05 Allison Jones on careers and leadership

In this episode of the Do Good Better Podcast I talk with Allison Jones, formerly of Idealist Careers at the time of the recording, but now with NTEN. We start off our conversation talking about career and labour market trends, but then get into the juicy topics of leadership, management, vulnerability, and learning.

Listen via the website, iTunes, or Stitcher.

Links from today’s episode

Note: I couldn’t find the article Allison mentioned re: 26 ways to be involved in social change without being on the streets, nor the 99U article on from manager to maker.

5 lessons from the Nonprofit Innovation Camp #npicamp

This past weekend I attended Nonprofit InnovationCamp, an unconference initiative of the Canadian Nonprofit Innovators Network. I was volunteering as a note taker, which meant I got to take notes in the anal detail I enjoy and meet a wide variety of nonprofit innovators from across Canada.

Instead of giving a full post mortem (you can read notes from each of the sessions on the event wiki), here are key learnings I took from each session I attended.

My key takeaways from npicamp

People are becoming willing to work their heads around flexible work arrangements

In the Human Performance session, pitched by Bill Pratt of Saint Leonard’s Society of Nova Scotia, he shared his management practice with his senior leaders – Results-Only Work Environment. No hours, no lieu time, no over time. Just get the work done. Apparently his team reports working more hours, but enjoying work more.

I’ve come up with resistance to flexible work arrangements in the past – “but everyone will want to do it!” So? If people work better if they start at 11am, or have the flexibility to leave at 2pm for a doctors appointment, does it really matter as long as they are achieving and exceeding the objectives set out? As a group we didn’t sort out how this could work for hourly employees, people that are front line for specific office/site hours, or unionized environment, but me likes it. Hire staff you trust, make expectations clear, and watch magic happen.

Sometimes innovation needs to happen on purpose

Facilitator Erin Sharpe of STARS shared her role of actually getting paid to facilitate innovation at her organization. I believe “Director of New Ideas” is her actual title. Using a process called skunk works, she brings up to 7 people together, who are most impacted or have the most influence on a particular issue, to brainstorm solutions. The good ideas that float to the top get implemented. The group tossed around the value of having a champion lead the change vs. a collaborative, collective group, and the different skills required to brainstorm vs. project manage the change. Main takeaway: sometimes you need to make space for innovation. It’s not just about eureka moments.

Provocative questions are a draw

Wow! Did people come out to debate a quick series of difficult questions! From the role of religion in charity, to the impact of academia on practice, to government funding, we enjoyed a quick round of 30-60sec quips from participants on all sides of each debate. Nothing resolved, but it got the blood pumping. And as the note taker, some sore fingers.

There is still a huge knowledge gap around social media

Rebecca Vossepoel of pm-volunteers.org pitched a session to see what orgs were doing with social media, what was working, and questions people were having. Most of the orgs represented were using social media, but often with little strategy. Things like QR codes and RSS feeds were question marks for a few. Sighs of relief were audible when I shared that young people rate email as the preferred method of connecting with their favourite nonprofits. Some thought Twitter was about sharing what you had for lunch. I had my laptop out so showed what my Hootsuite feed looked like, and what sort of valuable links were being shared. It seems for many organizations, the social media surface is barely being scratched.

Old views on leadership still exist

I pitched a session on next generation staff engagement, calling bullshit on those that say there is a shortage of talent to lead the future of nonprofit organizations. A huge group came out to watch me take notes. The diverse participants talked about everything from succession planning, to the value of being a generalist vs. specialist, to transferable skills, to the opportunity for challenge, learning, and growth.

Coming out of the session, one of the other younger participants and I spoke further about a weird tension that existed in the room, dividing perspectives on new and old leadership models. While we both believed in personal leadership, leadership through doing, through self awareness, through understanding how your actions impact others, other more experienced people in and out of the room were talking about leadership as a position (though they tried to make it sound like a really warm fuzzy type of positional leadership) – “the leader is the one who has the vision, but they should make it a shared vision.” We talked about the future of EDs – what will organizational structure look like 30 years from now? I’ve discussed organization structure and the Millennial generation in the past. I don’t have the answer.

Carrying on the conversation

If you are interested in connecting with other nonprofit innovators in Canada beyond this camp, you can join the online network.


Upcoming events: Nonprofit leader development, Social Innovation/Finance, Getting the media’s attention

Three great learning events are coming up in downtown Vancouver — I invite you to join me at any or all.

Next Leaders Network

NLN Curriculum Development: Part 2
Hosted by Vantage Point
Monday, January 10th, 2011
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Part two of a participatory meeting that will guide the Next Leaders Network future curriculum.  You will also have the chance to meet and network with others in the not-for-profit sector through collaborative activities. (If you’re not a member, look into it!)

Social Finance

Hosted by Ashoka Canada, SIG, Plan Institute, and Causeway
Monday, January 10th, 2011
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Pay What You Can

Learn more about the world of social innovation and social finance from 4 distinguished leaders in the social innovation arena. Meet and network with other passionate and driven individuals involved in the social innovation space.

SFU Continuing Studies Open House 2011

How to Get the Media’s Attention
Hosted by SFU Continuing Studies
Saturday, February 5, 2011
1:00pm – 2:30pm, 2011

Even the smallest amount of media coverage can be a huge advantage. But getting the attention of busy journalists and editors isn’t easy. Discover what it really takes to get mentioned in print, broadcast, or online.

Incomplete Thought #3: Do we ‘lead’ volunteers, or ‘manage’ them?

When we talk about working with volunteers, the word “volunteer management” is the general phrase that’s used. People whose job it is to do volunteer management are volunteer managers.

But what about leading volunteers?

I say that for those engaging passion citizens as volunteers, is it not even more important to inspire vision? To show people what is possible? To actively engage minds and individual motivations?

The only problem is, the phrase “volunteer leader” sounds like you are a leader who is not getting paid, not one who leads volunteers.

Damn “volunteer” and its dual use of noun and adjective.

Oh, and by the way, happy belated International Volunteer Managers Day, which was apparently on November 5.


The Incomplete Thought Series is, well, a series of incomplete thoughts. These are thoughts I have not researched, but which have popped into my head and am interested in discussing. Your incomplete or complete thoughts are encouraged.

Fundraising through engaged staff

Take a Hike reflection
Image credit: Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation

One of my favourite charities, Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation, was fortunate to be on the receiving side of Clara Hughes’ Winter Olympics bronze medal bonus.

Ten thousand unexpected dollars.

And then her sponsor, Bell Canada, matched her donation. That’s now $20,000.

And with the news stories on the donation, thousands of more dollars came in.

This wasn’t the result of some long-term relationship building between the ED and Hughes. It didn’t require shmoozing, prospecting, donor analysis or any other hard work of a fund development team.

It started because one of the Take a Hike program’s teachers embodied Take a Hike. He had met Clara Hughes’ partner randomly while on a remote kayaking trip on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. Friendships developed, and Take a Hike came to mind when Hughes was looking to make a difference by contributing any bonus she might win along with a medal.

The teacher didn’t have a script. He wasn’t trained in fund development. He knows his work and the impact it makes in the lives of youth and feels confident sharing.

The lesson

I think it’s often easy for fundraising to be relegated to the ED and fund development staff. That way you can contain messages and hit key talking points. Because you can’t trust the program staff to always say the right thing, you might only let them connect to fundraising when a tour of their workspace needs to be done to show donors how the charity is serving <insert disadvantaged group here>. Or maybe you only call on them when you need statistics to report back to funders or donors to show that your efforts are successful.

I think that most people, no matter where they work in an organization, like to know how their work contributes to the bigger picture. The mission of the organization. To what end your charity exists. Staff are more than just their job titles, and very likely have interests and abilities beyond their job descriptions.

So let them in on the big picture. Connect them with opportunities to contribute to the mission more directly through committees, communication, or other work.

Be sure your staff are engaged with your mission. The payoffs could be huge.

Tongue tied and the Next Leaders Network

Image credit: Tim Ellis

I was interviewed recently for Charity Village article on an initiative of Vantage Point (formerly Volunteer Vancouver) for the next generation of nonprofit leadership in Vancouver, for which I am a steering committee member. The Next Leaders Network.

You know there are some days when the words you want to say roll off your tongue exactly as you intend, and others when you can’t believe how or what you’re saying? This interview was on one of the latter days. When I hung up the phone with Karl, and even throughout the conversation, in my head I was thinking, “I can’t believe I just said that.” Nothing bad or controversial, just silly phrases like “betterment of the global family”. Did I really just say that?

Anyway, you can read the article here, and find out more about the Next Leaders Network here.

The next learning/networking session in the Next Leader’s Network is coming up…

Leading with Direction

December 1, 2009
4:00pm – 6:00pm

Join 3D Visioning expert Gary Ansell for an experiential workshop designed to help you achieve a greater sense of gratification and fulfillment in everything you do – by defining your purpose and having a clear goal in sight.  

Extroverts vs. introverts in the workplace

The first time I took the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), the results gave me some comfort and understanding. I had been fairly extroverted in my youth, but some long term experiences travelling and living alone helped me to realize the enjoyment I find when I have time to myself.

For those of you familiar with the MBTI, you’ll understand that I’m an ‘I’ on the E-I spectrum. This means that I’m an introvert. It doesn’t mean that I’m shy, but it means that I get my energy from focusing on my “inner world”. I often get asked, to my surprise (and annoyance), “Are you OK?” Apparently being deep in internal thought makes me look upset. What? Am I supposed to walk around with a goofy grin?

The results of an MBTI, like any other ‘personality’ test, can be used in a variety of ways. It’s easy to use your ‘type’ to offer excuses for your behaviour (“It’s OK that I always turn in work last minute; I’m a ‘P'”); instead, I try use my ‘type’ to understand the habits that I default to and the impacts that my behaviours have on those around me.

But enough about me. Here’s a breakdown of some general E vs. I characteristics.

Characteristics of ‘E’s and ‘I’s


  • outgoing
  • people person
  • comfortable in groups
  • wide range of friends and acquaintances
  • jumps quickly into activities
  • gets energized by being around others
  • thinks aloud
  • “talker”
  • reflective
  • reserved
  • comfortable alone
  • small group of close friends
  • thinks before starting activities
  • gets energy from time alone
  • processes thoughts internally
  • “(over)thinker”

Impact on the Workplace

An estimated 75% of the general population is extroverted (Tieger & Barron-Tieger, 1995) and reward systems and job recognition are generally set up to value extroverts. Extroverts get rewarded because their work is apparent. They talk openly and often about what they’re working on and how busy they are. You see them and they just look like they’re getting things done. Lots of meetings, people to see, places to rush off too. They’re good at marketing themselves. And somehow, I swear they walk louder.

With extroverts, often “what you see is what you get.” They thrive on the world around them, so the world around them knows what’s going on when them.

But what about introverts?


  • like working in quiet spaces
  • enjoy working independently
  • are reluctant to delegate, but when do, provide little information
  • work well without supervision
  • think and reflect before taking action
  • sometimes share ideas only when prompted
  • listen well
  • appear calm under pressure
  • have good depth of knowledge

Unfortunately, these introvert characteristics can come off in a negative light. Introverts can appear to not be “team players”. They may seem aloof, slow, serious, secretive or lacking ideas. They seem not busy, not productive or not outwardly stressed enough given the pressured circumstances.

Who’s Responsible?

So how can the best be drawn out of introverts?

Supervisors of introverts

  1. Ask their opinion. If you don’t you may be missing out on a whole wack of great ideas.
  2. Be prepared. Give them information (e.g. a meeting agenda) beforehand so they have time to process their thoughts internally before having to share.
  3. Use email. If asking for important input, give your staff time to consider their thoughts rather than putting them uncomfortably on the spot.
  4. Delegate properly. Give them the authority to make decisions on their own without interrupting and micromanaging.
  5. Be flexible in recognition. Don’t assume everyone’s idea of fun and reward is a big party.
  6. Find out where credit is due. Introverts don’t often sing their own praises, so be sure you are thanking the right people when things go well.

Introverted staff

  1. Share your route of thought. When explaining your opinion or providing instructions, don’t assume that everyone else has gone through the same thought process, as obvious as it may seem to you.
  2. Prepare. Request or research information before meetings so that you can prepare your thoughts ahead of time.
  3. Share you successes. Make small daily goals to share a project you are working on, a great meeting you had, or a positive outcome that you have reached. It doesn’t have to be about bragging. Share your passion instead of your ego.
  4. Create space. Whether when working on an important project or debriefing from an intense meeting, find a quiet place.
  5. Share your ideas. Again, make small daily goals to speak up once in a group setting. And don’t fret afterward about whether or not people thought your idea was silly. They’ve probably moved on.
  6. Seek out other introverts. If you have an event or activity to go to, buddy up with an introvert. Use it as an opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and mingle, knowing you can rejoin your buddy if you need to.

In Summary…

Neither introverts nor extroverts are “better” – they are just different. In order to demonstrate personal and professional leadership, understanding self and others is important. Take the time to learn about your co-workers and how they operate.

Additional Implications for the Nonprofit Sector

  • Think not only about your staff, but also about your clients. Are programs and services developed and marketed in ways accessible to both introverts and extroverts?
  • Think even further to your donors. Are solicitations and fundraising activities developed and marketed in ways appealing to both introverts and extroverts?

More Resources