Culture Building: Standards of Collaboration Part II — The OG: Jon’s Management Rules
By Lindsey Nadeau | July 07, 2022
Jon Thorsen, former associate vice president of advancement services at The George Washington University, has seven management rules to live by. These rules have influenced others, including former colleague Lindsey Nadeau.
Nadeau brought Thorsen’s management style with her to UNICEF USA, creating the Standards of Collaboration, which she shares in detail in this article here. (Be sure to read it in companion with this Q&A!)
Let’s take a step back on this journey — how did Thorsen’s Management Rules come to be? Nadeau sat down with him to learn more.
What led to you writing your rules down?
I used to tell my team that I have very few management rules. Then one of them responded, “Well, how many do you have?” It turned out I had never written them down.
It started when I was at the Red Cross, and we went through a grueling time after 9/11. Like everyone, we were living through something people could have never foreseen and had to make conscious decisions on how to adjust, which requires clear guidelines. Shortly after that, I wrote down the Management Rules to help people feel supported during the response to 9/11.
I view the list of rules as a two-fold guide: first, this is who I am as a manager; second, this is how we are going to work together, within our team and with our partners.
Did the rules evolve over time?
None were added or removed, but I tweaked them over time to provide more detail. I got more organized as I went, and began including them in the orientation packets to socialize the rules from day one for each team member.
How have you seen people embrace them, apply them or take them forward?
I knew I was having an impact when managers on my teams quoted them back to me. We created a shared understanding.
They also saw me as I lived them, starting with yes (Management Rule #3). I received feedback over the years that people appreciated knowing where I came from and what I expected. The Management Rules, and weekly office hours, were two of my most valuable resources as a manager. It helps people feel valued, especially when trying to manage up. If you let people know where you are coming from, it gets easier.
Which rules do you have the hardest time adhering to?
Management Rule #4, “No heroic measures.” Because there is always more we can do, and time is a finite resource. But for some, time is not as constraining as you might think. We are often willing to give more and more of our time to the causes we are passionate about.
I have gotten better at not putting in 12 hours day after day. I struggled with it and my team did too — I would see others doing 12-hour days and I would kick them out. “You’ve been here too long, I’m turning your computer off.” It’s a hard one to model. It sometimes requires a bit of “do as I say, not as I do.”
Besides Management Rule #4, which rule have you most coached others on?
Management Rule #3, “Starting with yes.” It may not be the most challenging, but it is the most meaningful. We know immediately if things are possible or not because of our experience. Other people don’t, and we must guide them there. We must be able to say, “That can be done, but here is what it’s going to take.” That is the approach that succeeds.
Especially when I would start a new team, I would ask for something and the new team would spend 15 hours when I thought it would take 15 minutes. If I had known the level of effort or amount of time it would have taken, I would not have made the request, or I would have reduced the scope. Teams need to feel they can push back on upper management and do it gently by stating what it will take and letting others arrive at no. The Management Rules not only encourage a team member to do so, but it expects them to. That is why the first rule is “Understand the assignment” (with a note that this also applies to requests I make directly).
How did you socialize the rules beyond your team?
At one of my employers, we did an employee survey seeking feedback about how to improve organizational culture. Management was the No. 1 problem staff identified. Advancement typically promotes good fundraisers because they are good at raising funds, but not because they have management potential or prior experience. Often, successful fundraisers have everything you want in a manager, except management experience and interest.
I worked with two great colleagues to shape an all-day management workshop for supervisors at this organization. We worked with each supervisor, giving them tools to manage their staff more effectively. The Management Rules were a foundation of that training and, more than anything, I stressed the need to tell people how we want to work together. I shared the example of how we were doing it in advancement services. Several managers later told me they had incorporated the rules on their teams.
Where should folks start?
Think about what you would like to be done differently. Strive to show the same amount of respect that you would want to receive. Think of a great manager that you had and what they did and how they operated. Then follow through!
Managing Director of Prospect Development & Campaign Planning, UNICEF USA
Lindsey Nadeau is the managing director of prospect development and campaign planning at UNICEF USA, where she guides the organization toward data-driven decision making and automation. She was previously the director of research and relationship management at The George Washington University, led development operations at the Center for American Progress, was an assistant director of prospect research and management at American University, and held multiple roles (read: too many hats!) in development operations at Public Citizen. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics from American University.
Lindsey is a member of Apra International’s board of directors, a former president of Apra Metro DC, chaired Apra International's Conference Planning Committee, and served on Apra International’s Nominations, Editorial Advisory, Data Analytics Symposium, Apra Talks, and Body of Knowledge committees. She has served as co-chair and faculty for CASE's annual Prospect Development Conference and is a former chair of the aasp Prospect Development Best Practices Committee. She is an instructor at Rice University's Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, teaching “Relationship Management: Data, Policy, & Insight” and serves on iWave’s Advisory Counsel.