Mike Kosnitzky’s Speech, January 9, 2003
I want to first thank Marina, the Chairperson, Naomi Wright and the entire board for this very prestigious honor. I especially want to thank my good friend, his honor Don Slesnick, the honorable Mayor of the City Beautiful, Coral Gables, for chairing the host committee.
I think many of you know that I have been involved with FANO since at or near its inception. I am passionate about the organization because I believe in its valuable mission. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what the not-for-profits in this State did before there was a FANO.
I am also passionate about the not-for-profit community in this State. It does not receive the credit it deserves in terms of its effect on the economic health of this State. $31 billion dollars of expenditures, almost 7% of the gross State product , almost $10 billion in total payrolls employing almost 400,000 people. Simply amazing. The not-for-profit community is one if this State’s most under-appreciated assets.
Most of you have followed the events of Jackson Health System/PHT – and I’ll note specifically that I was named as an honoree before those events unfolded. Know that it is very difficult sometime to effect change and the events at JHS are truly a lesson in not-for-profit boards generally and the board leadership in particular. Allow me to suggest an approach for how one might go about making meaningful change. Not superficial changes. I’m talking about systemic changes to the way an organizations functions and to the way we live.
- Determine if change is necessary. Don’t make changes for the sake of change alone or to further your own personal agenda. Can minimal tweaking suffice? Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
- If change is necessary, determine whether you have the desire and the motivation to see it through. Don’t start something you are not prepared to finish. That would make things much worse and people will feel betrayed. So know exactly what you are getting into. You won’t know all the variables but you’ll know their magnitude. If you are a person who wants everyone to like and respect you, and you’re a person who does not like his name in the newspaper, do not be a change agent. Seek counsel before you begin. Do your due diligence.
- Determine exactly what the change is. Be specific, not general, not vague. You will need to be able to articulate it to others. You need to be able to articulate your vision clearly and concisely.
- Tell the same story to everyone, not what they want to hear to get their support. Tell them the soft spots in your argument. Let them hear it from you first. Tell them who will oppose you and why. Tell them how they will be criticized and who will be doing the criticizing. Tell them how tough it is going to be.
- Be enthusiastic. Churchill didn’t tell his British citizens they were going to lose or fill their heads with negative thoughts. Focus your troops on the long-term good and the long-term objectives. Only then will they be able to survive the short-term setbacks and interim difficulties.
- Lead by example and take the heat off of your troops and place it squarely on you. Give the credit to others.
- You don’t have to win every battle. Recognize that you will lose some and, most importantly, make sure your troops know that too.
- Don’t live or die on what the newspapers say about you on any given day.
- Don’t complain or disparage anyone (even when they disparage you). No one likes a sore loser.
- Motivate by empowering your lieutenants.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Don’t get caught up on intramural bickering. Compromise on non-core issues but never compromise on core value issues, never.
- Be willing to take calculated risks. You get in the Hall of Fame by baiting 300.
Recognize that people will disappoint you because most people do not have the qualities necessary to lead, or the character necessary to make tough decisions. Most people on not-for-profit boards, especially lay board members, don’t want to rock the boat. They do want everyone to like them. They did not join your board to make enemies or to be criticized. Recognize most of them have weakness and will succumb to pressure from others. Take that into account and find those whose word you can count on, even if they may not always agree with you. Find people of character who are clear, open thinkers. It is better to surround yourself with people like that then those whose word you can not count on even if they pledge their everlasting support. Actions speak louder than words. ###