Completing the Circle
Some clients work with a coach to help them find direction; others, to achieve specific goals. Sherri, a successful retired banker, wanted to become a community leader with the Girl Scouts.
Growing up in a family that moved frequently, Sherri had found that being a Girl Scout always gave her a feeling of continuity and belonging. Now she wanted to give back to the organization that had given her so much.
Sherri was already a member of the board of the local Girl Scout council, but at board meetings she found herself sitting silently, thinking What am I doing here? I don't know anybody...I'm not contributing anything.
She wasn't alone in this feeling. Many seasoned business people in her position experience the same uncertainty. I have seen smart, successful businessmen and women join the boards of nonprofits and never say a word, because they think things work differently there than in the for-profit world they know. They feel like they "don't know how to play."
Coaching both nonprofit staff and volunteer board members, one of my goals is to bridge that gap. Although nonprofits pursue different goals than for-profits, those who serve them need many of the same essential skills. Newcomers just need to learn how to put them to use in this new arena.
As Sherri was learning, there are real differences between working in corporate management and working on a volunteer board, where there are no paychecks, no job reviews, and no guidance from the staff or other board members. Yet she was determined to serve the Girl Scouts with all her expertise. Together, we developed a list of her goals:
This wasn't the Sherri I knew: smart, articulate, focused, dedicated. I wanted her to see herself that way, too.
I asked her to tell me about some of her accomplishments and successes. As a banker, she had felt competent and confident -- developing impressive major accounts, proving herself to be a good manager.
How could the other board members come to know this confident, competent Sherri? Realizing that she is very comfortable meeting people one on one, she arranged to have lunch with each board member.
Next, we brainstormed how she might apply her banking and financial background to the Girl Scouts cause. Sherri realized she might be a natural at fund-raising. I asked her to approach it as if she were selling to one of her bank customers. That broke the ice. She knew exactly what to do.
First, she articulated all the reasons why it was important to support the Girl Scouts. Next, she studied the range of Scout programs and picked those with appeal for specific potential donors. She set up appointments, organized a committee to visit donors, laid out a meeting agenda, and assigned different people to take part in the presentation.
Did she get contributions? Of course. Even more importantly for her personal quest, she established her own credibility at the board level. In fact, she has been appointed chair of the development committee, and is setting goals and making plans with all the confidence of someone who has been doing the job for years.
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