Don Gatewood Discusses Post-Pandemic Leadership

Don Gatewood Fundraising Superheroes 

 
How has COVID shaped the way organizations approach leadership? Now that we have officially made it through the worst of the pandemic we are taking the time to recenter themselves and figure out what they value most in our careers. Now more than ever there is an emphasis on creating change and that all begins with good leadership. 

For 21 years, Don has led several nonprofit initiatives, teams, program operations, strategic planning, and so much more. He has worked with organizations like the American Red Cross, the Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit and Washington, as well as the center for Workforce Inclusion. Don is the current co-founder and CEO of the Initiative Baltimore, a professional leadership consultant, and the host of the podcast leadership and Professional Development with Don Gatewood. 

Top 3 Takeaways 


  1. One of the biggest differences in the for-profit and non-profit sectors is employee retention. Now more than ever organizations are being forced to ask themselves if they are providing a healthy and sustainable working environment for their employees because in not doing so they will miss out on valuable talent. People are now less likely to settle for poor work environments and in order to retain employees, there needs to be a change in how nonprofits operate.
  2. Leadership is more than a title. It's not about running a team, making decisions or being a "boss." It represents your influence in your work and your environment by choosing to be a person who makes an impact with what they do. 
  3. Do your best to be in a  position of learning constantly.  Good leadership is about embracing change and learning from your mistakes and part o that means having a will to learn. Take a class, embrace new ways of operating and try new things while being open to learning from your mistakes. 
 
Our Favourite Quotes

(02:26) Do the people that you work with believe that you know what you're talking about? Do they believe that you're fair and unbiased? Do they believe that you care and have their best interests in mind? Do they believe that you have similar goals and expectations, work wise as them? In other words, do they trust you? So leadership, ultimately, effective leadership is about trust.

(07:17) Sometimes people have a misunderstanding about nonprofit. They feel that they require little to no money to operate. And I think that that's one of those fallacies that has to be constantly addressed. Because the truth is, talent and nonprofit, they have families and they 
require living wages. They have goals and aspirations, too, to provide for their families and their futures. And so they have to make a salary in order to achieve those goals that they have. 

(10:32) I would argue is that leadership is so much more than your title. Leadership is more or less the influence that you have in your position, the influence that you have with people that you work with, the influence that you have over decisions, the trust that you have. What value do you bring when you talk, when you make suggestions, what influence does it have? And a person who is able to have impact is indeed a person that is a leader.

Transcript


Sabrina
Let's talk about post pandemic leadership with Don Gatewood.

Hello, and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. I am your host Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you get the most out of your fundraising software. You can give us a visit at trustdriven.com if you'd like to learn more. We would love to connect with you and learn more about your fundraising goals.

Today we have Don Gatewood on the podcast to discuss what leadership looks like post pandemic. For 21 years, Don has led several nonprofit initiatives, teams, program operations, strategic planning, and so much more. He has worked with organizations like the American Red Cross, the Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit and Washington, as well as the center for Workforce Inclusion. Don is the current cofounder and CEO of the Initiative Baltimore, a professional leadership consultant, and the host of the podcast leadership and Professional Development with Don Gatewood. I am very excited to have him on the show today. Thank you so much, Don, for joining me.

Don
Thank you for having me here today.

Sabrina
Yeah. So you have had a lot of great conversations on your show about what makes an influential leader, and I'm curious on how you feel COVID has affected people's perception and expectations of leadership.

Don
Absolutely. Well, I think that the truth is COVID has had a lot of impact on jobs and the way that people work. For example, a lot more people are working remotely or at home versus how they were working before covid 19 occurred. A lot of people before COVID-19 were actually working in the office and had a chance to engage and interact with co workers in a much more personable way as opposed to now. Many of those positions have become either a hybrid between in the job office and working at home or in some cases, working at home or remotely full time. So that is a major change. However, I believe that despite those changes, the center of what makes strong leadership has not changed. And I believe that the center of strong leadership is trust. Do the people that you work with believe that you know what you're talking about? Do they believe that you're fair and unbiased? Do they believe that you care and have their best interests in mind? Do they believe that you have similar goals and expectations, work wise as them? In other words, do they trust you? So leadership, ultimately, effective leadership is about trust.

And although there have been some changes with how we do work, I believe the core of leadership and what makes effective leadership has not changed.

Sabrina
Yeah, there definitely is a core. I think what I've noticed is that COVID has emphasized that because I think people have no place to hide anymore. People are kind of getting fed up at their workplaces, and we've seen so much with the great resignation and people just going off and freelancing on their own. So I totally agree. I think that we always know what good leadership is, but I think our tolerance for bad leadership has definitely changed.

Don
Absolutely. I think that's the case. I believe that while the job market has changed some in certain industries, in other industries more opportunities have become more available and then people are in a position where they feel more empowered and feel like they have a voice and are willing to vocalize what it is that they perceive to be good working environment versus what is less ideal. And we've seen a lot more conversation around these expectations now more than ever before, or at least in my lifetime. So it's really interesting to watch it unfold.

Sabrina
Totally. As a nonprofit expert, somebody who's been in the industry for so many years, do you think that nonprofit face unique challenges when they're managing and leading a team as compared to for profits?

Don
Well, one thing that I will say about nonprofits and for profits or corporations is a lot of the challenges that they face are the same when you really think about a nonprofit and a for profit. They both have missions, both have obstacles as well as competitors. There are competitors and both people who work in both environments have competing priorities that they have to grapple with and sometimes they feel overworked. So there are a lot of similarities between the corporate or for profit versus the nonprofit. But to be fair, there are some unique differences with nonprofit. For example, nonprofit, the money largely comes from grants or philanthropic dollars that come from, let's say, Oprah Winfrey, Bill or Belinda Gates. Those are huge names, of course, but there are other organizations that are not as known, but that you donate hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars for initiatives and then there are also individual donations. You and I may make a $500 or $50 contribution a year to an organization of our choice. So the major difference with a nonprofit and a for nonprofit is the for profit usually has something that they're going to sell.

So I buy the headphones beats by dre, I give the money and I get an item. Whereas with the nonprofit, people, when they give money, they are more or less hoping that it's being used to affect change. Whatever the mission is, whether it's to reduce cancer, whether it's to increase playground for kids, or whether it's to clean up our environment so the whales and the squirrels have a safe habitat, nonprofit oftentimes are working toward a mission whereas corporations usually are selling a product. So that's one of the major changes and differences. And with nonprofit have to be very transparent and have to always be making decisions. Not only that are good decisions with the monies and the grand dollars, but being able to demonstrate the impact that you're having being visible on social media so that people feel comfortable that the money is being used correctly and appropriately that is a unique area that a nonprofit may have to face versus a for profit.

Sabrina
Yeah. Because for profits aren't expected to post how they're spending their money each year. For nonprofits are like transparency is key. People want to know everything.

Don
They want to know everything. People want to know that the money is being used effectively. But I will say this, though. Sometimes people have a misunderstanding about nonprofit. They feel that they require little to no money to operate. And I think that that's one of those fallacies that has to be constantly addressed. Because the truth is, talent and nonprofit, they have families and they require living wages. They have goals and aspirations, too, to provide for their families and their futures. And so they have to make a salary in order to achieve those goals that they have. So nonprofit, while are not selling an item, they certainly do in order to attract talent. And people who are able to carry out the mission, definitely they have to be compensated. So that's why those philanthropic dollars and those grants that corporations have to compete for, you right. Grants that you compete for those dollars. And if you're awarded the grant, then you awarded the money that you need to work toward your mission. So that's a really big area. And nonprofit, that sometimes a little bit misunderstood, but it definitely is vital to the organization's success and impact.

Sabrina
Yes. Finding and maintaining the talent is a crucial. And I've had so many conversations around fundraising turnover and burnout and all of these other issues that come with just like, having a lack of resources, not compensating your employees properly, just lack of support. So I think that having conversation around really good leadership and not only building trust, but also advocating for your team and making sure that there is, like, ethical standards being some places is crucial.

Don
Absolutely.

Sabrina
Yeah. You had an interview with Gene Gatewood, and you mentioned something that really stuck with me where you said that being a leader doesn't necessarily mean that you're leading a team or have people reporting to you. Can you build on this and kind of explain how you came to that mindset?

Don
Absolutely. So I had a conversation with Eugene Gatewood, who is an effective, amazing leader in the great state of Illinois. And he actually is, I guess it would be similar to a chief operating officer at a very large religious institution. And so he manages a lot of operations for a very large religious institution. And we were having a conversation about leadership and what exactly it is a leader. And definitely with a leader, the point that I wanted to make in that conversation is that when we think about leadership, we oftentimes think about titles such as a vice president or CEO, president or director. And oftentimes that is the way we frame the word leader or how we understand the word leader. But what I would argue is that leadership is so much more than your title. Leadership is more or less the influence that you have in your position, the influence that you have with people that you work with, the influence that you have over decisions, the trust that you have. What value do you bring when you talk, when you make suggestions, what influence does it have? And a person who is able to have impact is indeed a person that is a leader.

And whether you have that title or whether you don't as a VP or a president, you still indeed are a leader. In fact, what I would argue is a person who has those qualities are probably best positioned to be in a leader, president or COO position because you focus and you prioritize influence, influence, influence. And it's not just about giving somebody a directive or telling someone what to do or say, you know what? I don't like what you did, I'm going to fire you or you have to do this because I'm your boss. It's about understanding what the mission is, having the trust, having the will of the people and having people believe that what you say is thoughtful and then it makes sense for them and the company. And that is what the mark of an effective of as true leader is, not just that title. And the reason why I want to delineate that point is because I think that when people are thinking about their life missions and goals, we think about it sometimes I want to be the president of this company or I want to lead this great initiative, which are all great.

I mean, it's so wonderful to want to lead an initiative and have impact. It is wonderful. But do you want to do that just for the sake of saying I'm the president or I'm the leader? Or is it that you want to lead people to be their very best so that they can influence outcomes? After all, when you're in a big position, it's not just you, it's a whole team. And hopefully the goal is to ensure that they have what they need so that they can be successful and the outcomes can be fully realized. But without that mindset and without that understanding, you'll underperform and you'll miss the mark and continuously understand why. The why is simple. Instead of viewing leadership as an opportunity to have influence over people so that they can reach their fullest potential, you saw it as just simply having power and being able to direct people. And that's the difference between an effective leader and an ineffective leader.

Sabrina
There's definitely a difference between I believe you had the same or similar conversation in that interview. You're talking about like managing people versus leading people. There's a very distinct difference and someone can be really good at management but not so good at leadership and vice versa. So do you think that you can kind of learn how to do both or do some people just fall naturally into one of those categories?

Don
Right, I definitely think that we are born with innate skills and qualities. I mean, for example, managers being able to assess policy and procedure, develop guidelines and how we are going to go about doing things. Those are all vital and very necessary tools to manage an organization or department of team. Regarding leadership, some of us are naturally effective. We're motivators, we listen well, we are able to identify the best in people and we can really have impact and influence them. So I believe some of us do come to the table naturally with service skill sets. But I believe that you can learn all of these things. That's why there is no shortage of books or leadership at the library. There is no shortage of communication classes like the Toastmasters International. There is no shortage of organizations that are specific to your field and that they all focus on leadership, degree options, of course, certifications. And so we all have an opportunity to grow and enhance our skills as a manager, as a leader. And quite frankly, we should, because the best leaders are the ones who see their position as a continual learning. They see their position as on the cuffs of constant changes every area.

There's constant changes happening. We talked about COVID 19 earlier, but there are other changes that are happening in the industry, with the internet and with all these different technical things that keep coming about that years and changes our industry. And we have to be at the cusp of those changes so that we can effectively manage our team. So education is one of those things that's key to being an effective leader because you're constantly in a position of learning. You have not arrived, but you are becoming every single day. You're becoming, hopefully. And I think that spirit of becoming is certainly something that I think we should be constantly mindful of.

Sabrina
I'm curious because I feel like with learning there's also a lot of vulnerability because it takes a lot of guts to be like, you know what, I don't know the answer to this. I'm not really good in this area. What role do you think vulnerability plays leadership? And do you feel like there's a power in having the honesty and accountability with the team?

Don
Well, right, I think it's a wonderful question and I think that it really does. Fundamentally it just starts with a person's understanding of what leadership really is. I mean, if you understand that you have to listen to people even when you disagree with them, you have to recognize that your team, each individual has strengths, some that you don't have and expertise that you don't have. You take yourself not too serious because you have a team that has aspirations and goals in areas that's their expertise. And just remembering that you are part of a team, you're not just one person you don't have the answer. You are a part of a group. And just recognizing that when you're developing new initiatives and new ideas, it's perfectly okay to get things wrong because no great thing was ever just created in perfection the first time around. When you think about the bicycles that we ride or the computer that we're using right now to even have this conversation, there were so many errors that were made along the way and they're continuing to make adjustments. Even though the computer system is pretty efficient at this point, it still isn't perfect.

And that's why there's always these new iterations, new families of computers that are more efficient, that are better. And so when we think about that, I hope that gives us the peace and the ability to breathe out and say, I don't have to have all the answers, I don't have to get everything right. And even if I get it wrong, it's okay because getting it wrong is a lesson that actually is helpful toward us getting it right. And I think if we can look at it as an opportunity for us to grow and develop, then it won't be so much pressure on getting it wrong or having to get it right or not being able to take responsibility because we then just see it as a part of the process. Getting it wrong is a part of the process and the more you get it wrong, the closer you are to getting it right because you're learning what not to do, what's less effective. And that's a powerful lesson in getting it wrong. And I think that part of good leadership is understanding that fact and applying it in those situations where things maybe aren't going as smooth as we like them to go.

Sabrina
When things do start to get rocky, I know, at least for me, I start to doubt myself a lot. I'm like, am I making the right decisions? Normally I am part of a team and I'm like, I don't want to let my team down. And all this new stress and in this situation can get me really in my head. So I love to hear if you have any advice, people like me or people who also struggle with a little bit of a lack of confidence when they are in these kind of operator new situations, how do they break through that so they can be confident, they can assure the people around them that they are making good decisions?

Don
Right? I think that having concern, having doubt, being very present with the obstacles potentially in front of you, that is the mark of a winner. That's the mark of, I believe, of a leader. That's a good feeling to have. Think about people like Raphael Nadal, who just recently won the French Open in tennis. Or think about Felix, who is a fellow Canadian who is a rising star in tennis top ten. Think about all these athletes who are at the very, very top of their game, but at the end of the day they have an opponent and there's doubt there. Can you win? There is doubt there am I going to make the right shot and the right decision that's going to lead me to the win? So having those thoughts and feelings are really vital, I believe, to success because it keeps us present and it keeps us aware that there is opportunity here to get this thing right or to get this wrong. But hopefully with that idea we can think about how much we can prepare ourselves better so that we can be as strong as possible. For example, when you come up with ideas and thoughts in a department, I know I used sports example earlier, but when you come up with an idea or you have a competitor, you got to think about what are the pros and the cons of your approach, what are the pros and the cons of what you're trying to accomplish?

Why is this a good idea and what are some of the possible consequences of your idea? When you think about what your company is currently doing, why might this be a better option then your idea? Is this something new? Has there been other companies that have maybe done something similar? If so, have we researched and find out to see if other companies have done something similar, but to take it one step further when we're coming up with these thoughts and ideas that we may feel like I don't know if they're going to accept it or not. Have we done our research? Have we thought about what good outcomes and reasonable outcomes, what's realistic, what are some of the details that can come along with the idea that you're thinking about? And I think that if we think about all of those things, understanding what the pros and cons are, understanding if it's realistic or not, understanding what realistic outcomes are, doing our research, that can help us feel more strong about what we're proposing because we put in the work the same way the dog put in the work. And so even though now he's faced that opponent that's tough, he knows he's put in the work, he studied, so now he's prepared to deal and whether that storm that's going to come across that net and that's something to consider.

I think also if we are concerned about just the best method to deliver our ideas, we can think about do I share this information to my boss 101, do I share it in a team meeting or should I get with my team? And should this come as a group effort so that it's not one of us presenting this idea but it's coming from the whole team which may actually have more teeth and it may actually come across more strong because it's a group who's presenting these ideas. So I think that those are just some of the things that we can consider when we are feeling a little bit doubtful. Which is normal. Recognize that it's normal. But that just means we need to do the research to make sure we're informed and think about the best way to present the idea so that it could be received as well as we like it to be received.

Sabrina
0Yeah, knowledge is power for sure. I think that taking that time and really going through the steps and just making sure, okay, I have everything in place. There is anxiety there, which is normal. But again, if you are doing the research and you're putting the best foot forward, I guess there really isn't anything else you can do.

Don
Exactly. And if there are some areas that you just don't have the answers to, it's important that when you're presenting your ideas, you talk about the strengths, you talk about the weaknesses, how you deal with the weaknesses of the idea, but you also can admit that there are some areas where you don't have the answers. And as you all implement the idea, you'll scale and make adjustments along the way. It's okay to acknowledge that there are some unanswerable areas that's all a part of research and development. You learn along the way, and you adjust, you pivot, and you move forward with that new information that you have learned nothing and it's okay.

Sabrina
Before we go today, I would love to give you some space to share with our audience. How can they get in touch with you? Where can they learn more about you?

Don
Well, again, I want to say thank you so much for giving me this moment to have a conversation with you around topics that are super important as we all are growing and developing professionally, spiritually, emotionally. To get in touch with me. I'm available on all social media. My name is Don Gatewood. So I can be found on Instagram at Don Gatewood (@Dongatewood1). But then I have a website which is Dongatewood.com, so it's literally my name, Dongatewood.com. You can find me there, and on my website you will see that I am the host of a podcast called the Leadership and Professional Development Podcast with Don Gatewood. And so we deal with all of these topics about leadership as well. And I do a lot of fun work in leadership consulting as well. So you can definitely find me on all social media apps. To make it easy, just go to Dongatewood.com and all of my handles are there. But I'm on social media, Facebook, Instagram as well as LinkedIn. And so, yeah, I'm all around.

Sabrina
Well, thank you again, Don, for joining me on the show and sharing your knowledge with us.

I have Linked everything Don mentioned in the description box below. His podcast is phenomenal. I highly recommend it if you are looking to grow in your current position or just learn some more about leadership. And if you're looking to get involved in more things. Fundraising Superheroes, you can visit trustdriven.com, there you can listen to past podcast episodes to learn a little bit more about us and access resources like our blog. We would love to connect with you. Please reach out if you have any questions. As always, thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on The Fundraising Superheroes Podcast.


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