Are you confident in your team’s ability to deliver great results on the job? Empowering team members with the right knowledge and equipment enhances their competence.
As the chief operating officer at Jumpstart, Jennifer Templeman engages with prospective employees right from the hiring stage to equip them with all the resources they need to be efficient in their duties.
[5:08] Does the organization have criteria for analyzing financial risks in terms of going to new places?
[8:50] Why is it important to engage prospective employees closely from the early stage of the job application?
[11:15] Jennifer explains what sets Jumpstart apart in terms of employee support.
[15:48] At what point did Jennifer adopt the approach of walking with employees instead of walking ahead of them?
[19:09] Jennifer highlights the books she has found valuable on her leadership journey.
A visionary leader, Jennifer has a track record of implementing effective business practices to further the strategy and mission of an organization.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.
Chad Franzen: Chad Franzen here, co-host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done and Michael Gerber of The E Myth and many more. This episode is brought to you by Sweet Process. Have you had team members ask you the same questions over and over again? And this is the 10th time you spent explaining it. There’s a better way and a solution. Sweet Process is a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff.
Chad Franzen: Not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. Use Sweet Process to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time so you can focus on growing your team and empowering them to do their best work. Sign up for a 14 day free trial. No credit card required. Go to sweetprocess.com. That’s sweet like candy S W E E T process.com.
Chad Franzen: With 25 years of financial and operations management experience, Jennifer Templeman has dedicated her career to nonprofit excellence. As the president and CEO of Jumpstart for Young Children, she oversees all their internal operations, including finance, technology, legal and compliance, risk management, program implementation and evaluation. In addition to running a national organization, she also runs her family’s operations with her husband and three sons near Boston, Massachusetts. Hey Jennifer, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Jennifer Templeman: I’m great. How are you doing?
Chad Franzen: Good. Thank you so much. So tell me more about what Jumpstart for Young Children is and what you guys do.
Jennifer Templeman: So Jumpstart is a national nonprofit. We are an early literacy organization where we take trained adult volunteers who are college students, we train them in our curriculum, in our programming, and then we deploy them into under-resourced communities to provide that curriculum in an under resourced preschool classroom to really help prepare those pre kindergartners for success in kindergarten. We have relationships with over 70 universities. We are in 15 states and really see a key part of our vision is ensuring that there will be a day in America where every child enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.
Chad Franzen: Great. Very nice. So what has involved in your day to day role as COO?
Jennifer Templeman: I always tell people the core part of my job is basically taking chaos and trying to turn it into some form of order. So depending upon the day, a lot of the work that comes up to me is around assessing risk and then making decisions about whether to move or not move, whether to mitigate or not mitigate or whether to pass on whatever an opportunity may be. So the bulk of my time is really working with some wonderful high performing teams and setting them up to be successful depending upon what their area of focus is.
Chad Franzen: When you say assessing risk, what’s an example of a risk that you might have to assess in a typical day?
Jennifer Templeman: Well, so Jumpstart is a nonprofit, which means most of our revenue comes through private philanthropy, but in order to grow our footprint, I have to make a decision usually a year ahead of when some of that private philanthropy is secured. So if someone in a new state were to come to us, for example, and say, "We would love to have Jumpstart come to our schools", I need to make a go, no go decision sometimes without the revenue fully committed in hand. And in doing so, I’m putting our organization on the hook for launching that program and then figuring out how to make the financial situation balance as it needs to in the reality of real time. There are a lot of other levers that we can pull, but that’s an easy one to think about how much risk are we willing to accept as we begin to plan for the strategy of growth in the future.
Jennifer Templeman: There’s other risks around legal issues, of course, because talent management is a piece of that, but we are working with vulnerable populations. So we’re working with young children and we’re working with college students. So right now in COVID, are we going to allow college students to go into a preschool without a mask on if the preschool doesn’t require it? Or are we going to say "No, Jumpstart has a standard policy about masks." So all of those types of things would wind up bubbling up to me.
Chad Franzen: Is there a criteria that you have in terms of taking a financial risk, like going somewhere without all of the money secured or do you just go on gut feeling?
Jennifer Templeman: Yes, there’s all kinds of criteria and there’s all kinds of indicators that I would look for. So before I would say, "Yes, let’s go into this new state." I would want to see what the research is telling me about what does private philanthropy look like in that state? Is there the existence, at least, of some community partners that could help to open doors to us. If there aren’t some of those leading indicators, do we already have existing relationships with funders in those areas that might be willing to maybe boost what they give now that we’re in their back door, those types of things. If those things are in place, then I’m much more inclined to say, "Yes, let’s move forward and grow in this area." If there’s not, then I would be less inclined, though it’s not necessarily completely off the table. It really just depends upon so many other factors. But yeah, I have a whole long list of data points that I would look at.
Chad Franzen: You talked about supporting all of your staff. Does that start in the interview process, and if so, how does that look?
Jennifer Templeman: I like to think it starts at the application process. So from the moment that someone sees an opening at Jumpstart, I want them to understand the type of organization that they are considering joining. So things like our job descriptions, we have tried to make them short and specific and really only elevate the things that we consider to be critical to success. And we’ve tried to be honest with ourselves about what those things are. So industry standard would have you really feeling like you have to write college degree required, MBA preferred, but is it really? And if it’s not, don’t say it. So really trying to cast as wide a net as possible, and really be inclusive in how we are thinking about who we want to come join our team. So from the moment we post something, we’re including the salary on every job opening at Jumpstart, just to be very clear about what we’re truly looking for and what Jumpstart can bring to the table.
Jennifer Templeman: And then we’re looking for people that are mission minded. So we’re trying to be really clear about that. And then we want to use the interview process. So from the moment they apply, are they hearing from our talent management team that says, "Thank you so much for applying. It’s going to take us a few weeks to get back to you, because we want to be sure everybody has the same opportunity you just had to submit materials." And then as they get into the interview process, we have some very intentional ways that we have scaffolded our interviewing to make sure that it’s truly a two-way street. We tend to go into interviews thinking about it as the employers vetting me to see if I’m worth it. Am I worth the risk to bring me into their organization? But I really want potential employees to look at me say, "Is she worth it as a risk to be my future manager? Am I going to get what I need from her as a partner in this work? And can I see myself thriving in the organization?"
Jennifer Templeman: If they aren’t able to get the answers they need to those questions, then we have failed them from the very beginning. So Jumpstart has been very intentional in how we think about our recruitment, our hiring, and then our onboarding so that we’re really able to attract that top talent and identify that top talent once we see them, bring them on board and then get out of their way so they can do what we know they can do and really shine for all of us.
Chad Franzen: I’ve applied for a lot of jobs and not everybody has taken that same approach. Why do you feel like that’s important?
Jennifer Templeman: When I was growing up, my mother used to say to start the way you want to finish. So you go into an interaction with someone behaving from the very first time you speak to them the way you hope you’ll still be behaving once you’ve known them for a year. So as a employer, we should be treating our employers the same way and not making it this foggy path of, "Well, I think this might be good, what they put in writing sounded good, I really can’t tell." And then once you hire them and you pull the veil back, then they are faced with this horrible feeling of recruitment remorse, where they think, "Oh, this is not what I thought I was getting." And now you have turnover. So everyone, I think, has seen reports that talks about the high cost of turnover, particularly as we’ve come through COVID we have seen the great resignation and we have seen employees being very intentional about making sure they’re getting their needs met with the employment relationship.
Jennifer Templeman: So if we want to be competitive in a market like that, I feel like a lot more attention needs to go into the whole hiring process. But more than that, if we want to be integrous with who we say we are as an organization, we are a service organization, Jumpstart is, so we need to be providing the same level of service to our potential employees that we do to our customers, so to speak, our children, our core members. And so for us, that was an intentional decision. What we have seen as a dividend for having gone through that process to say, let’s overhaul the way we do recruitment and really make it a conversation that is based in discovery two ways, and that really brings in multiple points of view through the whole process is that we have very happy staff who feel like once they accept an offer, when they came to Jumpstart and they finished their onboarding, they’re saying, "This is exactly the organization I thought. This is exactly the role I thought I was getting", and they’re staying.
Chad Franzen: So what does that look like? You’ve hired them, you’ve done a great job of recruiting them and hiring them. How do you support them after that? How do they notice what might set you guys apart in terms of your support?
Jennifer Templeman: Jumpstart realize that as an organization that is based and steeped in education, we need to ensure that we are holding learning up as one of our core values. We have five learning as one of them, and that really needed to be present from day one, once they came onboard. So we have a 90 day onboarding process. The first two weeks are very much what you would expect. Conversations with our talent management team around your benefits. This is how payroll works. This is how you get a corporate credit card or whatever the policies are, but we don’t just end it at the end of those 10 days. It’s really 90 days of learning where they’re having scheduled and routine check-ins, not just with their manager because I am not the only lens of our organization. They need to be meeting with their peers.
Jennifer Templeman: So if I were hiring someone new that’s going to report to me, not only will they be meeting with me, but they’re going to be meeting with my other direct reports so that they’re building our community, really, at that level of the organization. And so it’s not all hinged upon my thoughts or my guidance, but that they’re learning to build those relationships that will become keys to their success later. So that by the end of that 90 days, they not only know what their role is going to expect of them, they know how our organization functions, but they’ve also built with intentionality, the relationships they’re going to need to collaborate and be successful as they really fully embody that job description.
Chad Franzen: And then how does trust work in with all of that?
Jennifer Templeman: You get what you measure. We say that a lot. So as someone is hired, we set up 30 day goals for them, 60 day, 90 day, so that they know month by month for that orientation period, exactly what is expected of me. And they can feel successful because it can be when you’re hired into a high level role, you want to hit the ground running, you want to show your value from day one and you often want to skip that pesky learning period. But there is value in that, so you set the goals according to their ability to absorb and apply that information. And then once you get past the of 90 days, you set those more performance, the KPI level type goals that are really driven at the behaviors you want to see.
Jennifer Templeman: So we have done that, but once you have those goals established, my job is not to sit back and tell them what kind of progress are you making towards your goal, you were going to have a thousand core members operating in California, I see you’re only at 970 so what are you going to do about those last 30? How are you going to make this work? That’s not trusting my employee. Yes, I have reports coming to me every day and I’m fully capable of looking at them and assessing them but I hired them for a certain skillset. So my job is really to get out of their way and not tell them "I want you to do these five things today because that, I think, is how you’re going to meet this goal." But to ask them, "I see there’s some gap between where we were hoping we were going to be and where we are, what do you need from me to help you close that gap? What do you need from your team? What do you need from your peers and how can I help you in getting that?" And trusting them?
Jennifer Templeman: Because I built that relationship when they started, I didn’t start from a dictatorial place, I started from a place of building relationship and understanding so I can lean back into that as they begin to perform. And what I have found is that when I walk with them, instead of walking ahead of them and telling them, "Please stay in my footprints", they tend to exceed my expectations. So, for me, I have seen the greatest part of my success has been around my ability to cultivate a strong performing team. Not because I am so marvelous at my own performance, but because I have been very blessed in being able to set up systems that work well for how we identify talent, how we set them up for success and then I can get out of their way and let them do that thing I hired them to do and do it really well. And they will rise up to whatever that expectation is.
Chad Franzen: Have you always taken that approach, that walk with me rather than the lead, shout at you from the front?
Jennifer Templeman: No, no, I’m being completely honest, of course not. I think as we all move throughout our careers and I made that transition from being in management, to being in senior level management, there was an adjustment there and the expectations aren’t the same, but I went into it doing what I had always done. I managed a team, I managed a team to specific indicators. We looked at those ballot scorecards at our dashboards on a monthly basis and we made adjustments and yes, I do still do that but as you move into the more senior level roles, you’re not talking to the same level people either. And so you need to adjust your own behaviors. And so it did not take me long to see that it would work, you can certainly do it that way. It is exhausting.
Jennifer Templeman: And it is basically, as your job expands, usually at a COO level, for example, I can’t stay in the day to day of all of those things. What is it that I am bringing? What is the value out of my role and why does an organization like Jumpstart need someone at my level? If it’s not for me to constantly be pointing out, "I need you to pull this lever, I need you to push that button, I need you to do this task." What is it? And so it really is about that relationship. Jumpstart and I have been at the organization long enough now to have seen and really understood why we say "We want to only hire people that are truly committed to our mission." If they’re not, they’re not going to enjoy their employment as much. And one of the core tenets of our curriculum is the magic that happens when you build this intentional relationship between an adult and a child.
Jennifer Templeman: So why would I not want to capitalize on that same belief and say, "Can we recreate that same level of magic when we cultivate intentional relationships between a COO and my VPs?" And yes you can. And so part of that is recognizing you are a VP, you have brought to this organization decades of experience and skills, I would like to capitalize on the diversity that you are bringing into the organization by getting out of your way and letting you do what you do. The more I step aside, the more I feel like I am brought into the conversation. And I do feel like there’s some trust that, of course, has to be cultivated and built, but it has to be given first by the manager. And once you do that, it has really taken on, as a part of our operating culture.
Chad Franzen: That’s great. Those are some great insights. I have one last question for you, but first, how can people find out more about Jumpstart?
Jennifer Templeman: I always point people to our website first, which is www.jstart J S T A R T.org. And if you go there, you will find a list of all of the universities where we’re located and all of the communities where we serve.
Chad Franzen: My last question for you, are there any books that you have found particularly valuable or enjoyable in terms of, in your leadership journey?
Jennifer Templeman: So many. Oh my goodness. The one that I’m reading right now is We Can’t Talk About That At Work. So as I talk about generating these really authentic relationships, it really does mean sometimes talking about things that you perhaps are not as comfortable talking about. So I am a white woman, I supervise many people of color, and so I need to always be cognizant of, right from the very beginning of our conversation, what are differences that we are bringing into this conversation in order to make room and really encourage those differences to be a part of it. And so I think as we, as an organization have focused more on diversity, equity and inclusion, you certainly focus on it as buzzwords, you focus on it thinking about how data shows that diversity does help to increase creativity and productivity, but until it becomes an individual journey as well, you’re not really going to see all of those things.
Jennifer Templeman: And, for me, it really became a part of if I’m building authentic relationships, I need to continuously work on my own learning so I can be just really able to own the privilege that I bring into a conversation and the experiences that I brought in as well and make room for whoever I’m meeting with to do the same. So that was the most recent book that I’ve been reading to help guide that journey.
Chad Franzen: Great. Hey Jennifer, it’s been great to talk to you today. Thank you so much.
Jennifer Templeman: You too. Thank you so much.
Chad Franzen: So long, everybody.
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