Staying ahead of the game in 2023

Posted on 14 Dec 2022

By Adele Stowe-Lindner, ICDA general manager

Rollercoaster i Stock 487064336

Hasn’t this year been a wild ride? Not-for-profit leaders have had to contend with natural disasters, rocketing living costs, a difficult economy, culture wars, election shocks, sporting surprises, a nerve-wracking global security outlook, and dodgy governance at the highest levels. And that’s just for starters.

We can’t know what’s in store for us in 2023, but being prepared for what’s to come is a mark of good leadership. The end of the year is a great time to take stock and ask your board to consider these basics:

  • Where do we stand?
  • What do we do and why do we do it?
  • Who should do that work, and do we have the right players?

Eventually, in any board’s cycle, it will become time to refresh the organisational strategy (or write the first one!). Any new strategy should be a predictable product of the organisation in many respects – it shouldn't come as an enormous surprise.

Adele Stowe-Lindner
ICDA general manager Adele Stowe-Lindner

However, changing times bring changed culture, changed priorities and changed language. For example, think of the terminology associated with diversity and inclusion, which has changed over the years, and the place of environmental policies in organisations of all sorts. For leaders, staying ahead of the game is one of the things that defines leadership.

Each decision to stop doing one thing or to start doing another can be frightening for board members, staff and volunteers alike. There are some things we can do to try and ensure the changes are responded to as openly as possible. This is time well spent, because it’s much more difficult to get your organisation back on track if people start pushing against changes than it is to manage the change well in the first place.

We all need to feel heard. Coffee catch-ups, surveys and away days before the launch of a new strategy give your people a way to contribute to the conversation. You never know – the board may learn a thing or two that challenges the strategic direction you thought you wanted to take.

We all suffer from loss. David Rock's SCARF model gives a great framework for recognising with empathy what people may feel they stand to lose from a strategic change. SCARF stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness, all of which influence our behaviour in social situations by activating our threat and reward responses.

The board must consider these social domains in the context of strategic change, taking into account what the change means for individual board members, staff, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders.

More information

Tools and resources: Strategic planning help sheets | How to conduct a yearly review | Strategic planning overview

Webinar: Setting an effective course for your organisation (on replay)

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!