Search Results for: coach

Ep 93: Why Even a Good Executive Director Needs a Coach

nonprofits are messy

Professional development for nonprofit leaders – luxury or necessity? In this podcast I talk about how maximizing impact requires an investment in support.

What are the myths about the role of a coach? Some of those myths may stop a high performer from asking for help and hence stand in the way of an Executive Director being the best they can be.

Funny how it’s a given that sports players need coaches, but what about the CEO of a teen suicide hotline who may have every instinct and attribute, who may oversee dozens of volunteers, respond to texts, answer phones and literally saves lives… How important is it for them to be supported, sharpen their skills, and maintain their A game?

In this podcast I bust some of the coaching myths out there and learn the various ways to explore opportunities to grow and develop leaders; recognizing it’s not only about how good you are but how good you can be.

In this podcast

  • How critical is professional development for those folks trying to repair our broken world?
  • Attributes of a good coach
  • Attributes of a good leader
  • Do rockstar leaders need coaches too?
  • How does a long tenure affect your need for professional development?
  • Is planning a transition a solo sport?
  • What if you can’t afford a coach?Continue Reading

Consulting & Coaching

Executive Coaching

Feel like you could really use a thought partner? A strategic advisor? A coach?

Joan has developed a unique style that combines combines proven coaching methods, hands-on strategic advice, and a helpful dose of management consulting thrown in for good measure. For six months, with 90 minute sessions every two weeks, Joan will be a key member of your team. And you’ll be bringing on a partner who rolls up her sleeves and helps you move your organization from good to great. But a diagnosis is not enough for Joan,  She will challenge you to think bigger and make tough decisions. She will be your single biggest advocate.

Joan’s guidance is practical and actionable. She brings core elements of workshops she offers at conferences and original resources she has developed over the years to make a measurable and meaningful difference in the ability of her clients to lead effectively.

As your Executive Coach, Joan will be a mentor, a professor, a compassionate truth teller, and your own personal management and leadership consultant.

For more information about Executive Coaching with Joan, click here.

Board Transformation / Retreats

We see it all the time. Nonprofits craft an agenda and then look for someone to direct traffic.  Far too often, these gatherings are missed opportunities. Joan is not a typical facilitator. She is part coach, part strategist, part trainer and 100% committed to using a valuable gathering of board or staff to its fullest advantage.

Joan works with clients to determine the big knots the organization needs to untangle – culture shift, rapid growth, crisis, transition – and she then becomes a partner in developing goals, designing an offsite that is owned by its participants, that offers all voices to be heard, training when needed – all in  the service of the agreed upon goals.

We believe that offsites are most effective when owned by participants and our work always includes some kind of survey of all attendees.  We then share this feedback with the board and staff leader to craft goals and then get to work on the design of a customized experience to allow for the group to tackle the challenges they face or to create the strategy they need to have a clear shot at their mission.

Team Coaching

Leadership can be defined too narrowly. Far too often we think only of the executive director. But it is not a solo gig. The staff leader must build a senior team that shares  the ownership of the organization and leads with the executive director. The dynamics of this leadership team models how the rest of the organization defines leadership. For better or for worse.

The work we do to strengthen the team  of leaders can shift culture, raise the game of the entire staff and move the organization forward together with clear accountability and shared values.

Are you struggling to inspire a strong leadership team? Trying to shift a change-resistant culture in your organization?  Are you new to your role and have you inherited a team anxious about the change, unclear about their roles or goals? Are you navigating a rocky leadership transition? Do you sometimes feel you could use a mediator to resolve tension at your leadership team meetings? Are fundamental disagreements tearing you apart?

Even the smartest leaders and best teams sometimes need a thought partner, strategic advisor, or coach to help them improve their collaboration and performance.

Whether your organization is in crisis, struggling with scaling up, or navigating a leadership transition, Joan’s Team Coaching services provide wrap-around guidance to all members of your leadership team. She works with leaders to assess your current circumstances and design an intervention, comprised of a series of individual coaching and group facilitations to all team members over the course of six months. Regardless of the scenario you first describe, the outcome will be stronger communications, improved organizational culture, healthier power dynamics, and a stronger institution.

Do You Need a Coach, a Mentor, or Both?


The life of a nonprofit leader can be quite lonely. I hear that all the time.

New board chairs are offered precious little in the way of direction and guidance. Executive Directors might use the word “lonely” as much as they use the word “overwhelmed.”

When I first arrived at GLAAD, I knew that I needed some real support if I was going to successfully transition from the for-profit sector. This new nonprofit world I had entered was strange!

What I really needed was a navigator, a guide for coaching for executives, someone to help me learn the ropes and provide some wisdom about what it meant to be a leader in a movement.

But you can’t always get what you want… or need. (Do you have a certain song stuck in your head now too?)

Hire a coach? Ha! There wasn’t enough money for new letterhead.

But I got very lucky. The choice just happened. A colleague E.D. with a long nonprofit history extended herself because she saw my success as important to the movement.

She offered support. Generous.

I took her up on it. Turned out to be one of the smartest moves I made.

Thanks to her, I learned the ropes and avoided falling on my face a few times. I was reminded that I was a leader. She was a sage navigator for me and not once did I label her my mentor. Not until someone asked me years later if I had one.


Today I’d like to explore the distinction between a coach and a mentor and offer some advice on how to find a mentor.

It’s free and it’s way easier than you think.Continue Reading

Ep 32: Even Roger Federer Has a Coach (With Michael Bungay Stanier)

nonprofits are messy

The word “coach” can mean a lot of things, but for business and nonprofit leaders, an executive coach can make all the difference.

But coaching – rather than simply supervising – is also the best approach for leaders to work with their employees.

The importance of coaching – whether in the culture of your organization’s approach to leadership or explicitly with an executive coach – is the topic of today’s episode.

Maybe you think of coaching as an unaffordable luxury. After you listen to this episode, you just might change your mind.

About Michael Bungay Stanier

My guest today is Michael Bungay Stanier, senior partner at Box of Crayons, an organization that helps organizations do less good work and more GREAT work. Box of Crayons is known for its coaching programs that help managers coach successfully in just 10 minutes.

Michael was a Rhodes Scholar, has lived all over the world, and has written two books: The Coaching Habit and Do More Great Work. He is a sought-after speaker who regularly speaks to businesses and organizations and has delivered keynotes at conferences around the world. He was recognized in 2016 as the #2 coaching guru in the world.

Sufficed to say, Michael KNOWS coaching. And, today, he will share that knowledge with us.

In this episode:

  • The value (and risk) of hiring a coach from outside your organization
  • Finding the right “fit” in a coach
  • Why coaching should not be seen as a sign of weakness (and how to address it with those who see it that way)
  • Why adaptive change is more important than technical change (and what that means)
  • Three ways coaching can happen in your organization, even without an outside coach
  • How to build a “coaching habit” in 10 minutes or less

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Executive Coaching

Q: Why would Rafa Nadal need a coach? A: To be exceptional

Q: Why does Rafa Nadal need a coach?
A: To be exceptional

I am not your typical executive coach.

I have been in your shoes: you have very specialized concerns and unique knots to untangle. Former clients have referred to me as a personal strategic advisor. Probably more accurate, but doesn’t exactly role off the tongue. It is true however, that my advice isn’t generic business or leadership coaching; it is specific strategic advising to help you operate more effectively, and maybe more sanely, in the distinctive world of nonprofits.

  • I work with CEO’s, Senior Managers, Board Chairs and Foundation Trustees
  • I am direct and hands-on. I have been on your side of the desk and I know the nonprofit world.
  • I’m a fan of 6 month engagements. We may agree to renew, but in a nonprofit, the clock seems to tick faster than elsewhere.
  • I think 90 minute sessions are far more valuable than 60’s. A typical schedule would be every 2-3 weeks for 90 minutes, for a minimum of 3 months. Once a month is not often enough for the kind of work we’ll be doing together.
  • We establish and document specific goals at the outset.
  • I do not believe in giving my clients homework. They barely have the time for sessions.
  • After each session I create a “Replay Document.” It arrives to my clients via email within 24 hours of the session. It captures the salient discussion points and then, as your advisor, I add my two cents. I call it “Food for Thought.” It can be challenging and sometimes a bit provocative. Inevitably the “food” leads to great conversation in our next session.

When I say the work is hands on, this is what I mean:

  • I have been known to help edit a board presentation for a client — to strengthen the messaging
  • We might work on a board presentation — what is the most effective way to communicate and ignite board enthusiasm?
  • Some clients ask for help with agendas for weekly meetings with their supervisors. Others ask me to evaluate their calendar for a month to offer thoughts on how they are spending their time.

One more thing, I refuse to be a crutch.

Personal strategic advising isn’t just about getting through, it’s about building competencies and broadening and deepening your understanding of the options available to you. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh and you’ll gain practical, useful knowledge.

How Can We Help You?

Joan’s executive coaching service is a 6-month commitment with bi-weekly coaching sessions. In those sessions Joan will help you with the issues you’re struggling with and will provide summaries and action steps after each session.

If you are interested, please fill out the form on this page and we’ll get the ball rolling.

Maybe You Don’t Need That Much Help?

Alternatively, some issues can be resolved in a very focused hour or so. Sometimes a leader just needs a sounding board. Or a kick in the pants. For these kinds of issues,  Joan offers individual online 50-minute coaching sessions which you can book here:

>> Book a One-Time Session With Joan (NOTE: THESE ARE CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE)

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Executive Coaching – Case Studies


Often, a nonprofit executive director comes up through the programming ranks and arrives armed with many of the necessary skills to lead an organization but needs support in the management arena.  My client base includes a number of nonprofit executive directors in this category.  My focus with clients here is on the development of a solid partnership with the board chair,  how to manage the “inside” and “outside ” components of their work to ensure that senior staff are given sufficient time and direction. I have coached CEOs and their assistants to strengthen communications and implement systems that improve the effectiveness of work flow.  I stare at calendars with CEOs and have them assess how they are spending time as it relates to the goals the board has charged them with.


The work here has been about providing good counsel to philanthropists.   What makes for a good “investment?”  How do you “fall in love” with the mission of an organization and at the same time look clearly at its finances, management and board leadership?  I believe that the smarter a philanthropist is, the more generous s/he becomes and the more rewarding the philanthropic experience becomes.


Often, my nonprofit CEO clients come to me because of a unique set of circumstances.

One of my clients was promoted from COO to CEO after the death of a founding leader.  I am deeply committed to organizational succession planning and so this experience was gratifying for me as well.   Can a COO make a good CEO?  What does it take?   How does she interact with colleague staff members who see her in her old role?   How does she interact with a board who simply sees her as NOT the prior leader?

Another client is a first rate fundraiser and successfully doubled the budget of the organization in the blink of an eye.  In so doing, the staff size more than doubled.   How do you manage that kind of growth?  What kinds of systems and mechanisms do you put in place to really focus on management?

Lastly, non profit CEOs are, by their very nature, deeply committed to the organization they serve.  When a non profit CEO determines it is time to move on,  a coach can be of enormous value.   Are you sure?   What do you think will happen when you leave?  How will you communicate?   Is your board strong enough to sustain the transition?   Lots of questions and I not only pose them but guide clients to the answers that work for them.


I work well with Development Directors.  First off, I was an executive director who came to the nonprofit world with zero fundraising experience.  I learned on the job and became quite skilled at it.  I had a Development Director who was first rate and our partnership was key to the growth of our organization.  I know what a good relationship looks like.  What a CEO needs from a Devo Director, what a Devo director needs from a CEO.  I can offer guidance on how to work with the CEO’s assistant on calendaring.   In addition, I can offer thoughts on how to work with a board in a collaborative and not combative way.  Development Directors should not be nags – they should be cheerleaders and champions.  My work with Development Directors is very hands on.  I want to see them succeed and that means hitting or exceeding their targets.


Program Directors are often underfunded and over-extended.  And someone always has a new program idea.  Or there is a grant proposal that the organization might secure if you build a new program.  Or conversely, you lose a grant and you lose the people tied to that grant.   How do you maneuver through this?  How do you manage up?  How do you say no?  How do you manage your time?

I’ve worked with clients to analyze monthly and weekly hours s/he dedicates to each of the different work areas.  We compare that analysis with the priorities set during an annual review process.  We adjust.  We use the documentation to illustrate workload and to make recommendations about how to work smarter and different.

I do a great deal of management coaching — how to motivate high performers, how to lead a poor performer to her/his own conclusion that the fit is bad.

And I’ve worked with clients to re-structure their group to create a strong number two, especially if the program director’s work entails travel.


Ep 139: Interpersonal Skills are Hard Work (with Carole Robin)

nonprofits are messy

Executive directors, your interpersonal skills have a much bigger impact on your org’s success than you might think. Yet, so many nonprofit leaders struggle to navigate workplace relationships — with staff, with volunteers, and yes, with their boards.

Why do so many nonprofit leaders have a hard time with these interpersonal dynamics? Today’s guest, award-winning Stanford University professor and Co-Founder of Leaders in Tech, Carole Robin, is here to give us the scoop.

She’s the co-author of Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships, a book modeled off the most popular class taught in Stanford’s MBA program — Interpersonal Dynamics, affectionately called “Touchy Feely Class”.

Today We’ll Uncover:

  • How do interpersonal skills impact nonprofit leadership?
  • How does the power balance between staff and leadership affect interpersonal dynamics at work?
  • How does modeling vulnerability lead to exceptional workplace relationships?
  • How can nonprofit leaders vet potential hires for strong interpersonal skills?

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How Even Workaholic Bosses Can Promote Workplace Self Care

workplace self care

I woke up this Monday morning and thought to myself: “Awesome! I got a lot done this weekend because we didn’t have any company.

Seriously Joan?

We are now well into the first summer after a terrifying pandemic in which seeing friends and family—typically an antidote for terror—was actually risky.

Now fully vaxxed, my house on the Jersey shore has been filled with the sounds of laughter, kids splashing in the pool, sandy feet, and corn on the cob.

In fact, here’s a picture of the remaining Garry originals after a hearty 4th of July dinner:

How great to be with people again!

With this image in mind, how could not having company be something to celebrate?

Well, when you’re a workaholic, having company interferes with your weekend activities. I know many of you will actually know exactly what I mean.

After all, I coach clients all the time on how their workaholic tendencies create cultures of stress in their organizations. Say all you want about how you promote workplace self care, but if you have ever sent an email at 5:55am on a Saturday, you have obliterated your credibility on the topic.

But I also know that you are overworked and that there might be reasons why you work odd hours. That’s why I’m writing this post. (I’m also writing it to remind myself to SNAP OUT OF IT!)

I have the simplest of tricks for you to try that I learned from my nephew during our wonderful 4th of July weekend together. This quick tip will help you encourage a culture of understanding and promote self care in your workplace.

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Ep 135: Building the Resilience to Withstand a Disaster (with Nina Meehan)

nonprofits are messyWhen you want to work effectively with your board, work on your staffing structure, be present for your family, and ALSO have time for standup paddleboard yoga – you need to really reflect on your priorities. My guest today really did all the work – she got an executive coach and put her life in order leading up to March 2020 when she thought she had it all down pat. Then a global pandemic shut down her entire industry. She needed resilience.

In today’s episode, Nina Meehan, CEO and Founder of Bay Area Children’s Theatre, explains how she found herself with no revenue and no live theatre. But she took the inability to do the usual things, her experience as a mother, and her newly renovated relationship with her board, to create an entirely new model. And it worked so well during the pandemic that it will stay with her institution and with a conglomerate of 41 theatres across the country (who produced A Kid’s Show About Racism) for the long haul. That’s resilience.

This episode is about the opportunity to stop, reflect, and re-emerge stronger and better even in the darkest of times. The principle — always focus on your big rocks!

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Ep 133: Choosing the Right Nonprofit Business Model (with Rinku Sen)

nonprofits are messyThe nonprofit sector grows by leaps and bounds every year. In 2019, there were over 100,000 501c3 applications and the overwhelming majority of them sailed through. The paperwork may be a pain, but let’s just say that the U.S. government is not terribly selective on which they approve.

But does it always make sense to organize as a 501c3? What is the difference between movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, or Women’s March – and a formal organization? What are the limitations and benefits of forming an organization? What questions should you ask yourself when deciding whether you need a c3, c4 or even a for-profit LLC?

My guest today is Rinku Sen, a writer and social justice strategist. Her books Stir it Up and The Accidental American theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems.

Rinku joins us today to talk through these questions. We explore how to determine whether your current organizational model is working or constraining you, what other models exist, how they work, and dissect the pros and cons of building institutions. Our discussion was fascinating. Hope you enjoy it.

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