Afraid to Ask: Nonprofit Management

YNPN kicked off an Afraid to Ask series focused on the topic of Nonprofit Management on Tuesday, April 19th at Fox Brewing in West Des Moines. Two members of Mosaic in Central Iowa’s leadership team spoke to 15 attendees about things they’ve learned about managing a nonprofit for collectively over 40 years.

Carol Mau, Mosaic’s executive director, admitted she falsely believed she had it all figured out many years ago when she became an agency director. She quickly learned, however, that being in a supervisor role doesn’t mean you have all the answers. After attending a leadership training put on by Morning Star Associates about how to effectively lead employees, Mau felt invigorated from learning so much about developing employees, but also defeated because the agency had been missing the mark.

“Before, we would have project meetings or people would just pop into my office if they had a question, but we never dedicated time to helping grow our employees.” All supervisors at Mosaic have now committed to monthly, if not weekly, coaching sessions with their direct reports. This was implemented because the leadership team recognized that the investment of this one-on-one time between an employee and their manager is critical to building self-reliant leaders and would end up saying everyone time in the long run.

Both speakers also emphasized that avoiding conflict is not an effective way to manage an organization. Employees need to be able to challenge ideas, but still come together in the end to trust whatever decision is made.

“The most important tool you have as a leader is your organization’s already established mission and values,” Mau said. When conflict and challenges do arise, you should look to the organization’s mission to help guide you.

Jen Zajicek, Mosaic’s associate director, highly recommended that everyone, whether in a supervisory role or not, reads the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. Both women also recommended any book by Patrick Lencioni, as he writes his leadership advice in novel form, so it’s easier to follow along within the context of a story.

“It’s all about relationships,” Mau explained. “It’s about building trust so that the manager can help support the employee to do their best work possible, and so the employee isn’t afraid to bring challenges or new ideas to their supervisors.”

Keep your eye out for the next installment of this Afraid to Ask series in June!

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