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How are the Colts, Pacers, Nonprofits and You Related?

The connection between you, the Colts, Pacers, and nonprofits might not seem obvious, but recent moves and sub-par performances bring it to light. What are their commonalities? Coaches. Both the Colts and the Pacers have several, and nonprofits and individuals can often benefit from them as well.

There’s been a lot of talk about coaching, psychology, and mental health, especially when teams are faltering. However, the coaching concept can be just as important in our everyday lives. In recent years, there has been much written and promoted about life coaches. Without getting into the semantics and different levels of coaching, the one common trait is that they always bring a different perspective to the process and who doesn’t benefit from that?

Why do we Need a Coach?

Many of us have had a coach in athletics. Maybe it was organized little league baseball or softball, volleyball, tennis, soccer or one of the many other extracurricular sports. If you are or were more arts-oriented, you may have worked with a director of a play, orchestra, or choir.

Some of these coaches or mentors were better than others. However, at the very least, there was value in having someone who got the big picture and knew the necessary steps. It could have been getting production to the night of the performance or devising methods to increase our chances of winning the game.

Where is your coach today? Do you have someone that you can truly talk to and touch base with regarding your latest ideas for the organization? Is there a person you trust that understands the workings of nonprofits that can keep you from stepping on one of the sector’s many land mines? When the board/staff relationships get murky, where can you turn to find out the best approach for dealing with the situation? Where is that voice of reason when you are dealing with multiple priorities, dozens of tasks, a pending board meeting, decreasing donations and a PR crisis?

These are the types of guidance available from a coach who may often just provide confirmation or reassurance. It’s probably no surprise a nonprofit consultant recommends you need a coach. Quite frankly, we all do. In life, in grief, in tough times and good. We can always use an outside perspective to help guide our decisions and next moves.

Why do we Hesitate?

A great deal of self-awareness and motivation are required to take advantage of coaching opportunities. For a variety of reasons, nonprofit executives and even board members are hesitant. Many are budget-driven, but there can be a sense of uncertainty surrounding the perceived lack of direction and the "shame" of seeking help. “What will my board think?” “How will my colleagues feel about this?” “I’m not sure my friends or relatives will understand.” A grain of sand has just grown into a boulder and will potentially seal off any growth opportunity that exists.

Instead of focusing on the shortcomings, we need to be able to look at the positive, improvement side. We are reaching out to become the best possible nonprofit leader or individual we can be. Obtaining an outside, objective opinion on our chosen direction is invaluable. It is simply another step in strengthening the capacity of our organization or our mental health.

How it Looks

In the not-for-profit sector, coaching is generally available at two levels or “types.” The first is one-on-one personal coaching for executives. The second is organizational coaching working in tandem with the board and executive leadership in smaller organizations.

As a nonprofit executive, I would have welcomed a coaching opportunity. Now, I’ve been there and can appreciate the dynamics. It can be lonely at the proverbial top. As the executive director of a nonprofit with minimal staff, there are few options for bouncing ideas around and floating test balloons. Even in larger shops, the executive is seldom able to share freely with the staff. That potential sharing might require breaking confidence or setting off alarm bells and there is no telling where the situation could end, so the sharing is avoided.

Coaches are accustomed to hearing “How do you…?” “How should I handle…….?” “If a board member has stated……….” “I feel like the board expects…” Our ability as coaches to summarize, prioritize, suggest, support, and recommend is seldom questioned and can lower the anxiety level for executives in a hectic situation.

In one of our instances of working with the executive of a youth-serving organization we heard, “you have no idea how much I look forward to these calls each week.” That executive found extreme value in the process and having an outlet for ideas and potential solutions to upcoming challenges and problems.

Securing a coach means ensuring an alignment of goals and beliefs. For example, we are strong advocates of boards focusing solely on the “what” of an organization and letting the staff and volunteers deal with the “how.” In other words, the board can be the body to set the budget, but it’s up to the executive(s) to monitor and spend it in the way that best advances the organization. The Board of an organization hires one person, the executive or CEO and that person fills the rest of the staff. If there are perceived staff issues, then the board needs to address these in executive evaluations. Organizational coaching focuses on those types of governance relationships, so you want to be certain yours are aligned with a prospective coach.

Good coaches get it, they’ve done it, and they have a good vision for the future. They can be your lifeguard that rescues you from the fray and helps you prioritize and put your current efforts into perspective. If your organization struggles financially with the concept of a coach for you or your organization, consider finding an outside source that might be interested in helping you build the capacity of your organization.

Community foundations and other similar entities are often interested in helping build the capacity of nonprofits. Certain business partners greatly appreciate the need for nonprofits to possess the skills that help them advance much like businesses do. Brainstorm these possibilities with your potential coach.

Coaches can play a vital role in getting you or your organization to the next level and into a winning environment with the most impact. Isn’t that what we’re all looking to achieve?

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