In our podcast discussion this week, we are chatting with Mark Eddy, Executive Director of Leadership Southern Indiana. Topics discussed include knowing when it is time to expand, handling those who oppose change, funding an expansion, and personal growth as a leader to facilitate growth in your organization.
In his six years as Executive Director at Leadership Southern Indiana, Mark Eddy transformed the organization from a one-stop program shop to an organization serving all generations of professionals-in-development and expanding funds to accommodate the growing organization. The organization has added three new programs and funding has increase by 300%.
Leadership Southern Indiana started with a Community Based Program (DISCOVER) which is now in its 35th year. Since 2013 they have added ENGAGE (Combination of Skills Based and Experiential) and NEXGEN (Youth Leadership – 11th Grade). Their future plans are to build upon the Experiential Programming.
Mark is also dedicated to community service, as he serves on six non-profit boards. Mark and his wife, Jan, have four sons, ages 16-31. He is an elder at his church and also spends his time coaching soccer and with his family.
Leadership Southern Indiana is an organization that exists to train local professionals on how to better impact their community with the goal to create cross-sector, multi-generational leaders who become mobilized to transform the region as a whole.
You can listen and enjoy the full discussion with Mark Eddy in our podcast, but here are some of the highlights.
Knowing When It’s Time to Expand
It can be difficult to make a decision to expand an organization. For Leadership Southern Indiana, the conversation started at the board level. When Mark first started as their Executive Director six years ago, the community and board had already stated a conversation about what was next. They recognized that their program was a good one, but it seemed like there should be more. So Mark was specifically asked to look at this situation from an entrepreneur’s perspective and to see where he could take it.
Your Biggest Detractor Can Become a Great Advocate
Mark discusses some of the issues he had to deal with when he started the expansion process. He experienced some push back because of the branding change that was needed. One of the things he had learned from previous experience was to not avoid the people who were not happy about the changes. The best approach is to get them involved, find out what they think about the changes and let them know they are still valued. Creating an open channel of communications is very important. As a result of this, he has successfully turned the nay-sayers into partners in the process. People are going to have emotions attached to these situations. So one has to be respectful and listen to their input.
Growing Funding Doesn’t Always Mean a New Approach to Raising Funds
To support additional staff, their funding had to increase. But Mark explains that they didn’t have to add new fundraising programs. They were able to increase what was coming in from the existing sources. They saw increases in sponsorships, tuition fees, and alumni support. One area they are beginning to grow now is individual donations. Other than through alumni memberships they had not sought individual donations. Mark sees individual donations as the next area of increased funding – people supporting them that are not alumni.
Failure = Learning, And That’s a Good Thing
Mark has an interesting approach to failure, “I think it’s important that I do fail, quite often, for me to learn.” Mark tells a story of one of his biggest failures/learning experiences. They were doing a fast launch on a new program when Mark got ahead of the board. He had been promoting the program and almost had a full class when they put on the brakes as they weren’t sure that they were ready. Mark had to go back to the program recruits and the funders, and tell them it wasn’t happening that year.
Although he was a bit embarrassed, his take-away was that he better understood that all involved were on the same page before a launch, especially one that could change the organization. Communications was a big area that had to see improvements.
Letting Go Allows Others the Room to Grow
When asked if his leadership style has changed with the organization growth and addition of staff, Mark replies that not only has it changed him, but it was also a big challenge for him. He tends to be a controller, so he knew as they added staff he needed to allow them to lead and fill their role without him in the way. One way he helped this happen was to hire carefully. He was attentive to the right type of personality that worked well with everyone. This has lead to an environment of mutual respect.
Mark attributes his ability to make this transition in his leadership style to reading John Maxwell’s book The 21 Laws of Leadership. One of the laws is the law of the lid, or know your limits. Eventually when growing an organization, a person reaches a point when it can’t be done alone – one needs other people to help reach the next level. Mark learned that he needed to bring in other people who had different experiences, different leadership skills, and allow them to help influence the organization.