Non-Profit Leadership Lessons


Tina Combs

Tina Combs, President & CEO

Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce

It didn’t take long to find out why people said that I had to meet Tina Combs. Our coffee shop conversation flowed naturally and easily over a topic that was an obvious passion for Tina – leadership in the non-profit world.

At the heart of every great business, every great organization and every great non-profit, there’s a leader with a heart. Lose your heart for people, and your organization will pay the price.

Here are some leadership lessons I learned from Tina, a leader with a heart for the people she serves.


First and foremost, “Say,No,’ to ego. Don’t worry about who gets the credit as long as the work gets done for the good of the community. Be sincere in what you do and sincerely try to help others.”

Leadership isn’t a power trip to be taken. Leadership is about improving the quality of life for others, your staff, your volunteers, your clients, and your community. By investing in training, education, retreats, and celebrations with your team, you let them know that you care and that you value what they bring to the team. Have a heart. Do something meaningful for the people you lead.


“A good leader must never forget their purpose.” Purpose, valuesand vision motivates, builds a strong sense of culture, and gives people something worth giving their lives too. Keep your eye on the prize, and daily point the members of your team toward your purpose. To lead is to inspire people with a sense of purpose. Can they articulate the purpose of your organization?


“Work well with others. Get people engaged. Treat your volunteers like gold, appreciate them, be organized and don’t waste their time.”

Time is precious, and there is no better way to wear out, discourage or lose great staff and volunteers than to waste their time in ill-prepared meetings lacking leadership. If you want people to volunteer and serve with you, respect their time, lead by your example, and value your volunteers, your staff and your team in every possible creative way.

Tina rightly said, “I can tell when people (I’m volunteering for) forget I’m a volunteer. Always show appreciation. No one is obligated to help us.”

And no one is obligated to work for us. When you know you’ve hired the right employee, treat him or her as the valued asset they are. It’s been repeated over and over that it’s much less costly to invest in great employees than it is to search for and train a new employee. The same goes for volunteers. Value the people you have around you, and they’ll likely stay with you for years to come.


“Good leaders go outside of their world and help other people in the community. Volunteer for others.”

Non-profits require a strong volunteer base, and some of the best leaders are those who have learned to serve well from their personal acts of service. Service is learned in the field of volunteerism.

Is it time for a refresher course in service? If so, contact a non-profit with a purpose in line with you’re passions and find your life enriched by your acts of service.


“Cultivate relationships & your reputation. Show that you’re leading a credible organization.”

Self leadership, organizational leadership, team leadership takes intentional effort. The best leaders are those who give specific attention to building healthy, life-giving relationships inside and outside of their organization. The best relationships and the most revered reputations are built on honesty without compromise.

Organizations need leaders who are honest with their teams, their clients, their volunteers, and themselves. The quickest route to a damaged reputation is to compromise on the truth. When a leader compromises in the smallest of ways, his or her team quickly assumes that’s the way of the organization. Once lies and half-truths take root in an organization, the culture shifts. And a shifting culture will damage your reputation. Safe-guard your relationships and your reputation. Build a culture of honesty without compromise.

Businesses, organizations, teams, volunteers, and non-profits will be at their best when their leaders are at their best. What are you doing today to become a better leader tomorrow? How are you investing in your personal leadership?

Leave a comment below and let me know what leadership investments you are making. I want to learn from you, and I hope to hear that your team and your organization are soaring to new heights because of your leadership. Make it happen leaders.



No Time to Develop Relationships

Frustrated Businesswoman

“I do not have time to develop relationships with others…” 

The words so surprised me that I had to read them a second and third time to make sure I was reading them correctly. Must be the words of a disgruntled person who wants to be left alone, right? Well, not exactly. Read on.

“What I am looking for are people with immediate needs or people who will need my services in the next month or so. Unfortunately, I do not have time to develop relationships with others who may be a source of business years down the road.”

Reading these words, I thought this could have been me if I hadn’t taken some strategic and decisive steps to guard against such thinking.

“I am looking for people with immediate needs…” 

Translation?  Desperation. “I need real business today, I need it now.” A wake up call for us all. In the race to grow our business, to make more sales, and to meet more goals, we too live with the danger of slipping into desperate thinking that will reveal itself as undue pressure in the next client meeting.

While it’s important that we close as many sales as possible, it’s more important to realize that we’re leading potential clients on a journey that is meant to help them know us, like us, and trust us in order to be ready to buy from us.

“Unfortunately I do not have time…” 

Without systems that allow us to automate the selling process and educate potential clients 24/7, none of us will have the time to reach, engage, and nurture new clients. Instead, the people we meet will fall through the cracks like seed falling on stone. Buyers today want to explore their possibilities, they want to learn about the best solutions, and they want to do it all at times convenient for them.

In her post, “Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide the Buyer’s Journey,” Lori Wizdo says, B2B marketers must nurture prospects for months or years before they turn into sales opportunities.

Customers will engage with marketers who meet their needs – their changing needs – for different information and options during the buying journey. Marketers who continue to “go to customer” with product-centric campaigns and offers risk becoming irrelevant.

“Who may be a source of business years down the road…” 

Simply put, this statement creates the very problem this writer has today. Taking a short-term today approach will leave us wishing for buyers days, months and years down the road.

“The paramount shift from 1:1 marketing that took place between a sales rep and a buyer has gone by the wayside. By the time the client lands at your doorstep, the process has long been underway,” Daniel Newman, Content Is The New Sales Call.

So what’s the solution to this dilemma?

1. Come to grips with the fact that sales is a journey and not a one time decision.

Buyers are reading what we write, they are listening to what we say on many different platforms, and they are taking all those things into consideration when making their buying decision. Are you creating content that positions you as the expert in your field of knowledge?

2. Create systems that allow you to personally engage with potential and current clients.

Systems position us for growth both in sales and in reach. With the best systems in place, you’ll  remove the burden of worrying about where you are in the sales process. You’ll know at a glance. And your systems will free up your time through the gift of automation.

Do you have the time you need to focus on the people and activities that bring you new clients and drive your sales?

3. Position your business for sales and growth over the long term.

With a great Customer Resource Management system you’ll be able to create a process of client engagement that respects the clients journey and welcomes them to engage with you on their own terms. And when they engage, it’s something to celebrate. Do you have clearly defined processes that respect your clients’ journey and allows them to engage with you and your sales team for the long haul?

Take the pressure off yourself and your sales team. Create systems and processes that allow you to engage clients in a journey that is respect-filled, thoughtful, and strategic. Building positively into clients for years to come will assure you have a business for years to come.

By the way. The writer of the letter is a business owner.  Are you ready to buy today? ;)


Act Decisively

action speaksOver the years I’ve found myself attracted to decisive people who get things done and make things happen. Yet I haven’t always lived as that kind of person until I took the time to think it through.

I discovered that I was hesitant to act because…

  • I was afraid something bad would happen. I thought I would fail.  I thought it would be a mistake. Then I realized that I was focused on and expecting something negative to happen. This was no way to live, so I worked daily to put that mindset aside.
  • I knew that to act would create more work, require more effort, and affect change. Yet that’s what I really needed for the good of my business and my personal life.
  • I wanted to take time to “think it over.” And guess what I found out? I seldom gave another thought to the idea I said I wanted to think over. That was an excuse not to act, and that was crazy.

Analyzing my actions got me so fed up with my crazy lines of reasoning that I drew my line in the sand and said, “No more.” From that time forward, I vowed to ACT DECISIVELY every day. I intentionally sought out the people, ideas, and solutions that changed the course of my business. Today, it’s my habit to consider my very best options, then to act quickly in saying yes to them.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned in all of this: No decision has ever been irreversible, even when it was wrong. And no decision has been  life-threatening! As a matter of fact, just the opposite has been true. My decision to act decisively, to quickly say yes to the best people, ideas, and solutions always propels my business forward, positively impacting my personal and my business life.

In business, I’ve found  the courage to act decisively from having systems and tools that consistently work in ways that produce measurable results beyond what I ever imagined. And now I have the privilege of training other sales people and business leaders to create their own set of customized sales systems. Together, we are putting processes in place that make it hard for others to ignore us.

My courage to say YES, to act decisively, to put systems in place that I work each day is resulting in repeated comments like…

“Thank you for remembering me in the busyness of work and life. I want to move forward with the project.”  

“Thank you for thinking of me and keeping me in the loop…I’ll be there.”

“I’ve read everything you’ve been writing, and I need what you have to offer.  Let’s get started…”

As a business owner and sales professional, I’m grateful that responses like these are becoming more my norm.

If you had buying responses like these coming into your business on a regular basis, would it make a difference?

Hoping to make more sales without a clearly defined and measurable plan will no longer cut it. This is your time to make a decision and get moving. You, your business and those you care most about need you to stop putting off decisions and act. Your employees are waiting for you. Future customers are waiting for you. You are waiting for you. Get moving! Not one person will loose their life when you decide to take a courageous step for the good of your business. The worst that can happen is that you may be out of some time and a few dollars. Is that too great of a risk to take?

What does your business most need today? Your actions determine your outcomes.  If you need someone to partner with you so that you act decisively, contact me.  Whatever you decide to do, do something good for yourself and for your business. Act decisively. And when you do, you’ll join me in the tribe of, “I’m glad I did!”

Sales Is About Creating Value

create value text in wood type

There is always someone looking to buy products and services, so the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What moves a person to buy from me?” A primary reason people buy from you is value. Value is the tipping point to be seriously considered.

Value is difficult to define, especially as it is evaluated personally by the buyer. Value is found as you walk in the shoes of your buyers, identify with their challenges, then solve their challenges with a great buying experience.

Every day people are buying, but the challenge is to create a valuable buying experience where it’s clear that we care enough to truly help others for their sake, and not for the sake of making a sale. Where we care enough to strategically customize a solution that meets customers real needs. Where we intentionally build a great trust-building buying experience from start to finish.

The day you decide to build value into your selling process, that’s the day you’ll find your thinking and your approach shift from how you can sell to how you can help others and make a difference.

When sales systems are implemented that make it possible for a salesperson to create intentional value from the start of the process to the winning of referrals from satisfied customers, everyone wins. With a sales process that’s understood, measured, rewarded, and well lead, value is created.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re doing to create value for others today.

Gaining Word of Mouth Referrals

word of mouth referral

I recently read an article entitled, “Referrals Can Help Improve Close Ratios“. The author said that the typical close ratio for most salespeople is 10%. Yet when combined with a well implemented referral program, the close ratio goes to 67%!

It’s been said that the very best way for a business to reach new clients is through word of mouth referrals. Assuming that’s true, what can a sales person do gain more word of mouth referrals?

I was recently in a conversation with a lady who was frustrated over the fact that her printer had stopped working in the middle of a big project just before the close of business, 2 pm on a Friday. She contacted her local box store for help, only to be told that the part she needed would have to be ordered and could take up to 14 days to arrive. In need of a solution fast, she contacted Specialty Business Supplies and was blown away when they offered to deliver the part that same day.

Exceptional customer service like this gets talked about without hesitancy.

This lady was so impressed that she felt compelled to share her experience with others. The real message behind this word of mouth referral was,”When your printer runs into problems and you’re up against a deadline, call Specialty Business Supplies. They’re the ones to do business with!”

How To Create A Buzz

Do you want your business to become the word of mouth topic of conversation? Here’s where to begin.

  1.  Deliver exceptional customer service that goes beyond what’s expected. And once you’re finished, deliver it again!
  2. Reward yourself and the members of  your sales team for the referrals gained from satisfied customers. A referral is given only after trust has been earned through great customer service. If you or a member of your team closes a sale because of a referral, reward the efforts…the referral has been earned and deserves to be rewarded. By rewarding referral sales, you build a culture of referral among the members of your team.
  3. Give your sales team permission to lean toward their customer. This means giving them permission to make decisions that are in the best interest of the client. Empower your team to provide unique, custom service to each customer they encounter. When a client presents a problem, they’ll be more likely to find a solution rather than make excuses. And that response will merit a word of mouth referral from the best of us!

Is your sales approach worth talking about? Have you and your team been providing exceptional customer service that’s so surprised customers that they’re talking about it with their friends today?

Click here to tell us about your very best customer service experiences. Who’s surprised you with exceptional customer service?

How To Motivate Yourself


John Maxwell said, “It’s never the size of your problem that is the problem. It’s a lack of momentum.”

Momentum comes from inner motivation, and when it’s gone, hopelessness sets in. Many of us struggle to find a deep level of satisfaction in life simply because we lose our motivation to act.

Here are three simple actions you can do today to discover again, the motivation you need to move toward your dreams and goals.

Make Emotional Self-Deposits

Like a bank account, your withdrawals will be only as strong as your deposits. Make time for the people, places and activities that inspire and rejuvenate you the most. Unless you make emotional self-deposits, no one else will. And without emotional self-deposits, you’ll soon find yourself depleted with little left to give.

Aristotle once said, “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event, it is a habit.” Take responsibility for who you are and for who you are becoming. Take action today for the good of yourself.  Our world needs the very best you there is.

Give Yourself Advice

In her article, “Give Yourself A Pep Talk”, Jessica Stillman shares some great evidence for giving yourself advice by using the pronoun “You” rather than “I”. Here’s how it works.

When giving yourself advice you can choose to say, “I am going motivate myself for success today,” or you can say to yourself, “You, (insert your name) are going to motivate yourself for success today.” The difference is powerful. When we speak to ourselves using the pronoun “You,” it’s said to be more authoritative, as if it’s coming from someone outside of ourselves with a renewed sense of power to encourage and motivate.

Begin talking to yourself, in the privacy of your home or car, of course, and give yourself advice as if you were an outsider speaking into your life. Notice the difference just one word makes in terms of your personal motivation.

Surround Yourself With Motivated Cheerleaders

There may be no better gift to give yourself than the gift of well-chosen, highly motivated friends who can cheer you on to success. I recently received an email that simply read, “You’re the man! You can make this project happen because you have everything that’s needed to pull it off. Make it happen…you’re the man!” Those timely words motivated me beyond my wildest imaginations.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in life so far, it’s this. I need to surround myself with great people in order to reach beyond the limits of what I’d expect of myself.

Surround yourself with a tribe of motivated cheerleaders, then celebrate the times when they cheer you on with advice, support, ideas, and feedback. Listen to them, learn from them, and appreciate the ways they contribute to your motivation and ultimately, to your success.

What have you found that keeps you motivated toward your goals and dreams? Leave a comment HERE, making your experiences a testament for others to learn from and to live by. Go ahead and share your stories now, before you forget!

Thanks for sharing, I look forward to learning from you!

How To Snub A Customer


Have you been snubbed as a customer? I bet you have. You’re smiling as those experiences come to mind right now.

I recently took a simple drive through the take out service of a well known chain restaurant. I paid my money at window number one as instructed, and I proceeded to window number two. What happened next was beyond my comprehension.

When I arrived at the window, a young lady had her back to the window, and that’s where she remained for the duration of this event. She was engrossed in conversation with another worker in the window. To make matters worse, I saw my bag with one small food item sitting on the counter just inches from this lady’s hand.

Several seconds later, the other lady grabbed the bag, looked in and said to the “Snub Lady”, “Is this this customer’s order?”

Her reply? “Yes.”

“So why didn’t you give it to him?”

“You can give it to him.”

And without a word, this mysterious hand came out of the window with my bag attached and just as quickly and silently as it came out, it went back in. I drove off shaking my head and declaring this to be the ultimate customer snub!

So, How Do You Snub a Customer?

You turn your back and care about the conversations that matter most to YOU.

You care not about your customers and their needs. You leave that up to someone else.

You choose not to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Some of you reading this blog are saying, “This doesn’t apply to me, I’m the boss. I don’t work directly with the customers. My employees are the ones who need to read this.”

Not so fast, Mr. Boss. From my days with Southwest Airlines it was made abundantly clear to me that every boss, every manager, every leader had customers of their own…the employees they were responsible to lead.

Your Employees Are Your Customers

Translation? The way you lead your team, the way you interact with your employees, the example you set by the work you do will be the way your employees indelibly interact with the people you say mean so much to you…your customers.

Want great customer service? Give it first to the customers you’ve been called to lead, your employees!

Just this week I learned about a job posting in a department where three employees work very part time hours. When questioned about the decision to hire, the employees were told the department had 24 extra hours to give, so a new team member was needed.

Enter customer snub number two. The part time employees hearing this news have been begging for more hours so that they can better support their families, but management has consistently said, “Sales are down, and we don’t have the hours to give.” Funny how they now have 24 hours to give, but not to their “customers,” the current part time employees. It was as if their backs were turned, the needs of their customers ignored, and the shoes of their “customers” were never worn.

Want to build morale, win customers for life and watch your sphere of influence grow? Do not snub a customer!

Turn your face to your customers, identify their real needs, address those needs with intentionality, and in the process, make sure you walk in the shoes of your customers. And do it with an honest desire to understand their needs as if they were your own.

Before you make the final decision that affects your customers and their families, before you recommend a product or service for your client to buy,  care enough to find out what life looks like, feels like, and is in the life of your customer. A well cared for customer will become a customer for life.

“As goes the leader, so goes the organization!” ~John Maxwell

Who are your customers? How will this message impact the way you relate with your customers this week?

If this article made a difference for you, please leave your comments in the box below. I want to know what actions you’re going to take to make a difference this week. I’ll be cheering for your success!

What Influences My Buying Decisions?


In thinking about various buying experiences, there are some sales people I work hard to avoid, and here’s why:

  • They have their own agenda…they want me to grow their business by giving them referrals even though we just met.
  • They care…about closing the sale on the spot even though I have no interest or need for their product.
  • They are ready to write me off once they realize I’m not going to buy today.

Admit it, while reading the above statements, you had names and faces of specific sales people come to your mind, didn’t you?  Today I call for sales professionals everywhere to close the books on this archaic method of selling and instead, give the very best of yourself to the very noble profession of selling. We need the very best of you and we need you to engage us in a selling process. Bring your best, and we’ll buy because we love to buy, but we hate to be sold!

Here’s what sales professionals can do to positively influence my buying decisions today.

Have A Heart

We are naturally drawn to people who genuinely care about our well-being. To care about others is to have a heart that’s motivated to find ways to bring the greatest value to people, even it means referring them to someone more qualified to serve them well.

When we’re driven by a heart that has the best interest of others in mind, we’ll find buyers looking for people like us. And price won’t matter. People love to buy from people who care enough to make life easier or more worth-while. People buy from people they know, like and trust.

Create Great Customer Experiences

People will see your caring heart when they see firsthand the level of service you bring to your customer experiences. Planning a great customer experience from start to finish will allow your customers to see you in a new light, making it easier for them to know you, like you and to build trust with you.

Engage In Learning Processes

When a person enters the market to buy, it’s because they have particular needs, desires or problems to solve. Sales professionals who engage clients in a learning process understand the value of engaging people on their level.

A learning process allows time and space for real customer needs to surface. Once they do, the sales professional is positioned as the trusted advisor that he or she is. There’s no greater joy than meeting the needs of people and making a difference in their lives.

A well thought out learning process also allows the sales professional and the client  to know exactly where they are in the process so that everyone knows what next logical step needs to be taken. A process like this makes buying a pleasure because it’s focused on identifying and satisfying real needs of customers.

Any sales professionals who want to create such an intentional and professional buying experience, contact me. I can help you and your team create winning systems that attract new clients and turn those clients into raving referral fans.

What steps will you take to influence my buying decisions?

As Goes The Leader


As I visit and work with businesses, one thing is becoming more and more clear.

“As goes the leader, so goes the organization.” -John Maxwell

I remember the day I walked into the CEO’s office and heard these telling words, “I no longer read, I’m just too busy.”

I remember the day a disheartened employee had once again been told what he wasn’t doing right. When he asked his manager why the negative was so often highlighted without commenting on all the things that had been done well, she responded by saying, “I get the same negative criticism from my boss (the store manager). I only hear the negative, no one tells me when I’m doing things right either.”

And I remember the day I sat in the waiting area of a business and found myself surrounded by energetic, upbeat, and courteous employees greeting customers by name and with what appeared to be genuine concern. And in this busy office I noticed one lady in particular.  She was upbeat, she was going out of her way to help guests, and she was jumping into to help other employees with a positive attitude and a willingness that’s rarely seen.  Because she had my attention, I wanted to know what her role was in the organization.  And just as I expected, she was the top manager, and it showed!

The team members working for the CEO with no time to read find themselves in an environment where collaboration and new ideas rarely exist. The team is drained by a leader who doesn’t seek input and sees no need to say thank you for a job well done. The leader needs no new ideas, so he isolates himself from the input of his team.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy

The team members lead by a manager who quickly points out the negative while overlooking the good find themselves beaten down and without a lot of hope that their culture will change anytime soon. They’re lead by negative reinforcement.

Henry Ford found the remedy for this leadership style.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

And Sam Walton said,

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

And the team serving with the positively focused leader willing to get involved to find solutions for her team and for their clients, they not only appeared to enjoy their work environment, one team member actually said she loved working for this lady. She is a leader who gets involved with her team, she understands the importance of modelling the attitude that she wants her team to bring to clients, and she understands the importance of personally creating the culture that gets reproduced through her team.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” —John Quincy Adams

Find the leader and you’ll quickly learn why the business culture has taken on the energy and personality that it has.

“As goes the leader…so goes the organization!” What kind of influence are you having in the places where you lead and work? Are there changes you need to make? Take action and make those changes today.

Add A Bit More Grace


This week the news reported 74 school shootings in the last year and a half, people rebelling against government authority, and anger racing out of control. What would happen if rather than accept this as our new norm, we form tribes of people who find tangible ways to add a bit more grace?

Grace: To bring value or love to a person who appears undeserving or unable to give anything in return. It’s motivated by a heartfelt desire to make a difference. Grace isn’t earned, it isn’t bought, and it isn’t deserved. It’s freely given with no strings attached. It’s a go-giver’s way of life!

What would happen if we decided to add a bit more grace? Can you imagine the impact we could have?

Add a bit more grace, surround it with integrity, stir in a measure of excellence, and top it all with a cherry of compassion and see for yourself, the life-changing differences you make.

This Father’s Day week, improve the quality of your life and make a difference in the landscape of our world by joining a tribe of people determined to add a bit more grace. Together, we will reshape the landscape of our world one person at a time. My tribe has room for another results driven person. Wanna join me?