I’m a little disappointed!

My blog posts have historically been pretty upbeat, but this one is an exception. At Huntington Bank’s annual Seeds for Growth workshop for non-profits, this year’s theme was Relationships. A panel presented on “Staff Development: The power of relationships in building your team.” The three panelists were a CEO, an Executive Director, and a President representing their huge organizations (Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority) and all manage huge numbers of staff – one of them said they managed 600 people!

Naturally, their presentation was geared to what they were most familiar with – running large organizations. They gave advice on realizing your own strengths and weaknesses, and having a smart team.

In the Q&A portion of their presentation, I asked the panel a question. I said there were a number of people in the room who represented small organizations, many of these people are asked to wear many hats and play multiple roles in their organizations. I asked what advice they had for the staff doing many jobs, who find themselves great at one thing, but not as great at another. What should they do about playing to their strengths AND their weaknesses?

The panel’s answer disappointed. I get that they are all in huge organizations and that’s their perspective, but their answer (they all concurred) was not practical, doable, or useful. Their answer even made me wonder if they had ever worked in a small shop themselves. Or had they forgotten what it was like?

Their answer to my question – how does someone in a small shop make the most of their weaknesses AND strengths? – was to form an administrative services organization with like organizations and basically give away those jobs that you’re not good at.


First of all, do you know how long it takes to form an ASO (administrative services organization)? How many lawyers need to be involved? How ASOs do HR, accounting, IT, but not special events, marketing grant writing, major gifts, and other jobs that can’t be done for a GROUP of organizations, that are stupendously time-consuming, but that also require special skills?

I was expecting their answer to be something I could take back to the office, something I could implement that day. I didn’t get that.

I was expecting their answer to include something like professional development, classes, job trading within your organization, something that supported the audience, spoke to this audience. Instead they alienated them.

What about that? If you have a job that has a lot of slashes in it (Development-slash-Marketing, Development-slash-Events, the list goes on), or if you’re the Executive Director of a one-man shop, what do you do if you have a deficiency in one or more areas? Don’t you do everything you can to bone up in that area of weakness, learn more about it so you can get stronger? I know our impetus is to gravitate toward the thing we like to do, do well, and that gives us some satisfaction. But we do all we can to power through and get better at the thing we don’t do so well too.

And pray for the day we have enough staff that can handle all the jobs we now have. My hat is off to the small shops that do so much with so little.


The Large Shops have something to learn from YOU!

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