Why Culture Trumps Control...

What does it take to leave your mark in a tangible and sustainable way on the organization you have built from the ground up or taken to new heights? 

Everyday 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65.  As longstanding Executive Directors, CEOs, Founders and Chairpersons of third sector organizations (nonprofits/ngos and social ventures) prepare to leave their current roles, tensions build. On the surface it is about control. But, if you look "below the line", it is really about something much more important and underrated. How we address this issue as leaders is critical, as it presents us with a crucial opportunity for long term impact or ultimate decline.

The first response to this challenge is often to seek control, to hold on tighter, pull up the draw bridges and "silo" relying on a hierarchical approach. This strategy evolves around bylaws, election of officers, hand picking board members and framing donations with significant restrictions. This approach is reliant on structure, is designed and implemented by a few organizational leaders and typically has little or no buy in from broader leadership, staff or stakeholders. In the short term, these types of structural controls can definitely be achieved; but is it control that we really want?

What if....

What if you can embed the values, vision and approach of your founders, long time board members and most collaborative donors? What if those values, vision and approach become part of the DNA of the organization and the people in it? What if you can develop a culture that is a living, breathing and ever evolving expression of those values, vision and approach?

"When we focus on nurturing, maintaining and preserving culture, we ensure the continuation of our essence and values." 

-Ranlyn Tilley Hill, President, Benevolent Vision

Control is temporary. Charitable Tax exempt organizations are not "owned" by us. They are held by us in trust for the greater good. It is our responsibility as leaders to "pass on" these organizations to the people that will move them forward, long after our life's work has been completed. Culture runs wide and deep- it permeates everything and everyone it touches. It attracts those who believe what we believe, individuals who hold the same vision and seek the same change in the lives of others, communities and our world. When we focus on nurturing, maintaining and preserving culture, we ensure the continuation of our essence and values- and ultimately, who we are at our very core.

The continuation of culture does not just happen. It starts with intention and decision, followed by commitment and then action.

What are you and your organization committed to? What actions are you taking to ensure the continuation of your culture?  We would love to hear your thoughts...