Learning to be an Effective Manager


Jackie Fishman is the Program Officer at the Natan Fund. She is responsible for overseeing the grants process, researching new grants initiatives, advising Natan members on key trends in the Jewish community, and facilitating some of Natan’s grantmaking committees. 

When you’re working at a small nonprofit where it’s always all hands on deck, thinking about being an effective manager is hardly on the top of your to-do list. We’re somehow required to be innately equipped with these skills as we progress in our careers and gain the tremendous responsibility of managing a team of people. This past summer I began managing employees for the first time and admittedly, I was a little in over my head. It did get better over time, but when I saw a training through the Management Action Center called “Managing to Change the World” in one of the ROI newsletters, I jumped at the opportunity to take the course.  

The training was a two-day crash course on the ins and outs of effective management. We covered a range of topics in a short time span including delegating tasks, providing feedback, goal-setting, managing up, interviewing the right candidates and many others. There was a variety of management levels in the room and the group represented a cross-section of organizations in the nonprofit sector. It made for an interesting discussion throughout the two days and despite the diversity of skills, the techniques and tools were applicable to all of us, whether we worked for an organization with a staff of four (like mine), an organization composed of solely telecommuters, or an organization with well-established management structures. 

I gleaned many insights from the training, but I had two major takeaways. The first was when I realized that being an effective manager of others is actually an exercise in knowing yourself and how you work. Managing other people requires advanced planning, making the best use of your time, and being thoughtful about the projects you’re passing on to others. It also forces you to think critically about your own goals and the goals of the organization in order to communicate them clearly to the people you’re working with. Without putting in the initial effort to understand your goals and workload, it can lead to confusion amongst your team and leave you feeling disorganized.

The second takeaway is the idea that in order to manage effectively, you need to be a good communicator. You can learn all of the techniques they share in the class, but unless you’re willing to put the effort into using the right tone when providing feedback, fine-tuning the language you use in your emails, and offering good examples to drive home your point, it will be difficult to get your staff on board with you. Investing a little time to do this will make you a better leader and ensure that you are doing all you can to maintain a good relationship with those you're managing.  

This may all be common sense, but sometimes a training is all it takes to prompt you to be mindful of doing your job even better. I look forward to implementing the tools and techniques I learned in the training as I move forward with managing a team of people, and I’m grateful to the ROI Community for providing me with the means to take such a great course.