As 2010 comes to a close all means of the “Best of” lists are certain to arise in your favorite circles. Whether it’s best ice cream flavors, green idea, news stories, remixes, political figures, hospitals, celebrities, musicians, Internet trends, automobiles or my personal favorite books, the lists will surely arrive. To get you in the mood our friends at Booz & Company’s Strategy + Business magazine have delivered their 2010 Best Business Books list (slightly ahead of the holidays—just sayin’) Here’s are the nominees:
Slapped By The Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007 – Gary B. Gordon
Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance – Boris Groysberg
Reflections on Leadership and Career Development – Manfred F.R. Ket de Vries
Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face – Richard S. Tedlow
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson
The Power of Positive Deviance – Richard T. Pascale et. al.
Country Driving – Peter Hessler
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition – Daniel Okrent
A wide ranging group of other authors get a nod including Charlene Li’s Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead; Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age; Hagel, Brown and Davison’s The Power of Pull; Jody Heymann’s Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder; Dan Pink’s wonderful Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us; The Heath Brother’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard; and from one of my favorite management thinkers Warren Bennis, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.
Undoubtedly, you have your own favorites or “best” choice for 2010 don’t you? Share your favorites by adding a comment or two. I’ll come back to update the listing a little bit later. Stay tuned. Here’s wishing you another rich bounty of great reading in 2011.
What are the tough trade-offs your association never seems to get quite right? There is no shortage of ways to go wrong. If every organization exists only to serve and leaders by extension exist only to serve those who are serving others, there is one area that rises to the top pretty quickly. In the “risks versus rewards” world of being a leader bringing the right talent, to the right project (or problem) at the right time will rank head and shoulders above all the rest in 2010.
Paul Russell Global Head of Learning and Leadership Development at Google makes the point. “Development can help great people be better—but if I had a dollar to spend, I’d spend 70 cents getting the right person in the door.” Associations face very real challenges in being certain they have the right talent in the right places. A recent announcement by the American Petroleum Institute that it was laying off 40 people was also coupled with an announcement that a “handful of job openings for positions with specialties in new forms of communications: social media, grassroots advocacy and digital outreach” would be available. The long held educator’s axiom—we are educating students for jobs that don’t yet exist— is coming true. Being an SEO specialist has real currency in today’s marketplace, but that job didn’t exist five years ago.
Which brings us to your organization. What talents and skills are essential to the future growth and well-being of your organization? Where will those talents come from? How will you find them or perhaps grow them in 2010? These are serious questions deserving serious discussion time among your leadership team. A Center for Work–Life Policy 2008 survey shows, the number of employees expressing loyalty to employers plunged from 95 percent to 39 percent. Likewise, the Academy of Management Journal found that after a round of layoffs, voluntary attrition spikes by as much as 31 percent. The report suggests that precisely the wrong people — those who have the strongest track records and brightest employment prospects even in a recession—are most likely to leave. Generic “rightsizing” and careless talent management doesn’t make associations stronger, it makes them weaker and more vulnerable. That’s would be exactly the wrong way to start 2010.
Are non-profit leaders taking volunteers for granted? The story has it that non-profit executives have only three responsibilities: 1) the care of the board; 2) the feeding of the board; and 3) the care and feeding of the board. While this observation may draw a smirk, smile or perhaps a groan from your fellow CEO’s, it also reflects a hard truth about getting and keeping volunteers and members involved in today’s time-starved environment. The time deficit cuts both ways for volunteers and exec’s alike. The challenge is particularly acute for small associations where volunteers serve dual roles as both leaders/owners of the association and oftentimes as volunteer staff. Imagine if you will a stockholder showing up at IBM‘s Armonk, NY headquarters to trim up the lawn, stuff envelopes for the latest promotion, or perhaps taking a turn cleaning up the restrooms. Unimaginable, right? Yet, isn’t that what we ask of volunteers (okay, maybe not the lawn and bathrooms…oh, you do…really)?
We need their human capital to make our organizations run and the roles for volunteers are changing in unexpected ways. One example. Even a rudimentary reading of the new Form 990 regulations makes clear that the accountability stakes for boards have been raised significantly. Keep a sharp eye on your Directors & Officers Liability Insurance premiums in the years ahead.
The challenge for nonprofit leaders is building confidence and comfort in leading and managing volunteers in this matrix of volunteer engagement. To be sure some of us prefer to keep volunteers “out of the weeds” focused tightly on the 30,000 foot view alongside power of the policy and strategy juggernaut. With a solid strategy, finely tuned implementation plans and financial business model built on strength, many Boards will happily enjoy the view. Until they don’t. And then—even in the face of a strong balance sheet—they will prod for softness and vulnerabilities whether real or imagined. The unrelenting feeding frenzy brought on by the economic meltdown has dimmed the value of rose colored glasses significantly.
For others of us though, the demand for new service that meet or exceed member’s expectations, marginal growth in existing programs and unpredictable financial resources require we view volunteers through a bifurcated lens as both advisors and sources of human capital essential to the successful execution of an association’s mission and delivery of services. Like so many things in life, there are real risks and real rewards in learning to lead effectively in this ever-changing volunteer paradigm.