CLP004 Daniel McCormack- Creating a Line of Sight (PDF)
Marc: Welcome to another edition of the Concord Leaders podcast. I’m Marc Pittman, CEO of the Concord Leadership Group and today our guest is Daniel McCormack. He’s the President of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Foundation in Illinois. Dan, it’s great to have you on the show today.
Daniel: Hi Marc. It’s great to be here. Thank you for asking me.
Marc: For those of you that are listening, Dan is one of my favorite people in fundraising because he not only is really effective, he enjoys himself and has good sense of humor. Some of my craziest “I wish I could do this ideas” have been in talking with Dan over the years.
Daniel: That we fortunately will never take the opportunity to professional pull the trigger on because it would be a career limiting move.
Marc: You realize I didn’t say what those ideas were, right?
Marc: Yeah, it’s great. As these podcasts have been developing, the first question I always lead with is you’ve been doing this for awhile, what do you enjoy about leading? What do you enjoy about being in a leadership position?
Daniel: It actually Marc, for me anyway, operates in kind of two dimensions. In my role because with the Hospital Sisters Health System where I am, I’ve got 30 people spread out across 14 institutions, all hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. For me, the leadership is both kind of the organizational chart leadership, the institutional leadership and then the individual leadership. What I like on the organizational side of things is that you’ve got your organizational goal. You’ve got sort of your total fundraising. You’ve got the infrastructure that you want to build. You’ve got all these kind of things that you want to do.
Really, leading an organization for me, the enjoyable part is sort of identifying what that aspirational vision for the organization is, then it migrates down into the individual level. You’ve got the organization level, I get a great high out of developing and articulating and then communicating that vision to my team, but then making sure that on an ongoing basis that the individual numbers of my team have that line of sight, their own line of sight to the vision of the organization. You’re kind of clear cutting the trees out of the way so that they can see where it is that we’re going. You’re constantly making sure that they don’t lose sight of the vision even when the vision kind of changes or migrates to one side or the other that they still understand here’s where we’re going as an organization.
Then the leadership equation steps down for me one part further. That’s helping and motivating them on an individual basis to achieve their own success so that organizationally you create that line of sight with them for the vision, but then making sure that I’m leading them in a way in that they’ve got the tools so at the end of they day when they get to where they want to go, they feel that sense of professional gratitude and they feel that sense of success even when at the outset they might not have felt it was possible.
Marc: That is definitely. I just get encouraged just hearing that. That’s a great way to articulate organizational. Then your part in the organization and then your part as a person. That’s tremendous. People must respond really well to it.
Daniel: They do and what’s gratifying to me is that, and I think I’m trying to remember who’s quote it is. It’s Laozi, it’s another Chinese sort of philosopher who basically said that when a leaders job is done, the people whom he leads say we did this ourselves. For me, that’s a really important thing and I’ll be very candid, I like being recognized for successes that I’ve achieved and I like having my team members recognize me as a leader or helping them to achieve their own success, but for me anyway, what I get the greatest personal satisfaction from is not a member of my team saying, “Hey Dan, you’re great,” but for them telling me, “Hey Dan, thank you for making me feel great.” That’s kind of what I kind of get a buzz from.
Marc: That’s cool. I know that that doesn’t always happen necessarily.
Daniel: No, it doesn’t.
Marc: Many places it doesn’t. Was there a time when you had a bump in the road or tough situation and how did you deal with it?
Daniel: A lot of times it’s just, especially when you step in to sort of established environments where people have been in roles for a number of years, they’ve been doing things a certain way and they’ve been successful in their own way. The challenge is first of all trying to recast the definition of the terms of success without necessarily diminishing what they’ve accomplished in the past. In our case, in healthcare philanthropy, as you and I have had this conversation before Marc, there’s a whole lot of focus, there’s an example around special events. It just happens to be the way a lot of hospitals in a lot of small communities think they need to raise money. My perspective has always been it’s looking for love in all the wrong places. I mean you’re pouring all this time and energy into it.
You’re allowing your offices to be consumed with shrink wrap and wicker baskets for months out of the year. Under their own terms these hospitals have been successful at doing that, but when you’ve got kind of an organizational imperative to do more to raise more money because the demands on hospital capital, programmatic, whatever, so much greater you kind of got to have those conversations with the people who are on your team and say we need to do more. You’ve been great, but can we raise your sights a little bit and get you to embrace this vision. From my perspective, early on, it was a challenge because the way that we had been structured and the way that we are to some extent still structured to this day, it’s not that I have command and control over the 30 people on my team. I say I’ve got 13 Foundation Directors, but in reality they’re not direct reports to me.
It originally started off they were solid line report to their local hospital CEO and only dotted line to my position and now we’ve since sort of migrated it to kind of a kind of a dual solid line reporting, but at the outset and even still to this day I don’t have the ability or I’ve certainly never flexed that muscle, to tell somebody you’ve got to do this because I said so. Frankly, none of my team has ever said, “Hey pal, I don’t report to you so I’m not getting rid of my event, I’m not doing this, I’m not doing that.” I’ve been able to sort of navigate them through the why. Like I said earlier, it’s sort of like creating that line of sight. We want to raise more money, we want to have more donors, we want to engage our donors better. It’s not just money for the sake of money, it’s developing relationships with this pool of donors that makes them want to support us and we can do that better than throwing parties and playing golf.
It takes awhile. Like I said, you don’t want to necessarily get in front of somebody and say, “Hey I know you’ve doing this for the last 20 years and it’s great, but you’re frankly under performing.” Slowly take them to the place where they can see what we want to do. Sometimes the challenge is they’re not prepared to do that. Then, the challenge is the leader has to be to help them to realize that this might not be the right place for them to be, that the organization is moving this direction. Those are the big challenges for me. I struggle with those conversations a lot because I realize that in our business people don’t view these jobs as widgets. People get really invested in the mission of the organization. You have to, or you can’t communicate it to a donor. It’s not like we’re working at Thom McAn Shoes and somebody’s just a really poor salesman of the new Earth Shoe line. If we let them go and they go down the hall or down the the corridor at the mall and get a job at Footlocker, something like that.
People are really invested in the mission and the history and traditions. We’re a Catholic healthcare system and there’s a whole lot of emotion that gets tied up in the care-ism of the Hospital Sisters and the hospitals that they built 150 years ago and their abiding presence. It’s really hard to have those conversations with people that are under performing.
Marc: It’s under performing on the new targets that or …
Marc: They’re performing fine for what they signed on to do, but the things are shifting.
Daniel: Exactly. When you have to have those, we need to step up or we need to step out conversations it can be really hard because in some ways, Marc, it makes what we’re doing seem very mercenary. Yeah, you’ve been doing great, but we’re going to try to raise more money and the only we can raise more money is if we scale back or discontinue this event. If we entirely change the business model that you’ve been living in for the last decade. The thing that I’ve noticed about the employees themselves, the team members themselves, 9 times out of 10 they’re there before you are.
Marc: Isn’t that amazing?
Daniel: You start that conversation and they finish it for you or even before you get to have a conversation you’re getting a phone call or an email from them saying we need to talk because I love this organization and I love the history I’ve had in it. They’ll say, I’m very excited about the new direction we’re moving in, I’m just not comfortable with it. I’ve found this other opportunity that I think will be a better fit for me. It’s sort of like okay. That’s great. Let me shake your hand and wish you well and appreciate everything you’ve done. I think part of that is going way back to what we’re talking about at the outset is communicating that vision and if they don’t embrace it or recognize themselves that they can’t embrace it, they actually start looking on their own and trying to find opportunities that are better fits for what their level of expertise is and what they want to do.
Marc: Wow. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this. If I could thank you so much for your time. As we come to the end of this discussion, is there a strategy or a tip or anything you’d recommend listeners do right after listening to this?
Daniel: The things is, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, is in our organization we’re about to finish. Our fiscal year is a June 30th fiscal year so we are one week away from tying a bow around what’s been one of the most successful fund raising years in our organization’s history. What’s been really, really gratifying about it is that the recognition that there’s been a fair amount of good fortune that’s been in involved in the timing of a couple of gifts that have hit this year. We knew they were coming, we just didn’t know they were going to come this soon and this big, but the realization that it doesn’t hurt anything to have those “big, hairy, audacious goals.” It’s been one of those things for me where every time we sort of set the bar in terms of what we think we can do, you’ll get some trepidation, you’ll get some people on the team that are kind of rolling their eyes or clutching their hands and worrying about whether or not we can actually hit this goal. Our goal for this year was 12 million dollars which was a nice respectable increase over what we’d done the prior year, we’re cracking 18 right now. Essentially we’re at a 150% of our goal and it’s because we may have been initially afraid to embrace that huge goal and to sort of say, okay well … Really Marc, we had hit our goal for the entire fiscal year by the six month mark, but then to sort of say to ourselves, hey, let’s not stop now.
Marc: We’re just getting momentum, yeah.
Daniel: We’re just getting momentum and what we found is that success does build on itself. For people in a leadership role that might be sort of reluctant or concerned coming out with what a goal that seems completely out of reach, do it anyway. Put the numbers together, make them work. Show the individual members of your team how it’s possible and you’ll be amazed at how people kind of go along if you kind of, sort of articulate the road map for them. You can’t just throw a goal out and say, hey guys, let’s go raise it. I know you can do it. You guys are great, now check back with me in six months and tell me how you’re doing. You’ve really got to sort of show the pathway and show them that you know what you’re doing. Then, your team derives confidence from that. The boss says we can do it, let’s do it.
Marc: Wow. That’s a great way to end this discussion. Thanks so much, Dan, for being a guest on …
Daniel: You’re welcome. Very welcome.
Marc: … Concord Leaders. I love the way that you took the aspirational goals of the organization and you’re able to then communicate them. It helped us to think about communicating to our staffs, but then also I love that line of sight. Having that clear line of sight and knowing it’s going to be different for each position and each skill set both people that are on the bus, but also help people realize maybe it’s their stop to get off the bus and creates room for somebody else.
Daniel: That’s right. I think that’s exactly right.
Marc: We’re can people find you if they want to …
Daniel: Anybody who hears this and would like to converse further about it or just ask me questions or whatever can reach me via email is fine and my email address is Daniel.McCormack@HSHS.org.
Marc: Wonderful. Well I know people want to listen to this again and again as they think about their big, hairy, audacious goals and how to inspire people to do it. This episode and all episodes of the Concord Leaders podcast can be found at http://ConcordLeadershipGroup.com/podcast/. Until next time remember, healthy nonprofits start with healthy leaders.