Based in Boston, Ari Betof, Ed.D., is a results-driven consultant who helps nonprofit leaders to align their mission and resources in ways that create dynamic organizations. In a recent Medium article, “The Seduction of False Optimism,” Dr. Ari Betof began by emphasizing the valuable service that optimism provides as a counter to challenging and often painful processes involved in setting institutions on a path toward sustainable growth.
Unfortunately, optimism can also cover a multitude of sins, including the papering over of real problems and being “blinded by resolve.” This occurs when an organization has a compelling purpose that engenders a sense of perseverance, even when the data argues against one’s line of action.
Tiny revenue increases can easily be extrapolated into future trend lines, with weaknesses explained away as “blips” and the wrong metrics used to chart a course. This is amplified by the ease with which the wrong conditions can be placed on spreadsheets and made to indicate a compelling path forward.
An example is a model created that charts an organization back to a balanced budget simply by expanding revenue by 2 percent annually, assuming growth generated from programs within the strategic plan. If this outlook has been codified within the plan, few leaders will take a close look at the feasibility of it, when funding constraints subsequently dictate a cutting of expenses by 2 percent.
The end result is often an unrealistic plan, given current budget dynamics, that rarely get brought up in board meetings until the problem has compounded and the organization goes “over the cliff.”
Ari Betof highlighted the development of “rapid prototyping” both by NAIS and individual schools. He also identified meaningful progress in major initiatives in the sector by organizations like Mastery Transcript Consortium.
A second reflection was the continued hesitancy by school leaders to see the challenges in the broader market as being proportionately relevant to their own schools. He describes this phenomenon as the “seduction of false optimism” and suggests it poses a risk for nonprofit organizations that do not acknowledge the facts of their reality.
The third reflection was the development of new tools that can aid school leaders, but only if they have the time and understanding to use them.
Dr. Ari Betof also offered perspective about how to leverage meaningful takeaways from an intensive conference experience. He concluded the piece by highlighting the contributions of Pearl Rock Kane, who passed away in March 2019. Pearl was the longtime Director of the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University.
Dr. Ari Betof has drawn the attention of leaders across the for-profit and nonprofit sectors for his fresh perspectives since founding Organizational Sustainability Consulting in 2018. His consulting work involves coaching senior leaders in various aspects of institutional effectiveness including: leadership and board relations, organizational savvy, team dynamics, conflict management, financial sustainability, and program assessment. He also helps leadership teams and boards complete mission-critical projects to advance institutional priorities.
Two of the recent articles by Dr. Ari Betof highlight this new perspective. The Seduction of False Optimism addresses the importance of remaining optimistic while avoiding falling prey to being overly positive. Ari Betof writes, “We can’t confront the brutal facts when optimism clouds our vision. Is it surprising that dedicated individuals risk unconsciously looking through rose-coloured lenses? No, but it is also dangerous…Such trappings are neither leadership nor stewardship.”
Based in Brookline, Massachusetts, Dr. Ari Betof leads Organizational Sustainability Consulting, LLC, as founder and president. Ari Betof provides in-depth coaching to senior executives and boards of trustees on topics ranging from team-building to conflict management.
While some executives strive to keep conflict out of their organizations, experts often point out that, when successfully managed, conflict can be a healthy means of furthering an institution’s growth.
By pinpointing the origins of a conflict, analyzing its context, recognizing divergent viewpoints, and facilitating agreement on common-ground issues, an executive can gain new insights into the dynamics and challenges of his or her organization. Moreover, the resolution to the conflict can help build a stronger strategic infrastructure for the entire team going forward.
Conflicts can stimulate greater productive employee involvement with the organization and spark productive conversations between front-line staff and leadership. Additionally, the successful resolution of a conflict can forge closer ties among staff as they come away from the situation with an increased understanding of new perspectives. In this respect, conflict management becomes a powerful tool for team-building and morale-boosting, as well as creating a thriving culture within an organization.
Ultimately, conflict can produce new ideas that benefit the organization in any sector, as employees and leaders alike feel free to offer honest criticism and suggestions for improvement.