Understanding Leadership in Relational Communities – Part 2

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Business, Education | 0 comments

In Part 1, we explored what happens to relational communities when an organization grows and expands. People want to be part of a growing, thriving organization and they want to feel like the community is still their family and their home. We discussed why it is important to provide people with the education and perspective they need to understand the shifts they are experiencing. In this week’s blog, we explore how. One of the most common things I see as the source of breakdowns in communication and connection is what people call “issues of transparency.” If those serving on a Board of Directors or sub-committees are doing their jobs correctly, they are obligated to protect the organization by knowing which elements of confidentiality they must preserve, particularly around personnel issues. The issue is not one of people keeping secrets or operating with covert agendas. Rather, the issue stems from a lack of training and education within the community that leads to misperceptions. In relational communities, people benefit from knowing where boundaries exist. Spouses need to understand why their partner may not be able to answer the question, “How was the board meeting last night?” Friends benefit from understanding why a person serving on the board is particularly mindful about what she shares or comments on in the parking lot. All members of the community, not only the Board of Trustees or Directors, need to understand the parameters of responsible volunteering and leadership. Here are five guidelines that help relational communities stay connected, healthy, and strong throughout the expansion and evolution of the organization. Keep a well-articulated and inspiring mission statement at the center of everything. Read the mission at the beginning of board meetings. Use your mission statement to inform both the decisions your organization makes and the approach you use to arrive at the decision. Bring the entire leadership team together for training at least once a year. Replacing even one or two members of the board shifts the dynamics of the team.  Give new members and veterans an opportunity to explore together the roles and responsibilities of serving as leaders in the community. Use this opportunity to affirm the focus and direction of the current team during the upcoming year. Explore options for educating the entire community about how the leadership structure of the organization works. Before a situation arises, explain how and why personnel issues must, legally, be handled confidentially. If you hire someone outside your community to lead trainings, work with them to ensure they include examples that reflect common issues within your specific community. Have a plan that ensures that all members of the community know how to responsibly interact with the leadership structure...

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Understanding Leadership in Relational Communities – Part 1

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Articles, Business | 0 comments

Several years ago, an acquaintance stopped me in the grocery store. The Board of Directors of an organization to which we both belonged had decided not to renew the contract of the organization’s leader. In response, the community parted like the red sea. Some felt vindicated and were passionate in expressing their support of the decision. Others felt confused and defensive, and vocalized their shock and dismay. They wanted to know why the decision was made and, in the absence of detailed information or personal experience that explained the decision, these people became angry and strongly disagreed. “What do you think about it?” she asked me as we stood between the fruit section and the deli. Her posture said more than her words. She wanted to know on which side of the fence I stood. If I answered one way, she might share more of her own thoughts. If I was in disagreement with her, I suspected we would change the topic. I weighed my words carefully. “I personally have had only positive interactions with [name of the leader]. I appreciate the contributions [name] has made to our community. However, I do not currently serve on the Board of Directors and I do not go to Board meetings. By choosing not to be involved at that level of leadership, I am also choosing to trust the people who do serve on the Board to make decisions that are in the best interest of our community. I serve on the Board of another organization. I know that not all personnel issues can be discussed with the greater community and that there may be pieces to all of this that we don’t know. I trust our Board of Directors to take care of our community, and I trust that they needed to make this decision, as hard as it may be for some people in our community to accept.” Much of the work I do as a professional and as a volunteer occurs within relational communities. Because of the size and nature of the communities, the people I interact with often choose to wear more than one hat. In a school setting, the chair of the board may also be a parent of a student and married to the co-chair of the diversity committee. In congregations, people on the board are also congregants. Some are also parents of children in the religious school program. Many of these communities were formed by a few families getting together to create something new. In the infancy of the organization, the community operated much like a large and growing family. Like members of a family, people in small communities fill different roles, assume a variety...

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