After a career of 45 years, I’ve earned the title “Senior” Advisor. But the truth is, like most employed people, I’ve spent my entire career somewhere in the middle of the management structure. Think about it. No matter where you are in management, you have responsibilities to manage down, up, and across your position. Understanding the differences is important for people with positions of responsibility in non-profit organizations.
Most management theory has to do with giving direction to those beneath you in the organization: how to boost productivity, manage the work-load, and get the most out of people who report to you. Chances are you spend the majority of your time managing down. Your “to do list” probably has a list of deadlines and tasks to be accomplished, and getting those things done is a large part of what you were hired to do.
People who work in non-profit organizations also spend a good portion of their time managing up. If you report to an Executive Director, look at your organization’s goals from his or her perspective, and think together about how you can help the ED to achieve the goals. If you are an Executive Director, you know you have direct responsibility to members of your Board. Good managers know that they need to spend significant amounts of time each week recruiting and retaining productive board members, and strategizing with them on the future goals and accomplishments of the organization.
The most neglected part of management is what I call managing across the organization and profession. It took me many years to realize that I myself and the people who report to me cannot accomplish the goals for the organization in isolation. Observing effective managers, I realized that they are adept at gaining support from peers within and outside the organization. In a large non-profit, you as a development professional will be more effective if you work together with peers from marketing, intake, human resources, technology, accounting, etc. to accomplish the goals you all share. In a small non-profit, you may have to look outside the organization to find peers who can complement your skill set and help you to think about how to accomplish your goals from a different perspective. Some of the ways to do this include joining professional organizations, seeking consultant services, and/or attending professional workshops and national conferences.
The next time you visit your list of goals and objectives, take a few minutes to analyze it. Make sure that you include goals to manage down, up, and across. You will be more productive and happier if you do!
by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions