Written by Alliance President, Susan Tomlinson Schmidt, CNP
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July 1, 2014. That was my first day as president of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. This was also the day I realized I needed to act as a nonprofit coach, not just a “boss”. It was my first day as the head of a national organization. A bit of a leap for me. My previous role was leading a small center in a large university. Lots of layers and bureaucracy. Plenty of rules to guide my decisions. But now I had a staff of 14 people looking to me to make the rules. A different ballgame. I was fortunate to have many good leaders as role models. I knew how I like to be led. Now I had to establish how I wanted to LEAD.
One of the most influential experiences I had was working with a coach. I knew I wanted my team to respect my decisions because they felt I had the organization’s best interest as my focus. And the way to make sure they knew that was to build trust. I decided the best way to build trust was to develop a nonprofit coaching style to manage my team. I had also had bad bosses –  who managed like a celebrity chef in a cooking competition – yelling assumptions and decisions rather than collaborating. I wanted something different.
A coaching approach allows me to establish one-to-one connections with my staff. Our conversations become more than transactional and I can learn how I can help them develop and grow. These connections take curiosity and good listening skills, both of which I work on regularly. And if I am completely honest, managing through coaching takes a lot of patience, too. The process is about helping your staff discover the best solution – which can take time.
Our newest certificate, Coaching as a Leadership Tool, is designed to develop these skills for leaders. I hope you will consider enrolling now. Whether you are in a leadership role currently, you are an aspiring leader, or you just want to be better equipped to help your peers solve their own problems, these courses will help. You will notice the benefits of a coaching approach quickly. Business outcomes improve and staff morale increases. And you will learn as much about yourself as you do your team!