Nonprofits Excel When Leaders Motivate Their People to Reach High
Book Motivate Like a CEO

Leadership is about getting others to act, and nonprofit leaders, lacking the ability to offer financial incentives that are available to their for-profit counterparts, especially need to inspire their people to perform at high levels, and therefore owe it to themselves to read Motivate Like a CEO.

The case for motivating employees is clear, as author Suzanne Bates, a professional communicator and executive coach, notes: “Motivated people will overcome the obstacles, defy the odds, and accomplish more.”

Nonprofits are all about making a difference and attracting people who feel the same way. And it’s up to leaders to help the people who work with and for them to connect their own sense of purpose with the organization’s.

Bates dives deep into exactly what leaders need to do, starting with understanding their role and providing a guide for them to assess if they are an empowering, motivated leader. Hint: It involves recognizing and showcasing the talents of others, giving them room to take risks, giving credit, and taking pleasure in seeing others succeed.

Just because organizational success hinges on everyone sharing the same mission and values, Bates writes that it’s important to confirm this instead of assuming everyone is in fact on board.

She suggests gathering the team and asking people to share stories of recent successes and then discussing them. Then do the same with recent failures. It’s a process of discovery that leads to identifying specifically what it is that people can align around.

“By driving alignment around the appropriate values, you can achieve consistent, predictable results. You know how people are going to behave, you can take action if they don’t, and this means you will have consistent results,” she writes.

It’s not overstating the obvious that clear communication is central to the goal of getting and keeping motivated people—Bates calls it Job No. 1—but what perhaps is less obvious is how to do that consistently. She strongly argues for storytelling. More than that, Bates offers detailed guidance on how to identify and construct the stories that connect people with purpose and mission.

Organizations go through ups and downs. They get buffeted by external events (witness the coronavirus pandemic). It’s up to leaders to figure out how to re-energize the organization, but, most importantly, they shouldn’t think they need to do it alone, Bates advises.

“You need a small army of people out there to help you communicate the mission because you simply can’t do it alone,” according to Bates. “Enlist every leader and influential person in your organization in helping you to organize people and generate positive feelings.”

Key to this—beyond engaging people with a shared sense of mission and values—is fostering a culture of accountability, argues Bates. It starts with leaders taking personal responsibility and letting others know what that you have committed to it. “With consistent messages and a culture of accountability, it is much harder for people to fail.”

Just because, as Bates notes, “connecting people with purpose is one of the most rewarding things you can do,” nonprofit leaders will find that this book not only affirms their career choice, but also supports it with practical guidance on how to enthusiastically engage others on the journey.

Motivate Like a CEO is available from McGraw-Hill.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
February 2021