Boomers, Millennials Change and Risk  – Talking About Leadership &  Change With Ann Rosenfield

Boomers, Millennials Change and Risk – Talking About Leadership & Change With Ann Rosenfield

I have the privilege to work with a network of strong and diverse leaders. Over the next few months I will be sharing their insights on leadership and their thoughts on how to be a great leader with you – this week allow me to introduce you to Ann Rosenfield MBA, CFRE

Ann is an award-winning professional who has spoken on the charitable sector in Amsterdam, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Toronto. She currently serves as Executive Director of an international development charity. She volunteers as a Board member and community volunteer for several charities including Imagine Canada and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Recently, Ann and I chatted about her leadership journey. Here’s an excerpt of our rich and deep conversation:

Read a previous interview with Brian Lee

SA:           How did you become the leader you are today?

AR: Early on I realized that I had the heart of a social worker but the brain of a businessperson and that Fund Development was the ideal balance between the two. As a believer in continuous professional development is important so I did a mid-career MBA, which in turn led to my current role as an executive director.

I’m still that social worker; I just broadened the way in which I do that work.


SA:           What was the most important takeaway from your MBA?

AR: I learned a lot about risk and change. I have become much more risk-tolerant in terms of working with others and being able to take a broader perspective.

Charities are infamous for being risked adverse. A business orientation can assist people to have a better understanding of being strategic and selective about taking risk. I think non-profit leaders need to be conscious of where we’re prepared to fail.

Read the Leadership Lessons From Fort McMurray

SA:           Can you speak to the importance of clear personal values and vision?

AR: I believe in mission congruence. It’s important that to match the mission and values of an organization. You need to ask: “What’s the mission of my organization?”; “Who are going to be the donors?”; and, “What are the types of fund raising is the organization’s doing.”

Everything the organization does has to line up in a way that’s congruent with the mission.


SA            How do you ensure that your values are congruent with those of the organization?

RA: I have the luxury of choice. I only work for organizations that fit my personal values.


SA:           What about times when you don’t have the luxury of choice

AR: At the end of the day, everything you do, you’re ultimately really accountable only to yourself. I take employment really seriously. I take it seriously as an employee and as an employer. It’s about delivering my best every day.

SA:           What was the key to successful change?

AR: Most organizations are awful at change. They talk a good game, but they over-discussed the change at the executive level, and yet it is under-discussed at the implementation level.

You pay for bad process and lot of people think that they can send out an all-staff-email, maybe buy pizza and we’re done. You really pay for that, because people are smart and if you don’t treat people like adults, then change doesn’t work.

For example and in my new role, my solution is to really communicate, be conscious that different people absorb at different rates, appreciate that change is challenging and being honest about what is open for discussion. But it is important that everyone understand I’ll be making the final decision.

Read more about Change

SA            What is getting in the way of an organization changing?

AR:  Change is like being a teenager … it’s really great in retrospect.

I was reminded this in business school, I was thrust into a situation where there was a lot of uncertainty. I realized, as we get older, we increasingly only do things we’re good at …change disrupts all of that. It is about uncertainty; about doing things you’re not good at; it is about failing. So much of change sounds good in principle, but it’s not very pleasant.

I’m glad I went to business school, but it was not all that pleasant for those six years. The worst part about going to business school was sitting in classes and feeling stupid. Feeling like I don’t understand what’s going on.

We hang onto what we are comfortable.

I think this is particularly true for baby boomers. We are holding onto an antiquated model that is disintegrating before our eyes. We think we have a choice and that’s a faulty premise. The working assumptions for Boomers, was that we entered a workforce and were successful.

We were the dominant generation in the workforce. We grew up under a very different set of politically and economically circumstances from the current generation of workers. There is huge paradigm shift going on, they see it happening and Boomers don’t.

Read about managing Millennials

SA:           Boomers don’t want to change?

AR: Look, for the most part, the system has worked for us … unless you’re an idiot, why would you want to change something that’s been working for you?


SA            What is the leadership traits that allow leaders to keep up with change

AR:  Three things:

 One, I’m a big believer in personal and professional development. People, who push themselves, take classes, go to workshops, get accredited, are the folks who disproportionally succeed. They’re not content to just sit back and do same old, same old.

Two, for Boomers digital literacy is the difference between being employed and being packaged out.

And three, You need to know what you’re good at and what you’re crappy at and then to have the humility to build a team around you that balances you out.


SA:           So what is the one piece of leadership advice you wish you had earlier in you leadership adventure.

AR: Take more risks.


SA            What is the risk do you wish you had taken?

AR: I would’ve valued respect over tact.

I think you can be respectful and appropriate without always having to be agreeable.

If I had to do it again I would’ve been a bit more forceful about concerns I had when an organization seemed to be heading in the wrong direction and when I, as a professional, was being taken for granted.

I believe that I could’ve been a bit more forceful.

SA:           Thanks Ann

AR: My pleasure! Thank you so much, this has been lovely.

What do you think? Email me with your thoughts at:

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