COVID-19 and the all the stress that surrounds it has made for a very uncertain time for many social service organizations. Lockdowns kept us from connecting with the people who count on our services. Many offices had to move to remote work plans. Fundraisers had to be reinvented as “virtual” or cancelled all together. We all know these and many more unsettling realities about our world since March of 2020.
In the beginning of all this, we prided ourselves on “pivoting” to be able to bridge and adapt to changing realities. Now we are sick and tired of pivoting. In reality, many of us are just…sick and tired.
Like our mothers always told us though (or at least mine did), there can be a silver lining if you are open to finding it.
Yes, many service delivery options are in shambles as we struggle to find safe and effective ways to connect with communities. The needs of our communities have changed. Before, transportation to our services may have been our biggest challenge, but now the public’s ability to find out whether we even still exist and in what form, is our main challenge. The need is compelling, complex, and exhausting. We are caught up in a debate (often directly in the public eye) about who our organizations will serve and what they will do going forward.
“The way things were” is not coming back any time soon. We can mourn that; or we can embrace it.
Many social sector leaders are asking themselves whether they have the skills, resources, and patience to respond to all this change. That is fine! It is healthy to question ourselves as we confront change. If you can embrace it with confidence, then the path is clear: start getting your board, staff, and key stakeholders on board with the new vision and direction. But our organizations deserve confident and enthusiastic leadership. There is a lot of soul-searching going on in corner offices around the world!
Here is one silver lining that we at Valtas are seeing: All this turmoil and change could be a once in lifetime gift!
All the old metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are no longer relevant for many service providing organizations. So, take advantage of that to “start from scratch!”
If your organization has been around for 20-30 years, you have no doubt developed a very pure sense of why you exist. How you deliver your mission may need to change, but why you deliver it has not. Use this void of “this is how we have always done it” rhetoric to redesign your how. Look back at the mistakes your organization made over those first 20-30 years and use this exercise to correct them! Redesign the organization and its mission delivery systems by learning from the past to make it even better!
Yes, this takes a LOT of creativity, passion, focus, and energy. That requires a leader who possesses all of that and the confidence and enthusiasm we mentioned earlier. Imagine though the impact you will have once this is done.
Right now, we are experiencing the “Great Resignation” in the social service sector. Many boards are wringing their hands struggling with how keep things going and back to normal through these transitions. What if the answer is to embrace the transition and use the gift of chaos as an opportunity to be excited again? What if you could infuse your organization with the entrepreneurial spirit of a start-up as opposed to rebuilding an established relic of the past?
Valtas is hearing from our clients that they would like our Interim CEOs and Executive Directors to help them reimagine mission delivery while they are in a transition phase. They are taking advantage of that exercise to rethink who they need as their new CEO. It is funny how taking charge of a situation as opposed to hiding from it (or just hoping it will go away) turns out to be transformational.
The hardest part of all of this will be having to call your mother to tell her that all that “silver lining” stuff turned out to be true!
About the Author
Managing Partner, Valtas Group
Dave is the Managing Partner of Valtas Group. At Valtas, Dave’s focus is on providing clients the best resources available while working to achieve equity and inclusion for all in the non-profit sector.
Dave is an experienced leader with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit, change management, and organization design and management fields. Skilled in International Relations, Inclusive Governance models, Organizational Development, Social Media, and Training.
Over the course of his career, Dave spent over 35 years serving in leadership roles at Special Olympics; President and CEO of Special Olympics Washington (SOWA), Vice President for Leadership Development and Education at Special Olympics Inc. in Washington, DC., Executive Director for Special Olympics West Virginia, and CEO for Special Olympics North Carolina.
2/10/2022 09:50:11 am
Excellent piece on resiliency in the face of chaos.
3/6/2022 09:41:16 am
Thanks Mike! You bring up a great point! Over the past two years there have been a marked increase in the "challenges" faced by leaders. As you point out though, that just means there was more opportunity for the cream to rise to the top!
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