When working with educational and non-profit executives I encourage each to consider their capacity to convene. Specifically, how effectively can they convene individuals of influence and affluence from a variety of perspectives – business, political, religious, and/or other leaders – to advance the organization? Or to put it another way, how often will important people answer their call?
Why should leaders be concerned with their convening capacity? Because the most efficient way to enhance the capacity of your organization to live out its mission is to meaningfully engage the best possible partners.
This capacity is often overlooked in leadership development but there are ways to enhance yours. First, it helps to be the chief executive. However, I’ve seen vice presidents or other lieutenants with exceptional convening capacities. And goodness knows I’ve watched chief executives squander their built-in advantage to convene. But usually, the top position brings with it an advantaged position from which to convene.
Second, you can enhance your convening capacity by asking penetrating questions and listening. This one is not always easy. Some educational and non-profit leaders think they have all the answers, but there is truth is the old adage,
“if you want money, ask for advice; if you want advice ask for money.”
You should regularly be asking for (and taking some) advice from those of influence and affluence. Having a formalized method of advisory boards or councils to do this is the most effective.
Finally, a surefire way to enhance your capacity to convene is to involve yourself and your organization in initiatives not of your creation. What does this mean? Become an asset! I watch leaders regularly who miss this point. What are the passions and interests of those you wish to convene and how can you help advance those causes?
There is a private school in the capital city of a mid-atlantic state which struggled for years. Over a decade ago they hired a president who decided struggling wasn’t good enough. He set out first to ask good questions and listen to the responses. And then he decided to get involved in helping to advance other causes in the city and broader region. A decade later, the Board of this school is filled with a who’s who of individuals of great influence and affluence. In addition, nothing of measure which occurs in the city and beyond happens without the institution’s involvement. And, consequently, the institution has never been stronger nor served more students.
What will you do today to enhance your power to convene?