At a broad level, the
Leadership Team’s responsibilities are not complex. The team identifies,
establishes, and maintains the array of leadership connections best serving the
agency’s interests and those of its stakeholders. Embedded here is a critical
concept. Each connection is two-way and has to be mutually beneficial. Part of
what sustains the connection is the What’s in it for me? factor. The
connection benefits the agency but also benefits the stakeholder. Of course,
the agency’s interests are furthered. It is equally
important each connection also furthers the interests of the stakeholder.
A good starting point for
developing the Leadership Perspective is to think about what connections should
be established for the specific agency. Some caution is important here. It is
very easy to get this step so complicated no one actually takes it in a
thoughtful and systematic way. My experience tells me, if this happens, the
step is simply skipped. The result then is a more or less haphazard approach to
leadership, with the agency never quite achieving the Leadership Perspective.
With this caution in mind, consider how to identify the connections best
serving the agency’s interests.
Start with connections within
the local Helping Triangle and specifically with 0-A connections – with
potential clients. Before identifying people, two questions have to be asked
and answered. What is the agency’s interest in establishing connections with
these stakeholders? We have to know why we want to make the connections
before investing the time and resources required to establish and maintain
them. A somewhat subtle point is important here. Our focus is on outcomes and
not on input. The value of the connections is in the future, not today. For
example, the agency is interested in providing more responsive, more
appropriate services as time goes on. The connections are expected to support
this outcome. The agency’s interest is in getting better and better at getting
better and better; and solid connections with potential clients help achieve
With a clear sense of why the
agency wants to establish the connections in mind, there is a second question
to ask and answer. What is each stakeholders interest in establishing a
connection with the agency? More specifically, what’s in it for a potential
client? Focus is again on output, not input. How will the potential client be better off tomorrow as a result of
investing time and energy in the connection today? Keep in mind this is a
Leadership Connection and not the same as receiving or providing agency
services and supports. – It is important to refrain from pursuing the
connection until we have seriously thought about the question and have an
answer. For example, a payment or other reward might be appropriate in some
situations, while not in others. Others might value helping people they know by
contributing to increased availability of better services. Some may appreciate
the opportunity to call attention to something they do not like about the
agency or its services. Still others may be eager to share their ideas about
what they think would really be helpful to people who are experiencing the
types of issues and challenges for which the agency exists. Each person has his
(or her) perspective and interests. This step requires learning what those
perspectives and interests are and assuring the connection conforms with and
supports those perspectives and interests.
As we focus on identifying
potential clients with whom leadership connections may be productive, we are
interested in potential clients.
Current and past clients and others who have already started the process of
becoming clients are not in the focal population. Next, we only need to
identify a couple of people with whom to connect. As time goes on, we have
connections with more potential clients, but two or three are enough for now.
The Leadership Team does not need a directory or chart to remember who the
potential clients are, since there are only a couple of people. The caution
here is to exclude anyone who is not fairly typical of potential clients in
most obvious respects. Starting with two or three people who are much like
other potential clients is sufficient. They likely already know or are known by
someone on the Leadership Team. If so, have the person who already knows the
potential clients pursue connections with them, once the Team member is clear
about what’s in it for the agency and for the people with whom the connections
will be made.
Shift focus now to 0-1
connections – with Initiators. These connections, like all leadership
connections, develop mutual benefit
for the agency and for the Initiators. As with Potential Clients, two or three
Initiators are enough to start. Within the Initiator group, some people are
more active, more influential, and more committed to the particular cause of interest to the agency than
others. It is not necessary to restrict attention to the most active,
influential, and committed people. Even so, most effort should be directed to
people who are at least moderately active, influential, and committed. Members
of the Leadership Team likely already know two or three Initiators who fit the
profile. If so, they should be encouraged to pursue connections with them. If
not, the team can discuss who is the most appropriate team member to develop
leadership connections with the two or three Initiators who have been
expand some on who belongs in the Initiator group. Keep in mind these people
are expected to approach and work with the Authorizers, both seeking and
receiving the needed authorization and auspices to establish the desired human
services agency. The Initiator group includes both active participants and
potential members. The leadership challenge is to first identify those people
who are actively pursuing the development of services for the Potential Client
group. They are our strongest allies, the people who have been and who will
continue to champion the cause. Additionally, identify those people in the
community who we can call interested
influentials. These are people who may
be interested in our cause and who are known to the Authorizers either directly
or by reputation. Further, they are people who can positively influence the Authorizers, if they
choose to advocate for our cause. We then develop Leadership connections with
these interested influentials, with the goal of peaking their interest in the
cause and enlisting them into the Initiator group. Their support and influence
then add to the overall influence and effectiveness of the Initiators as they
pursue authorization and auspices from the Authorizers. Further, make a real
effort to also recruit two or three Potential Clients into the Initiator group.
This improves the perspective of the Initiator group as well as assuring the
Authorizers the needs and interests of Potential Clients are clearly
incorporated into any proposals the Initiators may make.
Now shift attention to
identifying people who are appropriate for developing 0-B connections – with
Authorizers. If possible, these connections should be made with people who
directly participate in the authorizing decisions. If they do not individually
make the decisions, they should be members of a Board or other group who vote
on the decisions. In larger organizations and authorizing entities, access to
those people may be both limited and difficult. If this is the case, develop
connections with people who directly interact with and can potentially
influence the decision makers. Here too, a couple of people are a good number
with whom to start pursuing connections.
With these connections, What’s
in it for them? is especially difficult. It is important the connections do
not give the appearance of bias or favoritism and enable the Authorizers to
remain objective. This is even more important than with Initiators. The
Authorizers and their aides and assistants must remain objective and unbiased.
In the short term, favored treatment may benefit the agency. In the long run,
it can do much more harm than good. The Authorizers want to feel appreciated
and valued as people and believe their objectivity and fairness are understood and
respected. We see what’s in it for them. They are appreciated and valued as
people and understood and respected as decision makers.
The connections with
Authorizers become particularly complex when the agencys funding is dependent
on small or multiple donations or contributions
from numerous individuals or organizations. It is important to keep the
perspective each contributor is an individual Authorizer. The agencys
authorization is, at least in part, a product of the cumulative authorizations
of the individual donors. The Initiators and members of the Leadership Team
must not lose this perspective as they connect with and solicit support
from what is frequently a very diverse group. Agency fund raising is, for many
agencies, a major focus and requires continuous attention and work with
Initiators who may themselves be contributors, i.e., the Initiators may also be Authorizers.
Shift focus now to 0-2
connections – with Implementers. With these connections, we are sensitive to
the already existing Management interaction between the agency and the
Implementers. As is true with the Authorizers and, to a lesser extent, with the
Initiators, leadership connections are not the only interactions between the
agency and its stakeholders. For example, a clinical or case-related connection
with another agency or institution is not the same as a leadership connection.
Leadership connections are essential whether or not there are other contacts
Identifying appropriate people
with whom to establish 0-2 connections is challenging since there are
frequently multiple Implementer groups often having little to no contact with
each other. Although this is likely also true for the Initiators and
Authorizers, it is especially likely with Implementer groups. Identifying one
or two people within each Implementer group is usually sufficient as a starting
point. Over time, additional leadership connections develop, but one or two is
enough as an initial leadership goal. These connections might include people
with government departments associated with the agency, affiliated groups,
oversight entities, accrediting organizations, outside consultants, university
faculty helping the agency with program or services development, and others who
assist the agency to carry out its responsibilities. Just be sure not to
overlook any group essential for effective implementation and continuing agency
The 0-C leadership connection -
with the agency – is also frequently neglected. There is a strong tendency for
the Leadership Team to assume its members are representative of agency staff or
at least that they understand staff interests and do not need to do anything
special to learn about those interests. They also assume staff know about
agency interests and support those interests. These assumptions are usually
fairly valid but occasionally are not. This becomes particularly obvious when
some significant change is required in agency focus or procedures or when there
is an event or circumstance seriously jeopardizing agency operations. It
suddenly becomes clear there are missing connections needed to enable everyone
to work together to get past the bad time or resolve the impending crisis.
Even if there is no impending
crisis and operations are within acceptable limits, a lack of 0-C leadership
connections is still problematic. It limits the opportunity for the Leadership
Team and other staff to better understand and support each other’s interests
and to more accurately anticipate issues that may develop. It also limits access
and interaction between staff and other people within the Helping Triangle and
lessens the opportunity for staff to understand and support the interests of
agency stakeholders. An additional effect is the agency staff becomes more
isolated from people in the Helping Triangle and the wider community. Depending
on the size of the agency, adequate attention to these 0-C connections may
require connections with several staff members outside the Leadership Team.
Often, an advisory group or employee union is the best way to arrange these
connections, understanding an effective employee union can and often does serve
multiple functions beyond issues related to salary, benefits, and working
0-3 leadership connections -
with Providers – are a special instance of 0-C connections discussed above.
Identifying Providers with whom to connect is an area often not handled well.
First, Supervisors and Managers are generally not Providers. Even if they do
provide direct client services, they are usually not representative of people
whose primary responsibility is to directly provide services to clients. Also,
the Providers who have been with the agency the longest are usually not
representative. The Leadership Team can start by limiting focus to people
primarily providing agency services for clients. Next, exclude those Providers
who have been with the agency the longest and those who have recently joined
the staff. The remaining group includes those people with whom 0-3 leadership
connections can productively be made. From this group, pick one or two
Providers from each of the agency’s program or service areas and then pursue
leadership connections with them.
It is worth noting in passing
services Providers tend to have a very internal, micro orientation and a significant
reluctance to focus beyond the clients with whom they work. This is especially
unfortunate since they are among the people who best understand agency
services, including both service barriers and opportunities. To capitulate to
this reluctance is a mistake and not in the interest of agency excellence. The
people who best understand agency service issues and needs must be enlisted
into the Leadership process. For the agency to allow its Providers to stay on
the Leadership sidelines is shortsighted and for those Providers to refrain
from Leadership participation is professionally irresponsible.
If the Leadership Team follows
the steps discussed above, it identifies about thirty or so people within the
local Helping Triangle with whom leadership connections should be pursued. If
the number is much less than this, the identification process continues,
starting over with 0-A connections and proceeding along the Helping Triangle,
identifying appropriate people at each point. If the number is much over that, follow
the same process, reducing how many connections are to be pursued at each
point. Keep the total number of people with whom leadership connections are to
be pursued at a level letting the Leadership Team know with whom they are
connecting without needing a complex chart or directory.
As focus shifts beyond the
local Helping Triangle, the principles and strategies discussed above apply.
Identifying leadership connections beyond the local Helping Triangle includes
identifying specific people with whom to connect and answering the key
questions presented earlier.
is the agency’s interest in establishing a connection with this stakeholder?
is the stakeholder’s interest in establishing a connection with the agency?
the connection is successful, what will the outcome be?
the connection is not successful, what will the outcome be?
will the stakeholder be better off tomorrow as a result of investing time and
energy in the connection today?
To identify useful external
connections, make a list of organizations and entities with which the agency
does or should interact. This list should include other human services agencies
also providing services to clients and potential clients who are already
associated with the local Helping Triangle, other human services organizations
in the geographic area the agency serves, groups and organizations focusing on
charitable or humanitarian activities, businesses and companies interested in
community involvement, religious and educational entities, and any other groups
of potential interest.
Work with the list until it
includes no more than twenty groups, organizations, or other entities. The
final list represents the Leadership Team’s priorities for external leadership
connections. For each organization or group, identify one person with whom to
pursue a leadership connection. The specific person need not be the head of the
group but does need to be someone who has significant influence within the
organization or group. The Leadership Team then decides which of its members
will be responsible for pursuing the connection. Be sure here to note these
external connections are external to
the local Helping Triangle and not simply outside of the agency at point
“C” on the local Helping Triangle.