How Scott Ritzheimer Thinks About Key Leadership Styles for Successful Nonprofits

Scott Ritzheimer [00:00:00]:
We have to find a way of honoring that style.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:00:02]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:00:03]:
The person who's not the most Kumbaya, who's not going to necessarily play nice with others, who's not thinking about the good of the team. They're thinking about getting the team across the finish line. Right. We have to find a way of honoring that as part of our culture and who we are as nonprofits. Not just folks who have great ideas and are great at giving high fives and making us feel good about those ideas.

Kenny Lange [00:00:31]:
Welcome to the how leaders think podcast, the show that transforms you by renewing your mind and giving you new ways to think. I am your host, Kenny Lang. And with me today for the second time, he's in the two Timers club. Wait a minute, not two timers. I should rethink the name of that club. That is really bad. Can we get a do over? I hope your wife's not listening. Is the second timers club.

Kenny Lange [00:00:51]:
That sounds slightly better. I'll keep working on it. Is the Scott Ritzheimer who's also going to hold the record for longest intro by me on the podcast. Scott is the founder and CEO of Skale Architects. He has helped start nearly 20,000. You didn't hear that wrong. 20,000 new businesses and nonprofits. And with his business partner has started and led a multi million dollar business through an exceptional and extended growth phase.

Kenny Lange [00:01:19]:
Over ten years of double digit growth, which is no small feat to even make it to ten years, let alone grow it that much. And all before the ripe old age of 35, which he doesn't even look 35 right now until gets that handlebar Mustache going. Today, he helps founders and CEO's identify and implement the one essential strategy they need right now to get them on the fast track to predictable success. Welcome back, Scott.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:01:47]:
Kenny, thanks for having me. I would say thanks for the intro. No, just kidding. I'm excited to be here. This has been a while coming. It's an honor to be invited back. At least you did something right the first time either that we won't go to the alternatives, but I'm glad to be here. I'm excited about this conversation.

Kenny Lange [00:02:07]:
I am too. I appreciate that you have a good sense of humor is probably why you got invited back. And hopefully that intro is better than anything that Benj Miller has ever done for you. So I'm just laying down the gauntlet and challenging Benj to an intro off right now. So you heard it here first, folks. Well, tell me, Scott, what is on your mind?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:02:31]:
What is on my mind? You know, I have this interesting, or I've had this interesting opportunity to spend about equal parts of my career in the nonprofit, in the for profit world. And most of it, actually early on was nonprofit world and for profit a little bit later. And I'm routinely struck by how the same they are.

Kenny Lange [00:02:56]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:02:57]:
There's a lot of tools that circulate the nonprofit, especially the church world, had a lot of work in churches in the background, and there's a lot of tools and resources that circulate in the business world, but there are very few that cross over that divide. And I think it's absolutely rubbish, quite frankly, having dealt with that many organizations in both spaces, there are absolutely differences, but they are so small in comparison to the things that make them the same. Leading a great organization is leading a great organization. And to put it in the terms I think your audience would recognize, what you and I both work with, the system and soul has to exist in both. And what I found is both groups can learn from each other. Churches and nonprofits tend to be more soulful in their approach, at least from a mission standpoint. And businesses tend to be more system oriented. And when you bring both of those together in either space, business or nonprofit, that's what creates what we call predictable success.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:04:02]:
That's what creates the scalability either in terms of impact if you're in the nonprofit world, or revenue growth, profitability, or even impact for the for profit world.

Kenny Lange [00:04:15]:
I love that. And I think that this is timely and not just because I cross over those same boundaries as well, a collection of clients that are for profit and nonprofit as well. But I'm curious, what do you think has contributed to what I hear you say is a prevailing wisdom that, oh, we're both just so very, very different from each other. What keeps people sort of separated into those buckets of thinking about their, essentially their tax status?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:04:52]:
I think it's that. I think that we have called them nonprofits. Right. I think that in the US, there's this strong history of separation of church and state. There's this strong difference between government organizations, non government organizations. And when you look at it, we overvalue what you mentioned accurately, which is just the tax status. The primary difference between nonprofits and for profits. Profits is their funding model.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:05:22]:
That's about it right there. There are ramifications from that. But what makes a nonprofit a nonprofit is not that it doesn't have profit, it's that its revenues come from someone other than its quote unquote, customers.

Kenny Lange [00:05:36]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:05:36]:
The people who benefit. So its beneficiaries and its revenue source are distinct from each other. And in the vast majority of for profit circumstances, that is one group, one in the same. So who you provide value to as a for profit is who you receive compensation from. Really, the only difference, then, when you translate that to a nonprofit world, is that those are just separate groups. Just about everything else is the same.

Kenny Lange [00:06:02]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:06:02]:
You still need to have a well run organization, you still need to have systems, you still need to have vision. You still need to have folks who get stuff done, and you still need to have folks who pull all of that together and help the organization lead forward.

Kenny Lange [00:06:17]:
Absolutely. And one of the things that strikes me is, I think that this is an assertion that I would happily have you push back on, is that I think nonprofits, in my experience, have perpetuated that mentality more so than their for profit brothers and sisters. Would you say that that's accurate?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:06:42]:
No, I'd probably push back on that. I would say that large pockets of the for profit world would not go out and readily take advice from someone in the nonprofit world. If you wrote a book on how to build your nonprofit better, there's probably two people in the for profit world that would buy that book, right? Your mom and someone else who just happened to misunderstand the label. So, you know, it's. And so I actually think that there's a bit of a repulsion in the business world, especially for those that are very invested in learning and developing as a leader, because they think that their resources are better than that which is available in the nonprofit world, which. There's an argument that you could make for some of that, but not all of it equally on the nonprofit spot, especially where I've done most of my work, which is in churches, there's this spiritual component that makes business a dirty word. Right. And the idea of the business of a church or the business of a hospital is almost.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:07:46]:
It's not even a necessary evil. It's just an evil.

Kenny Lange [00:07:50]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:07:50]:
In the vernacular of the organization. And so we've created this kind of cultural expectation that nonprofits can't borrow things from or learn from the business world. Because that's bad. Right, right. And we've created this cultural expectation that businesses can't borrow from the nonprofit world. Cause it's shoddy.

Kenny Lange [00:08:13]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:08:14]:
And there's significant evidence that both of those are true, but it's not because they should be true. It's because we've made them true.

Kenny Lange [00:08:20]:
Almost like a self fulfilling prophecy sort of thing. Yeah, I had a post on LinkedIn a while back, after a conversation that sort of had those elements that you were just describing, um, and. And all I said was, or the heart of it was, is, like, being, um, small, um, lacking funding or. Or any of the. Or growth does not make you more, uh, holy or special or valuable. It just means that either you're at that moment in time, and you're the life cycle. Right? Like, you know, like we talked about last time and with the. The founders evolution and predictable success, and, you know, you can be somewhere there, and wherever you're at is fine, but don't make it the special thing that makes you better than everyone else simply because you aren't growing.

Kenny Lange [00:09:12]:
Like, that's not a special designation. Right?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:09:15]:
Absolutely. I mean, most nonprofits, at least some point in their history, struggled from the kind of starving artist syndrome. Right. And in a language of what I use, we call it early struggle. Any organization, any group of two or more, it actually happens to marriage. But any group of two people or more go through seven stages as they go. The very first stage in that cycle is early struggle. And in the business world, we say it's a fight to find a profitable, sustainable market.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:09:45]:
In the nonprofit world, it's a fight to fully resource your vision. Right? So a different language on this because of the funding model, but what happens in the nonprofit world, you go around and interview 99, and 99 out of 100 nonprofits will say they are not fully resourced, and we just accept that as if it's normal or is it okay? And what happens is nonprofit leaders will regularly and routinely get chronically stuck in early struggle, and they'll just accept it as necessary or normal. And while it may be normal, it is far from necessary. And so one of the things I think that the nonprofit world can learn from the business world is businesses won't sustain their time in early struggle. Right. You won't find someone who's been in early struggle for 15 years, and their business is still not profitable. Right. They're out.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:10:41]:
There's just no tolerance for that. Three, four, five years, and they're. That's as much as they're going to give. And I think that nonprofits should approach that first stage with the same severity that a business will and say, hey, if we cannot resource this, if we can't get the resource to start moving forward on our vision, if we're going to beg, borrow, and scratch, we're done. We're not going to do it. And I think a lot of nonprofits would benefit from actually shutting down.

Kenny Lange [00:11:12]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:11:14]:
So you said this earlier, it's not more noble to struggle right now. There's a version of this in the business world, right? It's the forever startup kind of a thing, you know? And quite honestly, in the business world, the best strategy for a startup is to stop being one. So there's no glory in staying in early struggle for either group. There's no glory from being in and perpetually staying in an underfunded, under resourced state. As a nonprofit, you take your church, right? How effective are you? We've got a lot of bivocational pastors out there, which is a beautiful thing. They're giving their life for the gospel. I mean, they're working two full time jobs and getting paid for half of one. So I'm not saying that they're bad people, but what's happened is, as a culture, as a group, we've kind of made that okay to stay in that state.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:12:08]:
And so while it is noble to step into that state, to take that leap of faith, to drive into the unknown, we have to do it with a vision and plan to get beyond it. And when that doesn't happen, the best thing that we can do is to actually take what little resource we have and point it in a direction where that can happen.

Kenny Lange [00:12:29]:
Trey, that's really, really good. There's a couple of things that come to mind. One was a quote from a pastor who's. He was leading one of the fastest growing churches in America, and through some issues, he had his own fall, and now he's building back up. But I heard him say that he encountered so many church planting organizations or just churches in general, as he was coming up as a young pastor that had the mentality of, Lord, if you'll keep them humble, we'll keep them poor. Like that was, and I'm glad you found the word. I couldn't find it earlier, but there was a sense of nobility about that, of virtue. I don't think that there is.

Kenny Lange [00:13:15]:
But how can we help people break out of that mentality, whether it is in a church sense, which from that standpoint, we have maybe some scriptural basis to say, where that's not helpful, that's not right. It's misaligned. But even taking out the spiritual context, how can we help people in nonprofit, or even the for profit starving artists, people break out of that mentality? Because I don't think it's the market forces that are doing it to them. They're not victims of something. They just have a victimization sort of mentality.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:13:54]:
100%. So this is going to sound weird. It's gonna sound like I just went, like, to another game, not even left field, like a completely different game, a different sport. But the number one thing that you have to do for profit, nonprofit, and I would say the biggest chronic illness of nonprofits is that you have to have high quality operators. You have to have folks who get stuff done and not operator in the sense of the. Like a position on the team. I'm talking about operator in the sense of how people are wired. Right.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:14:28]:
There are folks who are wired to get stuff done. They will walk through breeze block walls to see something happen. They'll just tell me what to do and don't watch. And that almost ruthless focus on completion. Getting something across the line is culturally offensive in most nonprofit environments. We started because we love people and we want them to feel good, and we don't want to make a decision until everyone's bought in. And we think we can get there with vision and Kumbaya. Nothing gets out of early struggle with vision and Kumbaya.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:15:07]:
Right. Everything that's ever gotten out of early struggle, business or nonprofit, and particularly nonprofits, for this conversation, got there because somebody got something done. Right. So we need to find a way of attracting. We have to find a way of honoring that style. Right. The person who's not the most Kumbaya, who's not gonna necessarily play nice with others, who's not thinking about the good of the team. They're thinking about getting the team across the finish line.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:15:39]:
Right. We have to find a way of honoring that as part of our culture and who we are as nonprofits, not just folks who have great ideas and are great at giving high fives and making us feel good about those ideas. Right. So we've got to have folks who. Who get stuff done. The first step is you have to honor it.

Kenny Lange [00:15:56]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:15:57]:
You have to embrace that style as. As equally valid, equally powerful, equally important to your success as an organization. The next thing you have to do is to attract those types of people. Right. And high quality operators don't want to walk into environments where there are no expectations. They want to know what's expected of them. They want to know what the win is, and they will drive to get that accomplished. And so if you give them wishy washy, we want to love people and we want to be the best ever.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:16:30]:
Like, you give them this kind of, you know, talk that doesn't mean anything, and they're not going to buy it. They're going to go find someone who has a compelling vision, who gives them the space and opportunity to move that organization toward the vision. And then finally you have to embrace it. You have to continue to hang on to those folks in that style. And when you do that combination of the vision which most founders have, right, particularly in the nonprofit world, to go out and make the kind of sacrifice that's necessary, there's a vision that makes all of that worth it. There's not a whole lot of franchises in the nonprofit world, right? There's some, but there's not a whole lot of them. And so you tend to get these very visionary individuals, and you've got to pair that visionary style up with as many high quality operators as you can find. And when you do that, when you get that combination together, that's the fuel that will drive the organization forward.

Kenny Lange [00:17:30]:
I love that. And being someone oriented towards getting stuff done, I can tell you firsthand that you are not often well received in those cultures. I wonder if we can dig a little deeper into that. Number one, whose responsibility? You could say it's everybody's. But especially when you're trying to get out of that early stage, where does the responsibility chiefly lie for attracting, and I love that word of magnetizing. I got it on my shirt. Magnetizing the right people, those operators. But what do those operators need to understand about walking into these environments? Because a lot of them are snatched up by for profit people who will just.

Kenny Lange [00:18:27]:
They'll lay out the goals, the metrics, the milestones, and then just let those people go to work until they exhaust themselves, throw them over, put a new one in. How can they walk in with eyes wide open and maybe with a bit of grace and understanding as to what they're going to encounter and how to combat it.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:18:49]:
Yeah, I think the thing that the operator needs to know is that they're walking into an. Into something that is not designed for them. Right. And so that for an operator who recognizes that and knows it coming in represents this wonderful opportunity that if you have someone who says, hey, our environment is not designed for you, but we recognize that we need you, and I want to bring you into this. I want to learn from you. I want you to drive us forward. If that is genuine, if we do honor, that's why honor has to be first. Right.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:19:20]:
You can't just use the style. You have to honor it. If we can honor it and bring it in, what that does is it creates the space for that operator to challenge our assumed constraints. And I'm telling you, it's like putting a bull in a china shop. This is not an easy process. Right. Getting a high quality operator, high caliber operator into a nonprofit environment that has been systemically sold out in early struggle is not a comfortable process, but early struggle is not a comfortable place. And so once we've decided that, hey, we're going to step into this discomfort together, we're not going to wait for everyone to sing Kumbaya to take the next step forward.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:20:00]:
We are going to start tracking our numbers. We are going to start making sure that we've got resources to support the bottom line. We are going to do some of this brass tacks, not because the brass tacks are what make it worth it, but because without it, we're not going to do what we've actually said we're going to do. And so for the operator coming in, they have to recognize it's not tailored to them and how they want to function, and they are going to have to learn to do a little bit of a dance with that. But the reason that they've been brought in, assuming that this was done right, is to change that culture. And so what I see happen for operators, even when they do come in, is that they feel the distance between themselves and everybody else, and most of them will either leave or adapt and become a chameleon and just look like everybody else because that's what they think is expected of them. You have to learn to speak the language of your audience, right? So there is a meeting in the middle of some sort, but you don't have to become your audience. That's the last thing that we need great operators to be when they step into that environment that's really good.

Kenny Lange [00:21:11]:
There's a lot of pressure to leave or I don't want to say adapt because I think adapt is a good word, but give in, just fall in line with everybody else, and then you cease to become the change agent that you might say you were designed and created to be. Now, one of the things that you mentioned is that there becomes a time, usually early on, when a person who is wired this way, and I think it's important to note, again, not a position on the chart per se, but a more of a wiring and orientation towards work and how things get done, is are we looking for these people to come in and be with us in a nonprofit long term? Do we bring them in for, say, like large initiatives? Do we bring them in for, you know, a couple of years and say, because, you know, most change could take 18 to 24 months, like real meaningful change, and say, we're looking for you to come in for 18 to 24 months to help us accomplish x, y and z goals or outcomes, and then, you know, you can move on to your next thing. Like how? How do people need to think about that? Because some people are sort of like lifelong nonprofit hoppers. Other people, you might could say, whereas like you and I sit outside of the organization. We're coaches. We can help catalyze a bit of that change, but we're never fully a part of it. What's the right engagement for people of this wiring?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:22:48]:
I answer this in two ways. One is the operator style is here to stay, never goes away. The moment it goes away, you're in really bad shape as an organization. The depersonify it. The operator style is something you will need from now to predictable success. And it's one of the bastions against the big rut. It's an essential ingredient to your success from now on. Now the operator, that can change, right? It's not a person, it's a style.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:23:17]:
There's lots of them out there. So it doesn't have to just be one person. We're fooling ourself if our hiring strategy is to only pick people who are going to be here for ten years or more, right? It just doesn't exist like it did before. And to an extent, if you look at the data, it actually never really existed. Most people have changed jobs far more frequently than our nostalgic mindset of the past 2030, 40, 50 years would indicate. So the person doesn't have to be there forever. And regardless of what their style is, they're probably not going to be there forever. If you're hiring someone, you want to get them in for a couple of years, it tends to be how long it takes to get stuff done.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:23:56]:
But the operator style is here to stay. Going back to this idea of honoring the style, if you are kind of sub contracting in the operator style on a temporary basis just to get it in, get it done and get rid of them, you haven't understood the style. You're not honoring the style, right? You're using it, you're leveraging it. It'll create some success. But you're going to find yourself invariably and inevitably back in the same position that you're in right now without continued operator support. Now you got to kind of butt this up against the reality, which is great operators are not looking for jobs, right? Like great operators are well employed. They tend to be making great work, right? Proverbs says, look at a man who's skilled in his work and he'll always be in demand. And so when you.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:24:47]:
You find great operators, they're doing something somewhere else. Now, the distinct advantage that nonprofits have is the mission. And every great operator out there, when they come to the moment of sobriety, when they come to what they really want and need from an organization, is vision. They might go after money. They might do that for a while. But money doesn't sustain operators. Vision does. And I train folks all over the country with this, and regularly, we'll have operators who come to me and say, I wish people knew how much we need vision, because they will mock it, right? They'll talk down on it.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:25:26]:
They'll talk about business. B's like, operators aren't visionaries. That's not how they're designed. It's not how they're wired. But they need great visionaries to do their best work. They need it for the inspiration that's necessary to produce the volume of work that they do. So operators are in high demand. They're not just sitting out there looking for jobs at minimum wage.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:25:48]:
That's not what a high caliber operators doing. So what that means is true in the business and the nonprofit world. I would say it's especially true in the nonprofit world because of the other kind of prevailing winds pushing back on you. But what you have to do, you do have to be creative in how you bring in your operators early on. If you aren't resourced yet, then you may not have the resources to go out and spend $150,000 on an operator. You may not even have $150,000. Uh, in that sense, if you are trying to find a way to bridge the gap to full time operators, then, yes, bring them in for as long as you possibly can and get as much out of them as you can. So as long as you're.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:26:32]:
You're. You honor the style, and you're committed to it for the long haul. There are short term strategies to get you over the break. Right. Getting out of early struggle is kind of like getting off the island.

Kenny Lange [00:26:42]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:26:43]:
You ever watch, uh, what's the. What's the. Tom Hanks, Wilson castaway? Yeah. You know, so, what, does the route keep bumping up again? It's this almost invisible barrier, although you can see it, but the breakers. Right. You can row out 100 yards or so, but then you meet this place where the water's actually pulling you back toward the shore. And that's what early struggle is like, is you can make some progress, but you've got to get over the hump. You got to get past the breakers, and sometimes you have to be really creative.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:27:12]:
That is Tom Hanks, uh, on how to get past those breakers. Right. So, timing can be important. Short term things can be important. Here's the brilliant, brilliant advantage that nonprofits have. You don't have to pay people. You don't like nonprofits. It's normal to have volunteer staff at nonprofits.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:27:35]:
And so you can. You have this massive advantage over for profits that are in early struggle. It's one of many. And that is that you can get people that are strong operators to give you their time for free. All you have to do is embrace the style, learn what motivates them, cast a compelling vision, and then give them clear expectations for how to succeed.

Kenny Lange [00:27:59]:
I love that. And that makes a lot of sense. There's a lot of different strategies, and obviously, the timing of them matters almost as much as what you're doing. Something I would love for you to speak a little bit more about. And not just because staring at the well book over your shoulder, the synergist. But you've mentioned operator, and obviously, I'm not going to play coy like, I just magically don't know what the Vops model is, but operator is one of four leadership styles that's laid out in the book. The synergist. Can you walk us through briefly what those styles are, and then maybe even, how does bringing those into harmony help with the issue that we've been discussing?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:28:46]:
Yeah, great, great question. Uh, and. And, uh, the. The basic presumption is that all four styles need to be working in harmony, which, if you're trying to get out of early struggles, actually not true. And it's one of the things that keeps us trapped there. So, let's. Let's unpack this. Let's talk about what the different force, the four styles are and the common misconception or.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:29:07]:
Or deviation away from a successful strategy that we see in nonprofits. First one very rarely needs any explanation. It's visionaries, right? You look at just about any model, they have a visionary in it, because you look at any organization, and it's a visionary who started it. It's the person who's willing to work 80 hours for themselves instead of working 40 hours for someone else. It's that person who has the audacity to believe that they can create something from nothing. Almost always visionary or a strong visionary style in the mix. Right. Maybe not the primary one, but it's a strong visionary style.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:29:42]:
And when it comes to the visionary in these early organizations, like we're talking about their role, regardless of style, is to bring the vision to the organization. Where are we going? Why is it so important that we get there as a nonprofit, how are we changing the world? Right. Cast that compelling vision that motivates and aligns everyone to move. Now, any visionary, when you look in the kind of rear view mirror, there's just this wake of great ideas that were not even half completed, right? It's just this, this whole trail of unfinished projects.

Kenny Lange [00:30:12]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:30:13]:
And so, intuitively, especially in the business world, visionaries will go out and find themselves an operator. Now, here's the great news. If you're a visionary in a nonprofit and you've resisted this for a while, once you taste what having a high quality operator is actually like, you'll find it is. It's a match made in heaven, right? There's a symbiotic nature to these two. Visionaries are starters. Operators are finishers. Visionaries need virtually no attention to detail. Operators need a little bit more, but not a lot more.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:30:46]:
Right? Especially compared to some of the other styles. And so there are people out there, and you may not believe this if you've not had them working on your team, but there are people out there who just love to get stuff done, right. The tenacity that it takes to finish a job, some people have that baked in, and they love it.

Kenny Lange [00:31:05]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:31:05]:
For an operator, a great day is when they were left alone to get stuff. They don't need to decide what it is. They don't need to have a great vision. They don't need to take it in some direction. They just want to be left alone to get stuff done. That's a christian version of that saying, by the way. And so we have our visionary, we have our operator. And again, it's this almost magical combination it together, those two styles is what allows us to move to the second stage.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:31:32]:
We call it fun. And I can tell you this, that I worked with lots of organizations, both in fun and in later stages. And the degree to which fun is fun. The fun stage is fun is the degree to which they have high quality operators, and they built a system for them to succeed. It's that simple. And. And so you get our. You get our visionary, you get our operator, and together they just, a whole lot happens now.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:31:57]:
It's a whole lot in about a thousand different directions. It's not pretty. It's not nice, it's not cute. It's. It's, you know, it's borderline chaos at any given moment, right? Our visionaries chasing squirrels left and right. Our operators saying, tell me what to do, and then don't watch. Right. It's not even controlled chaos.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:32:16]:
It's just chaos chaos, but it's productive chaos. And so what happens is you reach a size as a group or as an organization, where you can't just make everything up every time you do it right. You can't just figure it out every time you run into a challenge. You've got to start getting everybody pointed in the same direction. And so what has to happen is you have to start embracing, and I'll use the word honor again, you have to honor this third style, which for many at this point is really, really difficult to do because you've succeeded by not having it. And the third style is processors, right? Folks who think in terms of system and process, folks who move seven times slower than operators because they're working at seven times the precision as operators. Folks who default to no right instead of defaulting to yes. Folks who default to thinking about how to do the thing right as opposed to how to do the right thing thing.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:33:14]:
And so they're highly detail oriented, they're highly literal. They're very, very narrow focused. And it's processors who, when you combine them with the visionaries and operators that have gotten you this far, actually create scalability for an organization. When you take the vision of the visionary, the momentum of an operator, and the sustainability of a processor, that's what creates predictable success. That's what creates scalability. However, you put a visionary and operator and a processor in a room together, and what's going to happen, it's not pretty, right? And it's actually highly predictable how it devolves into just awfulness. But what you have to do to get the best out of those three styles, because you can't scale without them. So if we've got to get them working together, we have to find a way to getting them to work together.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:34:08]:
And the way that we do that is by developing the fourth style, which we call the synergist. And the synergist is the relational glue that holds VOP teams together. Now, in the nonprofit world, we tend to have an abundance of synergists because they are the people people, right. They're the ones who want to see others succeed. They love the person side of the mission. And so what happens in the business world is we typically have to develop the synergist side to maintain predictable success. In the nonprofit sphere, we tend to have an overabundance of synergists, and we especially have an overabundance of synergists too soon. And the direct result of that, when you look at opposite ends of the spectrum, synergists are the most people oriented of all four styles.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:35:01]:
Operators are the most task oriented of all four styles. And so when you have too much synergist, it has to correct somewhere. And what happens is that synergist style, the Kumbaya, that consensus driven, that everyone's just doing it so that everyone feels good, that is what drives out operators. And it can be the very slow, if not imminent death of many a nonprofit.

Kenny Lange [00:35:28]:
That's fantastic. Thank you for taking us through that. I think that was something you and I had messaged about several months ago, talking about a nonprofit. And he said, hey, just watch out for the synergist style, because so many nonprofits are over synergized, and that's what keeps them, you know, Kumbaya ing until eventually you got to call it and go home or decide that you're just going to be in sort of a pitiful misery for eternity, which I'm happy to report, we did not have an overabundance of synergists in the group, so. And also, you just gave me some insight for a new client that I just started working with and some tension that was in the room. So now I have something to go back to them with. So if I'm a nonprofit leader and I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, okay, this is fantastic. And it's probably the visionary listening, if I had to guess, because they're the ones who are a junkie for development.

Kenny Lange [00:36:29]:
They're like, yeah, okay, well, I do want harmony because I don't want conflict, because I know a lot of visionaries who are conflict avoidant. Right? They just want yeses. Like, don't tell me no, just give me yeses. But sometimes that yes is meaningless, and that's what I think sometimes is happening from the synergist. It's a meaningless yes to keep the peace, but not really move us towards that predictable success stage that you mentioned. So what's the best way for a leader to figure out, well, who's around me? And do I. Do I start pushing some people to the side? Do I try to find some other people? Where do I start looking? Because maybe they're not where they want to be. And it sounds like that operator piece is probably the missing element in the mixture.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:37:20]:
Yeah, well, so you bring up a couple of good points, and that's you got to find out what you have right? Now. Right. And what's going to happen? And when you look at this, I help teams to scale all the time. We do all kinds of nuts and bolts stuff. But when you look at what I really do for them, I teach visionaries, operators, processors, and synergists how to work together. That's what I do. And so knowing what elements you have, more importantly, knowing what elements you don't have, I can predict the way that you will come up short of your goals and expectations as a team. And so what I would encourage folks to do is, one, there's a free quiz that you can take.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:37:56]:
I think you've used it, but if you go to, comma is right there on the homepage, you look for the leadership styles quiz, and anyone can take it 100% free. So that's the first step. Just have your folks take it. The second one is have you take it. And then the second one is have your team take it. So you can find out who do we have on the team? Are we all visionaries and synergists?

Kenny Lange [00:38:17]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:38:17]:
Do we have three processors? What do we have? And from there. Now, that begs a really hard question. And you alluded to some of the challenges. Do we. Do we kick people off the team? Right? Do we, do we go out and just hire nine people? I don't have money to hire nine people. Well, no. Right. The very first thing that you'll find out is that there are probably people on your team who have some of that style.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:38:42]:
Maybe it's not their primary, but it does exist in the team, and they've been smothering it because you as a team haven't honored it.

Kenny Lange [00:38:51]:

Scott Ritzheimer [00:38:51]:
And they realize, hey, to fit into this team, I need to be a synergist visionary. I need to cheerlead your vision. And that's, that's my role here. And, and so you probably have more of it than you think. Although it, it might still be low. So the first one is just leverage what you got, right? Give it voice, uh, and, and listen to it. The second one is you gotta have an operating system in place. Operators love operating systems.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:39:16]:
And so something like s two at its core, especially at this stage, is an operating system. It is a system for operators. It creates the clarity and the accountability that operators need to have autonomy and own their results. And so having a system in place is just going to create an environment where you can call up your operators and your operators will thrive. Neither one of those require you to hire or fire anybody. Both of them are solvable without any personnel change. Now, if you have operators on the team, I'm not saying that you don't need to hire or fire somebody. That might be part of the discussion, but you don't have to, just to start bringing some balance to the mix.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:39:57]:
The next thing that you can do is, again, especially if you're in the nonprofit world, is look to your volunteer staff and start celebrating when people do operator things right, start celebrating when folks get stuff done, stop beating people up because they don't necessarily play nice with others. Right. Don't overvalue consensus as much as constructive momentum. And in doing that, just making those the kind of procedural changes, the cultural changes, you can move significantly without any additional resource expenditure.

Kenny Lange [00:40:34]:
I love that. That gets back to the heart of the saying, celebrate what you want to see repeated, which is a great change agent no matter what stage, but especially early on. And I think a big takeaway for me is going to be the notion of honoring the gifting or honoring the style, even if it's not the dominant style of one of your individuals, which I think for a lot of visionaries or even synergists, because that's a learn style. We don't have time to get into that yet, but maybe that's part three. That's the third intro that we'll go through. But you don't have to kick anybody to the curb. But you may ask somebody, hey, I need you to take this part of you that apparently you have, that not many of us do, and I need you to really let it bubble to the surface.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:41:26]:

Kenny Lange [00:41:27]:
Now, I typically end with a question about what something the first step someone can take in the next 24 hours, that's low or no cost. I think you already laid that out there, but in case you were, something else had come to mind. Is it go to and take that leadership styles assessment first.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:41:47]:
Yeah, absolutely. And if you want to skip a step, you can get a full team report. If you go to team report, you can just skip this step and we'll do your whole team for you for free and put together a composite report with everyone's scores and the combined scores. But easiest step, what I'd recommend for everyone is go to, scroll down until you see the leadership styles quiz and take it yourself.

Kenny Lange [00:42:13]:
So it's fantastic. And for all of you, system and soul users, whether you use the app and you have a coach or like myself or Scott, who's also certified coach. This shows up in our software as well, alongside Patrick Coloncioni. Six types of working genius. So as you are building your chart, you really can look at this as an element of team composition, which, as Scott mentioned, that's 99% of what he's actually doing is just helping that team composition come together and work really, really well together. Well, Scott, thank you so much, as always, for a fun conversation and dropping lots of knowledge on us. So I hope to have you back again and again because I think we're better off for it. If people want to know more about you, if they want to consume more content or see what you're doing, where would you send them?

Scott Ritzheimer [00:43:05]:
Thanks, Kenny. Hopefully being a three timer is better than being a two timer. We'll have to, I don't know.

Kenny Lange [00:43:11]:
We're going to have to do some market research on that.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:43:13]:
We'll have to see, folks, can I wish it was as easy as. And look up Scott Ritzheimer and you'll find him all over social media. But what I have to say is look up Scott Ritzheimer and look for all the ones that look like he's 14 years old because my dad is also Scott Ritzheimer. So there are two of us. And so find the one that looks like he's 14. You'll probably have the right guy. And you can follow me there. You can head over to skill architects again.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:43:34]:
We have that leadership styles assessment on there. There's a whole wealth of other resources. There's other assessments for your organization, your growth. There's videos, there's content. We've got a podcast as well. You find all of it there on the, the site.

Kenny Lange [00:43:48]:
Absolutely. And we will link to all of that. And I would definitely recommend go check out Scott's podcast. It's fun, dynamic. He puts out twice as many episodes as I do. I'm always seeing, it's like, how'd you.

Scott Ritzheimer [00:44:01]:
Do to this fast?

Kenny Lange [00:44:02]:
So it's crazy, crazy good, but lots of informative content over there for you. Well, thank you again and for all the listeners. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to share this conversation with us and be a fly on the wall. If this helped you, if this is impactful for you, you help somebody else find it and be impacted as well. You can pay it forward and it costs you no money, just like subscribe or share. It just helps it bubble up, get a little bit more attention. Obviously, I benefit from it. I'd appreciate it.

Kenny Lange [00:44:33]:
But really, what I'm here to do is to help more leaders figure out how to think in new and innovative ways so that they can get the success that they're destined for. So, for all of us here, and by all of us, I mean all two of us, we. We thank you for. For tuning in. Until next time. Change the way that you think you will. Change the way that you lead. We'll see you.

Creators and Guests

Kenny Lange
Kenny Lange
Jesus follower, husband, bio-dad to 3, adopted-dad to 2, foster-dad to 18+. @SystemandSoul Certified Coach. Dir. Ops @NCCTylerTX. Go @ChelseaFC
Scott Ritzheimer
Scott Ritzheimer
At Scale Architects, we help you start, scale, and sustain your organization's success. Powered by Predictable Success.
How Scott Ritzheimer Thinks About Key Leadership Styles for Successful Nonprofits
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