Should a CEO sit on the board of his/her own directors' companies?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living with Hope, Part 4

In Parts 1-3 (please read those first if you haven't already), I talked about how my colleague Jim Mueller's blog about keeping a sense of hope during these challenging times inspired me to write about my amazing 3-legged Husky who happens to be named Hope. Her story may remind you of what we (and our organizations) are capable of if we approach each day with a focus on the gift of the now, while not losing sight of the possible (our vision).

Becoming part of the "pack" (human and dog) at the dog park has been an amazing journey. Hope and I tried out several dog parks (we are really lucky to live in an area where dog parks are plentiful) and settled on one that is close to our home. We began going almost every day at about the same time, early evening. Soon, Hope formed friendships with a few of the regulars and then so did I.

For about a year, none of us knew anything more about each other than our first names. Our conversations were very dog-oriented. Then, over time, we all began to bond in other ways, talking about work, personal life, challenges, joys. During the past four years, one of the pack got breast cancer, and we all got together to help with daily needs including care of her dog while she went through chemo and radiation. We celebrated births. We have been through deaths of loved ones and of beloved pets, and welcomed puppies. We helped out when someone had a car accident and couldn't drive for a while. We began to give and refer business to one another. We began to have parties! One of us who by day is an accountant is a drummer in a local band, so we go and dance when he plays.

We have become a really committed group of friends with the love of dogs as our core value. It just feels good, natural and comforting. We watch out for our dogs and for each other. Our daily time together in the park is when we get to leave the day behind and truly live in the now. We watch the dogs play and catch up with each other. And I know that Hope has a special place in the hearts of this group. I hear the pride in their voices when they describe her, how amazing she is, when new people come to the park and ask about her missing leg.

If you are reading this blog, you are probably involved in the nonprofit world and have no trouble understanding what I am saying. It doesn't hurt to remind ourselves that one of the reasons we do this is because we like to be around other people whose values match ours, people who care about others (human and animal) and want to make the world a better place. Through our work and our lives outside of work, we keep going forward with our commitment to change and better our communities. It's what we are about.

On that note, I would like to end this blog series with the last of my Hope-isms to add to the 13 on the previous posts.

  • Climb a tree while you still can

  • Live in the moment, especially if it includes a roll in the grass

  • A good massage does wonders for aching legs

  • Knowing when to back off is as important as knowing when to stand your ground

  • Protect your friends, especially from bullies

  • Jump up and run to the door when your loved one comes home, even if it takes you a few minutes to get your balance

Monday, September 26, 2011

Living with Hope, Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 (please read those first if you haven't already), I talked about how my colleague Jim Mueller's blog about keeping a sense of hope during these challenging times inspired me to write about my amazing 3-legged Husky who happens to be named Hope. Her story may remind you of what we (and our organizations) are capable of if we approach each day with a focus on the gift of the now, while not losing sight of the possible (our vision).

After Hope and I had been living together for about a year, I began to research what types of assisting devices might be available to help her. As it turns out, there is really nothing much out there for dogs missing an entire front leg. I did find something I thought might be helpful to her. It was a two-wheeled cart with supportive fabric that fit around her chest. Her one front leg rested off the ground while the wheels supported her.

I was very excited on the day we went to try out this device -- Hope, however, not so much. She gave me withering looks during the fitting. I kept thinking "But wait until you see how much fun you will have with this!" Oh, was I wrong. Cart in place, Hope tried to walk toward me. But instead she began to circle. The harder she tried, the faster she went in a full circle. As it turned out, because of the imbalance the device caused, it was impossible for her to propel herself forward. I actually think the whole episode embarrassed her. That was the last time I went in search of a "fix." Hope doesn't see herself as needing fixing -- I was the one who did.

So we have now been together almost five years. Hope is thriving. In my next and last post, I'll give you a sense of our daily routines. I do believe one way or another Hope had a vision of this good life when she was struggling to survive on the streets of Miami. If she thought her entire life would be days full of pain and suffering I doubt she would have lasted. Along with the seven Hope-inspired life and work lessons I listed in Part 2, here are seven more. We'll conclude the list in Part 4.

  • Rest when you need to

  • A good howl every now and then is very cathartic

  • A little dance before heading out the door for a nice walk puts you in a great mood

  • A good head to toe stretch before your walk is also helpful

  • A great attitude goes a long way in assuring a fun day

  • Keep your ears clean and listen more than you talk

  • Always be making friends

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Living with Hope, Part 2

In Part 1, I introduced Hope, my three-legged rescued Husky. Here in Part 2, you'll begin to see, as I did, that this is no ordinary dog.

For the first few weeks that Hope and I lived together, she was in heat and then, when that ended, was spayed and recovering from the surgery. So we kept pretty close to home. Then finally I got to take her for a walk in the beautiful park across the street. I tried not to think about her former life and feel sorry for her -- the advice I had been given was to treat her with the same affection and disclipline one would have for any dog. And yet it was clearly so difficult for her to walk, which at first was just heartbreaking to see. To keep her balance, she has to tilt her front leg toward the center of her body. This results in a distinct bobbing motion and a lot of huffing and puffing. I couldn't help but tear up. And then it happened.

We were walking by a large oak tree, and a squirrel ran up the trunk. Before I knew what was happening, Hope took a verticle six foot leap off the ground right into the crook of the tree after that squirrel. I was dumbfounded.

Once up there, she did need help getting down, but that leap took my breath away. I wondered what else she could do that she hadn't showed me yet? Plenty, it turned out.

I began taking her to area dog parks. She had apparently not been around many dogs, because her socialization skills needed a lot of work. But she learned quickly and began to establish friendships. That was great and really heartwarming but not unexpected. What was truly amazing was how she could run.

Gone is the awkard bobbing and labored breathing. When she runs, Hope's back legs propel her forward so fast, and she keeps her body so close to the ground, that you can't even see she is missing a leg. People whose first glance of her is while she is running are shocked when she stops and they then see that her left front leg is missing.

And oh, the joy she feels when she runs. It's unmistakeable.

In my next post I'll share what the dog park has ended up meaning for both of us. Meanwhile, here is the beginning of a lengthy list of life and work lessons we humans in Hope's world have learned from her. More in Part 3.

  • Always believe things will get better.

  • Take help when it is offered, especially if it moves you toward achieving your vision.

  • A skip in your step isn't necessarily a bad thing.

  • Not everyone will "get" you -- focus on those who do.

  • Everyone is awkward at something.

  • Everyone is great at something.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Living with Hope, Part 1

Our esteemed colleague Jim Mueller recently blogged about "hope-whispering," approaching life and work with optimism especially in these challenging times. I particularly loved that phrase because I have a really inspiring three-legged Husky named Hope. With your indulgence, I'm going to post a few thoughts about her over the next few days. There are so many ways her courage and how she embraces life can be an important touchstone for us as we continue our hard and sometimes discouraging work to make the world a better place.

Today I'll share her history. Hope was found on the streets of Miami where she had somehow survived over what appears to have been a significant period of time. She was about a year old, alone, dirty, skinny, in heat, petrified and missing a left front leg. She was rescued and named by the all-volunteer nonprofit group South Florida Siberian Husky Rescue (SFSHR) .

I had just applied to the group and been accepted as an approved adopter, and Hope ended up coming to me. I don't know who was more nervous about this turn of events. I hadn't had a pet for many years and certainly had no experience with abused and physically challenged un-housebroken dogs in heat! My most pressing concerns were how to walk her on a leash in a way that she could find a comfortable gate and how to get her diaper on and off (necessary until her heat ended and she could be spayed). It also quickly became clear that she was petrified of men, was insecure about being touched and had huge trust issues in general.

While the people at SFSHR were really helpful and supportive, of course ultimately it was up to Hope and me to create our life together. As we both began to put one foot in front of the other to fashion that life, I had no way of knowing how profoundly Hope would affect me (and everyone who met her) and change my life. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Boards - Your Chief Administrator Wants You to Learn and Practice CEO Evaluation

Ask board members to list their responsibilities and most will include the supervision of the CEO. However, according to the findings of CompassPoint and Meyer Foundation researchers as reported in Daring to Lead 2011: A National Study of Nonprofit Executive Leadership, there is apparently a disconnect between what board members acknowledge as their responsibilities and what they take on, because close to half of the CEOs surveyed reported that they had not had a performance review within the past year. Adding concern, of those boards that do ensure their CEOs are reviewed, more than two-thirds may not be particularly skilled at the process, judging by the report that fewer than one-third of CEOs found their review either somewhat useful or very useful.

With CEOs clamoring for effective feedback there are evaluation basics that every board can incorporate. Assign a month within which the CEO review will be done, add it to your compliance calendar and make a commitment to follow through. Ask the CEO to consider process and goals and to explain what he or she feels will make the review valuable on both a personal and organizational level. Gather input from the entire board. Then select a few board members to sit down with the CEO to negotiate what the review will consist of. Be sure success measures and deadlines are clearly defined so that everyone has a clear picture of what it will look like when the CEO has successfully met all expectations. Provide interim assessments that ensure everyone is still on the same page and that movement toward goal achievement is on track. (See “Evaluating the Top Administrator: A New Approach” for more.)

But what takes evaluation beyond the basics and ensures an effective result? I would like to learn what those boards that are providing “very useful” feedback are doing. I’d also like to hear from CEOs about what would make their reviews satisfying and helpful. Are there tips that you can share with your colleagues and partners? Perhaps you’ve asked a former board chair to lead the process or brought in a consultant to guide it. Maybe you’ve found a book or article that provided helpful insights into the process or content. All input is encouraged.