James Mueller & Associates

30 Oct The 4 C’s of Nonprofit Board Recruitment

Previously Posted on Blog, © James Mueller, 2017 Serving on the board of directors is the highest office one can hold in the nonprofit sector. Yet, when it comes to board member recruitment, many times insufficient attention is paid to the qualifications required to fulfill the fiduciary obligations that are the heart and soul of the job. It’s not like one size fits all. The old axiom about boards is true: when you’ve seen one board… you’ve seen one board. Every board has its own set of dynamics that are reflective of its history, culture, purpose, geographic locale, and personalities. Even so, the fiduciary obligations remain the same across every organization. I have served on and worked with many boards over the course of my career. Simply put, great boards do great things; and mediocre boards do mediocre things. That is why it is…


11 May Strategic Planning

Previously Posted on Blog,© James Mueller, March 2017   The winds of change can blow harshly. And in today’s environment, change can come rapidly and unexpectedly. So, what’s the point of strategic planning? First off, there is a difference between having a plan and having an effective planning process. Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Mike Tyson was equally terse when he said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” As Tyson explained to Mike Berardino of the Sun Sentinel in November 2012, “People were asking me [before a fight], ‘What’s going to happen?,’ They were talking about his style. ‘He’s going to give you a lot of lateral movement. He’s going to move, he’s going to dance. He’s going to do this, do that.’ I said,…


28 Apr Being a Smart Team Builder Isn’t Difficult

But you have to stop doing ridiculous things… and start taking time to do the important things. Here is a link to a great article from Forbes about flawed HR practices in the workplace, “Ten Ridiculous HR Ideas That Need To Die,” by Liz Ryan. I encourage you to take a look—it’s short and to the point. She hits the nail squarely on the head regarding issues that have irked me for quite some time, including annual performance reviews and 360 feedback systems. On the face of it, these seem like logical approaches, but they are fraught with problems. For example, annual performance reviews are control mechanisms that use selective memory, let the supervising manager off the hook of responsibility, infantilize employees, and focus on the negative. They more often depress people than encourage performance. Rather than year-end reviews, I encourage managers to create—with their…


28 Aug Change Management: When Team Members are Deeply Resistant to Change

In this series of posts, I’ve been discussing some of the challenges managers face as they help team members negotiate organizational change. The series has a light-hearted approach, using pseudo-scientific names: Benightedness, Phobia, Obliviousia, and Xenoskepticosis. Having covered the first three in earlier posts, I will now address the last on the list, Xenoskepticosis. Xenoskepticosis I picked this name because, literally translated, it means “skeptical of anything foreign or unfamiliar.” Healthy skepticism is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t become contrarianism, i.e. Xenoskepticosis, a deep resistance and non-receptive attitude toward perspectives that are not aligned with one’s own point of view. Don’t Confuse Contrarianism with Conflicting Value Sets Managers need to take care not to label team members as contrarian just because they are difficult. For example, Baby Boomers and Millennials operate from such different value sets that they often view each other…


25 Jul Change Management: When Team Members are Oblivious

In this series of posts I’ve been discussing some of the challenges managers face as they help team members negotiate organizational change. The series has a light-hearted approach, using pseudo-scientific names: Benightedness, Phobia, Obliviousia, and Xenoskpeticosis. In the last two posts I covered Benightedness and Phobia. Today, I’m going to tackle Obliviousia. Obliviousia When managing change, managers sometimes encounter situations where employees are just oblivious to their new responsibilities and appear unable to grasp what is required to be successful. Even when a manager clearly outlines responsibilities, defines success factors, purchases new software, and creates a budget sufficient to support team member needs—some just don’t get it. I’ve seen this occur in organizations that shift their core strategy from an activities focus to a relationship-management focus. Team members’ success is no longer predicated upon the number of events or the attendance they generate. Now success…


06 Jul Change Management and the Fear of Change

In this second installment of a four-part series, I am writing about how to manage the fear of change. Fear as the Fight Response Whenever confronted by change, all of us experience some degree of fear that stimulates our fight or flight response. The perceived intensity of the threat, determines the intensity of the response. And each of us responds differently. The predominant symptom of those who lash out when they are afraid is sometimes called a counter-phobic response. These individuals attack the source of fear—most times inappropriately—using some form of overt aggression, usually focused on another co-worker. Whether consciously recognized or not, it is meant to weaken, neutralize, or remove the perceived source of the threat. Counter-phobic Response v. Courage It is important to note that a counter-phobic response differs from courage. Whereas the counter-phobic response is a thoughtless reaction, those immersed in courage act…

Change Management Plans and Performance Goals

12 May Change Management Plans and Performance Goals: Making the Right Diagnosis

Four Conditions of Underperformance A few years ago, I wrote two chapters for the book You and Your Nonprofit Board: New Thinking from the Field’s Top Practitioners, Researchers, and Provocateurs. As I’ve reflected on one of the chapters, “Healing Governance Ills Requires the Right Diagnosis,” I’ve realized the same issues confront departmental managers who are faced with managing change and improving performance. In the writing the chapter I pursued a light-hearted approach to the topic, I used a medical model of diagnosis of symptoms and prescription for treatment. Using that framework I went on to define four conditions using pseudo-scientific names: Benightedness, Phobia, Obliviousia, and Xenoskpeticosis. Over the next four posts I will tackle each one of these individually as they relate to a managing change and employee performance. Benightedness The first condition—which I address in this blog—I call Benightedness. It’s an archaic word that perfectly…

Hartman Value Profile

27 Apr Hartman Value Profile

There are an array of tools available on the market to help organizations build strong teams. I’ve been exposed to a number of them and each has a unique approach. I use the Axiometrics version of the Hartman Value Profile. I like this tool because it is easy to use, extraordinarily accurate, and rooted in an approach that has a positive tilt. I have been using the Hartman Value Profile for over twenty years. For the first ten I used it to strengthen the teams in the organizations where I worked. For the last twelve, as a consultant, I used it to help clients strengthen their teams and staffing practices. Easy to Use I particularly like the Hartman Value Profile’s ease of use. It takes an individual about 10 minutes to complete the online exercise. That doesn’t mean it is simplistic. The profile is built…

Change Management Plan

21 Apr Change Management

Managing change is a challenge that organizations constantly face. This was brought home to me again recently as I was reviewing resumes for a client—with the majority of the applicants describing how they are “effective in fast paced environments.” The mercurial nature and volume of information have accelerated the cycles of change and pressure organizations to constantly adapt. But, change doesn’t just happen with the snap of our fingers. As those of us who have lead organizations through change are keenly aware, change needs to be thoughtfully managed. In recent years, I’ve noticed three forces for change that appear frequently in the world of my clients—generational style differences, changes in revenue flow, and challenges by competitors. Though each of these has its own unique features, a similar change management plan can be employed. Transformational Leaders One of the newer monikers for those who effectively manage change…

Fear of Fundraising

12 Apr The Fear of Fundraising and the Joy of Storytelling

Not-for-profit board members, volunteers, and staff members often get very pragmatic advice on how to get over the fear of fundraising. Those approaches include: conduct role-plays, practice “the ask,” use a script, go for a “ride-along” with someone who is comfortable with asking, etc. Though there is merit in these approaches, I think an opportunity for deeper engagement and a more meaningful experience is overlooked. I learned a lot from a wonderful guy named Dave Dunlop when I worked with him on the advancement team at Cornell. Dave is the epitome of graciousness and courtesy. From Dave I learned that the biggest gifts usually don’t require an ask. Why? It is because the donors are inspired by what they can accomplish through their financial generosity. Through their gifts they are investing in something that is intensely worthwhile to them, an expression of their deeply held beliefs…