NLN17: Accountability and Your Nonprofit Board with Whitney Bishop

Whitney Bishop

In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network podcast our guest is Whitney Bishop who is sharing some insights about accountability, non-profit boards and the executive director role.

Whitney has a long history of serving people in various people development roles for organizations and companies for over twenty years. These have included the University of Louisville, Louisville Metro Government, Dress for Success Tampa, and Brown-Forman

Now working in her business full-time she is a change agent for both for-profit and non-profit enterprises. She has crafted and conducted training seminars in a wide variety of related skill areas, such as communication, customer service, career development, change management, creative problem solving, decision making, personal accountability, strategic planning and having FUN in the workplace. Whitney’s participant centered approach to training & facilitation puts her clients, students and participants at ease, enabling them to take full advantage of her extensive experience in the non-profit sector.

You can read some of the key points from our discussion here:

Trust and Accountability Go Hand in Hand

Accountability is very closely related to trust. Making sure you are continuing to build a culture that fosters trust makes it easier to gain mutual accountability. One of the key elements to a successful relationship between Whitney and her board was getting clear about expectations.  Then, learning how to hold each-other accountable for those expectations in a way that was respectful and that moved the mission forward.

The Importance of Staying Connected

“One of the key ways I found helped build that trust was learning to check in with people. Creating an environment where a type of slowing down or easing in was possible, as opposed to just going straight in and dealing with some of the decisions and things that needed to be mad, and allowing other people who were uncomfortable with it to stay on the sidelines and not contribute. So we created an environment where I would be able to just say, “Hey, we’re getting ready to talk about this issue. I just want to check in for a few moments and see how everybody’s feeling about this last experience, or this session, or meeting, or whatever it might be, and give people an opportunity to sort of ease into the conversation. Or to address any of their concerns. Allow everyone a voice.”

Help Volunteers Feel Successful

“To help our volunteers be of greater service to the individuals that we were serving required me to take a really good look at the training that we were providing them. One of the things we did was to really help them get into the mindset of the individuals that we were serving, and help them understand their roles more clearly. ‘Here’s what your responsibilities and roles are, and here’s what they’re not.’

So, helping them to clearly understand – “Here’s what is in-scope for you, and here’s what’s out of scope for you.” In a helping profession and a helping non-profit, where you’re serving individuals who may be in crisis, who are struggling, it is essential for volunteers to understand their role and obligations clearly. There is a tendency to want to overstep your role as a volunteer. Using this method, we were really successful in helping to reframe the volunteers’ experience so that they felt more successful and we delivered an enhanced service.”

Gaining Confidence: Peer Groups and Asking for Help

“Two things were key in my gaining confidence. First of all, have a peer group. I know now that the times that I reached outside and asked for help from my colleagues, from friends who’s opinion I trusted, that was when I was able to get back into my best thinking head-space.

Really getting clear about the value of outside help and a peer support group that can help you deal with when you sit in your office and you think, “I’m the only one that’s feeling this way,” and when you bring it up your group of other non-profit leaders, guess what. They’re all feeling that way. It’s a real relief. It’s a real relief to know that it’s not just you.

I would have to say asking for help and reaching out to get a different perspective, made the biggest difference in the times when I was able to assert myself, to get back and more appropriately handle what was on my plate. It can make the world of difference to nonprofit leaders.”

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