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Author: Leah York, CAE; President of Talbott Talent




Give and Take, by Adam Grant, is among the books I recommend most often. So what’s the difference between givers and takers? And which one do you identify with more?



My favorite quotes from the book:


“When givers succeed they create a ripple effect for others to succeed.” -Adam Grant


“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


BONUS CONTENT: Listen to Adam Grant interview Malcolm Gladwell.

Updated: Jun 30

Authors: Leah York, CAE, President of Talbott Talent; Erica Poff, CAE, PMP, IOM, VP of Talbott Talent; and Heather Hunter, Marketing Associate



In 2015, Greg Boyce needed a break. Since 1996, he’d been the pastor of a growing church. His pastoral duties had expanded over time to include administrative work, facilities, budgeting, compliance, and staff management. While it was rewarding, Boyce felt that his time in the role was coming to an end. "A lot of things were going on in my personal life, and professionally I was working 70-80 hours a week. I hit a wall,” he explained. After 19 years of service, he took a leap of faith and resigned.

Boyce, who holds a master's degree, had a brief stint as a mental health counselor - "I was probably more opinionated than most therapists are," he laughed. “I knew it wasn’t something that was going to be a career for me long-term" - before landing in student life. "For the first time in my life, I was lost,” he admitted. “I was going through significant depression. It felt like I'd lost my identity.” Although he liked the school and its students, he still struggled to feel fulfilled. “I just wanted to do something more, using the skills I’d acquired as a leader.”

In 2016, Boyce was a top candidate for a nonprofit CEO search conducted by Leah York, president of Talbott Talent. During his interviews, Boyce talked extensively with York about his professional background, journey, and goals. Right away, York saw Boyce’s potential. “His past experiences managing staff, developing and overseeing large budgets, and leading projects would translate really well into nonprofit executive leadership,” said York.

“When you’ve been working with nonprofit leaders for as long as I have, you can quickly spot a person whose strengths lend themselves to an executive role. Sometimes, they need a little help to see that,” she explained. “By gaining a full understanding of our candidates’ transferrable skills, I can identify whose expertise fits an organization’s specific mission and needs – and it’s not always someone the board would have selected.”

Talking with Leah was an ah-ha moment for Boyce, sparking his desire to look specifically for work as a nonprofit executive. “It was already what I had been doing for the first 19 years, just under a different name,” Boyce recalled.

Boyce was hopeful that this interview would end his long, arduous job search, but the position went to another candidate. Deeply frustrated, Boyce went back to square one. This time, though, he had a recruiter looking out for him. “You don’t quickly forget about a top candidate like Greg,” said York. “Supporting candidates after a loss means giving them encouragement, offering feedback for future interviews, and suggesting professional development resources. At the same time, I’m constantly scanning for opportunities where our candidates will be a good match. A skilled recruiter leverages technology and other tools to keeps candidates top-of-mind as we’re making connections.”

In 2017, York called Boyce with some important news: she thought he would be a great candidate for an executive director position at the Autism Society of Indiana, where Talbott Talent had been retained to conduct the search. “When I came to meet with the board and the staff, I knew it was the right fit,” he said. He’s been with them – and much happier – ever since.

What’s the best part of his role? Empowering leaders within his organization, he says. “I thought I had this leadership thing figured out until I actually came to the Autism Society [of Indiana],” he admitted. “The generation before mine sold me on the idea that there are types of leadership – relational, results-oriented. I pride myself on being dynamic and not stuck in one leadership style. I have to approach each individual differently and understand what [style] they respond to.”

“I believe in being a servant leader and serving my employees to help them be successful. [As Executive Director], I’m able to see the big picture of how my work allows other people to use their abilities and gifts to serve families. Good leaders can give direction, but great leaders are able to invest in individuals and help them be the best that they can be.”

Throughout the two years and nine months of his search, Boyce drew strength from his family and friends. “It’s about having support,” he said. “I had a great support network... it was very important to me to lean on that.” He also stresses the importance of perseverance in job-seeking. “Sometimes, we give up too early. I would have hated to give up a month before finding this job.”

“And find a coach! I don’t think I will ever do another job search without having a recruiter,” he added. “Through the [job search] process, having someone to advocate for me was huge. I don’t ever want to look for another job without a coach – specifically Leah – beside me. She’s been so influential in my life and in my journey.”



Job searching? Talk to Leah: Leah@TalbottTalent.com

Written and edited by Erica Poff, CAE, PMP, IOM, VP of Talbott Talent; Leah York, CAE, President of Talbott Talent; and Heather Hunter, Marketing Associate




BACKGROUND

In 2019, the board of directors of the Julian Center (TJC) in Indianapolis, Indiana, hired Talbott Talent (Talbott) to lead their search for a new CEO. Facing the prospect of several months without an executive, Talbott advised TJC to hire an interim CEO—someone who could provide staff with much-needed support during the transition period while Talbott guided the board through the search process. Within a week, Talbott signed an approved interim CEO – Jeff Brown – to begin work in January 2020. 


Brown had spent the previous 27 years of his career with American Legion. He began his tenure in the accounting department and ended as the Executive Director, a journey which provided him with diverse nonprofit experience. Still, he was surprised when Talbott sought him out for the interim role at TJC. “I didn’t have any background in domestic violence issues, so even though I had a lot of experience, I thought they’d want someone who was a little more knowledgeable about those issues specifically,” he admitted.


Fortunately, Brown could appreciate what Talbott knew to be true- that nonprofit CEOs don’t necessarily need to have industry-specific experience in order to be excellent leaders. Talbott saw Brown had the right set of transferrable skills to be a successful interim executive at TJC. “You’re never aware of what it’s like to work for an organization until you’re actually in it with them. Because of my experience, I know how to address a nonprofit at every level: operational, financial, human resources. I know how to fix any issues in those areas, and how to get people to work together,” said Brown.


Two months after Brown took on the role as interim CEO, COVID-19 cases surged and began impacting workplaces everywhere. Though he was a veteran chief executive, navigating a leadership transition combined with a global pandemic would require Brown to solve large-scale, unexpected problems. To do that, Brown created a united team by prioritizing two things: transparency and communication.


TRANSPARENCY

From his first day, Brown dove into the organization, prepping TJC for a new leader by identifying areas that needed growth and addressing them head-on. He knew that, as a newcomer, he’d need to gain the trust of everyone in the organization in order to successfully make any changes. “As ED [executive director], you have some of the board’s confidence because they hired you. The staff, though, doesn’t know you at all,” he explained. “So communication, with everyone, is key.”


Brown kept that principle at the forefront of his leadership strategy. At an all-staff meeting he facilitated in his first month, he invited the staff to ask any questions they had. He also shared his own challenges and weaknesses with them. “I wanted them to know that I wasn’t there to play sheriff; I don’t expect perfection, because I’m not perfect. I wanted them to feel like I was a part of their team,” he explained. “That resonated with them. I think they appreciated the transparency, and they started working really well with me after that.” 


Brown also met with the existing leadership team to discuss TJC’s opportunities for growth, emphasizing that he wanted the team to work together to find solutions. Together, they created a comprehensive list of staff priorities that would help the organization succeed and discussed their progress in weekly leadership meetings. 


Recognizing the importance of the board’s involvement in the transition, Brown began to hold weekly meetings with the board chair. The practice helped ensure the board and staff would prioritize the same changes during Brown’s time as interim. The meetings gave the board confidence in the organization’s direction, as well as in Brown’s leadership.


COMMUNICATION

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, Brown was in contact with TJC’s human resources and program directors around the clock, prepared to respond as information came in from all directions. They needed to comply with new changes in federal, state, and local laws and regulations. “You don’t plan for something like that, especially as an interim,” Brown said.

Again, communication was paramount. “We took a lot of advice and guidance from experts, like the CDC. We took the time to cross-check our information and make sure it was reliable,” Brown reflected. As long as the leadership team clearly communicated changes, he found, the staff kept calm. “That experience built a lot of trust between us.”


Knowing that the response to the pandemic would change with time and new information, Brown and TJC’s other leaders kept the team updated constantly. “I’ve heard that you have to communicate something seven times for it to stick, so we would communicate to staff through email, in meetings, through their supervisors and the people they were supervising – whatever we could do to make sure the message was out there,” said Brown. “You really can’t over-communicate with your team, and with everyone else.”


WHAT’S NEXT?

While Brown steered TJC through the beginning of the pandemic, Talbott continued to guide the board through the search for a permanent CEO. Though impressed with each of Talbott’s candidates, the board eventually decided that their top choice had been in front of them the entire time – none other than Brown, himself.


Since Brown came from outside TJC’s industry and specific nonprofit sector, he wasn’t someone the board would have considered had they searched for a new CEO without Talbott. However, his interim leadership had proven him to be a capable, qualified fit for the CEO position. Once again, Brown was surprised by the offer—but this time it was for the permanent role. “I thought I’d be there for four months or less,” he said. “But over time, I started to really get attached to the team, and we had built some momentum within the organization that I wanted to continue. The board wanted it to keep going, too.”


As permanent CEO, Brown provided stability and resilience for the organization through the pandemic. Now, he’s looking forward to the future. “We’ve just put in place a new development director with a new plan that’s going to be very beneficial to the organization. We’re reorganizing positions and restaffing to create better teams. We’re trying to create a culture and environment where [people] feel proud of what they do and are committed.” As an exceptional leader through crisis and calm, he'll undoubtedly be able to do just that.