Podcasts are all the rage. According to an annual survey by Infinite Dial, last year 1 in 4 people listened to them. Now, that number has risen to 1 in 3! A few people have asked me to start a podcast, and I strongly considered doing so. But, I have since realized it is far better to collaborate with others on their podcasts and spread my ideas to new networks. So, for fun, I am sharing my latest podcast – with Michael Clements on “Manufacturing Leadership.” A millennial leader at Energy Weldfab, Michael had a diverse range of questions about nonprofits, leadership, culture and more. Please feel free to listen to the podcast via their website to learn more about my background and the method behind my madness. Or, alternatively, read on for abridged highlights from our conversation related to hot topics in the social sector:
What is social entrepreneurship and why does it matter?
“Let me start by differentiating social entrepreneurship from nonprofits, because I think people still put us in the category of “the do-gooders.” And, I think most people who are in the nonprofit or charitable space really are the do-gooders. I would say social entrepreneurs don’t want to just do good, they also want to get results from the good that they do. … And that’s the difference I tell my clients about. You could be doing all the good that you want, but I want you to actually get results from it. So, that’s what makes social entrepreneurship more like business. Because at the end of the day, businesses have one thing that they’re trying to accomplish – profit. Our version of a bottom line in the social space is results or ‘what impact are you making in people’s lives?’”
How important do you think it is to have good KPIs (key performance indicators) for a nonprofit?
“I think they’re essential for any organization. I think they’re personally essential for us as individuals. Even when I’m making my New Year’s resolutions, I’m setting KPIs for myself. Because unless you measure progress, it’s easy to get distracted by time issues and other motivations. So, for me, KPIs are essential. When I do a strategic plan for a nonprofit, I always encourage them to set results-oriented KPIs. … I’m a big believer that unless you set the target, there’s no way you’re going to actually hit it.”
What is leadership to you?
“This is the interesting thing about leadership: you have to know when to be a leader and when to be a follower. As with most situations in life, even though you may be predisposed to leadership, you probably should only lead in 20% of the situations. Because in theory, the leader should be the person who’s the most qualified, who has the most influence. And, you’re not going to be the most qualified and the most influential person in every single category. Unfortunately, people think because they’re a leader, they should be a leader in church; they should be a leader in the community; they should be a leader in their company. In every situation, they should be a leader. And, I often say that doesn’t make sense because you need multiple people being leaders in a community. And, if that one person keeps being the leader, they don’t allow other people to grow into that role. And, because not everyone is an expert in everything, they also sometimes aren’t the most qualified. They’re just the one who talks the most or is the most passionate about a particular thing. It doesn’t mean they’re the right person to be the leader in that particular instance. So, I think we should talk more about followership – knowing when to be a leader and when to be a follower. Because the only reason why a leader is a leader is because they have followers – otherwise, they’re just a crazy person!”
How important has this digital revolution been to the nonprofit industry?
“Certainly for-profits have taken the lead on the digital revolution because technology helps them achieve their goal to make a profit. When they start seeing their profit decline, they have to shift. On the other hand, if nonprofits continue to bring in money, they are less motivated to adopt the newest technologies because those investments could potentially take money away from the people they serve. …There’s a lag period that exists in the nonprofit space that makes it difficult for them to discern whether a trend is really a trend or just a fad. And, then there’s also the issue that they simply don’t have the money to invest. For-profit business can go to the bank and say, ‘I need an investment,’ or, ‘I need to hire this person. Can you loan me the money?’ Nonprofits can’t really do that. … I would say at least 60% of the nonprofits I work with are way behind where they need to be from a technology perspective. Technology is no longer an industry; it’s a horizontal. If you think about it, even in the healthcare space, the nurses going into healthcare have to understand technology because there are so many digital records. So, to me, the advancement of technology is something that is common to every industry, but the nonprofit space has not really seen that yet.”
What advice do you have for millennials and Generation Zers who want to do something?
“I’m so glad you asked me that question, because giving advice is one of the hardest things to do. I get about 10 calls a week from people who want to talk about their ideas. I, unfortunately, have to point to a nonprofit that’s doing the exact same thing. Or, I point out how hard it is to start a nonprofit – that it’s not just about your idea, it’s also getting that idea funded and making payroll – all sorts of things. Instead, I try to dissuade them from being an entrepreneur and suggest that they become a social intrapreneur – an employee at a nonprofit or social sector organization – first. That is how I got my start. I learned the ropes, made a paycheck and built retirement in my 20s working for American Heart Association and Phoenix House. And, I learned a lot of real lessons that I didn’t have to pay for. I actually have written a couple of blog posts about what it was like to be a social intrapreneur. So, I often push people as much as I can to become an intrapreneur first. I do this because 1) the social sector needs their talent, and 2) because I think they’re going to be best served in the long term if they actually invest in themselves and work within an existing organization.
We hope you enjoyed the greatest hits from our most recent podcast – we have another one with Brett Cowell at Total Life Complete. We welcome you to listen to it as well. And, if you have a favorite podcast on which you’d like to hear me as a guest, please comment on this post. I would love to learn what you are listening to and where I can add value by bringing exposure to our collective work.