Raffa Learning Community
Raffa Learning Community
Raffa Learning Community

Learning Community is the key to success.

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​Welcome to Raffa’s Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast.

​​​​The series, which has grown out of our Raffa Learning Community effort, features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More.

You can listen here, on our blog or subscribe via iTunes​.

 
If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com​ and include "podcast" in the email subject line.

Podcast

  • 5/24/2017 Ep 16. – Overcoming Resistance to Succession Planning: Broadening the Lens

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Vince Keane, President and CEO of Unity Health Care about overcoming resistance to succession planning. Vince Keane has led Unity Health Center in Washington DC for almost twenty-eight years. From an initial focus on health care for homeless individuals and families, Unity has grown from a $4m […]

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Vince Keane, President and CEO of Unity Health Care about overcoming resistance to succession planning.

    Tom Adams and Vince Keane

    Vince Keane has led Unity Health Center in Washington DC for almost twenty-eight years. From an initial focus on health care for homeless individuals and families, Unity has grown from a $4m operation to $100m. Three years ago, Vince and his Board and the executive team began succession planning.

    Vince observed about this process: “As a federally qualified health center, I knew we were expected to have a succession plan. Yet the topic made both my executive team and Board very anxious. Over time we all got more comfortable talking about the need for leader development and continuity. The biggest contributor to feeling more comfortable was the shift of focus from CEO leadership succession to organizational leadership succession.”

    A retired CEO in the community development field recently led a workshop for peer executives on succession planning. He encouraged them all to get started early – 3 to 5 years before departure – on succession planning. He admitted being unable to do that during his retirement because he was reluctant to let go and trust the Board with something that impacted him so personally.

    Shifting the focus to organizational succession does not remove an executive’s concern about planning for retirement or moving on. What it does do, when done well, is to broaden the conversation and make it about how the mission of the organization will continue. When focusing on the board leaders, executive team and staff for sustained success it is a much different discussion than how we keep our CEO here as long as possible or encourage them to plan for succession. If there are performance concerns about a CEO or other leader or a factor that makes concern about premature departure real, these concerns are best addressed before succession planning is launched.

    There are numerous reasons why organizations working for change and a better world are moving away from relying on a single hero leader or small core team to get everything done. Too many organizations have felt the pain of over-reliance on one or two leaders and had shocking wake-up calls when they departed. The case for building a leadership team among the board and staff is quite compelling. Seasoned leaders know it makes sense because they are tired and want to lighten their load. Millennial age leaders embrace shared leadership because it is the air they grew up in and what they expect. It is more fun and supports the balanced life they seek.

    Our words sometimes trigger emotions that block progress. Conversations about household finances and budgets can cause a host of other issues. Succession planning is like that. Some leaders never get beyond the word. Esther Newman, the former executive of Leadership Montgomery, committed to developing an emergency backup plan for herself and her team at a succession planning workshop. Two years later she called to say she was stuck and needed help getting her emergency plan done. After a couple of hours of discussion and the plan was mostly completed, she smiled and observed: “My goodness, I don’t know why I waited so long to get to this.”

    Esther, like many of us, can get distracted when a task looks overwhelming or might involve something we would rather avoid. When all the leaders of an organization decide together to focus on how to prepare for planned and unplanned leader transitions, this work is not about any individual. Success becomes a shared goal.

    Here are five actions that will help your organization advance organizational succession planning and get beyond some of the barriers most organizations face:

    1. Do a “trust check” to make sure the relationships among the Board, CEO, and management team are working. If there are performance or communications issues or a culture that does not support the focus on organizational succession, call time out and address these issues before launching succession planning.
    2. Enroll a core team of champions for expanding the leader development culture and the attention to leader continuity for the organization. Consider learning more about organizational succession planning or getting some coaching on the topic for the CEO, involved board leaders and managers if needed to make the commitment to this process more solid.
    3. Review what is already in place and decide what will deepen the roots and impact of your succession planning. If this is the first effort, set limited goals and look for an experienced guide to support the process. Commit to completing the first phase in three to four months so it does not drag on and become an energy drain. If follow-up to past efforts, decide how to best make leader development and succession planning part of your annual schedule.
    4. Pay attention to what is considered the basics of organizational succession planning:
      • Written emergency backup plans for the CEO and managers which prepare for unplanned absences by appointing a temporary stand-in;
      • Written succession policy that lays out the organization’s commitment and philosophy of leader development and how planned CEO transitions will occur;
      • Expand attention to leader and talent development for board and staff, with emphasis on positions that are critical to mission and organizational sustainability;
      • If a leadership transition is imminent in next few years, make sure there is agreement on timing and process for filling the position and completing a successful hand-off.
    5. Make attention to organizational leader succession part of your annual strategic and sustainability planning, so it is natural and expected.

    Vince Keane added: “Everyone working in a nonprofit gives generously of themselves to get the mission done. We owe it to each other to make sure the mission and work we have been doing continues. Attention to organizational succession and sustainability makes that more likely.”

    For more information on Raffa’s succession and executive transition services including this and other podcasts, a just-published case study on internal succession in Nonprofit Quarterly, click here. For more on these and related topics, read The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide by Tom Adams available on Amazon.com. To hear this and other Raffa podcasts, click here.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 4/26/2017 Ep 15. – Sustaining Mission Impact: How Do Great Organizations Stay Great?

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast episode, Karen Schuler, Managing Director of Search, Transition & Planning, discusses sustaining mission impact with President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi. To delve into the topic, they reference key aspects such as origin, leadership, culture, and board.

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast episode, Karen Schuler, Managing Director of Search, Transition & Planning, discusses sustaining mission impact with President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi. To delve into the topic, they reference key aspects such as origin, leadership, culture, and board.

    Tony Cancelosi and Karen Schuler

    To begin the podcast, Schuler and Cancelosi discuss how sustainability has roots in the environment and ecology. In order to veer away from this definition of definition, Cancelosi references to:

    • start focusing on organizational sustainability
    • dig deeper into mission sustainability
    • dive into mission impact sustainability

    Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind was established 117 years ago and Cancelosi believes that the organization’s ability to “hire good people,” listen to employees wants and needs, and effectively deal with change has led to the organization’s success in sustaining mission impact. “Leaders who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say,” says Cancelosi.

    As the conversation continues, Cancelosi discusses that in order to have any kind of sustainability an organization, key items are necessary. He references taking the following into consideration:

    • internal controls
    • operational efficiency
    • risk management
    • viability and reporting process

    Throughout this episode, Schuler and Cancelosi dive into the importance of maintaining relevance, providing strong culture, and understanding the human aspect of change in reference to sustaining mission impact. An important takeaway is that sustainability will not happen without really working for it.

    “Do the thing even when no one is watching. It’s called integrity,” noted Cancelosi.

    If you enjoyed this podcast, listen to the prequel “So, What Makes Great Organizations “Great” Anyway?


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 3/30/2017 Ep 14. – Preparing for Executive Transition: The Board’s Role and Perspective

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Pamela Gilbert, Chair of the American Antitrust Institute’s Board of Directors about the board’s roles and challenges in preparing for and successfully leading an executive transition.

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode Tom Adams speaks with Pamela Gilbert, Chair of the American Antitrust Institute’s Board of Directors about the board’s roles and challenges in preparing for and successfully leading an executive transition.

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    Tom Adams and Pamela Gilbert

     

    For more information on executive transitions read our blog post associated with this podcast, Six Tips for Boards: Preparing for Executive Transition.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

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  • 2/28/2017 Ep 13. – The DNA of a Highly Engaged Culture

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Michelle Hailey speaks with Dr. Elizabeth Scott and Dr. Linda Klonsky from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. They offer listeners a look at the components that help organizations thrive with constructive cultures, a better understanding as to why it’s important to consider addressing culture issues, and the benefits of being proactive in […]

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Michelle Hailey speaks with Dr. Elizabeth Scott and Dr. Linda Klonsky from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. They offer listeners a look at the components that help organizations thrive with constructive cultures, a better understanding as to why it’s important to consider addressing culture issues, and the benefits of being proactive in dealing with culture changes.

    Dr. Linda Klonsky, Dr. Elizabeth Scott, and Michelle Hailey

    Dr. Linda Klonsky, Dr. Elizabeth Scott, and Michelle Hailey

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    To learn more, please join us for the repeat performance of the DNA of a Highly Engaged Culture: How to Proactively and Successfully Cultivate Change within Your Organization seminar on Thursday, June 15th at 12pm in DC.

    Organization Culture Inventory Diagram

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    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 1/26/2017 Ep 12. – Preparing for Executive Transition: The Executive’s Perspective

    Underestimating the complexity of an executive transition is easy. To some Board and staff members, it looks simple and straight forward. Executive A decides to leave and informs Board; Board recruits and hires Executive B. Executive A hands leadership to Executive B. What’s the fuss? Unfortunately, as experienced leaders know, executive transitions stretch and challenge […]

    Underestimating the complexity of an executive transition is easy. To some Board and staff members, it looks simple and straight forward. Executive A decides to leave and informs Board; Board recruits and hires Executive B. Executive A hands leadership to Executive B. What’s the fuss? Unfortunately, as experienced leaders know, executive transitions stretch and challenge everyone involved – Executive, Board, and staff.

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Keith Peterson who retired as CEO of PennMar Human Services in 2013 and Louvenia Williams who is retiring this year as founding executive of Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative, share their perspective on their transitions with Tom Adams, Director at Raffa.

    Tom Adams, Louvenia Williams, and Keith Peterson

    Tom Adams, Louvenia Williams, and Keith Peterson

     

     

     

     

     

    Here are some key points Williams and Peterson made about executive transition.

    The discussion focuses on three dimensions – personal, professional and organizational. As in real life, these and most executives are much more comfortable attending to organizational issues than their personal and professional planning.

    Both executives emphasized how being concerned about the future of the organization is personal. Williams observed: “I am the founding executive of this organization. It has been my baby for over 20 years. This is bigger for me than the Board finding a new executive. There is a lot of care and feeding needed to plan this hand-off well and to ensure that what we built together lasts and continues to do good work.”

    Peterson described the pressure he felt of being responsible for services to over 500 individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families and the staff who relied on PennMar for their livelihood. “I knew that a poor transition put the people served and the staff in a precarious situation. So I was deeply committed to a positive transition so that services were not interrupted and quality sustained.”

    The two executives offered several examples of what makes executive transition personally and professionally challenging and complex:

    • As an executive, accepting the anxiety of letting go of control and influence as the Board and management team step up and make decisions more often independent of the executive.
    • Finding time to plan for what life after being an executive looks and feels like. One day you have an important mission and are in charge and the next day you are not. That is a big change and benefits from attention to what will give purpose and sustain meaningful relationships after leaving the executive position.
    • Deciding how much to encourage potential internal candidates for the executive position and how to determine what is and is not your role in working with the Board as they consider how to respond to internal candidate(s).

    Peterson emphasized the importance of ensuring the Board gets appropriate help during the transition process. “As I began thinking I would retire in two to three years, I searched for books and resources on succession planning and executive transition and looked for resources for the Board and myself. I considered it part of my responsibility to make sure the Board had the resources needed to lead a successful transition.”

    Denial is a normal reaction to uncomfortable times and feelings. Letting go of a position of authority and respect is a big decision for an executive. For many, it feels overwhelming and somewhat risky and becomes easy to put off. Williams and Peterson suggested the following to executives thinking about a transition:

    • Begin planning early. Two to four years before your departure is not too soon, particularly if you have a long tenure and are retiring or moving out of executive leadership.
    • Look for safe places to network with peers and get educated about what to expect during transition and what is and is not your role. (Both executives commented that Raffa’s two day Next Steps workshops for executives are great for learning and networking. Click here for more information on Next Steps)
    • Strengthen your partnership with the Board. Review and clarify roles in preparing and completing the transition.
    • Have some idea what will give you meaning and the personal connections you need after you leave. (Peterson chose to join several boards after retirement as a way to continue to contribute from his experience; Williams looks forward to continuing her role as a community leader and advocate.)
    • Let go gracefully and try not to take too much personally.

    For the executive, there are three dimensions to a successful transition: personal, professional and organizational. While hard to do, odds for a successful transition increase when all three dimensions are addressed.

    For more information on Raffa’s succession and executive transition services, click here. For more on these and related topics, read The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide by Tom Adams available on Amazon.com.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 11/30/2016 Ep. 11 – Connecting Accounting, Financial Management and Mission Results – Where to Start in Considering an Accounting Review

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Julie Jones, Partner and Jean Gilbert, Director in Raffa’s Managed Accounting Services Practice as they offer listeners a framework for considering how accounting and financial systems are supporting mission results and questions to consider in developing an action plan for change.         For […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Julie Jones, Partner and Jean Gilbert, Director in Raffa’s Managed Accounting Services Practice as they offer listeners a framework for considering how accounting and financial systems are supporting mission results and questions to consider in developing an action plan for change.

    Tom Adams, Julie Jones, Jean Gilbert

    Tom Adams, Julie Jones, Jean Gilbert

     

     

     

     

    For more on this topic read the article, Are Your Accounting Operations Aligned with Your Impact Mission, by Julie Jones.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

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  • 10/26/2016 Ep 10. – Stewarding Investments and Reserves: Lessons for Nonprofit Boards and Financial Managers

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Dennis Gogarty, President of Raffa Wealth Management, as he shares lessons from the 2016 SONI report, observations on trends since the report began and practical steps board leaders and executives can take to ensure good stewardship of investments.   Read Tom Adams and […]

    PodcastCoverArt

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Dennis Gogarty, President of Raffa Wealth Management, as he shares lessons from the 2016 SONI report, observations on trends since the report began and practical steps board leaders and executives can take to ensure good stewardship of investments.

    dennis-gogarty

    Dennis Gogarty

     

    Read Tom Adams and Dennis Gogarty’s blog post, Stewarding Investments Well: What Boards and Executives Need to Know, for more on this topic.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

    Listen Now

  • 9/28/2016 Ep 9. – Strategic Planning: What is the Best Approach?

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Denice Hinden, President of Managance Consulting and Coaching and Rachael Gibson, Senior Consultant with Raffa P.C. as they discuss selecting an approach to strategic planning that adds the most value to your organization.

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Denice Hinden, President of Managance Consulting and Coaching and Rachael Gibson, Senior Consultant with Raffa P.C. as they discuss selecting an approach to strategic planning that adds the most value to your organization.

     

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    Denise Hinden and Rachael Gibson

    Denice and Rachael are experienced strategic planning consultants.

    Read Tom Adams’ blog post, The When, Why and How of Strategic Planning, for more on this topic.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

    Listen Now

  • 8/30/2016 Ep 8. – So, What Makes Great Organizations “Great” Anyway?

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Karen Schuler, Managing Director, Search, Transition & Planning, talks with Tony Cancelosi, President and CEO of the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, as he shares his experience running successful for-profit and nonprofit organizations. The key take away from this podcast is people are the backbone of all […]

    PodcastCoverArt

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Karen Schuler, Managing Director, Search, Transition & Planning, talks with Tony Cancelosi, President and CEO of the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, as he shares his experience running successful for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

    The key take away from this podcast is people are the backbone of all great organizations.

    KSchuler

    Tony-Cancelosi

     

     

     


    Karen Schuler and Tony Cancelosi

    Cancelosi shared five keys to successful organizations:

    1. Listen to employees and give them the opportunity to serve and serve well.
    2. Recruit the right people to support the mission.
    3. Build a culture of fiduciary responsibility.
    4. Maintain or build a functioning board.
    5. Be aware of how your organization is presented to the world, how people perceive you and how you are going to serve those people.

    “Good management is always listening. If you are not listening, you are not going to be successful,” shared Cancelosi.

    Cancelosi also provided tips on how to stay focused on organizational mission while maintaining relevance in a changing world:

    1. It’s all about the people you hire. Bring in the expertise you need.
    2. Staff need to have a cultural desire to help others.
    3. The team needs to believe in their capacity to do good.

    “That is what is at the heart of this conversation; it’s all about people.  It takes people to go out and advance good in the world.” says Karen.

    Listen to the podcast to learn more about the challenges of transitioning from a a leaders of a  for-profit to a nonprofit, to making an impact and building systemic change.

    To learn more about how Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind helps the people they serve, join Raffa and CLB for a free seminar, Are You ADA Compliant? Ensuring Your Website is Accessible to People with Disabilities, on September 28th.  Register now!


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

    Listen Now

  • 7/28/2016 Ep 7. – Protecting Your Systems: Cyber Security in 2016

    Cyber Risk. Cyber Fraud. Phishing. Virus. Malware. Denial of Service. Ransomware. It is mission critical that executives are aware of what these terms mean and what their responsibility is when it comes to protecting their organization, members, employees and clients from cyber attacks. In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Nate Solloway talks with […]

    PodcastCoverArt

    Cyber Risk. Cyber Fraud. Phishing. Virus. Malware. Denial of Service. Ransomware. It is mission critical that executives are aware of what these terms mean and what their responsibility is when it comes to protecting their organization, members, employees and clients from cyber attacks. In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Nate Solloway talks with Martin Nash from EagleBank about what executives should be concerned about when it comes to IT security, why they should be concerned and what steps they should be taking to prevent cyber attacks.

    The impacts that result from a cyber security incident will affect business. There could be legal, financial, regulatory and/or reputational impacts – all of these are important to those running organizations, not just to the IT departments. Executives are responsible and accountable for anything that goes wrong from a security perspective.

    Cyber security professionals agree that cyber incidents are inevitable – it’s not “if” but “when.” Organizations should not think they are immune because they are small, nor should they think they are doing enough because they are a big organization. Organizations that only have four or five employees sized have been victims of cyber fraud and have lost thousands of dollars with relatively simple but effective cyber scams.

    “If you have a bank account and you ever make electronic transfers, someone is going to try to trick you into transferring money to them,” Solloway explains. Cyber criminals have been shifting from larger institutions (like banks) to easier targets (like customers). In the last five years, there’s been a steady increase in attacks on businesses with fewer than 250 employees. They are tricking customers and employees to send money with a scam known as Business Email Compromise.

    Nate Sollowaymartin nash

     

     

     

     

    Nate Solloway and Martin Nash

    One important lesson: People trust emails too much. The simple thing all organizations can do is to train employees to not trust email alone for financial transactions. (Same for personal transactions.) Always verify important transactions using a known phone number or even a face to face check where possible. Also, make sure people stop and think before clicking on links or opening attachments in emails.

    Some simple controls organizations can put in place to limit this of the Business Email Compromise scam from succeeding:

    • Make a requirement that any transaction requires two signatures.
    • Get a second form of verification; not just emails.
    • Set up controls with your bank on how you will transfer money (for instance, you will never make a request to transfer money via email alone).

    “You can be the biggest organization, spend the most money on cyber controls and put all the controls in place, but if you have one employee who clicks on a link or opens an attachment, something is now in your environment and can wreak havoc,” shared Nash. “Educate your employees.”

    Raffa does a 90-minute training once a month for new employees. It’s entertaining, informative and gives employees skills they can use at work and at home. There are also services that help train staff by sending a safe “phishing” email. If employees click the link, they are taken to a site that tells them about the consequences to the organization if that link had been malicious. About 17 percent of employees will clicks on the links before this training; after that number falls to 1-2 percent. It’s not about stopping people from clicking on links; it’s about getting them to pause and take a second to think before clicking.

    Listen to the podcast to learn more about email scams, ransomware, The Internet of Things, disaster recovery and more (even Pokemon Go!).

    Please join Raffa and Martin Nash on October 27th for the Raffa Learning Community event: Cybersecurity – It’s All About Risk Management Register to attend for free.

    To learn more about these issues and how Raffa may be able to help protect your organization, please contact Nate Solloway.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

    ituneslogoSubscribe now via iTunes!

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  • 6/29/2016 Ep. 6 – How the YWCA National Capital Area Developed and Used Succession Essentials

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams talks with leaders from the YWCA National Capital Area (YWCA NCA): Tamara Smith, CEO; Artencia Hawkins-Bell, Board President; and Shana Heilbron, Chief Development Officer along with Melody Thomas, senior consultant at Raffa. Listen to their discussion about how the YWCA NCA decided to develop their Succession Essentials […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams talks with leaders from the YWCA National Capital Area (YWCA NCA): Tamara Smith, CEO; Artencia Hawkins-Bell, Board President; and Shana Heilbron, Chief Development Officer along with Melody Thomas, senior consultant at Raffa. Listen to their discussion about how the YWCA NCA decided to develop their Succession Essentials – consisting of a transition protocol (Succession Policy) and emergency protocol (Emergency Backup Plan), the process they went through with their staff and their board, the benefits they’ve seen and how the organization uses and updates these plans and documents.

    Tamara SmithArtencia Hawkins BellShana HeilbronMelody Thomas

     

     

     

     

    Podcast guests: Tamara Smith, Artencia Hawkins-Bell, Shana Heilbron and Melody Thomas

    Succession Essentials for Boards and Executives: Lessons from YWCA National Capital Area

    By Tamara Smith, Chief Executive Officer at YWCA National Capital Area and Melody Thomas, Senior Consultant at Raffa P.C.

    The YWCA National Capital Area recently completed work on their Succession Essentials. What are Succession Essentials? Why are they important? Why should busy executives and board leaders take time to learn about them?

    As the principal architects for stewarding the development of Succession Essentials for the YWCA NCA, we are eager to answer these questions because we both have seen first-hand how a simple, time-limited and easy-to-do process can take a chronic organizational sticking point and produce both predictable and unpredictable positive changes.

    Board leaders, executives and funders all agree that planning for expected and unexpected leadership transitions is essential to keep effective organizations humming. Despite this agreement, survey after survey show that nonprofits do not have a written succession plan or policy. The 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations by the Stanford Graduate School of Business reported that 69 percent of responding nonprofits do not have a plan or policy. And for the 31 percent who have done it, they often use a fifteen-minute template adaptation process to satisfy a ‘check the box’ funder requirement.

    What happens when a Board, executive and senior leadership staff really engage in basic succession planning? Here is what happened for the YWCA National Capital Area:

    • The Board stepped up and took more responsibility in planning for future leadership transitions at the Board and senior staff level;
    • Busy senior executives moved past their skepticism and saw the benefits of better defining their positions and key duties
    • Senior staff supported the cross-training that would be needed for others to fill in their absence and benefited from the cross-training they would need to fill others roles;
    • Senior executives became more clear on priority work and busy or non-essential work;
    • The CEO and Board got a broader look at all the top talent within organization and had conversations about how to continue to expand leadership now and in the future;
    • Detailed worksheets were completed by the CEO and each senior executive team member. (These came in handy very quickly as the CFO received an unexpected offer and departed. The worksheets gave the CEO, Board Chair and Board Treasurer critical information to guide the short-term interim staffing and inform how to approach filling the vacancy and continued business without disruption.)

    The Board adopted a written Succession Policy and Emergency Backup Plan for CEO and senior executive team members and, as importantly, agreed to review and update these plans annually.

    The process and developing the detailed work sheets is the key to understanding bench strength and appropriately engaging executive team and Board. The YWCA NCA could have done the Succession Essentials work ourselves, but we would not have learned as much and we would not have achieved the goal of moving the concern about future leadership from only the CEO’s job to everybody’s job, including the Board and the senior executive team. By going through this together, we worked through the fear of a hidden agenda that Tamara was leaving and eventually all embraced that this planning was critically important and something we will update and continue to use. Our Board was a little resistant to hiring consultants to get this done. Looking back, our past and current Board Chair and entire board are delighted we made the investment and think we got a terrific value.

    For more information on succession essentials, listen to our podcast (above), read Succession Essentials for All Nonprofits: A Risk Management Best Practicevisit Raffa Succession Essentials or call Melody Thomas at 202-955-7242.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 5/26/2016 Ep 5 – People Are Your Greatest Asset. How Does Your HR Program Grow and Retain Staff?

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams talks with Raffa Partners Simone Putnam and Patricia Williams about the role human resources professionals play in helping great organizations thrive. Executives often say their people are their greatest asset, but too often they fail to put effective human resources practices in place to support […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams talks with Raffa Partners Simone Putnam and Patricia Williams about the role human resources professionals play in helping great organizations thrive. Executives often say their people are their greatest asset, but too often they fail to put effective human resources practices in place to support and retain their staff. Listen to learn about some of their recommendations.

    Simone copy Patricia Williams

    Podcast guests: Simone Putnam (left) and Patricia Williams (right).

    Are you under investing in HR? A look at your risks and mission costs

    By Patricia Williams, Partner, Raffa Managed Human Resources

    Every organization is only as effective as the people who lead it and the staff who do the work. It is hard to argue with that statement. Yet it is often difficult for executives to translate that vague belief into human resources practices that retain and motivate leaders and staff and move the organization towards optimum performance.

    Why is it so difficult? Because the risks and rewards of not investing in human resources are typically most obvious in those tragic situations where an executive is indicted or an organization folds due to compliance failure. Or, perhaps, when a lesser HR compliance crisis shifts the attention of the organization to the importance of having a real HR function. Unfortunately, the less obvious costs and trauma of high turnover of staff and low morale due to lack of investment in HR are part of the limitations of nonprofit life for some executives and organizations.

    The good news for executives, managers and board leaders is that the HR field has grown in size and ability over the past decade. Organizations have a number of choices for increasing attention to both HR compliance and staff engagement and development. Executives who pay attention to human resource practices not only sleep better because they are not worrying about compliance risks. They also enjoy a more engaged and empowered staff. This translates into greater capacity to focus on mission. And it can ultimately lead to attracting additional resources.

    The first recommendation addressed in our podcast is for executives to dedicate the resources necessary to professional HR support. Whether you hire HR staff or outsource to professional consultants, an organization’s HR needs are best served by an individual or individuals with professional expertise in human resources. It is often tempting to assign a capable assistant or coordinator to handle employee on-boarding and someone in finance to handle payroll. This approach leaves the organization vulnerable to compliance challenges. Moreover, the organization may miss out on some of the benefits of having an engaged and focused staff who flourish under well-tended human resources practices and programs. Depending on size, complexity and location of operations, this HR leadership and staffing can vary widely.

    As an example, an experienced HR director or consultant can easily manage human resources practices and compliance for multiple locations simultaneously by deploying other consultants and professionals as needed. On a smaller scale, a dedicated HR professional – either employee or consultant – can focus on the individuals in the organization and promote their own development and growth in their roles, while managing day-to-day tasks such as benefits administration, payroll and compliance.

    Another recommendation is for executives to review HR capacity with the life cycle of an employee in mind and to closely examine areas such as:

    • Recruitment and hiring policies, including compliant, legal interviewing practices
    • Fair and reasonable pay practices and adherence to overtime regulations
    • Onboarding and timely enrollment with benefits and payroll
    • Performance management process
    • Employment policies and procedures (Employee Handbook)

    Communication is the bridge between the organization’s mission and its strategic plan and each person’s role and contribution to the mission. With that in mind, we suggest that HR can play a key role in ensuring that job descriptions and performance goals are tied to the organization’s strategic plan and that employees understand that connection. Mission and results then become part of the ongoing discussion throughout every level of the organization.

    As a result, staff feel respected and engaged and understand what is expected. Employees benefit and thrive when the organization pays attention to staff development.

    When an employer’s HR practices are thoughtful and deliberate about developing each person, the result is often improved retention and morale among employees. When an organization hires or engages professional HR expertise the “staff are our most important asset” message becomes real because there dedicated resources in place to make sure that staff are indeed treated as that important asset.

    Learn more about Raffa’s Human Resources services.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 4/28/2016 Ep 4 – How Nonprofits Use Strategic Planning to Accomplish Missions

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams and the University of Maryland’s Dr. Rob Sheehan discuss how nonprofit organizations use strategic planning to achieve their missions. Leadership and strategy complement each other. Effective leaders know where they are going and more importantly have built that sense of direction with their team and […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams and the University of Maryland’s Dr. Rob Sheehan discuss how nonprofit organizations use strategic planning to achieve their missions. Leadership and strategy complement each other. Effective leaders know where they are going and more importantly have built that sense of direction with their team and community of stakeholders. 

    SheehanRobert

    Strategic Planning and Mission Impact: What’s the Secret?

    Dr. Rob Sheehan, Academic Director of the Executive MBA program at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business

    It is easy to get frustrated and stuck with strategic planning. Most organizations take on big challenges with many parts and no obvious solution. Too often strategic plans are updated goals based on what we did last year, voluminous documents ignored after completed or never get done.

    Leadership and strategy complement each other. Effective leaders know where they are going and more importantly have built that sense of direction with their team and community of stakeholders. No matter how charismatic or effective the leader, there are limits to what any one of us can do.

    Here are five important principles for making your organization’s strategic plan a tool for aligning leaders and the team and knowing whether what you are doing is making any impact:

    1. Begin with the mission and how you measure success in achieving it – The mission becomes real when we agree on the metrics we will use to measure progress. If we want to eliminate hunger in our community, how do we measure progress? Sometimes work on the mission metrics results in a changed or more focused mission.
    2. Define the mission gap and 4-5 goals to close the gap – Explore with your team what the ideal state would look like if you achieved your mission 100%. Be as concrete and specific as possible. The difference between this ideal and your current reality is your “mission gap.” Next, set three – five big strategic goals which, if you accomplished them in the next three years would help close your mission gap as effectively as possible. (View The Power of Goals for more info on goal setting.) With these goals in mind, look at your internal strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats in the external environment. Consider how to leverage your strengths, fortify your weaknesses, seize your opportunities, and block your threats. This will help you develop strategic themes that will guide you into the future.
    3. Establish annual work plans which are guided by the strategic themes – This framework allows you to then develop a more detailed annual plan. This plan lays out how you will advance the goals and work to close the mission gap this year. This may include attention to programs, fundraising, staff development, collaboration or other strategies deemed critical to your success.
    4. Summarize, implement and review – Ideally you can communicate to everyone involved your mission, mission metrics, mission gap, goals to close the gap and your strategies and annual goals to advance the mission in a one to two page summary. You will learn as you implement. Review progress against the desired results regularly and adjust the plan as you go.
    5. Make the plan an organizing tool for board meetings, job descriptions and annual performance goals and reviews – The best way to get the most from the plan is to make it central and board and staff discussions. This can be done by organizing the Board agenda around the goals and efforts to close mission gap and by using management and staff meetings to review and advance the plan and job descriptions and performance reviews to connect the plan with each employee.

    For more details on this approach to strategic planning, see Mission Impact: Breakthrough Strategy for Nonprofits.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 3/31/2016 Ep 3 – Executive Transition as a Veteran Leader

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with C. Marie Taylor, president and CEO of Leadership Montgomery about her career and tips for nonprofit executives. In addition to Leadership Montgomery, Taylor has also led Interfaith Works and The Community Foundation, so she shares her thoughts on preparing for leadership and on what it […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with C. Marie Taylor, president and CEO of Leadership Montgomery about her career and tips for nonprofit executives. In addition to Leadership Montgomery, Taylor has also led Interfaith Works and The Community Foundation, so she shares her thoughts on preparing for leadership and on what it takes to transition into a new executive role.

    C Marie Taylor

    Read Tom Adams’ blog post, The First Six Months as a New Executive, for more on this topic.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com​ and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 3/31/2016 Ep. 2 – Lessons from a New Executive – for Boards and Leaders

    In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Jennie Lucca, CEO of The Children’s Inn at NIH about her transition both as a new nonprofit leader and as someone who took the position as an internal candidate. They discuss lessons for aspiring leaders, retiring leaders and boards. Read Tom Adams’ blog post, Promising Practices […]

    PodcastCoverArtIn this Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast episode, Raffa’s Tom Adams spoke with Jennie Lucca, CEO of The Children’s Inn at NIH about her transition both as a new nonprofit leader and as someone who took the position as an internal candidate. They discuss lessons for aspiring leaders, retiring leaders and boards.

    Jenny Lucca

    Read Tom Adams’ blog post, Promising Practices for New Executives and their Boards, for more on this topic.


    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com​ and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 2/25/2016 Ep. 1 – Keys to Translating Passion into Impact: Leadership, Strategy and Systems

    Hosted by Tom Adams, the discussion with Raffa’s Tom Raffa, Julie Jones and Rachael Gibson offers key insights into how leaders do (and don’t) combine leadership, strategy and systems to turn their passion into impact.

    PodcastCoverArtBy Tom Adams, Director of Succession and Sustainability

    Leaders who care deeply about a cause are obsessive about increasing results. If you are a Board or staff leader of a nonprofit or social enterprise, odds are your passion for the cause has you always looking for ways to increase mission impact.

    Unfortunately, this passion to Do More is too often unfocused or more tragically misdirected. Leaders, for example, from successful for-profit companies join a nonprofit board and quickly determine that adapting their version of business practices to the nonprofit will increase impact. Other times a new board chair focuses too quickly and exclusively on what the executive team is not doing well without appreciating what is working and why for the organization.

    Jim Collins, noted researcher and writer on high-performing for-profit and social sector organizations, observes that the challenge for nonprofit leaders and organizations is not to become “more business-like” rather to focus on becoming more disciplined. A collaborative of nonprofit executives and leaders formed the Performance Imperative and built together a definition of high performance for nonprofits: “High performance is the ability to deliver – over a prolonged period of time – meaningful, measureable, and financially sustainable results for the people or causes the organization is in existence to serve.”

    What then is the discipline Collins encourages? How do leaders best use the available talent, time and resources to advance impact and become more high performing? There is no magic. Rather it is the ongoing intentional decisions on how to best advance the dynamic interaction between organizational leadership, strategy and systems.

    That is the focus of Raffa’s first Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast. Hosted by Tom Adams, the discussion with Raffa’s Tom Raffa, Julie Jones and Rachael Gibson offers key insights into how leaders do (and don’t) combine leadership, strategy and systems to turn their passion into impact. Listen now:

    Tom Raffa2      Julie Jones      rachael-gibson

    Podcast guests: Tom Raffa, Julie Jones, Rachael Gibson

    Too often organizations and their advisors approach organizational life piece meal. That makes sense in some ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed. However that works best when informed by a disciplined look at where the organization is in terms of the intersection of leadership, strategy and systems. Having leaders who are tired and locked in the past spend time on a new strategic plan is not going to advance impact. Trying to solve a chronic cash flow problem with little or no useful financial data is a waste of resources. Seeking to raise more money when either the ability to execute on the plan or the plan itself is irrelevant will have limited results.

    If you are a passionate leader who wants to Do More, step back and ask yourself and your team to take a fresh look at how the interaction of leadership, strategy and systems is working for you. With a more clear focus and an answer to why this focus now, and a commitment to consistent disciplined actions based on this look, the odds for increasing performance and impact go up significantly.


     

    The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com​ and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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  • 2/18/2016 We’re podcasting! 1st Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast coming next week!

    We love a good podcast, and we’re hoping our new Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast series will be a great addition to your listening lineup! Raffa’s podcast series, which has grown out of our Raffa Learning Community effort, will feature interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and the consultants who help them Do More. We’re starting our series with […]

    PodcastCoverArt.jpgWe love a good podcast, and we’re hoping our new Lead. Learn. Thrive. podcast series will be a great addition to your listening lineup!
    Raffa’s podcast series, which has grown out of our Raffa Learning Community effort, will feature interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and the consultants who help them Do More.
    We’re starting our series with a conversation among some of our own Raffa leaders: Tom Raffa and Julie Jones are talking with Tom Adams about what makes organization’s hum. They’ve been helping nonprofit organizations succeed for more than 30 years (50 years combined, but who’s counting?!). Tune in next week and learn from their experience!
    Subscribe to our e-newsletter to be notified when we share new podcast episodes.