015 A Matter of Balance – Leann Daddario of HandsOnJacksonville

Jul 4, 2017

A Matter of Balance

Leann Daddario is the CEO & President of HandsOnJacksonville. In this episode of Concord Leaders, she shares about the balance required in leading a nonprofit – helping staff excel while being accessible to donors. You’ll learn an approach that tends to open donors up to hearing from her. And she shares thoughts on the vital importance of good governance.

You can learn more about HandsOnJacksonville at https://www.handsonjacksonville.org/

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CLP015 Leann Daddario – A Matter of Balance (PDF)

Marc Pitman: Welcome to the Concord Leaders Podcast. I’m Marc Pitman, the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group. Today, our guest is Leann Daddario, the CEO and president or president and CEO of HandsOn Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida. Leann, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here today.
Leann Daddario: Well, good morning. Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.

Marc Pitman: As we’ve been doing this podcast, we’ve been talking to a lot of people in a lot of different areas, and I always ask at the beginning what is it that you enjoy about leading? What do you enjoy about leading a nonprofit?

Leann Daddario: Well, a couple of things. One is the building and mentoring of people on my staff, so I think there is a real joy in giving back in their lives and seeing them come to their fullest potential as employees and then going off and fulfilling their own personal missions. The other thing that I really love is the public piece of what I do in public speaking, and media, and those kinds of things which is casting a vision around what our mission statement is. I love that aha moment whether it’d be a meeting with a senior executive or reading the crowd when you’re talking of when the message actually clicks about how their life can be used for a greater purpose. That really jazzes me a lot.

Marc Pitman: I can just hear that excitement and I love that, a picture of when the moment actually clicks. Was there an experience that you most recently had of seeing the light go on for people?

Leann Daddario: Well, I mean, I think you can really tell when you’re engaged in your rapport with people again whether it’d be in a meeting or in a public speaking seminar. I deal with a lot of C-suite level officers here in town that want to use community service as a marketing strategy. We are a true 501(c)(3). I come to them from a little bit different perspective because I have a long business background. When I come to them about accomplishing their goals and you can just tell they lean into the conversation. Their eyes light up. They’re affirming. They’re nodding their head and they’re just getting the message. Then I know it’s really connected. When you have those conversations with people who are in leadership positions and really have that strategic thinking concept pretty well down in terms of a skillset, you can read it fairly easily.

Marc Pitman: That is so true. Having a business background and mindset myself, I’ve seen that with particularly corporate owners. It’s exciting when they realize, “Oh, she gets it.”

Leann Daddario: Yes, absolutely. I love that piece of what I do. If I could do that all day long and not have to do the operational stuff, I would do that all day long. I do. I love that, meeting with the donor. I love the audience. I just love the human capital component of what I do.
Marc Pitman: That is exciting. But, as we all know, leadership isn’t always what we love to do. What was a time that you had to face a challenge or leadership issue and how did you handle it?

Leann Daddario: Well, honestly, one of the biggest leadership challenges for me is in matter of balance. Any CEO or executive director will tell you that one of the challenges is how much can you be in and how much can you be out because there are operational things, and decisions, and people need to speak with you. But, I always say to my team, “Business does not happen behind a desk. It happens on the street.” It’s a real balancing act. If you’re spending too much time in the office at humming and that’s a good thing but then you’re not out making the connections that you need to in your community.

I also find it tricky when you’re traveling a lot to manage everything as well, too. Holy cow. The emails, and the texts, and the social medias, and the phone calls are difficult to catch up with, too. I think that leadership thing is a real balance.

The other piece that is a struggle is balancing multiple shareholders so that’s employees, that’s board members. Those are donors and that’s a really difficult balancing act to do as well. Some of it is my time in the balancing and some of it is balancing those shareholders. I’m not here to blow smoke up under anybody’s skirt. I don’t have it all worked out. I think it’s a daily practice for me.

Marc Pitman: That’s awesome. I’d love to ask you a little bit more about both because I think those are things that so many of us struggle with. You clearly understand that there’s a tension between being in your desk and not being in your desk. Often, CEOs are so aware of managing by butts in seat. If they can see the employee, boom, they know that employee must be doing work. For external people, that can be hard like fundraisers. That can be a real source of tension because a fundraiser is never around but that’s when they’re doing their work. How have you trained staff that expects you to always be around to not expect you to be there all the time? Are there things that you found particularly helpful?

Leann Daddario: Well, some of the things that I just reiterated to you, I tell my staff all the time, which is that business happens on the street. I think when you set a leadership philosophy that way, then me being in the office all the time is not an expectation. You have to manage those expectations. That’s one thing. Development people, myself included, because I would still say that a large majority of what I do is around development, we keep internal calendars. If I can just see where you are and who your appointments are, I’m good with that and your results speak for yourself.

I meet with my team on a weekly basis to review where they are in terms of their goals. How can I help them and what do you need from me? I keep a pretty good touch point, if you will, internally on my staff. But, those of us that have revenue responsibilities, you’ll never accomplish them if you stay in the office all day. You have got to be out. You truthfully, Marc, can accomplish, and you know this from your own work, you can accomplish something at a five or 10 minute conversation that might take you weeks to get on someone’s calendar.

Marc Pitman: That’s so true.

Leann Daddario: You build rapport and you build trust and people get to know your character in a face–to–face meeting. Then email, and phone calls, and follow up are just tools to manage discussions that really should begin face–to–face. That’s never going to go away despite the technology.

Marc Pitman: I have been consistently surprised by the power of that face–to–face and I do this. You’re right. This is what I know, too. That’s great. Well, I wanted to also touch on the balancing multiple shareholders because I think that that is a huge … Often people are blindsided when they come in to nonprofits with the fact that there’s the boss is the board and the revenue isn’t from the customer. It’s from the donors. Then there’s the people that you’re helping also which is why you go into the nonprofit. Understanding you don’t have a formula yet, but what are you finding that’s working right now and helping you do that dance?

Leann Daddario: Well, I would say the first six months to a year for anybody in a new executive director or CEO position is really drinking from a fire hose. I am a big believer in that you need to have some kind of a committee of support around you, two or three people that you can actively trust that may not even be in the nonprofit sector, typically I recommend that they not be in the nonprofit sector, that can help hold you accountable, that can tell you if you’re going crazy because, believe me, you will think that you are going crazy but you’re not. It’s in doing a flood of analysis of your organization but also juggling these multiple stakeholders.

You’re right. Your board is your boss. I think part of good board relationships is good governance and not many organizations do governance very well. If a board really understands their governing roles and not their operational roles, it’s easier to manage those board relationships. Having a good chair is critical. You’re not just putting somebody in that slot because they have the time. You’re putting somebody in that slot because they believe in your mission, they understand leadership, and they understand their role in a board. We teach board roles and responsibility so we try to live them out as well.

Employees, I make myself fairly available to them even if I’m not physically in the office, so you can call me. You can send an email. If it’s urgent, then you need to send a text because typically I’m in meetings where I can’t necessarily return a phone call, but I might be able to give you a quick answer. That is the beauty of technology for that kind of stuff. One of the things that has been frustrating to me that I try not to be to my staff is to be the funnel where things stop because information continues to need to get out so that everybody can move forward. I try to manage my board with good governance. You have to start from the beginning. I try to manage my staff by setting an expectation that I’m not going to be here all the time, but I will get back to you and I pride myself on good communication.

Then the third thing around donors is I tend to be fairly accessible to donors because we are an organization that’s 100% privately funded and there are not a lot of those around. No money, no mission, right? The technology again is great. I’m amazed at how many donors text me but I do try to be fairly open to them, and I do try to be fairly open to their schedules when they want to get together and meet or talk because I realize that they’re the ones making the guest. Again, it continues for me, Marc, to be a fine tuning process that you have to hone in on a daily basis.

There is no perfection in this role, right? Leadership is an evolving thing and some days you’re doing it well, and some days you’re not doing it well. I think you have to give yourself permission. Tomorrow is a new day and you get to start over again. If you work by some guiding principles that you stick to, for the most part I think you’ll do fairly well.

Marc Pitman: That is excellent advice. Oh, my goodness. I can’t believe we’ve already been talking together for the entire length of the podcast. As we wrap this up, what would you recommend people do? If there is just one thing that is top of mind for you now that the listeners of this podcast try putting into place this week, what would you recommend?

Leann Daddario: People that are effective leaders have a very strong sense of self, and there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, but you will never lead effectively if you don’t know who you are and know who your values are. You can take the opinions of other but you can’t be swayed in the wind by what other people think of you, and so you need to project that for yourself and you also need to project that to your board of directors and your team.

Marc Pitman: That is excellent, excellent advice. Man, I am so happy that you’re able to be a guest on here and I know that people are going to listen to this again and again because you shared so many nuggets and tidbits in this condensed time. If people wanted to know more about HandsOn Jacksonville, what would be the best way for them to find out?

Leann Daddario: Well, I think first up would be to our website which is http://www.handsonjacksonville.org/ and that will tell you everything that we do. You can find a volunteer opportunity. You can find me there and that would be the first line of defense.

Marc Pitman: Super. Well, thanks so much for being our guest today, and I know for those of you listening you want to replay this now, but you’ll also want to check out the other episodes that we have. You can always find the past episodes of Concord Leaders Podcast at https://concordleadershipgroup.com/podcasts/.

Until next time. Remember that healthy leaders create healthy organizations. Bye now.

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