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Investing in the most important work on the planet…

For the past two months I’ve been meeting with a group of professional coaches who are or are interested in coaching leaders in the social sector. One of the main topics of discussion is the fact that most CBOs (community benefit organizations) don’t invest in themselves or their own leaders. Money for professional development is limited at best, and many executive directors and board members believe that funds should always go to programs first.

What message does this send to the people who’ve chosen to spend the bulk of their time and energy working toward the mission of this organization? Is their development less important than the organization’s clients?

Can you imagine if Costco or Starbucks had this attitude? They would never be able to retain the talent that makes them successful, that gives them a competitive advantage.

Foundations and corporations are often reluctant to fund leadership coaching or other professional development efforts in the CBOs they support. If it doesn’t contribute to the “bottom line” of meeting the mission, it may seem irrelevant.

There’s a major fallacy in this line of thinking, however. Without the people who do the work, the leaders who make a difference, there are no programs, there is no mission impact.

There is a profound and I would argue essential connection between the hearts and minds of the people doing the work and the effectiveness of CBOs themselves. And we ignore this connection at our peril. Its time to put our money where our mouths are.

If we are doing the most important work on the planet, we need the very best care and feeding available. Like a top athlete who eats only the freshest, most nutritious food before a game, we deserve to care for our hearts and minds so we can do our best work, even if it’s for the good of our clients. Maybe especially so.