I wrote a LinkedIn post the other day that spoke about hiring for passion vs hiring for hard skills, particularly in the nonprofit sector.
Those of us who are driven by our passion, it seams are also at risk of being blinded by it. When we get caught up in the tremendous potential to do good in the world; when we see hundreds or thousands of donors lined up behind us to fight the good fight; when we see that we need to change and grow and learn new ways of doing things or we are in danger of failing; when we want so much to make a positive change in the world, we may also risk not seeing the forest for the trees.
Don’t let passion blind you. I’ve been there and it is not only really uncomfortable to have to admit avoidable errors in judgement that can at times have severe consequences. But it could also put the organization and the mission you love at risk.
Whatever your role; executive director, development staff, board member, always check yourself before you wreck yourself.
- Are you planning for significant organizational change?
- Are you in the midst of succession planning because the vision of your mission-driven founder needs to be supplemented by a business-minded executive director?
- Are you reaching out to new donors? Are you reaching out to loyal donors in a new way, with new requests?
- Are you transitioning from a local to a national organization?
- Are you launching a new passion project?
- Are you receiving or seeking a large grant for a new program?
If any of these apply to your organization, here’s my advice.
Take a step back. Take a moment or two or a couple of months to gain some perspective. Remember not to let the urgency of immediate needs blind you to the importance of long-term planning and patience. Ask yourselves:
- Do we have a shared vision? Is everyone really on board or are we paying lip-service to a vision because we don’t know how to or don’t want to be the dissenting voice?
- Do we have the skills as a staff, as a board, as a group of volunteers that we need to make this effort successful?
- Do we have the resources we need? Human, capital, process, technology, management, systems?
- Do we have a common understanding of, and shared commitment to a plan of action?
And last but not least, where does the buck stop? Who ultimately makes the call and is accountable? Who is providing the leadership, guidance and incentive necessary to pull the team together? Don’t forget this very important part of the skill set. It can be the most important one. Having the right person making the tough choices and being bold enough to take responsibility for success, failure, measurement and improvement can make or break your success in the long term, no matter how passionate you are about your mission.