CompassPoints of View

CompassPoint's Summer Reading Guide

CompassPoint is a lab for new ideas, and we're always looking to feed our own thinking. We're a team of avid learners, so it's no surprise that in our search for the best leadership approaches to move us all closer to social equity, many of us have also become bookworms.

Ah, summer time. A chance to get outdoors, unwind, and catch up on some non-required reading. Diving into a few guilty pleasures is most definitely in order, but summer reading can also be a chance to fuel thinking, spark your curiosity about new ideas, and maybe even shift your approach to work. That's why we've collected a handy list of staff picks to help you curate your own summer reading list, featuring thoughts on the power of introverts, what we can learn from the motivations of zombies, strategies for working in teams, and more.

Here's a peek at what's occupying the bookshelves of CompassPoint staff this summer: 

Am I Asking the Right Questions?

We’re excited to welcome our newest practice member Lupe Poblano to the CompassPoint fold – and we’re equally excited to share his first blog for us on the topic of inquiry and its importance as a leadership tool. Lupe joined our practice in early July, though the guidance in this post align with CompassPoint's leadership approach like he’s been on staff for years. He’s clearly at the right place. 

“Human systems grow in the direction of what they persistently ask questions about.” – David L. Cooperrider

Are We Addicted to Urgency?

These days, we’ve been spending a lot of time with exhausted leaders. Our experience usually goes something like this:

A highly talented and productive CEO (or Program Director or Associate Director) of a nonprofit shows up to our meeting feeling defeated, exhausted, and burned out. She has too much to do and not enough time to do it. She feels guilty taking time off of work because things are just “too crazy” right now. She is still running on fumes from preparing for and pulling off a presentation at the very last minute. Her voicemail is full, her email is full, and she complains about spending her days putting out fires. She isn’t sure there is an end in sight, yet after venting for a bit, she pauses and says, “But, at least I’m getting stuff done!”

Approaching the Tricky Topic of Nonprofit Compensation

We’re pleased to share this guest post from colleague organization Third Sector New England, in which they share findings and recommendations from their recent, regional compensation study, Valuing Our Nonprofit Workforce 2014: A Compensation and Benefits Survey of and for Nonprofits in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Adjoining Communities

Our nonprofit workforce needs a raise. At Third Sector New England, we have just completed a regional compensation study,Valuing Our Nonprofit Workforce – a snapshot of the salaries and benefits of 250 nonprofits from Massachusetts and our surrounding communities. From our data, one of the alarming findings is that 43% of the employees represented in this survey are earning less than $28,000 per year. Given the costs of housing, student loan payments, child care, and other necessary expenses, this basic salary falls short of a living wage for individual workers and especially for those with families.

Hitting the Pause Button…

This week CompassPoint says goodbye to our colleague JR Yeager who has worked with CompassPoint and our clients for the past 15 years. We’ll miss him, his deep expertise and diplomacy in guiding organizations through executive transitions, and his very crafty sense of humor. Below is his farewell blog.

4 Ways to Deal with Team Conflict

One of my great joys right now is coaching my eight-year-old daughter's soccer team.  It is also my greatest trial, and, surprisingly, the struggle is not teaching them how to play soccer.  Rather, the challenge is helping them move through conflict when they have difficulties in working together.  Now, our team has never been on the verge of breaking up. Nonetheless, there have been instances when the team simply does not get along and the hope of completing a drill or a practice game dwindles.  Quite simply, the team won’t move forward through the practice in a productive way—they might complete the drills, but they’ll do so begrudgingly and without enthusiasm.  I realize that I can respond in a couple of ways.  I could make them run.  A lot.  I could also just wait it out until their families pick them up from practice.  Or, I could help them find their way back to enjoying learning and playing soccer together. 

Not surprisingly, the challenges facing my daughter’s soccer team are not unique to this group of eight-year-old girls. In our leadership practice, we often work with teams that are struggling.  They may have merely reached a bump in the road and are grappling with decision making or role confusion around what their roles are.  Other times, they are also at an impasse—taking on entrenched perspectives or resisting change—and cannot find a way to move forward productively.  Often times, folks will just say their team is “dysfunctional and that’s how we roll.”  And yet, as observed by noted leadership practitioners Cambridge Leadership Associates, “There is no such thing as a dysfunctional system. Every [team], or system, is perfectly aligned to get the results it is currently getting.”  To get different results then and move forward beyond the impasse, you need to mobilize everyone who has a stake in tackling (or avoiding) the challenge at hand.  Below are some things to consider in helping you and your team tackle the conflict in front of you.

The Impact of Board Chairs

In this blog, CompassPoint governance consultant Marla Cornelius emphasizes that the board chair’s most important role is not just knowing what to “do” to manage the organization’s board, but more importantly how to “be” a facilitator and lever of organizational change. 

The way board chairs play their roles has considerable impact on executive directors, their boards as a whole, and the organizations they serve.

Truth Quest and the Joys (and Limits) of Communicating Across Differences

In the winter of 2011, I was a woman on a mission. It started with a personal realization that I’m a bit of an avoider when it comes to uncomfortable conversations. According to the communication books and classes I was taking, I could learn skills to help me share my perspective, even when I was worried about the consequences. Speaking up sounded much more empowering than staying quiet, and I wanted to live a totally new authentic life starting immediately. I called my mission Truth Quest 2011 and it involved a lot of intense conversations, long phone calls back home to Pennsylvania, and walks around Lake Merritt sorting out old misunderstandings. I believed that I was on a potentially world-changing journey that would inspire the people around me to be more authentic too, which would in turn affect the people around them. Two-and-a-half years later, I have changed a lot of my communication habits and have improved many relationships—and I no longer aim for 100% authenticity in all situations. I’ve also learned that the avoider part of me that says “don’t speak up!” is a valuable skill in some situations and has wisdom to share, too.

Organizational Self-Care: Why It Matters and What It Could Look Like In Your Organization

Last September, I wrote a blog about the connection between self-care, sustainability, and impact. Among other things, I discussed how unconscious habits could hinder our self-care and offered some ideas and thoughts on creating an individual practice of self-care. In this post, I want to reflect on what collective self-care practices need to be put into place within our own organizations to support sustainability and deepen impact.   

Why does organizational self-care matter?


Helping Others “Walk the Path a Little Better”: Mentoring Volunteers to Build a Movement

Aimee Inglis is the Member Services & Volunteer Coordinator at Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. She was formally trained as a community organizer through the Midwest Academy's Organizing Intern program, and has started new volunteer programs in two non-profit organizations. In her role at Tenants Together, she trains volunteer counselors and manages the Tenant Rights Hotline, coordinates social media and online organizing efforts, and recruits new volunteers.

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