Saturday, May 5, 2007

ED Leader Newsletter #10

Dear ED Leader Subscriber:

Here is your latest weekly newsletter. I hope you will find the articles in it to be of interest.

I received some emails about my recommendation in last week's issue that the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) establish a leadership development institute. In short, four people felt this was a worthwhile idea, one person said IEDC should give more attention to leadership development but not create a separate institute, and one person said it was better for economic developers interested in leadership development use existing resources, like the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina. Thank you for sharing your views.

I want to especially call your attention to my article, entitled Economic Development: What Do We Spend and Is It Worth It? . What are your thoughts on the idea? I would enjoy hearing them. This is an important issue worthy of your consideration.

Looking for a speaker on leadership issues in economic development? I would be delighted to come and speak to your group. You can contact me by email ( or phone at: 440.449.0753.

Best wishes,

Don Iannone

How to Lead Knowledge Workers

According to Faith Ralston, President of Leaps of Faith, Inc., an author and leadership coach for executive teams, there are five deadly sins to avoid in leading knowledge workers. This is relavant to the economic developer because we are knowledge workers and we spend most of our time working with knowledge workers.

They are, according to Ralston:

1. Focus only on what's wrong.

The "no news is good news" approach to leading knowledge workers is a receipt for disaster. You might think that if employees aren't screwing up, they don't need to hear from you. But knowledge workers want to be recognized. They need your attention. Recognize progress and give recognition to foster their talents and help them move in the right direction and fuels their enthusiasm. Avoid focusing only on what's wrong and acknowledge what's going right.

2. Ignore poor performers.

High-performing knowledge workers want you to deal with poor performers, otherwise the problem lands in their lap. You must address performance challenges by coaching the employee, reassigning the individual to an area where their talents are best suited or remove them altogether. In either case, pay attention to problems and take corrective action. Don't let laggards linger, derail your progress and de-motivation other employees.

3. Overlook boredom and talent misfit.

Job uncertainty and fear may prevent employees from speaking up about a change that's needed. It's your job to notice when individuals lost interest, struggle in their current position, or slack off for some unknown reason. Address these issues head on instead of allowing them to continue. There's no joy in just getting by. You don't help employees by allowing a bad fit to continue. Tough love with self and others is part of moving into the new economy.

4. Let them say "YES" to everything.

Help knowledge workers curb their appetite to work on interesting projects that are unrelated to business priorities. No matter how exciting a project is, you must help employees discern: "Is this project contributing to the goals of the business?" Can I justify the time and energy I'm spending on it? Will this initiative help us achieve the outcomes we want?" Many times, knowledge workers bite off more than they can chew. A wise leader helps employees set limits and say "no" for their own sake as well as for the business.

5. Fail to give feedback.

In organizational life, no one wants to hear: This isn't working. But individuals need to know when their attitudes and behaviors are causing others a problem. No matter how exceptional the person is, he or she can make a mistake sometimes without knowing it. A wise leader helps individuals recognize problems and learn from problems. Don't wait until there is a crisis to raise a touchy subject and give feedback. Regular feedback helps employees grow.

Friday, May 4, 2007

100 Bulls**t Jobs...And How to Get Them

Ok. This is a must read for every economic developer!

The scholarly discipline of Bullsh**t Studies has blossomed in the last several years, fertilized by a number of critical works on the subject and the growing importance of the issue across a wide range of professions. Now, best-selling author and lifelong practitioner Stanley Bing enters the field with a comprehensive look at the many attractive jobs now available to those who are serious about their bullsh**t and prepared to dedicate their working life to it.

What, Bing inquires, do a feng shui consultant, new media executive, wine steward, department store greeter, and Vice President of the United States have in common? What, too, are the actual duties performed by a McKinsey consultant? Other than sitting around making people nervous? Could that possibly be his core function? Likewise, what does an aromatherapist actually do, per se? Sniff things and rub them on people, for big fragrant bucks? Is that all?

The answer in all cases is "Yes." They all have bullsh**t jobs.

These few, of course, are just the beginning. Across the length and breadth of this shrinking globe, skillful bullsh**t artists have secured pleasant, lucrative employment, and are enjoying themselves more than you are. In virtually every occupation, from Advertising to Yoga Franchising, lucky individuals who "work" in these coveted positions enjoy the best lives imaginable -- they are paid well, they rarely break a sweat, and their professions are highly respected, because nobody really knows what they do.

At once funny, useful, and tolerably philosophical, this groundbreaking work takes a close look at 100 bullsh**t jobs -- the money they bring with them, the actual tasks and activities involved (if any), and famous and successful examples of each position, who will provide the neophyte with inspiration. Most crucially, Bing goes on to offer what others so far have not--a clear, concise strategy to help job-seekers at every level reach for that brass ring, knowing full well that it may be attached to the nose of a bull.

So, is economic development a bullsh**t job?

Buy the book here.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Economic Development: What Do We Spend and Is It Worth It?

At the onset, let me say that the issue I am about to raise is a thorny one, and not one any of us is presently well equipped to answer.

Are we investing enough in economic development, and is the investment we make worthwhile?

As I look at the nonprofit side of economic development alone, I am struck at how little we know about the characteristics of the organizations working in our field. Shame on all of us. We should be doing a better job in this area.

It strikes me that the vast majority of nonprofits working in the economic development field are small organizations trying to tackle a "big cause." Yes, it is true that a large number of governmental organizations also serve the economic development needs of areas, but for now let's look at just the private nonprofit side of the ED industry. At another point, we can examine governmental ED organizations.

It is not uncommon to find a network of let's say 13 nonprofit ED organizations (usually one or two bigger ones and several much smaller ones), perhaps with a combined annual operating budget of $20 million and a combined staff of 120 people, working to strengthen a $200 billion urban county economy. Is that too much, about right, or not enough? Hard question to answer in the abstract.

Here are three better questions we might ask:

1. What should we include in our definition of an ED organization? Do you include the total budget of a chamber of commerce or just the direct ED budget of the chamber? Do you include your regional technology council? (And yes, in a comprehensive accounting study of the field we would need to include the governmental ED organizations.)

2. What impact are we trying to have on a local or regional economy? How many jobs and what type are we trying to grow? How much do we want to add to total county or regional economic output on an annual basis? These are just two of many questions we might ask.

3. Is the investment (annual operating) made in EDOs sufficient to attain their intended local or regional impact? I dare say that most areas would have a hard time answering these three questions with any degree of precision.

Recently, I reviewed a list of the top 100 nonprofits in America. No, economic development did not make the list. One reason why we are not included is we do not follow a national model like United Way or the American Cancer Society. Most of the organizations on this list have local organizations on the ground in cities and counties across the country. For example, United Way has local organizations in most counties and regions.

Where does economic development, as a field, stand compared to the fields (education, healthcare, poverty, food, environmental conservation, etc.) served by organizations on this top nonprofit list. Perhaps it is time we as leaders in the economic development field think about the scalability issue and whether we should do something about it.

Let's start with the question of whether what we do is important. A better question is: How important is what we do? If what we do is so important, perhaps it makes sense to increase the scale of what we do. Again, back to my original question: Are we investing enough? And as a follow-up question I would add: Are we spending enough on the right things that will make the greatest difference in local economies? Just adding to the number of organizations at the local or regional level is not the answer. As many studies have shown, we have too many organizations now that tend to operate in a decentralized and loosely coordinated manner.

For starters, there is no comprehensive accounting on how many ED organizations exist, how much is spent annually by these organizations, and what collective impact they have on economic conditions in American communities. This would be a daunting task, to say the least, but maybe we should be doing better research on the EDO industry and its collective impact.

Before you decide to run off and do an economic impact study on your organization's efforts, let's talk about this issue a bit. Some perspective can be helpful before we start thinking about the scale issue. Let's look at some basic facts about the top 100 nonprofits nationally. These are national organizations, but let's look at their size and characteristics. I will share a few insights from the 2006 Top Nonprofits list published by The Nonprofit Times (NPT). You can download the full report here.

In the 18th annual NPT 100, the buy-in to make the list was $130.77 million, up from the $115.27 million it took to make it onto last year’s list. Overall, total rev­enue for the 100 organizations was $58.99 billion, compared to $49.7 billion last year, a difference of almost 18 percent, and nearly double last year’s 9.8 percent increase. Public support also was up nearly one-third among the 100 nonprofits,up from $23.1 billion to $29.4 billion. (Note: These revenues represent the budgets of the national organizations and not the collective budgets of all their state and local affiliates.)

Here is a list of the 25 largest from the Top 100 list (2005 $ Income):

1 YMCA of the USA, 5,130,851,000
2 Salvation Army, 4,559,292,000
3 American Red Cross, 3,888,172,726
4 Catholic Charities USA, 3,286,072,070
5 Goodwill Industries International, 3,022,623,000
6 United Jewish Communities, 2,948,891,000
7 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1,789,954,000
8 Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 1,329,349,168
9 AmeriCares Foundation, 1,316,498,349
10 Habitat for Humanity International, 1,021,837,686
11 American Cancer Society, 977,851,000
12 Nature Conservancy, 918,403,961
13 World Vision, 901,661,000
14 Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 866,100,000
15 Gifts In Kind International, 860,480,186
16 Feed the Children, 851,964,213
17 Volunteers of America, 839,435,494
18 Boy Scouts of America, 836,012,000
19 National Easter Seal Society, 833,706,602
20 Food For The Poor, 781,838,931
21 Girl Scouts of the USA, 737,141,253
22 Catholic Relief Services, 707,894,000
23 Shriners Hospitals for Children, 705,002,000
24 CARE 624,414,00025
25 American Heart Association, 589,862,099

We do not have the facts to adequately address the issue I am raising here, but I believe we need to think about the scale issue as we examine future strategies to strengthen the health of local economies.

As you look at the above list of 25 nonprofits, should economic development be a $5 billion industry or a $500 million industry? How big are we now from an income or revenue perspective? If we assume that the 362 metro areas across the US spend on average $10 million annually on economic development, then we are looking at a $3.62 billion industry in metropolitan America. And yes, some very large areas spend far more than that, and some smaller MSAs spend much less than that. This does not include the large number of ED organizations working in non-metro areas. And once again, it does not include the budgets of governmental ED organizations.

What's my point? I think we need to know our industry better in the future, and we need to find a more worthwhile way of relating investments in ED organizations to the scale of the challenge we seek to tackle. As leaders in this field, we must work toward better answers to these key issues that will determine our future success.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Inspiring Leadership Quotes for Economic Developers

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. --Harold R. McAlindon

Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. --Dwight D. Eisenhower

There go the people.I must follow them for I am their leader. --Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

The real leader has no need to lead--he is content to point the way. --Henry Miller

Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves. --Lao Tzu

He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. --Aristotle

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Any one can hold the helm when the sea is calm. --Publilius Syrus

A leader is a deal in hope. --Napoleon Bonaparte

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Practical Advice on Sharpening Your Leadership Skills


The role of leadership in American society, including economic development, is gaining increasing recognition. Just as society looks for a leader to define its purpose and lead it forward, economic development must be concerned the selection and development of people who can successfully lead.

Management strategies of the last several decades: management by objectives, diversification, zero-based budgeting, value chain analysis, decentralization, centralization, quality circles, restructuring, management by "walking around" etc., have not had the significant, long lasting affect that some of the tried and true, but often forgotten, strategies of leadership can offer.

One fundamental change in the strategy of managing in today's environment is the concept of coaching rather than managing. Many businesses have rightly redesigned their work flow around processes. These processes enable the creation of process teams, in other words, a person or group responsible for an entire business process. Team supervision, commonly referred to as coaching, demands more education than training. The difference is execution. Training generally implies learning the skills necessary to perform a particular function. Training someone in the art of collections becomes very focused on that function. However, education expands the scope of the collection function to understand the role of cash flow to the business, the impact on sales and marketing, and the relationship of collection to the credit extension philosophy. Training teaches skills, education teaches the job. There are several strategies found useful in the art of successful leadership and supervision. Self Esteem

When you make someone feel important, you gain their willingness to work for you.

Here are some techniques to improve self esteem:

• Ask their advice. Even though you may feel you have the answers to a problem, ask for their help. This makes the employee feel that you think their opinion is worth considering.

• Remember the name of the person you are dealing with, and use it often in your conversation. Remember the most important thing to a person is their name.

• Discuss subjects; but do not argue about them. Arguing infers that you think the other person is wrong, therefore bringing the person down, and hurting their self esteem.

• Sincerely compliment them occasionally. You can surely find something to praise someone about.

• Be more willing to listen than to talk. Pay close attention, and show interest in what they are saying.

• Be interested in the person. Keep people well informed on all matters that may concern them.

• Show respect for a person's knowledge by repeating a remark of theirs that will reflect favorably on them.

Become a Good Listener

Generally people do not know how to be good listeners. People usually only remember about half of the information they are told. Below are some points on becoming a good listener.

• Be ready to listen. Stay alert in your posture and in your facial expression.

• Try to avoid distractions.

• Eliminate bias in your thoughts about a person, otherwise you will never comprehend what they are saying.

• To ward off boredom, try to stay ahead of the speaker by anticipating what she may say next.

• Try to group thoughts or points to make it easier to remember.

• Look for key words in what the person is saying. It makes recalling the conversation easier.


Planning is one of the key management tools. Certainly all of our companies have short, and long range plans. Through planning, we decide a course of action to achieve goals and accomplish objectives. Planning prepares us for how to perform in the event certain things happen.

• Planning requires getting facts and data. The more information you can gather together, the better equipped you will be to make decisions.

• Policies and procedures are either originated or examined and brought up-to-date when planning.

• Objectives are also reviewed when a planning process is implemented.

• Planning helps to unify an organization by getting others involved.

• Change is accepted more easily when the plans are known throughout the organization.

• Planning brings attention to dangers or pitfalls. If the planning is thorough, disadvantage as well as advantages will be uncovered.

• Decision making skills of the staff can be strengthened, through proper planning. For instance, if several alternatives could be taken to solve a problem, a decision must be made as to which one will be carried out. Ask for thoughts and comments from the staff.


People at all levels must feel they are needed. You cannot motivate a person if they do not feel essential to the process.

Ways to make a person feel needed:

• Keep them informed.

• Challenge a person, thus allowing them to grow.

• Make them feel proud of the job they are doing.

• Praise the person. Let them know they are doing a good job.

• Learn what people want from their jobs. Individual or team recognition, routine tasks or constant challenges...know someone's likes and dislikes in order to be able to motivate them.

• Recognition is more important to some people than salary. People want to be given credit for a job well done.

• Make mention of special accomplishments of an employee (or even their family) even if it is an accomplishment outside of work.

Communication is the key to motivating. Listening (see prior note) is an important factor.

• People like to know what is going on, and what to expect.

• Keep them informed.

• Have regular meetings to exchange thoughts and take the opportunity to advise them of what is going on around the company, with customers and in the industry.

Show enthusiasm about your work and that will help to set a work ethic thus motivating others.
Set goals for those you supervise. Also, help them achieve the goals by giving them the opportunity to get things done. Do not set unrealistic goals.

Guiding People

The art of dealing with people when they fail to do their job or they behave abnormally. The better you know an individual, the better job you can do of disciplining him. With some people, you need to be firm, or even demanding. Others, just a hint of a suggestion for change is all that is necessary. Here are a few strategies on making one of the most distasteful acts of supervision a little more palatable:

• Try to discuss the situation as soon as possible after the incident. That way, the situation is fresh on everyone's mind.

• Usually, time only makes matters appear worse.

• Talk to the individual in private. Try not to let other people see or hear you.

• Don't embarrass the person

• Try to be friendly, and listen to the person tell their side of the story first.

• Weigh and decide the facts before you constructively discipline.

• Do not nag or harp on the subject over and over again. This will only cause irritation.

• Do not argue.

• Control your emotions and try to control the other persons'.

• Try to have the person see the seriousness of the situation, and why they should change their attitude or performance.

• Attempt to determine the reaction to your discipline.

• See if the individual feels they are being treated fairly.

• Try to get a commitment from them to do better in the future.

Handling Personality Problems

• People with personality problems are that way because of their strong emotive response to situations.

• Some people feel that everybody is against them.

• Some may be over-aggressive or even hostile, while others may be very submissive or dependent.

• How you handle such people determines whether these individuals become human relations problems of a higher level.

Here are some things to do and not to do when dealing with such situations:

• Avoid becoming involved on an emotional level. This does not mean to ignore the individual, but rather to help them by doing all that you are responsible to do.

• Emotional problems should be left to professional counseling.

• Delicately recommend professional help.

• DO NOT allow yourself, and discourage others from becoming emotionally involved with the person. This becomes very time consuming, and generally ends up affecting several people and has no positive effect. Remember, misery loves not become entangled in the problem

• Try to help the person with a particularly strong personality trait by teaming them with compatible individuals. This may mean putting two aggressive people together, rather than a passive and a bold one.

• Sometimes however, it may be beneficial to put together an apprehensive person with a confident one. This may serve to mature the more apprehensive individual.

• Sometimes, you may have the opportunity to match a person's personality to a particular task, which may help to change their surroundings, and thus create a new emotional as well as physical outlook in their work environment. Often times, this will have a positive carry over into their home life.


A skill that really requires disciplining yourself that will in turn allow you to supervise better.
How to make your job easier:

• Could much of the work that you do be done by those you supervise?

• Do you frequently find yourself overloaded with detail work?

• Are you taking more and more work home with you at night?

• Are you working longer hours?

• Are those important jobs you are asked to do getting done just in time or a day or two late?

• Is too much of your time being spent on unimportant jobs?

• Have the things that you do become routine in nature?

If the answer to most of these questions is "yes," then maybe you have not yet adopted one of the KEY skills of managing, the art of delegation. This is particularly important if you have hopes of moving up in the organization. Your skill in delegating could be a major factor in deciding whether you can handle greater responsibilities and a greater job.

A SUCCESSFUL LEADER gets things done through others.

• Do not fall into the pitfalls of being fearful of delegation.

• Unwillingness to delegate may be a psychological problem involving fear. Unfounded reasons for this are:

• That credit for the job being done will go to someone else.

• That it will become known that others know more about a particular job than you do.

• That someone may do the job better that you have been doing.

Remember it is to your credit and it exhibits confidence in your skills as a leader to place competent people around you. Delegation is a requisite of good supervision. It supports trust and confidence in those you supervise and enables them to handle the tasks that will free you to do more important work.

• Make it known that you are now doing more top level decision making and possibly researching new techniques and ideas to better the operation.

• Effective delegating requires proper planning and thought, and also proper follow-up.

Here are some suggestions for making delegation successful:

1. Understand the purpose of delegating. You have three basic objectives in delegating:
- Get the job done.
- Free yourself for other work.
- Have your "team" benefit by learning and experiencing what you have been doing.

2. Decide specifically what you can delegate. Generally delegate as much of your work as possible. Do yourself only what no one else can do.

3. Recognize that subordinates will make mistakes. Make sure they understand what they are to do. Be willing to take blame for mistakes that may be made.

4. Clarify what you are delegating. Agree on what the task is and how much "power" you are delegating to them to perform a particular job. Also, let others know of the arrangements so that proper cooperation will be extended to get the job done.

5. Most important, follow-up. Remember that although you have delegated responsibility and empowered others to get the job done, you still have the final accountability for the job. Ask your team for progress reports or discuss with them from time to time.


This newer strategy may in-fact be the culmination of all the points above. Simply put, empowerment is delegation taken a step farther. In delegation, the supervisor is not only accountable for the results, but also assumes some responsibility since in most cases the delegated tasks most often are the job of the supervisor.

Empowerment is the total, unmistakable passing on of responsibility to a person or team to accomplish a job or perform a process. As coach or leader, you maintain accountability for the overall outcome or results of the process.

Empowerment brings with it a challenge for the organization to provide state-of-the-art systems, education, tools and most importantly support to the team for maximum performance.

Applying empowerment frequently shifts ownership of a function or process from a traditional supervisor to a group, and with that ownership transfer; pride, job satisfaction, motivation and creativity develop.


• Remember, you can be a great influence on the initiative and drive of those you coach or supervise.

• Be enthusiastic and continually look for ways to maintain morale, build confidence, and motivate.

• Be a good listener. Talking about a situation or a problem expands communication so that understanding is improved.

• Do a good job of planning and scheduling. Keep your team informed so they will understand their role in the organization and will tend not to be confused.

• Keep people busy. Generally, people would like to have too much to do than not enough to do. They lose self esteem if they are not kept busy, and then productivity falls off dramatically.

• Try to solve problems promptly. Letting bad situations go tends to only make them worse.

• Give people a chance to do their work without "annoying" them. Leave them alone unless they need you for something, and let them work.

• Provide the tools, environment and most importantly support for your team to perform at its peak.

• Show your human side. Demonstrate that you care about someone by visiting them when they are in the hospital or on extended sick leave. Wish someone a happy birthday. Remember their employment anniversary.

• Be fair. Do not favor people. Praise them when it is due and constructively criticize when it is due.

A leader or coach who loses contact with her team or group will fail. Therefore, it is important for anyon in leadership to remember that he/she must maintain close contact with the group if he is to function as a coach or supervisor. Many supervisors fail not because of limitations on their own general ability; but, on their inability to delegate, listen, plan, motivate, discipline, and empower.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Look at Best Practices

I get this question all the time: "How can you tell when "best practice" really is best practice?" This is a great question. Often, I find in economic development, there are NO best practices, only lots of self-proclaimed best practices. But let's see what a expert has to say.

Jason Saul, the author of Benchmarking for Nonprofits: How to Measure, Manage, and Improve Performance, provides some good advice and insights on this question. Let's look at the basics Saul talks about.

The term best practice gets thrown around a lot these days. Everyone strives to make their programs "best practice." Books and websites compile "best practices." Funders ask that we seek out best practice and adapt our programs accordingly. The concept gets tossed about so much that most of us would just as soon toss it out completely. Much of the time, it seems more like someone else's impossible dream than a manageable, practical goal.

Saul defines a best practice is the most successful and efficient means of achieving a particular outcome for an organization.

He continues to note that best practices are always relative. Lists of "best practices" are often less-than-useful, because these practices are divorced from the processes that created them. Without the knowledge of processes used to achieve an outcome, the actual best practice has little meaning. It is entirely possible that one organization's best practice may be the worst for another. For example, a board retreat may be a time-honored tradition that energizes board recruits for one organization. For another, board retreats may be time-wasting and counterproductive--not because the retreat itself is not a "best practice" but because the board has other effective ways of energizing recruits.

Saul lists six guiding principles for best practice:

-Is there a proven track record of success? (Obviously, without a track record, the success could be a fluke unrelated to the "best practice.")

-Are the results sustainable? (A practice that requires unsustainable inputs will eventually fail.)

-Can the idea be replicated? (A practice that is unique to a particular leader or set of circumstances has little chance of being adapted to fit another leader or situation.)

-Is it cost-effective? (As with sustainability, a practice that is too expensive for its results is not "best.")

-Does it help us achieve our mission? (Mission relationship is at the heart of any practice we adapt.)

-Does it fit the particular context? (Many practices are suitable only for certain situations and not for others.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

ED Leader Newsletter #9

Dear ED Leader Subscriber:

Here is your weekly newsletter. I hope you will find the articles in it to be thought-provoking. I was provoked to thought in writing a few of them.

I want to especially call your attention to An Idea for IEDC. What are your thoughts on the idea? I would enjoy hearing them.

It takes a sense of humor to be a good leader. I hope this point comes through in this week's issue.

Here is a tidbit from my leadership research. Two-thirds of all ED boards and leadership bodies do not evaluate their own performance. I think they should. What do you think?

Best wishes,

Don Iannone