There is wide agreement in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors that the chief executive officer must devote at least 30 percent – some say up to 50 – of her time to serving as her organization’s Ambassador-in-Chief – speaking in pertinent forums, testifying before legislative committees, meeting with key stakeholders such as funders, and the like. The extraordinary nonprofit CEOs who recorded this really informative podcast – James McGuirk, Executive Director/CEO of Astor Services for Children and Families in Rhinebeck, New York, and Irene Rickus, President/CEO of the Children’s Home in Tampa, Florida – wholeheartedly agree that external/stakeholder relations is one of their top-tier CEO priorities, and they both play the Ambassador-in-Chief role with gusto.
Among the nuggets of wisdom you’ll glean from Jim’s and Irene’s podcast is that wearing the Ambassador-in-Chief hat involves not only speaking on behalf of your organization in important external forums – telling audiences about its values, vision, mission, programs, and accomplishments – but also listening carefully as a way of understanding what people, including clients, think of your organization. Jim and Irene also point out that there’s a critical internal dimension to the Ambassador-in-Chief role – building staff understanding and esprit de corps by explaining your nonprofit’s evolving vision, priorities, current initiatives, and also challenges and problems you’re currently grappling with.
Both Jim and Irene are among a growing number of nonprofit CEOs who recognize what a tremendous organizational asset board members are, not only because of the critical, high-stakes governing decisions and judgments they make, but also the productive role they can play in the external/stakeholder relations arena if their involvement is carefully orchestrated. So they both enthusiastically partner with their board members in playing the ambassadorial role, and they make a real effort to familiarize themselves with individual board members’ unique experience, knowledge, expertise, and networks so that they can match particular board members with particular ambassadorial opportunities.
After you listen to what Jim and Irene have to say about this critical CEO role, I hope you’ll comment and share your own experience.