"I build relationships with everybody I touch. I hear what people say. I ask them lots of questions. I remember [the details of their lives]. We both get the gift of perspective, the gift of idea trading," says Anne Marie Burgoyne, the enthralling, walks-the-talk portfolio director at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.
Remixing traditional networking into lifelong learning, she urges, "Understand not just the subject matter, but the people matter." Wow. I love this advice.
Offering essential feedback to job-seekers and budding social entrepreneurs alike, Ann Marie tells it like is:
I find most (informational interviews) unhelpful and clueless. I don't think people come prepared. I am always surprised when people... have not even read my website bio. If I were going to an [informational interview], I would have a list of 10 or 12 'how and why' questions.
That, unacceptably, is my all too frequent experience as well. With youth unemployment at more than fifty percent, I rarely even take an informational interview these days. Instead, I am hosting iOnPoverty to give hundreds of thousands of recent grads and current students the kind of nuanced counsel that Anne Marie provides. Invaluable.
When Anne Marie earned a Stanford MBA, she realized that she still did not have the unique CEO-skills needed to lead a nonprofit:
You can go one of two ways after you get your MBA: Play to your strengths and then you will do that [same thing] for your whole life. Or, you can use that point in time to shore up your weaknesses.
Smartass graduates take note: humbleness. Skills strengthening never ends. Anyone worth a damn (or worth knowing, or worth working with) is always into nonstop quality improvement, both professionally and personally.
Smartass, market-obsessed MBAs, take note: Even super-charged business training from the best b-school is not an automatic ticket to a run a social enterprise. Some of the same skills are important for sure, but the CEO of a nonprofit needs a broad range of managerial competence, interpersonal maturity, grounded values and pure grit to change the status quo.
Start with hard-learned, hard-earned listening skills. Listen to your clients, listen to the impoverished, listen to those who have pioneered (the successful and the failed), listen to your colleagues, listen, listen, listen.
Be a learning leader. Be a listening leader. Don't settle. Be better than you are today.
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