Category Archives: Nonprofit Executive

Executive Interviews

I thought some of these interviews might be of interest to Nonprofit Career Advisor readers.   The interviews come in many flavors; featuring nonprofit and corporate executives; men and women executives; new and seasoned executives.

A Social Worker for Pets, as told to Patricia R. Olsen, New York Times, December 5, 2009

Ed Sayres, chief executive at  the A.S.P.C.A. in Manhattan

Work at Eye Level, As told to Patricia R. Olsen, New York Times, October 24, 2009

Tim Shriver, the C.E.O. of Special Olympics

Big Ideas in a Small Room, as told to Amy Zipkin, New York Times, November 14, 2009

Michael Chasen, the chief executive of Blackboard.

Learning in Business by Following the Heart, by Abby Ellin, New York Times, Sept 26, 2009

Josh Silverman, President of Skype

Are You a Tigger, or an Eeyore? conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant, New York Times, November 14, 2009

Is Workplace Violence Preventable? At Yale and Elsewhere?

I don’t mean to fan the flames of the tragic death of Yale graduate student, Annie M. Le,  nor do I wish to criminalize the suspect, Raymond Clark III.  I do however, want to bring attention to the issue of “workplace violence” and more importantly, its prevention.

Based on my experiences as a workplace mediator and advocate, I have come to learn that workplace conflict can escalate from a simple dispute to all out rage.  Nationally known organizational consultant Speed Leas describes five “levels of conflict intensity”:

  • Level I:  Problems to Solve – Differences exist, people understand one another, and they have conflicting goals, values, needs, action plans, or information.
  • Level II:  Disagreement – A mixing of personalities and issues occurs; problem cannot be clearly defined.
  • Level III: Contest – Distortion becomes a serious problem. The dynamics of win/lose begin. There is resistance to peace overtures.
  • Level IV: Fight, Flight – Conflict shifts from winning to getting rid of person(s). They no longer believe others can change, or want them to change.
  • Level V: Intractable – Conflict is now unmanageable.  Vindictive. There is no objectivity or control of emotion.  People usually perceive themselves to be a part of an eternal cause, fighting for universal principles.

work-place-violence-68330I am not suggesting that the Yale case followed this particular pattern, or that the suspect demonstrated any particular conflict cues.  I am suggesting that chances of preventing a highly destructive outcome are increased in most workplaces when conflict is addressed at lower levels of intensity.  For example, in response to the workplace violence that took place at the US Postal Service, the REDRESS (Resolve Employment Disputes Reach Equitable Solutions Swiftly) program was created.  I serve as a mediator for this program, and it is designed to address workplace conflict at the lowest level of intensity.  There have been fewer incidents of dramatic violence since this program was instituted.

There are many qualified professionals who understand how to manage and prevent workplace conflict such as members of the Association for Conflict Resolution (which includes specialists in workplace dispute resolution).

Following are a few quotes from the New York Times article Lab Technician Arrested in Murder of  Yale Student (September 17, 2009), which underscore the importance of paying attention to workplace conflict.

New Haven Chief James Lewis says of the murder of  Ms. Le “It is important to note that this is not about urban crime, university crime, domestic crime, but an issue of workplace violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country.”

“Chief Lewis  repeated that it was not a “street crime” or a “domestic crime.” He added: “We have to really educate ourselves who we work with and how we deal with each other and those issues.”

Richard C. Levin, the president of Yale, released a statement that echoed Chief Lewis’s comment describing the killing as workplace related. “This incident could have happened in any city, in any university, or in any workplace,” he said. “It says more about the dark side of the human soul than it does about the extent of security measures.”

I certainly understand the perspective of the Yale president that “It says more about the dark side of the human soul than it does about the extent of security measures.”  And, employers must also take responsibility to reduce the chances of such horrific events.  For example, by creating integrated conflict management programs that address workplace problems when they arise.

For information about preventing conflict in a nonprofit setting, see my article Understanding Conflict in Nonprofit Organizations

Contact me to learn more about my conflict management services.

Executive Vacancies in Nonprofit Sector

A 2009 study conducted by the Bridgespan Group,  Finding Leaders for Americas Nonprofits , which looked at position vacancies during the 18 months from June 2007 to December 2008, found about 77,000 senior-level jobs were open at nonprofit groups nationwide.  This figure was about 43 percent higher than was forecast in Bridgespan’s 2006 study. About 25 percent of those leadership vacancies were filled from within, but 41 percent of were filled from other nonprofit groups, and 21 percent came from the business world.

According to the Executive Summary of this study:

  • “In the next 12 months, 28 percent of nonprofit organizations with revenues of $1 million and above plan to make one or more senior management hires, translating to 24,000 vacancies in 2009.
  • Projected vacancies are largely the result of retirement, since much of the existing leadership is comprised of boomers. Vacancies also stem from new roles being created due to an increase in organizational complexity based on growth in prior years. The need is especially acute in human services and arts organizations.
  • Top barriers to finding suitable leaders included compensation and difficulty finding executives with specialized skills, as well as competition for the same in-sector talent pool and lack of resources to find or cultivate new leaders.
  • The most important attributes recruiters are seeking include anticipated relevant experience as well as “cultural fit,” or shared passion for the mission (68 percent on average cite fit as a very important asset. That number climbs to 82 percent in the education field).
  • 73 percent of respondents said that they value for-profit experience in a candidate.
  • 53 percent of U.S. nonprofits surveyed have significant for-profit management experience represented on their senior management teams, including 20 percent in financial roles.
  • Additionally, 42 percent of the EDs surveyed had significant management experience in the private sector.

In addition, a series of messages emerged from the survey data, further highlighting key data and its implications in the hiring and recruiting plans of nonprofit organizations.”   Read more

A full copy of the study can be downloaded by downloaded from Bridgespan’s website .