by the mission.
It shall focus on governance, not operations.
It shall follow the direction of the strategic plan and amend it, as needed.
It shall be engaged in fund-raising and development.
It shall participate in all policy and advocacy initiatives.

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The Board’s Functions are Strategic and Defined
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The President is the external representative along with the Executive Director.
The Vice President supports the President and Executive Director on operational issues.
The Executive Committee and one or two other “rising stars” make up a strong core group.
Directors understand financial statements and are involved with budgeting and audits.
Directors are representative of the membership and are not homogeneous.
Board member nominee recruitment is guided by skill sets and key personnel needed.
The board has an organized and detailed orientation for new directors.
The board includes professional development on its agenda for board meetings.
The board conducts an annual self-assessment and acts on items identified needing improvement.
Directors do not micromanage the executive director.
Directors have a succession plan for hiring a new executive director.
Directors act as hosts, rather than simply attendees, at all organization-sponsored functions.

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The Board has Internal Mechanisms to Structure its Governance
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Directors must serve at least one term prior to becoming an officer.
Directors must serve at least one term as an officer before becoming President.
Officers serve one year terms with the ability to run for re-election for that office one time.
Directors serve three year terms; 1/3 of the board rotates off each year.
The optimum size of the board is 12-15 directors.
The Immediate Past President is ex officio and helps with transition issues for one year.
The Executive Director is an ex officio member of the board.
An Emeritus Board of past presidents helps on a per project basis at the request of the President.

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These observations are not one size fits all. The general principles and recommendations need to vary by the scope of each organization. For example: Is it local, regional or national? Is it a start-up or mature nonprofit? Is it a community service provider or a professional association? Yet, these are the types of considerations which the board and executive director must consider and work through to create a fine-tuned leadership.
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The Bridge: Teaching Philosophy to Classroom Style to Community Partners

Posted by Stephen Lemire on February 2, 2012 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

In an earlier blog, “Many Adult Students Need Learn but One Lesson”, I outlined my experience working with graduate students for the past 25 years. I described how a typical student has been an experienced medical clinician (RN, technologist) who was now earning a Master’s Degree to gain career advancement into a management role.
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I also wrote of my philosophy: to create an environment where students are encouraged to share their professional experiences; to allow students the opportunity to process the impact of what is discussed and apply it to their workplace; to challenge students to develop their own concepts, support their own ideas, and learn from each other. I know this philosophy has an impact when a student begins to think less about process (like a clinician) and more about outcome (like a manager).
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What has influenced my classroom style and how has it evolved over time? From the outset my goal was to construct an environment that borrowed many of the most effective elements from the instructors that I had as a graduate and college student. This foundation has since been most influenced by what I’ve learned from my students. Notably, if I am successful, I can tap into the wealth of information students carry and promote a way that they can teach one another through sharing of experiences, stories, practice styles, and lessons learned.
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I do not require the use of textbooks in my courses as they become outdated quickly and are a tremendous financial burden on students. Instead, I provide links to readings, cases, and reports on a timely basis. The projects that I assign, and the exams that I give, are not based on information that students are expected to memorize, but rather, on scenarios in which the students must develop their own ideas and are challenged to support them.
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In each class I provide an agenda and set of objectives, as my goal is to facilitate as if in a business meeting. I try to keep the session crisp with short bursts of structured lecture interspersed with abundant group discussion, reviews of cases examples, and role playing of management exercises. I also add a segment called “Real Life Stuff” in which I outline non-curricular items such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, business social protocol, professional networking, etc. My students also find that their in-class assignments are graded with an A, B, C, or F with the “F” standing for “Fluff”. I encourage them to be direct, succinct, and clear in all oral and written business communications.
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Additionally, I believe that a large part of a student’s education needs to take place in the community – at internships and work-study programs. Students need practical hands-on experiences to apply what is discussed in the classroom to understand the application of the structured learning.
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A student’s overall education, though the responsibility of the academic institution and its instructors, is best served through a partnership with the region’s employers who can provide curricular input, at-work training (e.g. internships), and, ultimately, gainful employment. The critical component of this relationship is the internship so that, among many things, the student may learn practical hands-on applications while the employer may assess the student’s potential employability and, ideally, offer the student a full-time position upon graduation.
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Based on objective evaluations and feedback from students, my teaching philosophy coupled with my classroom style has been effective. I believe that this, along with partnerships with employers to provide internships, has provided students with many tools to succeed.
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I’m about to embark into the world of online teaching. I’m excited about learning new skills and using different technology to educate students. My challenge will be to create a different classroom style in this forum so that it remains the bridge between my teaching philosophy and my conviction that employers are pivotal to train the workforce.
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I’m curious about the transition that others have gone through. If you have shifted to online teaching after a long career in the classroom, what has been your experience?
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Mentors are Medal Winners

Posted by Stephen Lemire on January 26, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Not only is January National Mentor Month, but today, January 26, is set aside as Thank Your Mentor Day. (See link at bottom of page.) For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have, or have had, a mentor this is a day to pay homage to the individuals that have guided us by sharing experiences, imparting wisdom, pointing out lessons, and coaching us through frustrations.
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Many organizations such as professional associations have formalized mentoring programs which have great value. My focus and particular appreciation on this day is for those mentors who are not in an organized program but, instead, on the individuals who are willing to give of themselves to invest in someone junior to them in responsibility, authority, and maturity. These mentors are confident professionals willing to selflessly offer knowledge, skills, and experiences.
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Mentors are vital in so many careers to perpetuate the profession and the importance of internships cannot be stressed enough. In addition, the part the mentee plays in this partnership is critical as they must seek out opportunities, find an appropriate mentor, ask questions, be open to suggestions and criticism, and absorb as much professional exposure as possible.
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What are some key traits of mentors?
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1) They evolve from a position of authority to a role of friendship.

2) The lessons they share are not forced on you.

3) The skills they teach you are timeless and you can pass them on to others.

4) They are open to your ideas and opinions.

5) They remain available to you over time and after your formal relationship has ended.

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I’m grateful and fortunate to have had more than one mentor. The “Mentor Olympics” has had an international flavor for me. I’m proud to present my medal winners:
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Gold - (USA) Frank T. Gallo, PhD, Chief Leadership Consultant for Aon Hewitt, Greater China; President, Calypso Consulting. There are so many skills that I employ which I learned from Frank that it is difficult to carve them out and list them. So much of Frank’s leadership and management style was absorbed and incorporated by me during my formative professional years. From leading an organization, to facilitating meetings, to day-to-day management, there are Gallo-esque influences. Thank you, Frank.
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Silver - (ROM) Bogdan M. Vernescu, PhD, Professor and Head, Mathematical Sciences Department, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Board President, National Professional Science Masters Association. Bogdan demonstrates how his brilliance and leadership bring respect and direction because they are accompanied by humility, professionalism, and a tireless commitment to the mission. Our respective personalities may have made us seem like The Theatre Masks, but our teamwork, during my most significant association tenure, was complementary, effective, and successful. Multumesc, Bogdan.
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Bronze - (USA) the late Col. Richard P. Taffe, U.S. Army (ret.); Former editor, The Lowell Sun. Dick taught me the importance of volunteerism and community service. He stressed that it is not who you are, but, rather, what you do is what matters. These lessons learned while still in college steered me into a fulfilling lifelong career working in the nonprofit sector. Thanks, Dick.
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I salute these medal winners and so many others who have taken the time to share important lessons and experiences that I continue to carry with me to this day. If you’ve been as fortunate as I have been, I encourage you to pick up the phone or send a message of thanks to your mentor today.
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http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org/take_action/thankyourmentorday/

It's Not Alphabet Soup

Posted by Stephen Lemire on January 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Nearly twenty years ago I first had the opportunity to take the Myers-Briggs assessment. Since I was curious as to how my personality, attitudes, and aptitude fit with my career as an association executive, I jumped at the chance. (My pedestrian description of the Myers-Briggs is that it is a questionnaire which measures your perceptions and how you make decisions.)
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The timing was particularly important because, until that time, I always believed that I was a health care professional (two degrees in health care administration) that happened to manage associations. Once I got my results, it only made sense that I was, in all actuality, an association professional with a strong interest in health care.
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The Myers-Briggs is not the only standardized measure as there are many other tools used. Since this is not my area of expertise, let me invite you to respond:
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· What other assessment do you like? Is it reliable?

· Is it useful to evaluate potential employees and leaders?

· Is it helpful when making career choices?

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According to the Myers-Briggs, I am an ENFJ which is a personality group that accounts for less than 5% of the population. ENFJs are frequently known as visionaries or called “The Mentor”. ENFJs can frequently be found in the following careers: consultant (check), nonprofit manager (check), teacher (check), and writer (check). ENFJs generally have some of the following traits:

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  • Creative and imaginative
  • Enjoy variety and new challenges
  • Strong organizational capabilities
  • Exceptionally good people skills
  • Get personal satisfaction from helping others
  • Genuinely and warmly interested in people
  • Value people's feelings
  • Loyal and honest
  • Value structure and organization
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My summary reveals:

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· E – Extraversion (preferred to I - Introversion): motivated by interaction with people...enjoy a wide circle of acquaintances…gain energy in social situations

· N – Intuition (preferred to S-Sensing): more abstract than concrete...focus attention on the big picture and future possibilities

· F – Feeling (preferred to T-Thinking): value personal considerations…give weight to social implications when making decisions

· J – Judgment (preferred to P-Perception): plan activities and make decisions early...sense of control through predictability

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If you have completed the Myers-Briggs questionnaire, what was your result? Do you feel that it describes your personality? Is the result compatible with your career choice?

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If you have not taken the test and would like to do so, you can follow this link http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp to a free, online questionnaire based on the Myers-Briggs which will provide you with your corresponding personality group.
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Surprised at the findings?
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I was wondering if my result had changed over the past twenty years (maybe shifting from Judging to Perception) so I took the online survey provided above. There had been no change. To mix metaphors: the old dog has learned a lot of new tricks, but you can’t take the ENFJ out of the old dog.

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References:
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychometrics


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