Recently, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Not-For-Profit Conference. The goal of the conference is to provide information, education and new strategies that leaders in the not-for-profit community can integrate to propel their organizations forward. The keynote address was given by Bill Graham, CEO of Graham Communications. Bill discussed important considerations for great leaders, especially those who work in the not-for-profit arena. We thought it would be valuable to highlight some of the key thoughts that Bill addressed that day.

Change: Bill began by noting that the assembled group was filled with people who are passionate about making a difference, the kind of people who wake up each morning asking themselves, “how can I be better?”   He challenged the group by asking: “Does anything get better by staying the same?”

Roles: When you look at almost any organization, from a small business to the largest corporation, Bill indicated that there are really only three kinds of people “in the boat.” The first he said are the Doers (they row the boat), the second are the Managers (they do things to make the boat go faster) and finally the third are the Leaders (they set the goal and share the vision and mission).

Goals: Where do you want to go? Each organization might answer that differently, Graham noted, but to make it understandable to all he said that those leaders in the boat should want to take their team to the “island of happiness” or in other words; the promised land.

Passion: Graham recounted a story showcasing how important passion is in communication for leaders. He shared how important Gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson was in 1963 in encouraging the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead major change from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She was listening to Dr. King when she thought his speech needed a jolt. Recalling a theme she had heard Dr. King share before, Jackson said out loud to Martin Luther King, Jr., from behind the podium, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Just then, Dr. King abandoned his notes to improvise his speech—the historic section that famously begins, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…”

Engagement: Research shared by Graham showed that in most organizations over 2/3rds of employees reported not being “engaged” at work. He noted that without engagement, without caring about importance in the mission, no organization will get to the Promised Land. The secret to engagement shared by Graham was to focus on the strengths of your staff of employees. He recounted further research that proved that when a leader focuses on the strengths of his/her people in the organization, that over 73% of staff report being highly engaged.

Mission: Graham reinforced strongly the importance of Mission in galvanizing the staff in any organization, not-for-profit or otherwise. He encouraged all to know their mission statement by heart and that it should be short and easily communicated. Further reinforcing the point Graham said, “If you cannot repeat the mission statement, you have a lost mission.”

Communication: Not surprisingly, Graham being a communications expert finished his keynote with the admonition to leaders that above all else, they have to communicate and spread the word. They have to encourage their staff, constantly reinforcing in words and in deeds how valued they are. They must constantly communicate where the ship is headed, getting everybody in line to help all get to the Promised Land.

Incorporate these important considerations into your business practices and help your company reach the Promised Land.

First published in our September 2015 IT Radix Resource newsletter

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