Nonprofit Management

6 Things You Want to Know About Chris Cashman

Organizations are full of hellos and good-byes as people outgrow their roles, start new adventures, or find positions that are pretty much the perfect match for them.  No matter the reason for the departure, good-byes are always bittersweet.  Today I have to say good-bye to one of my favorite colleagues, Chris Cashman, who has led our communications department for the last year and a few months.   Chris is someone who has helped me survive the last round of transitions at work.  He’s been a partner, a confidante, a cheerleader, and most importantly a friend.  This is despite the fact that I was unnecessarily rough on him during the interview process - my only excuse being that it was summer and I was 8 months pregnant.  But now he has a really cool new job at Columbia University School of Business where he’ll help them tell their powerful story to the world.   I’m really proud of him for taking this next professional step, and hope that Columbia’s leadership understands what an asset he will be to their team. When Kevin left, I saluted him with the 10 Things I Love About Kevin Jennings.  In that same spirit - and especially because Kevin, Chris, and I were a great team - I wanted to leave you all with 6 Things To Know About Chris Cashman: 1.  He’s an analytical.  This is from People Styles at Work, which if you haven’t read, you should.  Basically, Chris was the only analytical on a team of drivers, which meant that he quite often prevented us from “ready, fire, aim” and shooting ourselves in the face.  Chris is always seeking to understand context, background, and approach in deeper ways, [...]

The Zen Road Warrior

Business travel has been a part of my professional life since my very first job. There are periods where I travel once every couple of months and periods where I travel every week. And let’s face it, it is really hard to stay Zen on the road. When I was younger, I didn’t give much thought to taking care of myself while traveling and would pretty easily get out of balance - and usually come down with a bad cold and in bed for a week. Now, I am better at caring for myself emotionally and physically while on the road, and wanted to share a few tips that help me get through the planes, trains, and hotels. ; Water: Buy a lightweight water bottle and bring it with you at all times so you don’t have to think about finding and drinking water. When flying, they deprive you of oxygen and only pass through with the drink cart once - maybe twice - during the flight. You’ll feel like hell the next day if you don’t hydrate. Plus, who wants to pay $7 for the bottle of water they leave you in the hotel room? Snacks: I’m a six small meals kind of gal and I have a strange food hoarding disorder when I fly - maybe it’s those stories of long hours on the tarmac and running out of food on planes. Plus, I like to eat healthy, and that can be hard to find in a bag of cheetos. So if it’s a day trip, I pack my regular meals and snacks so I know I will never be without food and I’ll make the right choices during the day. I also [...]

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    Workplace Rules:  Biting and Other No-Nos Workplace Rules:  Biting and Other No-Nos

    Workplace Rules: Biting and Other No-Nos

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Workplace Rules: Biting and Other No-Nos

As is often the case, the basic principles that allow us to have happy and healthy lives don’t change much from the time we are tots to the time we are so-called adults.  One of the things I learned taking care of pre-schoolers is how important consistent and enforced boundaries are to creating an environment where everyone can grow, thrive, and have a good time. For example, biting.  I think we can all agree that biting is a no-no.  It’s not okay to bite other people, even if we are mad or upset.  That being said, toddlers often have a hard time expressing emotions and can get easily frustrated when things don’t go their way, and when that happens, they may use their little teeth in not-so-nice ways.  As such, any good and experienced preschool teacher or daycare provider knows how to prevent and manage biting. First, establish the ground rules: NO BITING. The rules apply to everyone - kids and grown ups - and they apply all the time, even when hungry and tired. Second, introduce ways to do handle frustration other than biting. Like sharing or taking turns. Or using words (which you may need to teach). Third, take responsibility for preventing bites from taking place. After all, it’s not entirely the toddler’s fault if he or she bites. If you know a kid gets frustrated easily, supervise them. Or provide special attention.  If they get cranky when tired or hungry, make sure they get a nap or a snack. A good teacher can read the room and see a bite coming down the pike. Finally, if a bite does take place, handle the situation rapidly and clearly. See #1:  Biting is never [...]

By |October 17th, 2012|Nonprofit Management|Comments Off

Stuck in the Middle

 I’ve been told that, as a member of Generation X, I’m supposed to translate between Millennials and Baby Boomers in the workplace.  In other words, I often find myself in the middle, mediating, negotiating, and translating. Like most conflicts, it’s mostly about both sides being unable to listen without becoming defensive and buying into stereotypes instead of creating teachable moments.  As a Gen Xer, I find both Millennials and Baby Boomers slightly annoying yet quite charming in different ways.   I know that Baby Boomers can be rigid and hierarchical and Millennials can come across as entitled and lax, but I also appreciate the wisdom and experience of Boomers and the networked competence and insistent and innovative energy of Millennials. And since nobody asked, I thought I would lay out some advice on how to play nice in the workplace.   You don’t know what you don’t know. While its certainly possible for a newly minted college graduate to start a company or nonprofit, he or she would be wise to seek advice and input from people with more experience.  And a professional nearing retirement may not actually have his or her finger on the pulse of all the latest industry trends so it might be smart to run that plan by those who are more junior. Multi-generational organizations  identify blind spots and address them more effectively than those that are less age diverse. There is a place for innovation and for experience. Find a balance. Sometimes the way we have always done things is stale. Other times, it’s a proven method of success. Don’t try to innovate arithmetic. At the same time, there is always room for improvement, and sometimes old ways of doing things actually ARE stale. The Internet is so cool, but remember you need to know how to use it. Information - true and [...]

Charismatic Wizards

The world has enough super stars. What we need is more ordinary people who find meaning and value in all types of roles.  We can’t all be cast as the lead in the play of life.  Even if we were, a lead without a cast looks strange and alone on stage. Without stagehands, tech, writers, and ticket sellers, we would all be waiting in the dark in an empty room with nothing to say.  Maybe I feel this way because of my semi-Hindu upbringing, but a story with a single lead is also a worn-out concept.  Why can’t life be more like the Ramayana - a story with many leads, many heroes, many plot lines, and many characters - instead of a hero saving us all from ourselves? Time and time again, young, idealistic folks tell me they want to change the world. Yet the only pathway they see is to start their own organization addressing small pieces of the puzzle or starting from scratch with a single idea that will “change everything.”  This is not to say that there isn’t value in innovation, but entrepreneurship comes with risks. The reality is not as glamorous as the idea. Running an organization means you are responsible for people and systems, not just ideas.  And innovation is not just about the idea - it’s about the execution of the idea, which is a combination of timing, luck, planning, and hard work. In my experience, the non-profit sector - and the individuals committed to social change - place too much emphasis on the visionary leader at the expense of the large teams and support systems those leaders need to be effective.  Charismatic leaders bring vision, energy, excitement to an [...]

The Things I Love About Kevin Jennings

Last Friday, I found out that my very awesome boss, Kevin Jennings, accepted a position to lead the Arcus Foundation, a foundation that focuses on making the world a more humane and just place for the vulnerable - with a focus on the Great Apes and LGBT communities.  I am beyond sad about his departure - though he’s leaving for good reasons to go on and do good things - but I loved every minute of every day we worked together.  Sometimes these transition moments pass us by and we don’t take the opportunity to tell people how we feel about them.  Perhaps this is why we have funerals.  But why wait for a eulogy to praise people?  (Besides, I’m sure there is a long list of people who would like to speak at Kevin’s funeral, so I might not make the cut!)   Do, defer, delegate. Kevin just does things.  I think that’s awesome.  Maybe it’s because he’s older and more confident than I am, but I think I second-guess things more than he does.  He helped me get over my hesitation about delegating things I didn’t think were “interesting projects.”  For example, he once calculated how much time I spent on our database, and said, “Do you really think it’s worth 10% of your week?  What else could you be doing with that time?” Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. I told this to Kevin once, and he said, “Great, so I’m teaching you to be mediocre!”  That’s not at all the case.  Sometimes it’s important to remember that good enough might just be good enough, and to save your best work for the things that are really important.  Perfectionism is [...]