Generating ideas, connections, and action

Deborah Meehan's blog

LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Rahsaan Harris of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy

I met Rahsaan Harris, the Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, at the Independent Sector meeting in San Francisco last April.  I knew instantly that Rahsaan was a kindred spirit as we joined a round table conversation about the IS initiative on Leadership Talent in the sector.  I was excited by conversations with Rahsaan and his colleague Kate Seely about network leadership and the contributions of next generation leadership.  After the meeting I had additional conversations with Rahsaan and Kate about how to be intentional about our partnership and collaboration.  Rahsaan walks the talk when it comes to acting on what we all know are good ideas but sometimes get to bogged down to follow up on.  I was very enthusiastic when Rahsaan asked me to share some of LLC's thinking about collective leadership at their national meeting and we are equally excited that he will be attending our national meeting, Creating Space.  We are happy to be spotlighting Rahsaan’s authentic partnership spirit which we know is a precursor of great things to come.  

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Thinking about Collective Leadership

I was flattered to be invited to speak about Collective Leadership at the recent EPIP conference in Chicago since I am a fan of the organization.  I also saw it as an opportunity to get feedback from people who are more hardwired for collective leadership.  Research by the Building Movement Project suggests that younger people are generally more collective in their leadership styles.  In research conducted by LLC for the Annie E. Casey Foundation about why there are not more people of color in leadership of the sector, we heard stories from people who were getting great results by inspiring their teams and were still given feedback that they needed to be stronger leaders, or at least stronger by the normative cultural standards.  The ways in which our culture of individual has become embedded in our models of leadership renders invisible leadership happening all around us in a more collective form.  I wondered if folks from EPIP might shed some light on this so off I went to Chicago.  I would like to extend this conversation to all of you. 

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Leadership Restructuring: Lessons from Month Five

By Deborah Meehan and Natalia Castañeda Chaux

This month, Bryon organized the first meeting of our Restructuring (AKA Transition) Advisory Committee of LLC board volunteers.  The interesting thing about this process and collective leadership, is that our best made plans are always subject to challenge and improvement by welcoming other perspectives into the conversation.  First, the committee was whole heartedly supportive of promoting Natalia Castañeda (our former Communications Director) to become Managing Director, and to carry this recommendation forward to the full board.  Subsequently, we got into a discussion that was anchored by the following critical questions: is a co-leadership model right for LLC? What is the best solution for our workload/capacity issue?

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LLC Member Spotlight: Byron Johnson of CompassPoint

We are excited to be profiling a man who has worn many hats with LLC, fund development coach, emergency succession planner, learning community member, now writer, neighbor, CompassPoint ambassador, friend, a ready source of energy and good cheer.... and oh yes, now the creative genius behind our restructuring.  When we decided to embark on our current venture of restructuring, aka transition planning, we knew that Byron was the guy for the job.  He is man of many talents, he gets what we do, we have good value alignment and well, Byron is cool!

Byron Johnson, CFRE is a Senior Project Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Byron consults on fund development and other areas of organizational capacity building, which include fundraising planning and coaching, strengthening foundation and individual donor development work, and donor solicitation training.

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Month 4: Lessons on Restructuring: Moving Forward

We are all rolling up our sleeves and getting down to the details of what a changing leadership structure looks like and means for our work, and yes, the lessons get richer as we do.  I have four humble lessons/dilemmas to share from this past month.

1.       Pay attention to the subtle power dynamic that emerge in our stakeholder engagement?  Byron began by interviewing the people closest to leadership players and challenges: the staff and board.  The question next came up: “Should he interview a couple of funders” and without a hesitation, I said “Sure!” I don’t know what his intent was but I can tell you what it triggered for me: “Do we need to check in to understand if a change in leadership undermines our funders’ or clients’ confidence in our work and potentially our financial health?” Yeah, I stepped right into that power dynamic seamlessly without even thinking about it.  Of course it matters how we create the value of the changes we make and gather all of the great ideas we can about the process….And that is an issue for our entire community, not just the funders (who yes, got a first reaction because of that gut thing).  But it was a great chance for reflection about the need for broad input.  read more »

Leadership Development Tools for Supporting Social and Racial Justice

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in StarPower a game simulation that was conducted by Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations (LDIR). Without giving anything away I think that I can safely say that most of us thought it was a powerful and illuminating experience. LDIR hosted the session for leadership development programs so that we could learn from and about StarPower as an important tool for leadership programs that want to help participants understand how oppressive systems work and are perpetuated. I bring this up because Dave Nakashima has generously offered to conduct a session for leadership development folks in the Bay Area. You may wonder which leadership programs that would be most beneficial to. I would say all. Why?

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Leadership Restructuring: Lessons from a Probing Board Conversation

If you know the LLC Board of Directors, you will not be surprised to hear that we had a very rigorous conversation about leadership transitions that again 

generated another set of lessons:

1.    Look at the ‘for what’ of your leadership needs:  That’s a pretty popular leadership question and it turns out to be relevant to the transition conversation.  For example, the board reminded us that the discussion about transition and restructuring does not happen in a vacuum and is not static.  It needs to be closely tied to our big and reaching goals for the next three years. In fact, the board asked the question broadly to include the type of leadership we would need from the staff and the board itself as we refine and operationalize our goals.  For example, one question that emerged was whether or not we would need to continue expanding the staff to reach our 2016 targets.  This caused me to think differently about fundraising and whether we needed to build this capacity as part of our leadership restructuring.  The board is thinking about the capacities that they also need and will be inviting guests to the Creating Space board meeting.  It’s pretty cool the way this conversation is permeating and invigorating the entire organization.

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Leadership Transitions: Lessons from Month Two

Don’t start from scratch when you can build on previous work:  

We had our first formal meeting with Byron Johnson, our transition planning consultant from CompassPoint, in early January since this is when the funds from S.H. Cowell were awarded for our leadership transitions and reformation process.  Last year we underwent a rigorous operations assessment with a consultant, Paula Smith Argoni, who used to work for the Non-Profit Finance Fund (NFF).  Paula helped us to develop a lot of tools that we are currently using to more effectively manage our high volume of consulting work. She also helped us with our business modeling and staffing decisions. Since one of the aspects of the transition planning process is a sustainability audit we wanted to make sure that it would build on the rigorous work we completed last year and not duplicate it.  We have been the beneficiary of a number of capacity supports, e.g. business planning, fund development coaching and operations assessments.   It’s important to keep integrating what we are learning and putting into place to optimize the impact on our sustainability.  We appreciated that Byron was so receptive to receiving and reviewing past audits and tools…of course he probably had no idea just how many documents he would receive from us! read more »

LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Milano Harden of The Genius Group

We are very excited about our partnership with Milano Harden of The Genius Group.  I first met Milano at Creating Space in Baltimore, when he was involved with one of our community seed fund projects (small grants we made available to support collaborative learning projects) on Emerging Leadership in the American South.  I thought he was creative, innovative and cool.  I have to confess I a little bit taken aback by the "genius" part of the business name until I was humbled by its real meaning, more on that later. 

I was excited when I had the chance to be part of an Advisory Group with Milano for a new leadership endeavor, the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health.  Milano brought a lot of expertise to adult learning and the virtual learning components of the programs and well, a whole lot more.  I always value fun and positive energy, which he had in abundance, but I was even more taken by his ability to create a container for some difficult conversations and his ability to turn conflict into powerful learning moments.  I knew then he was a Creating Space kind of guy and that as the facilitator, he would artfully bring together an amazing team to support our work for Creating Space this year and we are off to an amazing start. 

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A Norway Send Off to Claire

Claire is about to get a well deserved break as she heads for Norway with her husband Rick, who will be on sabbatical from Brandeis (of course Claire deserves her own sabbatical but we know how that goes in the non-profit sector).  Claire thought this would be an excellent time to transition from her role as senior staff to senior affiliate consultant.  We have all been paying more attention these days to what we like most and how we want to devote our energies. Claire acknowledged that her passion is really for evaluation research and consulting work, and not so much with the work of managing a non-profit which goes with being a senior staff member.  When she returns, we will be working with Claire as a senior consultant and boy will we miss her while she is gone, but of course not in a begrudging way.


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