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7 Nonprofit New CEO and Executive Leadership Questions with Joe Hungler

Joe Hungler has over 30 years of youth development and leadership experience.

Name: Joe Hungler

Number of years as a CEO or Executive Director: 10 years ED, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell

Current Title: Executive Director

Joe provides strategic direction to and support for Club staff, board members, volunteers, partners, and youth to help them to achieve the Club’s mission and vision. A former Club member himself, Joe has worked for the Boys & Girls Club movement for more than 30 years. Prior to becoming Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Joe served at several other Clubs throughout New England, including contributing to a successful $10 million capital campaign in Worcester. Joe has won many awards and has been honored for his work throughout his time with the Club.

1. What advice would you give to professionals who have taken on a CEO or executive role for the first time?

Your #1 role is to lead-you are the keeper of the culture, the visionary, the cheerleader, and the “buck stops here.” Realize that everything you do will be watched so others know what is important to the organization.

2. What is your best advice to navigate the first 90 days?

Listen, and listen some more. Ask your staff, your clients, your donors, and your board members what the org does well, where are opportunities to have great impact, and what is one thing they would change if they had a magic wand. Face-to-face is best, but surveys, small groups, and more. Lead by asking questions so others can take ownership of making change. Ask about why things are done, not just how to teach the team (including the board) to act intentionally and with purpose. If they are thinking through the why there is less that you have to change. Write down everything you want to do differently. You can’t do it all at once and you will likely stop seeing some things. Lastly, be vulnerable. Let them know who you are beyond your title and role. People follow people, not titles. The same goes in reverse. Learn your people and take notes so you know who has kids, who is in college etc. 

3. What is your best advice on how to work with the board?

Connect them to the mission as frequently as possible. Set up a weekly meeting with the board chair-no surprises, they know all the warts. If the board isn’t clear on roles, set up training around that and ask what the goals of the various committees are, and then set up a dashboard to track those goals. The board meeting should be the board’s job-board member’s should give the various committee reports. Then communicate. Give them stories they can tell. Also, be specific with your requests. When a request goes to everyone, it is easy for people to ignore it.

4. What is your best advice on leading a team?

Focus on culture, the why, and goal setting followed by communication and accountability. Let them do their jobs within that framework. Autonomy is different at every level, but key to a thriving organization.

5. What is your best fundraising advice?

Be a storyteller and watch when eyes light up. Focus on the relationship. People want to help, you are giving them an opportunity. Individual giving is the best return on investment. I have been turned down, but have continued those relationships. More often, I am thanked for the opportunity to be a part of something and for the opportunity to make a difference. It went from the part of the job I worried about the most to the part that I enjoy the most. Think of it in the context of the relationship and the opportunity to impact the mission and it becomes a joy. (Of course, there is drudgery in the work surrounding the meeting).

6. Share your greatest failure as a CEO and executive and the lesson learned. We often learn the most from our failures.

We created a new position and I didn’t give an internal candidate the opportunity to apply for it. There was no reason I couldn’t have slowed the process down to make her feel heard. Her performance made it clear she wasn’t ready for the position, but I should have had a better process.

7. Recommended reading. What book helped you on your journey?

The Four Hour Workweek-Really helped me with priorities and managing my time. I certainly didn’t work 4 hours a week after that, but I did more of what made a difference both personally and professionally afterwards.

I hope this helps. Let me know. Sharing is caring.

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Thank you to those nonprofit CEO and Executive Directors who’ve generously done the 7 questions!

I hope reading 7 Questions with Joe Hungler helps you in your nonprofit journey.

Your mission matters,

Sabrina Walker Hernandez,

President & CEO

Supporting World Hope

Categories Board Development, CEO Leadership, Leadership, nonprofitTags , , ,

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