Nonprofit Skills Part 2

Skills Top Nonprofit CEOs are Looking For When They Hire (Part 2)

In Leadership Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

After years of interviewing hundreds of CEOs on ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast and also being a recruiter myself, skills often take a back seat to the personality traits, attitude, and culture fit that top CEOs look for when adding to their team. Our “Hiring Beyond the Skills” article series explores some of the traits and attributes that leaders look for in today’s environment.

Optimism and Moving Forward
In the nonprofit world, hiring can take on a bit of a different tone. In my first article about hiring for nonprofits, I talked about the need to hire with the heart and the mission of the company in mind. In addition to that, nonprofit hiring managers also need to look for people who will not only align with that mission but further it.

For Kyle Waide, President and CEO of Atlanta Community Food Bank, this is about optimism. “I want people in our team to really just have an innate sense of possibility and be ‘glass half full’ about the work that we’re doing because the work we’re doing is hard. We’re fighting a problem that’s been with us forever and always and probably will be for as long as we can imagine. So we need optimistic people.”

That optimism and ability to move forward in spite of adversity and difficulty are the bones of many nonprofits, no matter the work. As George Greene, CEO of Water Mission, puts it, “Thinking about somebody that has a growth mindset, when you think about a disaster relief organization, we have a lot of stuff that changes pretty rapidly around here. And as a part of kind of screening candidates, [we ask] ‘How well do you embrace change, and not only embrace change but thrive in it.’ When you talk about 40 percent growth, 60 percent growth, is that something that motivates you or is that something that makes you want to go crawl into a hole? And it’s not to say that that one’s right or wrong, but it is for right or wrong or whether you’re fit to work at Water Mission or not.”

True Grit
This is true for Gilbert Hernandez, CEO of San Antonio Youth For Christ, and he describes this quality as grit, which is a great way to express it. “One of the biggest challenges this generation has coming in is resilience, the ability to say, ‘I’m going to take some hits and still push on.’ Right. That’s what I’m trying to look for constantly. If you can push through–it’s not a matter of if it’s going to get hard, it’s when. I can train you, but if you don’t have grit, if you don’t have the heart to push through stuff, then it’s very challenging.”

Resilience and optimism are important because of the long view that is especially important for many nonprofits to take. “What we’re trying to accomplish,” says Kyle, “is a generational effort. You want to kind of measure your progress against that yardstick, and if that’s the way you’re thinking about it, you’ve got to also find other ways to be encouraged about your progress right along the way.” So, along with optimism and grit, “Having patience and a long view and taking a breath on what you’re trying to accomplish and where you’re going can be freeing, you know, and allow you to really enjoy and appreciate what you’re involved in today.”Looking for nonprofit leadership that can take the long view? ROI can help

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