Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Challenges of Being an Executive Director

In case you didn't see it, in December 2014 Huffington Post published a fantastic article called "No One Told Us! The Unspoken Challenges of Being an Executive Director".

The following are a few paragraphs from that article that hit home:

Your salary per hour is actually not very good. The job never ends, and every part of the role is legitimately important. Recruiting, developing and retaining talent? It's the most critical part of your job. High-level fundraising and management of key external relationships? Only you can do it. Ensuring the quality of your program? It's the bottom line. Being visible at community events? You have to show up. Responding to emails and requests in a timely fashion? Non-negotiable. But when do you sleep? Eat dinner with your kids? Focus on passions and interests other than your job? If you're always working, you lose a piece of yourself...and even if you are paid well in theory, it can be hard to put a price tag on sacrificing so many other parts of your life. As an ED, you need to understand your full job description so that you can knowledgably negotiate your salary and enter your role with eyes wide open. Advocate for yourself as strongly as you will surely advocate for your cause.

It's exhausting to constantly have to inspire people. My EDs often lament about the energy they need to exert in order to recruit board members, motivate staff members, and woo donors to invest in their vision. When you breathe something to life and believe in it with all of your being, it can be downright offensive when people seem uninterested. Having to relay the same story over and over again about your vision, what problem you're solving, and why your organization's impact is worthy of note can be tiring. Conversations will bleed into one another, and it can be hard to remember who has heard a specific story or anecdote. You never want your pitch to get rote, and keeping that spark alive for the 400th time can be an exercise in personal motivation. Some EDs revise their pitch regularly to keep it fresh, and others give themselves a week off here and there where they are largely internal so that they can re-energize.

Even when it's time to go, it's impossible to leave. Because you are so committed to your organization's mission, (this is especially true for founders), and because your identity is so intertwined with your role, it can be extremely difficult to separate from your job. Many EDs worry that they haven't built a strong enough bench to leave the organization in a stable place, and they don't feel comfortable leaving because they are worried things will deteriorate. (Make a note - building a bench is something you should think about long before you ever want to leave your job.) You may feel pressured by outsiders who believe that if you don't stay in your role forever your contributions weren't authentic. This is unfair...you don't owe your entire life to anyone. It is wrong to negate someone's genuine contributions as they walk out the door in an attempt to dissuade them or others from leaving. EDs can set the tone for this by being genuinely appreciative for the contributions of their staff and board, and by treating any departures with graciousness.

Want to read more?  Click here for the original article.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No comments:

Post a Comment