Simple Resolutions for Managers

New Year Be Awesome

It’s inevitable. The Monday after a holiday break and the struggle begins. You’re faced with all the professional challenges you tried to forget, or at least drown in a variety of feasts, parties, and slothfulness.

On top of returning to work, you are trying to focus on sticking to all of the personal resolutions you made for yourself. Between fitness and weight loss resolutions, living life to the fullest, and developing an artificial intelligence system that can control your home (these are seriously some of the top resolutions of 2016 according to Twitter and Google), you have little or no time to make resolutions specific to your role as a manager.

That’s where I can help.

Here are some fairly simple, easy to implement ideas for 2016. The best part is that these are not activities you simply resolve to do, they actually can be done.

1. Meet with your team to discuss goals they have set for themselves. If they have none, help them set a few. This method demonstrates an investment in the individual and can help to make future performance discussions slightly less tense. It is a great opportunity to set your staff on the path to achieving individual and team performance goals.

2. Commit to having a different team member lead staff meetings in the New Year. Let them develop the agenda and facilitate the meeting. This takes some of the pressure off you and shows that leadership isn’t entirely “top down”.

3. Launch a simple 360 Assessment for yourself. This one can be tricky because soliciting feedback means you have to be ready to accept it. If you develop your own questionnaire, however, you can focus on specific areas you want to assess or improve. This process shows a commitment to your personal development and allows your staff an opportunity to be heard.

Let the New Year serve as a chance to assess and set the course for who you want to be in the workplace. Are you a manager, coach, or leader? Make 2016 the year you decide to be all three!

Explaining my time at Boy Scout camp

IMG_6356Last week was interesting. I spent much of my time at a Boy Scout camp in New Mexico and returned to the DC area to lead a public lands day event on a military installation in MD.

As a woman who’s well into her 30’s, I got a lot of questions about why I spent four days at Boy Scout camp.

“It’s work” did not sufficiently lower the questioning eyebrows.

In trying to explain this trip and other trips and events I’ve been privileged to participate in, I took a step back to think about how to clarify the programmatic work I’ve done over the years.

How do you describe what it means to be a program leader for a nonprofit? I wish it were like being an X-Man and I could name one “special” power, but the reality is, the role of lead program officer means you have your hands in a little bit of everything.

I think what I experienced last week provides a good illustration of what leading programs entails. Below are a few categories I came up with that begin to answer the question “Why were you at Boy Scout camp?”

Project Management
This element always causes confusion. People typically think technology when they hear project management but I assure you any good program manager understands the need to establish program goals, identify milestones and available resources, and establish timelines.

The fantastic thing about project management within a small to medium size nonprofit is that developing and managing project plans has to be done without all of the software available to IT project managers. In many cases, it is just me my trusty Excel spreadsheet and my much-beloved whiteboard.

Event Management
This is way more than finding a fancy venue for an awards ceremony. Managing events for a program is everything from soliciting volunteers and donations to popping tents up in the wee hours of the morning, and of course writing talking points for the Army Colonel to use when preparing his remarks.

I will say that aspect of managing programs has allowed me to be very creative and challenged me in ways that I can only be grateful for now. Three years ago, I was working with a film crew to produce a video for a program launch. Somehow it became my job to develop the storyboard for the video and work with Bob Dole’s team to schedule his appearance in the video.

Budget Management
This is an important part of project management but I call it out as a stand-alone because developing the budget for the program and supporting elements is only a first step.

A good program manager makes sure that the team is aware of the total budget and what financial resources are available for their specific parts of the project. A good program manager is reviewing and monitoring expenditures regularly and managing overages, gaps, and the unicorn situation of underspending.

People/Team Management
No one manages a program by themselves. Program leaders must be able to lead and communicate with small to large teams. You should know when to impanel an ad hoc committee when necessary and delegate to other team members without losing control of the project.

Finally, leading programs also puts you in the position to promote the organization. In so many cases, an organization’s programs are so deeply linked to many nonprofits mission, vision, and overall financial health.

Cheers to all the program leaders who perform in all the areas mentioned above and beyond.