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Marilyn L. Donnellan, MS

About Marilyn

My 'ComeLead' Approach to Staff Supervision Worked Much Better - Part 3

In Part 1, I shared how I started developing my ComeLead approach to staff supervision, adapting principles from coaching, mentoring, and everything I’d studied on leadership. The result is was kind of hybrid one-year program that has proven effective in my work with young nonprofit professionals. In Part 2, we looked at the two basic principles of ComeLead: A comprehensive cross-training program which is a combination of coaching and mentoring, and supervision and leadership strategies focused on proven communication, teamwork, and time management implementation. In this Part 3, which wraps up my three-part series, let's look at teamwork and time management excellence.

ComeLead Approach: Teamwork and Time Management Excellence

The second aspect of a ComeLead approach to staff development is the implementation by example of what I call the Circle of Management Excellence.


ComeLead Approach: Circle of Management Excellence


Notice that the Circle of Management Excellence is almost identical to the Core Elements circle, but with the addition of another circle. This illustrates the critical importance of building into your management supervision structure strategies that allow for dealing with people, projects, and paperwork.

Plus, like the young professional I mentioned in Part 1, too often when dealing with people our communications do not focus on the right questions.

A real life example. One day, as the new ED, I told the senior staff I expected them to have the next year’s budgets for their department to me within thirty days. A couple of days later, the codirectors of one of the programs came to me and asked me how they were supposed to figure out what the costs were going to be for travel for the next year. Focused on something else, I impatiently gave them an answer and sent them on their way. A few days before their budget was due, they both walked into my office. I could tell something was wrong by how nervous they were. When I asked them what they wanted, they told me they had no idea how to put a budget together. Aha! Now we were getting somewhere. If I had asked the right question in the first place, things would have been easier for all of us.

By establishing open and honest communication on everything (people, paperwork, and projects), and setting up a mutual management structure that encourages all of your staff to allocate their time each day according to a chart like the Circle of Management Excellence, both you and your staff will better understand expectations. If we don’t communicate expectations when it comes to people, paperwork and projects, how can we expect teamwork?

Every staff person deals with people, projects and paperwork, and most of the time our jobs cross all of the core elements. For example, the person on your staff whose job is fundraising (Resource Development) works with volunteers (Board/Volunteer Development), keeps track of money raised (Administration), develops publicity materials (Marketing), attends community events (Community Involvement), and must know what program outcomes are (Programs).

See how your fundraiser’s job touches on all of the core elements? If they don’t understand all of the issues related to each one, what will prevent them from making a big mistake that could put your organization at legal risk?

If your fundraiser does not know, for example, that the law requires them to notify donors as to what portion of the ticket they are purchasing for a gala is tax deductible, your nonprofit could be sued by the IRS for failing to disclose that information. Ordinarily that would be a legal issue that only you or your accounting staff would know. But if your fundraiser is cross-trained, they will know about the issue and plan accordingly.

Another big issue that often bogs us down is when we allow interruptions, whether by cell phone, email, or walk-in, to keep us from getting our paperwork or projects done. So, if we lead staff by example and set aside two hours a day to focus on “people” stuff and we let staff and volunteers know what that time will be, you’ll be surprised how well that works. The same strategy applies to paperwork and projects. By allotting specific times daily for each, more is accomplished than when we operate willie-nilly by dealing with whatever happens to come across our desk at any given time.

When we show staff how well we are able to manage our time with this approach, they will learn how to manage their own time more efficiently. It’s the old “leadership by example” example.

The entire concept of the ComeLead approach to staff supervision revolves around the things we all know work, but we often struggle to find time to do: coaching, mentoring, cross-training, communication, teamwork, and good time management strategies.

The sign of a good coach, mentor, and leader is a person who makes sure that no staff person is still working at the office long after you have gone home. If you are the supervisor and you are allowing that to happen, something is terribly wrong.

Nonprofit staff supervision is not easy. And, let’s be honest, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the passion and mission of what we are doing that we forget that ultimately it comes down to the people around us. If they aren’t happy, then no matter how fantastic the mission, we need to take a step back and reevaluate how we are doing things. The elements of a ComeLead approach can help you improve your staff leadership, communication, training, time management, and supervision.


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