Do you have a Team of Experts?

Executive Director, Senior Services of Winston-Salem

Richard Gottleib recently retired Executive Director of Senior Services of Forsyth County

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the success of Senior Services of Forsyth County and the recently retired Executive Director behind this success, Richard Gottlieb.

A Team of Experts

Developing a strong internal team  is necessary to build a strong, impactful organization.

After thirty-five years at the helm, Richard is clear that his success depended upon his ability to attract people smarter and more capable than he to work at Senior Services.  He looked for experts. Experts in programming, experts in accounting, experts in human resources, experts in administration, experts in marketing, experts in fundraising. Go here to read about Richard’s journey in growing an organization from $15K in assets to $17 million in assets and here to read how he developed one of the strongest board of directors in North Carolina.

He was not ‘an expert’ in any of these things, but he was an expert in knowing what skills and expertise the organization needed.

A Leader’s State of Mind

What was his first step in doing this?

It wasn’t a big pile of money to hire the best people.

It was developing the state of mind that allowed him to do this successfully.

Sometimes young and/or struggling Executive Directors may be threatened by bringing in really good people.  This can be mixed with a mentality that only they can do things ‘right’ and can be especially hard for founding Executive Directors and CEOs.

Another misconception is that nonprofit organizations should not pay well for good help.  It is often an unspoken but strongly held assumption.  Time and time again, I see my clients get what they pay for.

When a CEO has done so much on their own for so long, another insidious pattern sets-in.

When they write job descriptions, they’re not trying to attract the best people, they’re trying to attract anyone who will take the job.  Job descriptions are not clear about specific desired outcomes and/or unrealistically require the person to do a million-and-one things.  They do not provide the big picture context for why this specific function is critically important to the mission and vision of the organization.  This does not attract experts, and creates a self-fulfilling prophesy that hiring good people is an impossible job.

Fortunately, Richard quickly realized the value of hiring well-trained, experienced staff.

It only took hiring his first true expert to see how much better they made the organization and his life.  He began to value the skills of these employees – and wanted more experts on staff until the day he left!

Far from feeling threatened, he welcomed their expertise, even when it surpassed his.

In Search of the Sweet Spot:  The Right Staff, an Appropriate Budget, Right Facility, with the Right Support

On some level, in the end, finding good people was still a challenge and a crap shoot for Richard.

He accepts that we all have our biases and personality styles–so recommends having multiple people involved.

I recommend clients review prospects’ strengths in three areas, 1) their cognitive abilities (their skills, experience, education), 2) their affective attributes (values, personal preferences, orientation toward the vision) and 3)  their conative abilities (how they are wired to do the job – the Kolbe index measures this).

Over the first 25 years, as the agency grew, Richard organized an annual staff retreat.  They would do an SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, threats) and inevitably the discussion would  fall into “If only we had this… We need this… We need more…” It was endless.

They were trying to match the infrastructure of the organization with output. That is, for a long time, there were not quite enough resources to match the level of services being provided.

Eventually they got to the sweet spot where the right staff was supported by an appropriate budget, in the right facility, with the right administrative support.  Now, Senior Services has an IT person, an excellent fundraising staff, people devoted to HR, and programs with wonderfully dedicated professionals.

The right staff makes Senior Services extremely efficient.

Program staff can focus on programs and not worry about office supplies, computer problems or payroll.  Someone else does the fundraising.  The organization is able to hire people very specialized in direct service.  This allowed people in operations to develop procedures and policies so things can operate smoothly.  This focused staffing is critical for growth.

Can you start out of the box with this level of specialty and expertise Senior Services has now?  Probably not.

But if you do not have this framework in mind as you build the organization, you will never get there.

Richard sees a bright future for the organization because now, after 35 years, Senior Services runs like a business.

He sees that in many organizations (both for-profit and non-profit), new employees are thrown into the deep end to figure things out on their own.  It is inefficient, wastes time and energy, and hinders success.  A good on-boarding process that steeps newbies in the culture and values of the organization is critical.  A solid infrastructure allows people to help each other.  Richard believes no one feels that she or he is in it alone.

Excellent Customer Service – A Key Value at Senior Services

Extraordinary customer service was a primary value for Senior Services, or Richard figured, why else should the community support them?  Richard saw everyone (donors, clients, vendors, anyone who walked in the door) as a customer and a constituent deserving the highest level of care and respect.

He could not meaningfully execute on that value alone.  The right person in the right position on his team made this possible and created a very low employee turnover rate.  When each person can really focus on their job, everyone benefits.

Fair, efficient and productive – built on a compassionate response to a deep need in the community – that is Senior Services today.  Richard worked to create this over 35 years

Even with very few resources, from the beginning, Richard had high standards.  In the end, his standards and his vision for Senior Services served the organization and the community extraordinarily well.


What I learned on my summer vacation in Colorado

Sometimes a break from business is truly the best prescription to transform stress, widen awareness and gain perspective.  I could not fully unplug due to unforeseen problems with a project, but I still found it so worth while to get away.  Here are some simple lessons I learned from a recent break.

  • The views from Denver to Grand Junction aboard Amtrak are stupendous!
Amtrak coming around the bend of the Colorado River

View from Amtrak rounding the Colorado River

  • Waking up to sunshine, blue sky, and fresh Colorado air is awe-inspiring. Nothing fancy required to experience this glorious environment.

[Read more…]

The Board of Directors: Your secret fundraising weapon or biggest headache?

Honestly, is your Board of Directors your secret weapon or biggest headache as a CEO or Executive Director of a nonprofit organization?

We all know the story of the board that does not perform at the level the Executive Director and the organization need, the frustration with unsuccessfully eliciting more commitment and engagement from board members, the painful board meetings where the ED does all the talking.

Let’s change that.

If the board is not your secret weapon catapulting you towards higher and higher levels of fundraising and program impact…keep reading.

Richard Gottlieb, Senior Services of Forsyth County’s recently retired Executive Director knows how to create such a board.  (Read more about Senior Service’s growth in this earlier post based on a generous interview with Richard early this year.)  Richard had a simple goal: “to develop the best board in town.” [Read more…]

How to Grow a Nonprofit from $15K to $17 million in Assets

Teri Beckman and Richard Gottlieb

Teri and Richard Gottlieb in front of Jim Hunt delivering the 100th Meals on Wheels lunch in Forsyth County. This was one of Senior Services’ many ingenious marketing strategies resulting in improved positioning and tremendous financial support. You can see Jim Hunt was thrilled to be a part of it!

For thirty-five years, Richard Gottlieb was the Executive Director of Senior Services of Winston-Salem, a non-profit transforming how people age in Forsyth County.  He began his tenure when the organization had net assets of $15,000.  Today it has $17.5 million in assets with revenues close to $6 million annually.

This takes leadership, specifically learning how to lead your own mind toward success. [Read more…]

Coastal Federal Credit Union working to solve NC’s income gap

50th Anniversary

Coastal Federal Credit Union

This January I attended the Triangle Business Journal’s 2016 Businessperson of the Year Award Luncheon. For the first time since I can remember they nominated the CEO of a non-profit corporation, Chuck Purvis of Coastal Federal Credit Union (CFCU).  I had to be there!

Now many would say that CFCU has more in common with a for-profit bank than a non-profit organization. Chuck, however, made it clear that day his heart and his actions are grounded in the nonprofit mission of his organization.

Chuck publicly worries about growing income inequality across the country and specifically in North Carolina. Chuck believes it is the biggest threat to our democracy. [Read more…]

Joys and Perils of Fast Growth – From CEOs who’ve done it

Fast Growing ForestEarly this year I was honored to facilitate a panel of three bright, engaged C-suite leaders in the Triangle who are leading fast growing companies. It was hosted by the Raleigh-Wake Human Resource Management Association (a great local resource for people professionals).

Two companies, TransLoc (in the tech/social impact space) and Precision BioSciences (in drug development space) received Series A investment financing in 2016. As a consequence, their revenue and headcount  exploded. The third was CAHEC, a nonprofit social impact company syndicating low income housing tax credits to support community based real estate development. They have seen more gradual and steady growth over the years with similar increases in revenue and headcount. [Read more…]

Holiday Pause

Lots of candles on dark background

Silence.  The gift of silence.  The gift of beauty, of color, of texture.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop, give yourself these gifts now.

Can you sense these things?

Allow the senses to open and recognize the beauty that immediately surrounds you.

Can you see it clearly? [Read more…]

Dell Foundation Exec Shares Secrets to Getting BIG Results

Micheal and Susan Dell Foundation

Getting to meet Janet Mountain

Janet Mountain, Executive Director of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, knows a thing or two about creating change that solves long-standing problems.

At the Carolina Women in Business Conference at UNC at Chapel Hill, Janet shared these guidelines: [Read more…]

Organizational Vision – How It Can Change Your World

Vision pic

My last post began a discussion of lessons I am learning from working with some outstanding leaders.  Leaders who are focused on:

• becoming better, stronger leaders,
• transforming their organizations, and
• having greater impact in the world.

Sometimes becoming stronger means taking a step back and becoming more reflective. Business moves very fast today – and destined to move even faster. [Read more…]

Lessons from Bosses Who Are Changing the World

change pic

In intensely intimate coaching relationships, I work with business owners and executives determined to create positive change. 

These leaders have shared their biggest challenges, opportunities, successes and failures with me. 

They are my heroes and heroines.

Reviewing our work over the last year – six ‘lessons’ have emerged that have been critical to getting better results.  I’d like to share them with you. [Read more…]