We all know that being hired for your first Executive Director’s position is a thrilling opportunity. But even when you know you’re ready for it, stepping into that role can be a lonely challenge. When Sara Ballard became Executive Director of Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties, she realized an outside perspective could help her organization think outside the box more effectively than any training session could. Luckily she had the insight to seek out a coach to help her jumpstart her effectiveness in her new role.
“When I started with the Volunteer Center, I saw there were some thorny issues that needed to be addressed. I’d had all the training and experience you could have short of holding the job. And in our tight community I couldn’t go to my peers for counsel because I couldn’t fully disclose the pertinent details. Amanda had the outside perspective I needed to figure out what the conversation with staff and the board would look like. And more importantly what I needed to do, as a leader, to help my team get to where we needed to be.”
Sara and I started with a six‐month coaching package. We hit the ground running to problem solve staffing issues, prioritize organizational strategy and define how she wants to lead her team. “The big ‘a‐ha!’ for me was realizing my new job challenge was not just about stepping up my leadership skills. It was about defining a new leadership mission for myself in the context of my new role.”
By looking at the big picture, Sara helped her organization dramatically shift in a very short period of time and shifted into monthly sessions. “I only get an hour with Amanda once a month so it needs to be a really effective conversation. She’s a good listener – giving me a chance to vent – but strategically interjects, at the right moment, pointed questions to focus on the core issues.”
Almost a year into her new position, Sara feels her organization is now well focused to serve her community as efficiently and as effectively as it can with limited resources. I continue to work with Sara, serving primarily as a sounding board. “You don’t want to spend your whole day putting out fires. Amanda helps me keep focused on investing in the changes that will have the greatest, long‐term impact.”
Sara’s Coaching Insights:
- Identify core strategies and goals to shift from reactive to strategic leadership.
- Frame employee conversations to help improve relationships.
- Awareness that it’s not just about me, but about moving our organization’s mission forward.