Thursday, September 30, 2004

Work at high altitude

At 6,300 feet above sea level, (I'm at Lake Tahoe) I think better, sleep better, and in general, feel like I'm working on all cylinders. Why I live at 560 feet MSL I don't know.

At dinner last night with 6 executives of mid size California nonprofits, one of the key things I heard was living the job, no time to think, learn, take time off, etc. Everyone agreed that taking time was good, but how to do it?

Today I'll be talking about troubling trends....and one of the most troubling to me is the workload of senior staff in nonprofits. Like everywhere else, nonprofits are being forced to do more with less. As I tell people this reduction in staff has been going on for a decade, and has resulted in many admin staff going from 1.0 to 2.5 FTE's living in their bodies. Even with help from tech, this means more work, more time demands, more pressue.

Is it surprising that the Nonprofit Quarterly found that over 40% of Execs would "Never take an ED job again"?

And, if we lose 40% of our experience capital out of our sector, what happens then?

Three thoughts; easy to say, tough to do:

First, delegation is a key for ED retention. The execs at dinner said "Yeah, I should give up stuff, but it's so HARD!" and things like that. This is a management skill, one that needs to be developed to allow other staff to take some of the load, and to grow themselves.

Second, more education for nonprofit employees (and board members) in ways that accomodate their crazy schedules. Funders need to ramp up the perceived value of continuing education for everyone in the sector, fund/reward it wherever and whenever possible.

Third, a greater understanding by board members of the huge job their senior staff take on, and a gentle/steady prodding from the board to make sure that staff do take time off, both on a daily and annual basis. Otherwise we burn out/kill our employees.


David said...

Peter....first off, I think you blog idea is a good one; good way to take advantage of some of the new 'technology' out there.....second - re your 'there is NO time blog / commentary' - I agree and see it all the time....but feel way too much of it is due to the 'I have to do everything' mentality of many many folks ... CEO / otherwise and not for profit / for profit / and otherwise....another skill you can note / mention / comment on is "PRIORITIZATION" - just do what's really important and not everything. That conference in Orlando may be sexy or a 'good way to network' but just might not be the highest and best use of your limited but most valuable asset - TIME. Do what's really important / not what's URGENT - and keep reviewing / revising that priority list. No one has enough time to do it all anymore.

Peter....keep it up...and call sometime when you are in Chicago.

David Mc

jon said...

After we paid for our kids summer camp for sale we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!

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