The 5 Truths for Transformational Leaders | Ed Mishrell


What are the five truths for transformational leaders?

My guest Ed Mishrell has more than 40 years of experience as a nonprofit leader.

He’s distilled his wisdom into the new book, The 5 Truths for Transformational Leaders: How Nonprofit Organizations Thrive, Grow, and Make a Profound Difference.

In this episode, he’ll walk us through the five truths and share:

  • His experience creating a leadership development program
  • The biggest challenge nonprofit leaders face today
  • How leaders can continue to grow
  • And more



Ed Mishrell: Fanatic is a strong word, but it’s the right. 

Nicole Greer: I love it. 

Ed: It’s the word that describe the people that were super successful at transforming their organization.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach and I am here with a special guest Ed Mishrell. He has more than 40 years of experience as a nonprofit leader. He has served as a probation officer, a child care director, senior citizens center director, teen director, youth employment director, community center director, trainer, planner, project manager, professor, and author. 

And we’re going to talk about his book today. At the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Ed led the creation of the Spillett Leadership University and the Advanced Leadership Program. The impact of this program was documented in an article published in McKinsey Quarterly entitled Putting a Value on Training. 

As the Chief Strategy Officer at the Boys and Girls Club of America, he led the development and deployment of their strategic and operating plans. His first book, The Five Truths for Transformational Leaders, was published by Wiley and Sons in May of 2023. And hey, it’s only June 2023. We’ve got it hot off the presses. Yeah, so thanks for being here, Ed.

Ed: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me, Nicole.

Nicole: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. Yeah. So I have a question. I’m collecting definitions of leadership. What’s your definition of leadership?

Ed: You know, that sounds like an easy question, when I started to make notes about it. And when I got to the halfway through the second page, I realized, you probably didn’t want that long of a definition of it. But basically, it comes down to, the essence of it is being able to establish a goal or a vision, organize people and get them clarity on what you’re trying to accomplish, how you’re going to try and accomplish it, and influencing them to work together to achieve the goal. That sounds simple, but there’s so many things involved in that, that make it complicated.

Nicole: Yeah, and I gotta tell you, everybody, you need to go to his website. His website is And when you go there, there’ll be a video on there. So like, if you enjoy this podcast, immediately following, what you gotta do is go watch this video. And he talks about his five truths for transformational leaders. And what I’d love to do is work through those five truths. I think that we could really give people some great information they can put to work. So I love this first truth, because it has this word in it. Fanatical, which is just such a fun punchy word. So tell me about the first truth.

Ed: So, in preparing to write the book, I identified a number of organizations that I felt the leader had led a transformation. So I defined that as they had more than doubled their operating budget in a five year period. And when I interviewed the CEO, a few different times, I interviewed board members, I interviewed staff, and I interviewed some of the people that supported the organization. 

And when they described the CEO, that was the word that several people used. That they were fanatical about the mission. That they wore it every day when they came to work. And in talking about it with them, there’s like three things that that empowers a leader to do. So, first one is that when you’re fanatical about something, when you believe strongly in something, other people want to be a part of that. 

They you know, and so in today’s world, people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re looking for those opportunities. And so when they meet a leader who’s fanatical about a mission, you know, they want to be part of that. The second is it enables them to make their tough yes/no calls about people, about budget, about how they put resources. 

When you think about those individually, they’re hard to make, but when you think about like, this is about our mission, it’s not about whether you know how I feel about this person, or how I feel about this project, we need to do what’s most important. And then the third thing is that it enables you to set very high standards for how you’re going to work. And it carries you through, you know, because people are all bought into that and working together to achieve that mission. Fanatic is a strong word, but it’s the right. 

Nicole: I love it. 

Ed: It’s the word that describe the people that were super successful at transforming their organization.

Nicole: Yeah, I mean and the word fan is right in there. And we’re not talking about something circular with a blade. What we’re talking about is like, you know, the leader runs around and starts creating fans of this idea of fans of this mission, right? And in your video that everybody’s gonna go watch immediately following this, it says, you know, you had the people in the room, in your workshop or in your program, they were going to talk about what they were passionate about, which is their mission. And you talked about how when people talk about mission, passion comes out, and the energy goes through the roof.

Ed: Just want to ask, when you do that in a workshop just say, you know, turn to your neighbor and tell them why you believe in your mission in your organization. The energy, the noise in the room level goes like up immediately. And people get excited. It’s cool.

Nicole: And I think that this is really important in terms of you’ve worked in nonprofits your whole life, and being with the Boys and Girls Club of America. I mean, like, would you share for a moment, what was your mission? And why were you so passionate about it? How did you get people to decide to mentor, you know, all these young women and young men?

Ed: Yeah, you know, this is a long story there, how I got there. But basically, I think when I got out of college, I was unsure what I wanted to do. And I took a job as a probation officer, primarily working with younger, younger offenders. And I didn’t, felt like that was not where I wanted to be. But I saw the opportunity to make a difference with kids and wanted to work in a nonprofit where kids came in, and there was a chance to make a difference. 

You know, I think everybody that works in a nonprofit that’s in a mission driven organization has their own origin story. Like, a lot of times, maybe they were impacted by the nonprofit, or their parents, or their grandparents, or an aunt or uncle, somebody important to them worked there. And so in my case, it was my dad. My dad, you know, he grew up, he left home at 14, joined the military at 15. 

During World War Two, changed his birth certificate from seven to five. And then he went to college were after World War Two and became a teacher and he always connected with the kids that were in trouble. And he had throughout his whole life, people that he’d been a teacher with 15, 20 years ago, called him for advice. 

And so I didn’t really know that was in me that much until I started working there. But I felt like I really wanted to be part of something that was a bigger mission then me and that contributes to making the world a better place or communities a better place. 

I believe that nonprofits make a difference for people, they make a difference for their community, for the cities that they’re in. And ultimately for our country. It’s like, you know, the idea of helping everybody to succeed, you know, makes the country stronger in the end. That’s kind of what kept me motivated for 40 years and still going.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right. So that’s the first one, repeat for us with the first truth is. Just so if we didn’t get it written down, we’ve got it. What’s our first truth?

Ed: Be fanatical about your mission.

Nicole: Yeah, you got to wear your T shirt every day, so people know what you’re trying to do, right. Okay. All right. That’s fantastic. We love that. Okay, so what is the second truth?

Ed: So the second truth is fix, stabilize, and replace systems, policies, practices, procedures, people that aren’t working. So what happened when I interviewed people was that when they got to the organization, they became the CEO. Basically, I asked them to tell me the story of how you got hired, what you did the first week, what you did the first month, and they all talked about when they got there, the organization wasn’t real organized. 

And they were spending a lot of time solving problems every day. So they kind of just almost felt like they’re standing in the middle of the room, and people would come in with a problem, they’d give them an answer. And what they realized is that there was no set way to handle a lot of routine tasks. 

And so that before they could move on, they needed to like, you know, have set practices, have set policies about how things were, how things were going to be handled. Because you can’t really move forward if you’re spending all day fixing things is kind of the theme for them. And that went for people too. 

Almost everybody I interviewed made changes in people. In the first month or two they were there. One person said they fired two people on their first day. I said a bunch of everybody came to work on time the next day after that. But they realized they had to get things organized, get the right people before they were able to, before they were able to move forward.

Nicole: Yeah. So it’s like, you know, get the right people on the bus thing. It’s a very true thing.

Ed: It’s exactly what Collins says in good to great. It’s like you have to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. And that often meant making changes right away.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, when you go in, the thing is, oftentimes like people, you know, you said they’re like they were showing up on time. And you might think, well, that’s a little quick, you know. But I think the thing that you got to understand is, you know, what is this leader after? They’re really after the highest and best experience for the overall organization. You know, right. Yeah. So, so important.

Ed: And that fanatic belief and mission drives that. They have to stay true to that.

Nicole: Right. And it could have been these two people are like, I don’t believe in that mission. Oh, well, then that’s not gonna work here.

Ed: It’s not gonna work out. Yeah.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Yeah. And I think what you’re saying about policy and procedure, processes, we don’t have ways to solve these problems. I think that, you know, putting a solid standard operating practices, getting the employee manual up to date, you know, making sure job descriptions are correct. Getting all of kind of the structure in place. It gives people something to stand on, a foundation so they can start reaching that mission.

Ed: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. A lot of the people, almost everybody interviewed when they thought about that time in their career, their first year or so there when they were fixing a lot of things. They said it was in some ways, it was the most fun they ever had as a leader, because they could see progress every day. 

Later on as they started to take on bigger goals and more far reaching initiatives, it was a little harder to see at the end of the day, what progress you’re making, because it’s over a longer period of time. But when you’re fixing things, and you’re putting a policy into place, it’s like oh, well, we don’t have to deal with that anymore. We can go on to this.

Nicole: Right. 100%. Yeah. And I think a lot of leaders, you know, they get even more fanatical when they feel the change, they see the change, right? It boosts their energy as well. Absolutely. All right. So our third truth. What’s the third truth everybody needs to understand?

Ed: So the third truth is establish a mission driven strategy. So most mission statements have three parts to them. They have, who you’re going to serve, who you’re going to impact, what difference you’re going to make and how you’re going to make that. But they’re you know, they’re encapsulated in a sentence. 

So Boys and Girls Club’s mission is we’re going to enable young people, especially those who need us most to become responsible citizens and leaders. Well, that’s, you know, that’s great. And people can believe that. But everybody’s going to interpret that their own way. Like what is a responsible citizen and leaders? How are we going to serve? How are we going to reach the kids that need us most. So the leader needs to work together with a staff. 

And this is why getting the right team is important, because this becomes not just the leader, but the team and the board and staff working together to really define all those. Who are we really going to serve? What does that mean? How are we going to? How are we going to reach kids who need us most? What outcomes are we really going to achieve? So if you’re a responsible citizen and leader, what does that look like for a nine year old? What are you trying to do, that’s going to lead them to that some point when they’re at 18 or 19 years old. 

And to be really clear on what those outcomes are and how you’re going to achieve them. One of the organizations that I interviewed as an example, they were an after school program, and they wanted to reach kids that were in disadvantaged circumstances. So they agreed they’d only work in schools that were title nine schools. 

So that meant that half the kids were below poverty level. So that was a way of them reaching the population that they most wanted to reach. Didn’t mean, it wasn’t important to have services for kids in another community, but their focus was on kids that were low income. And with that, then you need to build an organization that’s capable of doing that. So that means you have to have the right people. And then ultimately, for a nonprofit, you have to figure out some way that you’re going to drive resources to that. 

To support the mission. You can have the greatest mission in the world but if you can’t convince people it’s important enough to support, then you’re in trouble. So those are going to become the three parts to your strategy. And you know, the interesting thing is go along with each of these, the role of the leader evolves and changes. So some people were really, really great at solving problems. They said that was the most fun. 

When there’s no problems to solve, now, I got to think, more long term, more strategic. How are we going to achieve our mission. And so that meant that I had to spend my time a little bit differently than it was. And all of them talked about, like, there’s a challenge to that. You get very comfortable leading in a certain way. And you have success. And now I have to change course a little bit and focus on something different.

Nicole: Okay. All right. So, share with us again, the third truth. Just so in case, we want to make sure we’ve got our notes correct.

Ed: Yep. Establish a mission driven strategy. This is how we’re going to achieve our mission. This is what we’re going to actually accomplish.

Nicole: Yeah. So when teams come together to do this, what might a day of planning and strategy look like? How might a team get together and make that happen?

Ed: So it’s not a strategic plan. It’s sort of, you have to have your strategy before you start to create a strategic plan. I don’t know that it happens like that so much as it’s something that you work on every single day. People talk about the you know, having a you’re learning organization. Well, for a nonprofit, that means you have to be good at measuring your outcomes. 

Are we achieving the outcomes you want to have? And what are we learning about how to be successful that, so that, if you start off with sort of an initial strategy about here’s how we’re going to achieve our mission. But as you go forward, you’re going to discover, if we do this, we’ll get a little better result. If we do that we’re gonna get. we’ll get even more. 

So it’s the discipline is measuring what you’re doing, looking at that data with your eyes wide open. Data always tells you some good things and some things that are opportunities to get better. And what does this mean? How do we put this back into our practice and get better tomorrow than we were today or yesterday?

Nicole: Fantastic. All right. So what is our fourth truth for transformation?

Ed: So execution drives results. So you can have the greatest strategy in the world, right? But I’ve got to figure it out. But if I don’t execute on that, and in some ways, this is really hard. So for me, it requires relentless communication on the part of the leader. There’s, in the workshop, I talk about this research that shows that you have to repeat something 14 times before people begin to internalize it. 

Well, it’s hard to repeat something 14 times. You get tired of hearing yourself saying it, and you have to repeat it to lots of different people for 14 times. So you know, execution means you’re going to be relentless about it. That also means that you have to pick the one or two things that are most important right now that are going to move the organization ahead. 

I would say from my own experience, when I first became a middle manager, when I was at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America as a vice president position. I was like, oh, good. I’m a manager, I can fix everything and I took on about 10 projects. Well, when you take on 10 things, you can’t focus on any of them enough to make a difference. 

So the real challenge for the leader is like, what are the no more than three, two’s even better. One, two, three, big goals that we want to work on that’s going to make us stronger. And we achieve those and then we set the next two. But if you take on eight or nine at once, you probably don’t achieve any of them, because you can’t give any of them enough attention. 

And nobody can remember what they are. I have two goals that we’re going to work. This is the most important thing for this next year, are these two goals. Everybody will know what they are and work on it. If you have eight, you’ll have to look them up every time.

Nicole: Yeah, and then I’m just gonna go back to what you talked about earlier about resources. I mean, how are you going to resource all 10 of those programs?

Ed: That’s a good point. Yeah. You can’t. You have to figure out based on your resources, what can we do? What’s the most important thing that we can do this year that’s going to make us stronger and make us better at achieving our mission?

Nicole: So I’m curious if I could put you on the spot. You know, what’s a strategy that you executed on that was part of your mission, where you really made a big difference. And you kept saying, this is what we’re doing. This is how we’re going to make it happen. How did you make a little impact or a giant impact on the Boys and Girls Club?

Ed: So I think of a couple of them. So this one that I’m really proud of that has to do with leadership is that there was a point where we, as an organization, decided that the most important thing that we could do is to make all of our clubs stronger. We have 5000 clubs across the country. So there’s a lot of people, they’re all their own 501c3 organization. 

Our role at Boys and Girls Club of America was to provide services to them. So we made this decision that the most important thing we could do, would be to really develop executive leadership. And we set out to create world class, that was the goal that it was going to be the best program ever. Make a big difference, be transformational. 

And I won’t go through the whole process. We ended up working with Noel Tichy, from University of Michigan, who’s written lots of books about leadership, and he became sort of really personally invested in us doing this, which was cool. And so we started that program probably 12, 13 years ago, it’s still going on today. I’m still part of the faculty. 

I think they’ve done over 100 programs. This is a 10 day program over six months. So it’s very intense, come together for four days, define a project that you’re going to stay with, and you come back three days, in a few months, and then three more days. And it was transformational. The program in my introduction you talked about was evaluated by McKinsey and Company. 

And there were you know, the organizations that went through it initially, in a comparison group that didn’t, you did significantly better. They raised more money, they served more kids, the kids came more often. All the things that were important. And the fact that that’s still a core part of Boys and Girls Clubs of America service is something that I’m proud of. Hope I didn’t go on too long there.

Nicole: Oh, no, of course not. No, we want to hear about that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So what I heard you say is in that leadership development program, they were learning about leadership. Yes. And they applied it to an actual project that helped them increase their effectiveness, right, and their ability to execute, which is one of your truths. Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right.

Ed: They applied everything in real time to their project. And then, you know, throughout the five or six months during the program, the project was front and center where, you know, we did calls with the team between meetings to get the coaching and ask about the project. And when they came back, they got advice from the other teams about the project. So it was good. It was cool.

Nicole: Yeah, I bet and congratulations on that. Still cooking. That’s fantastic. Yeah. So you know, it works if they’re still cooking it. All right. So share with us the next truth, which number is this in the truth?

Ed: Number five, this is the last one. So, and everybody said, this is the hardest thing, and it’s to continue to grow as a leader. And in this case, the people that I was, the organizations I was looking at, grew significantly doubling your budget in five years. And some actually tripled, quadrupled, one, I don’t know if quintriples is a word, five times. They grew five times their budget in five years. 

So then a very different organization at the end of that time. And as the organization grew, what was needed by the leader changed. And not everybody was able to change enough with it. A couple people have left. They were there for five years, but they left a couple of years after that. And they you know, some of them were really good at growing the organization. 

But when it grew to a certain point, you know, the leader had to like, build, you know, focus more on developing people, building a team, being the person that was out in the community representing the organization. Not so much hands on day to day as they were in the beginning. And they all said this was really hard. Most of them got help from board members. 

To do this, there were board members that came and said, you know, in order for you to continue to be the leader, we need, you’re going to have to, to grow and look at things a little differently, spend your time differently to be that leader. So I think the you know, the point is like in today’s world, you know if everything changes very rapidly, and you have to have your ear to the ground and what’s going on and how that’s going to impact your organization, your field. 

As well as looking at you know, the opportunities your organization has. And then as your organization grows, it demands something different from the leader. And so you’re never, you never get there, you know. People saw what if want to get here. Well, when you get there, when you get here, there’s going to be somewhere else. 

And so you have to keep putting that out there and saying, what do I need? What do I need to do and what do I need to grow? So, in the book I talk a lot about some of my own experiences here, because I’ve gotten stuck a few times as a leader and needed to get unstuck. And the importance of leaders being able to look in the mirror every day and say, you know, what happened yesterday that could have could have done better? 

But what I watched so and so do this, they did it great, how can I bring that into who I am as a leader? What do I need to learn? And a big part of that looking in the mirror is getting people around you that know you to work with you to give you feedback. There’s only so much we can. We see certain things about ourselves, but there’s blind spots, everybody has blind spots. And you’re only going to discover them if you develop a trusting enough relationship and set up a process for doing it. 

Part of what we do in the advanced leadership program that I talked about, is different opportunities to give feedback to get a little bit more intense each time they come. And, you know, people feel like it’s going to be harder, but it’s like a breakthrough. You know, like, I’m sure, I know from reading the material that you said that that’s a core part of your work as well.

Nicole: Yeah, you know, I think the thing about blind spots is, you know, as long as you have, you know, the ability to park your ego over to the side for a second, and you can say what are my blind spots? Because hello, everybody’s got one. It’s not like you’re the only one in the room with a blind spot. 

Ed: I’d be lucky to only have one.

Nicole: Yeah, there could be 20. But the thing is, you know, like, we just really got to let go of ego and you know, invite people in to give us that feedback. And I love what you just said, though, you said, you know, if you could address that blind spot, it’s probably something that’s frustrating you. Holding you back, but you can’t see it.

Ed: It frustrates people around you too. Because they see it. You know it’s hard to go into your boss and say, you know, if you stopped doing this and did more of this, it’d be really helpful to us. So you have to really invite people in a way that makes them feel comfortable and safe doing that. Not everybody reacts well to that all the time. Most people do.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. So there’s a what this is making me think about is there’s a great book by Marshall Goldsmith, who’s like the world, yeah, you know him. And so he’s like a world renowned coach, and he has a little thing he calls feed forward. So instead of getting feedback, he calls it feed forward. And so he’s like, you know, leaders, you know, think about something that you want to change about yourself, you know, you probably have blind spots, but you probably also have some kind of awareness. 

Like, why do I do that? You know, what is wrong with me, you know? And so if you could go to your team, and you’d say, listen, I know I do this thing, you know, I know it’s a thing. And I would like your help to correct it, you know, and so you, you go to them, then you do feed forward. And there’s a whole if you go out to Marshall Goldsmith’s website, he gives all of his material away for free. 

He’s got all his resources, except for his books. But he’s got tons of resources. And so look up, feed forward. But once you do that, then you start to create that trust you’re talking about where people don’t think there’s going to be some kind of retribution for going we wish you’d stop. That thing.

Ed: In the book, I talk about some of my own examples of growth.

Nicole: I want to hear one. Tell us one.

Ed: Okay, you know, when we started the advanced leadership program, you know, the people on our staff that were going to lead the program went through the program first. And while Noel and his associate ran the program. And, you know, so one of mine was, I was really good at getting stuff done. I was a great manager. If you gave me a task, I’d you know, I’d get it organized. I figured out how to do it. 

Everybody would be clear on what they need to do. But everything kind of ran through me. You know, so you have a problem. If you don’t figure out how to get it, come and see me. I’ll tell you about it. I’m exaggerating a little bit here. But what I realized is that if I wanted to be a better leader, I needed to be better at helping my team grow. And that it was not, you know, it wasn’t about me being a better leader. 

Having all the answers. It was about, like, can I develop people so they can work more independently. And I can spend more time thinking forward, then solving things. So it was pretty ingrained in me. I would say if you come with a problem, you’re going to leave with an answer. And so I told all my staff, I said, whenever I start to solve your problem, I want you to stop me. In fact, I’m gonna be angry, if you don’t. 

Because I’ll realize at the end of the day, so and so was in the office, and they asked me a question, and I didn’t ask them what they think. I didn’t ask them what they tried. I just gave them, said here, go try this, it’ll work. And I was good at managing, so it often did. But in the end, it made everybody dependent on me, and everybody got used to that. 

So it was very hard to change. And I don’t think I would have if staff and people around me, didn’t say stop Ed, it’s what you asked us to do, stop. I think I got actually very good at that at some point in time. But there was a point in mid career where I was not there.

Nicole: Yeah. And this, you know, that’s a really valuable thing that you’re saying, because, you know, leaders on the flip side of that, where they solve people’s problems all the time. You know, at first, it might be a little ego boost or something like, oh, I can solve that I’ve got the answers. That sounds all well and good until you’ve got more than three projects. 

And now you’ve got people lined up at the door, and you can’t, you can’t get your forward thinking done, like you were talking about. And, you know, leaders have often complained to me, like in their coaching sessions, they’ll be like, you know, why don’t people think the way I think? And I’m like, because you’re not teaching them how to do that. 

And what I’m hearing you say is you would ask them, what do you think we ought to do? You know, what have you tried? You know, so you’re trying to get them to start connecting new neural pathways in their brain that mirror what you do by getting them to actually put the idea together themselves.

Ed: Yeah, a lot of it’s just the confidence. 

Nicole: Yeah, 100%.

Ed: That they work it out with you a few times and say, well, I can do this on my own. I need to go ask for help every time I have a question or a problem.

Nicole: Yeah. And the other thing about that that’s bubbling up for me, is you’ll never get to the next level, you know, if you don’t get the people behind you prepared. That’s really important. Really important. All right. So I want to ask you, one more question here. What are the biggest challenges that you see that nonprofit leaders and leaders everywhere are facing? And what advice would you give around that particular challenge?

Ed: I think right now the organizations that I’ve talked to in the last couple of years, their biggest challenge is finding people. People that are, you know, want to be part of that mission, people with the talent and skill sets to make a contribution. Many organizations are not serving as many people as they’d like, because they have so many vacancies they’re trying to fill. Interestingly enough, I did this, I did a workshop for an organization called the World Federation of Youth Clubs. 

There are sort of clubs that are in other parts, other countries. So one of the organizations was from Mexico. And I asked, and there’s some from Europe, some from Africa, from Central America, South America. And one of the organizations from Mexico. And I asked them, you know, how many people were having trouble hiring/finding people. 

I wasn’t sure what it was gonna be like, in some of these other countries. Everybody raised their hand, except for the four people from this club in the Monterey Peninsula in Mexico. I said, you don’t have any problems? Well, we did. But we went, we asked people what it would take for them to stay. We looked at pay, we looked at hours, we looked at bonuses, we looked at, you know, how can people feel more confident, more comfortable there. 

And we made a whole bunch of changes. And since then, we have been able to fill our, you know, less people leaving and more, and people do come, they tend to stay longer. So right now, we feel like we’ve taken steps to do that. And in some ways, you know, they had to reallocate a lot of their resources more towards some salary maybe that they hadn’t before. 

But like, you know, that’s sort of you know, is this trade off. Like, do I hire five people and pay them less and have trouble finding people, or do I hire three and a half people and pay them more and give them better benefits so that they stay longer? And in the end, how do I have more impact in the end? 

And I think their conclusion was we’ll have more impact if we can keep people for a longer period of time if we don’t have as many vacancies. Because vacancies in nonprofits, particularly where you’re really serving people and helping people. It’s hard, you know those relationships get fractured when somebody leaves. So it sets you back.

Nicole: And you know, what you’re saying about paying people more. Sometimes when I talk to leaders, you know, I know, they’re worried about their profit and loss statement. We all know that payroll is the, you know, the biggest line item we have on that profit and loss statement. But, you know, I often say to them, you know, here’s the thing, people who you need to pay more typically, I’ll throw that word in there, typically. 

But some people can do the work of two people. I mean, Ed, didn’t you like the fanatical leader, the people you’re talking about, you know, that people with that passion, they will work. You know, I always say like work like a dog for you. You know, they’ll pull the sled. And sometimes you have to consider that. You know, this one does the work of two, and doesn’t complain about it. 

When you give them something extra. They feel like it’s a privilege to do more, you know. So you got to figure out who your aces are and get them in that seat. Aces in the right places on that bus. Well, we are at the top of the hour. And I know people are like, wait, no, I love Ed. I know, I love, Ed. They’re like, we love Ed. And you know, he kind of has that late night DJ voice, doesn’t he, everybody? Have you been told that one, Ed? You’ve got the late night DJ voice.

Ed: That’s the first time I’ve heard that, but I like that. Settle down to your evening.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. All right. So if you were mentoring one little special listener, you know, especially somebody sitting there going, oh, my gosh, I’m a nonprofit leader. I work inside nonprofit. What’s one little last piece of leadership advice or a nugget that you would leave people with? What’s your parting thought?

Ed: Well, I’ve used up all my good stuff here already.

Nicole: Oh, I know, you got more. 40 years of experience.

Ed: I would just in some ways, it sounds like it’s oversimplifying things. But I would just say like, focus on mission. It’s got to drive everything. You know, the reason that I stayed at Boys and Girls Clubs was because the first club I ever worked at, in Philadelphia, when I went there for an interview. I was like, amazed how people live the mission. They talked about it, talked about mission, talked about kids, family all the time. 

And, you know, it was, that’s what people want to be part of that. And it drives you know, it drives you to want to do your best and incur, and brings other people into the organization. So it’s sort of a sort of a repeat going back to the beginning. But in a way, it’s like, it’s the most important thing. It allows you to do everything and it makes you want to go and be the best person, the best leader that you could be.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right, everybody, get your T shirts printed up, get them on everybody.

Ed: I should get T shirts. Fanatical about my mission, right?

Nicole: 100%. Oh, my gosh, it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for being here. Will you tell everybody how they can find you?

Ed: Sure. So my website is And you can find my email address on there and that’s the best place to go and connect and find information to get in touch with me. I look forward to hearing from people.

Nicole: Oh, yeah, I know they’re gonna reach out. So it’s in the show notes, everybody. And would you do myself and Ed a favor? Would you go down and just click the nice like button, please. Would you just click that? And then would you do me a real quick thing? Just put one sentence. I thought Ed was like, and put that in there with a little comment that’ll help Ed and I spread the good news of the five leadership truths for transformation. That’s what we want to do. And thank you so much for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Ed: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. Thank you, Nicole.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with their strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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