Archive of Issues
Archive of Narrations
Syndic Literary Journal

Management Maxims of LeRoy Chatfield


   Loaves & Fishes is a private sector, charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless in Sacramento.  Loaves & Fishes neither solicits nor accepts government funds and is supported entirely by private contributions.  Loaves & Fishes chooses to call the persons it serves “guests” rather than “clients”.


   Loaves & Fishes was founded in 1983. It’s annual operating budget for 1994 is $1,600,000.  LeRoy Chatfield has been the Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes since 1987.

  1. Each person who presents himself/herself to work with your organization has a unique contribution to make. Your primary task is to recognize what that contribution might be and then be flexible enough to create the niche or opportunity to utilize it.


  1. Your best ideas come from listening carefully to others in your organization. This creates the raw material for you to massage, reshape and fashion into your own ideas.


  1. In general, you will find a more unselfish generosity and giving spirit among the poor, than among the wealthy.


  1. Your currency is either time or money. If you have both, then you can spend both; if you have only one, you can spend one.


  1. Never close your office door for a private meeting. You slow the growth of your organization by preventing staff members from interrupting you for a quick “yes” or “no” in order for them to continue building program.


  1. Meetings that must be private, should be held in the conference room away from your office. This will help to keep the meeting shorter and signal others in the organization that you are only temporarily unavailable.


  1. Interrupt your meetings to take telephone calls in the presence of others. This will help you to keep to the business of the call, make decisions more quickly and not waste time returning calls that can be dispatched in a few seconds.


  1. Avoid written personnel policies. Such written policies seriously restrict your decisions for the benefit of your staff members. 


  1. The primary purpose of personnel manuals is to take decision making authority away from the executive. The secondary purpose is to insulate the executive from the needs of staff members.


  1. More often than not, meetings with other agencies or organizations are a substitute for work.


  1. Large meetings take longer than small meetings because suitable time must be spent on the protocol and politics associated with each person that makes up the group.


  1. Large meetings insure that no final decisions will be made. A likely result of the meeting is to lay plans for another meeting.


  1. The most effective meetings that achieve the most lasting results are those that take place in the hallways, at the work site or in the lunch room.


  1. Never agree to a meeting with a salesperson unless you initiate it. Be courteous but always insist that the information be sent to you in the mail or explained to you on the telephone before you make up your mind whether a meeting is justified.  Be firm about this.


  1. If you find yourself trapped in an unplanned or unauthorized meeting with a salesperson who comes into your office, be courteous but try to hold such a meeting standing up because it will save you considerable time.


  1. Some of your best ideas and most far reaching decisions about your organization will come as a result of answering telephone calls.


  1. Arrange for all mail to the organization to come to your desk. It is not a waste of time to open, peruse and route the mail.  You will receive instant feedback about your organization, spot areas of waste and inefficiency and receive early warning signals.


  1. Encourage staff members, especially new ones, to interrupt you with questions regardless of how trivial they might seem. It saves you time and prevents serious mistakes over the long term.  It also helps you to assess the strengths of your staff members.


  1. Stand at your desk to do paper work and answer the telephone. Sit down to meet.  You will work more efficiently and your back will not bother you as much.


  1. Personnel manuals are developed to deny staff members, not to assist and affirm their needs.


  1. The honor system and staff accountability can only be nurtured to the extent that traditional personnel control techniques are eliminated.


  1. Your commitment to use the honor system and staff accountability means that you must be willing to deal openly and honestly with staff members, even when it is painful.


  1. Each time you write a memo to your organization, you should remind yourself that you have chosen the least effective method of communication.


  1. Staff members will judge themselves more harshly and will be harder on themselves than you will.


  1. Working in your organization only for money or because it is a job will provide very little personal satisfaction and will leave you restless and insecure.


  1. Don’t kid yourself, you always make time for what interests you. When you say, “I don’t have the time” it only means that you are not that interested. 


  1. The easiest and fastest way to secure the paying job that you want, is to volunteer your services to the organization who has it.


  1. When a guest at Loaves & Fishes asks you to do volunteer work, it simply means they want money and would rather work than beg for it.


  1. People want to contribute and support your organization, but they want to be asked first.


  1. Dealing every day with people is like working with sandpaper. If you are not careful, they will rub you raw.


  1. Even when a staff member knows for sure that it is time to move on to another career or line of work, you have to help him/her make and implement that decision.


  1. Some staff members can only leave an organization if they feel justified in doing so. Sometimes it means they must pick a fight with you or the organization before they feel justified.


  1. It isn’t fair to staff members at any level to put them in a position where they are not personally accountable for their work. Being accountable provides opportunity for affirmation, new direction, insight, correction and taking justifiable pride in what they have accomplished.


  1. Written job descriptions stunt the development of your organization and create a barrier to change.


  1. You should not be in charge of staff meetings. Staff members will feel more free to express themselves and the agenda will more accurately reflect what is on people’s minds if you do not control the meeting.


  1. You can waste much time and emotional effort trying to make sense out of nonsense, instead of just accepting it as nonsense.


  1. Read every resume that comes across your desk. Look especially for signs of hands-on work experience.  This will tell you more about the individual than their stated career experience and their sometimes lofty stated goals.


  1. What a staff applicant has done in real life is far more important to your organization – and where he/she might fit in – than what they believe is important.


  1. Learning from a resume what others have actually accomplished helps you to realize what your organization should be doing.


  1. Artists need sincere respect and encouragement to cope with their insecurities. Artists should be pushed to create what they feel reflects what you seek to communicate otherwise you will lose the benefit of their creativity.


  1. The poor do not participate in the process because they know very well from personal experience that it will lead to no personal benefit.


  1. Working to create and amass wealth is stressful and tends to be a life hollow at the core.


  1. We are all addicts. Some forms of addiction are more socially acceptable than others.


  1. The primary, and sometimes only difference, between the homeless and the homed is their residence.


  1. Most careers are learned on the job through trial and error. Academic preparation for careers is the price of admission to learn the work.


  1. Organizations that do not recruit and interview staff applicants unless they have prerequisite academic and career experience or state licenses cut themselves off from highly qualified persons.


  1. You should be the primary staff recruiter for the organization and should personally interview and approve each applicant before hire. This is important for many reasons not the least of which is the opportunity to officially communicate the philosophy and mission of the organization to every new staff person.


  1. You should not be concerned or upset about the mistake but see the mistake as the opportunity to create a valuable learning experience.


  1. When staff members signal that they are thinking about resigning, do not under any circumstances try to talk them out of leaving. Should you be successful in temporarily reversing their decision, you have to be prepared to take the blame for the next thing that goes wrong  in their area of responsibility because they will be the first to remind you that staying with the organization was not their  idea.


  1. Staff turnover is good for your organization. It provides you the opportunity to bring new talent and high energy to the work.


  1. Do not think otherwise. Staff members will ultimately do what is best for themselves and not necessarily what is best for the organization. 


  1. Actively promote and provide staff members with opportunities to undertake new careers and call their attention to job openings that might interest them and that pay more than they now make. Their feedback is valuable information about your assessment of them and where they might fit into your future plans for the organization.


  1. Try at all costs to structure your organization so that staff members who do the work do not have to report to you through a bureaucratic layer. It is a question of priorities: there would be no organization without those who do the work and certainly the executive cannot claim to do the work.


  1. A Board of Directors should always include members of the organization who do the work of the organization otherwise board members make decisions divorced from the realities of the work and the philosophy of the organization. Though both are needed, outsiders should not be confused with insiders.


  1. Assignment or changing of staff parking will cause you much grief. It cannot be avoided.


  1. When you talk at staff meetings about the organization’s finances or budget control there is no way that the staff cannot interpret this to mean that staff layoffs are likely. When 75% of the cost of the organization’s work is staff related, their interpretation is not far fetched.


  1. Don’t waste valuable staff time trying to control the use of the telephone. Rather, block all the lines from the use of 900 numbers and then scan the bills for expensive long distance calls and highlight only those calls for program directors to be concerned about.


  1. You waste too much time and emotional energy worrying about events that you have no control over. Learn – and accept – the difference. 


  1. Be clear about it. Just because you do it one way and not another, does not make it the best way, the right way or the only way. 


  1. You should avoid giving orders or insist that something be done. Make suggestions, give advice, state your opinion and let it go at that.  Follow up to see what happened, if anything.  Start over again.


  1. When you ask a staff member to do something, it is best to assume that it will not be done in a timely manner and may not even be done at all. Follow up to see if it was done and when and how well. Ask again.


  1. Staff members expect and need to be accountable for their work. Give them that opportunity.


  1. Be firm about the need – and be willing to pay – for cleanliness.  The return to the organization on the investment is sevenfold.


  1. Make your physical presence felt in every part of the organization. Be observant, ask questions as you walk from one place to another, offer opinions and make observations as they occur to you. When your curiosity is piqued about something that you have seen or heard, follow up and find out more about it.


  1. Volunteer orientation is critical. Regularly scheduled orientations every month seem to work the best and it is easier to funnel all telephone inquiries about volunteering to a specific date and time.  Volunteer orientation also represents that small decision step between “wanting to do something” and “doing it”.


  1. Volunteers are the life-blood of your organization, literally. If large numbers of volunteers have a meaningful experience in the work of the organization, it is more likely that funds will be contributed to carry out the work.


  1. Fund raising events sponsored by the organization should be avoided. Too much overhead and too much time is spent for such a small return.


  1. The amount of computerization that your organization should tolerate is a troubling decision. It is safe to say that too little is better than too much.  One of the most troubling aspects of being dependent upon a computer is the fact that you must rely on outsiders who have their own priorities and sense of timeliness. You have to plan carefully in this respect to manage emergency and unexpected deadlines.


  1. Avoid centralized telephone systems. They do not promote communication, they prevent it. Everyone’s time is wasted including the outside caller’s. Centralized systems inevitably create a passive message center system that is neither efficient nor manageable.  Make sure that each program entity has its own separate number with enough lines and telephones to accomplish the work.


  1. Invest in the highest quality and slowest running copy machine that you can find. The faster the machine, the more it will be misused.  Paper expense and repair costs can only be controlled by lack of speed. Copy machines with the fewest options and buttons to be pressed are better for your organization’s mental health and budget.


  1. A FAX machine will more than pay for itself in the first six months. Once again, high quality and slow speed is preferable.


  1. You do not save money by processing in-house a bulk mailing of more than 500 pieces. It does not even generate enough savings to pay for the cost of the volunteers recruited to do it.


  1. In-house maintenance is not cost effective for plugged toilets and sewer lines, heating and air conditioning repairs, machine repairs and telephone installations. The rule of thumb is this: to the extent that wood is involved, in-house maintenance is more cost effective


  1. When staff members talk about “community” and “building community”, it generally means they resent autocratic authority and prefer decisions reached by consensus because at least they will have input. It is frequently the case that when these same staff members are charged with achieving certain goals, they prefer decision making “from the top down”.  Making decisions is a blend of input, touching base, making a judgment and being willing to correct in midstream.


  1. It is not possible for you to bestow enough recognition for the good work accomplished by staff members and volunteers.


  1. When a staff member decides to leave the organization, you can well afford to be magnanimous.


  1. You must try to pick up in the first hour of the work-day, the mood of the day and its early warning signals. It may be the only signal you ever receive. 


  1. If you make a mistake or fail to act, then seek out an opportunity to admit it to the staff members so affected by your action – or inaction. Try to explain what you should have done or how you could have handled it differently.  Take advice and counsel from the staff members involved.


  1. Program directors constantly ask for – and need – more staff and more space. It is far less expensive for you to provide the space.  It is less expensive yet, to rethink, rework and reorganize the program itself to accomplish more with less staff.


  1. Avoid fund raising events or schemes that require the organization or its staff members to sell tickets or products of any kind. The return is simply not equal to the cost of the staff and organization needed just to break even.


  1. There is a qualitative difference in the meaning and self-perception about the words “staff member” and “employee”. The same is true for the words “guest” and “client”.  Know the difference and be consistent and firm about their proper use.


  1. Programs of the organization that deal one-on-one are labor intensive and therefore much more costly than those that are group-oriented such as a feeding program. Most organizations cannot sustain the unrelenting costs of many one-on-one programs. 


  1. If you must have a secretary then you are not in charge of the organization. The secretary is in charge because you are always “unavailable”, “at a meeting” or “tied up on the phone”.


  1. Most organizations need the least sophisticated type of data processing software. Unfortunately, they have purchased the most complex, hardest to master and most costly to keep up and running.


  1. You should keep your own filing system because the act of filing itself serves as a memory aid to be called upon years later to retrieve a letter or helpful piece of information. Keeping one’s own filing system forces you to make a judgment about what should be saved.


  1. You should focus on the bank balance at least once a week. It is more than a reality check, it helps you to be in harmony with the financial rhythm of the organization.


  1. The very first place to look for staff replacement is the current staff roster. The next place to look is on the fringes of the organization of persons known to you.   Next is through word of mouth. The last place to look is in a newspaper.


  1. Every week prospective staff members come to the organization in one way or another. The trick is to know which ones will be good and even superior and which won’t.  The other trick is to know how to keep the good one’s on the string until you can figure out how to place them.  If you have difficulty recruiting good staff members to your organization, that is an early warning signal.  Pay attention.


  1. Despite what you might think, the organization is a moving river and you must move with it by constantly changing and adapting to the new conditions. 


  1. Some people have to come to your office to talk to you in person only because you are the executive. And they will.


  1. When staff members are sick, they should stay home and take care of themselves. When they need a vacation, they should take one.  Written sick leave and vacation policies will not accomplish something as simple as that.


  1. Attendance at staff meetings, staff retreats, going away ceremonies, etc. should be strongly encouraged but not be mandatory. Staff members should choose to be present because they feel the need to be.  And you never know what circumstances prompt their decision not to attend. 


  1. Staff meetings held too frequently lose what little value they might have had in the first place.


  1. If the organization accepts government funds then it must create a suitable bureaucracy to interface with the government operatives. There will be inquiries to answer, periodic and detailed reports to file, surveys to conduct, expenditures to justify and audits for which to prepare. Finally, you will need to have ready answers to allegations in the media about the organization’s misuse of taxpayer funds. 


  1. Program directors should make up their annual budgets because they have to perform the work. You have to decide what money is available to fund the program budgets.  It is this tension that ultimately decides what programs exist and what priority they have in the organization.


  1. When a staff member leaves the organization, you should participate in a going-away ceremony. His/her program director should testify about the work accomplished by the staff member and the you should also speak about his/her contribution to the organization and present an official plaque in remembrance of their service.  The staff member being honored should give his/her response. The sentiments expressed at such going away ceremonies engender positive feelings in those who remain because they understand, that they too, will some day participate in such a ceremony.  And it is unlikely that departing staff members will harbor many ill feelings about the organization if such ceremonies are faithfully held. 


  1. The organization has its own rhythm: daily, weekly, monthly and seasonally. It is most important that you anticipate the beat of these rhythms and plan accordingly.


  1. The philosophy and mission of the organization must be stated in capsule form and repeated constantly to new staff members, old staff members, volunteers, supporters, the media and most importantly, to youself. These words of philosophy and mission must be translated into the work of the organization. 


  1. If it is possible for the organization to communicate its message to supporters by using only its logo, then its base of support is well grounded.


  1. Always err on the side of being inclusive.


  1. The use of a designated color on a cap, shirt or jacket is a very effective way to identify the presence of staff members of the organization. The use of such a designated color establishes the helpful presence of authority and minimizes the negative images associated with a security system. It also helps to identify the persons who have the authority of the organization to carry out its mission.


  1. Supporters who personally deliver items requested by the organization will also contribute funds.


  1. The use of newsletters to communicate with supporters is impersonal and seldom raises enough money to pay for the costs of printing and mailing.


  1. Supporters who contribute funds to the organization expect to be kept involved – and motivated – through frequent communications about the work of the organization, including its trials and tribulations.


  1. To be effective in working with guests of the organization, staff presence must be active not passive. The executive must know the difference because when he/she interviews prospective staff members a judgment must be made whether that quality exists or not.


  1. Frequently it is enough encouragement for a staff member to move on simply to help him/her speak aloud about that possibility.


  1. Staff members will always expect you to have something significant to say to them at a staff meeting. Do not disappoint them.


  1. Message machines are helpful to the caller and the staff member being called.


  1. Telephone systems that require the caller to make choices and punch buttons to attempt communication create the poorest image imaginable about your organization. Such a system has no redeemable features.


  1. Staff members who deal with the bookkeeping of the organization should be expected to leave at the end of the day with their desk in good order and everything put back in its proper file.


  1. Radio music in the office is distracting and/or a source of irritation to one person or another. Radios create an ambience that discourages work.


  1. When you put out the word to program directors that there is a staff opening, caution them to report back to you personally about any prospective staff member. Avoid putting yourself in a position where program directors generate unsolicited calls from applicants completely unknown to you.  


  1. There is no way for an organization to scale back its budget without decreasing the size of the staff.  You must plan to cut staff even as you hire. 


  1. A simple way to remind staff about their lack of job security in the organization is to put emphasis on the fact that the budget created at the end of the year will dictate what positions are available for the coming year.


  1. The purpose of written grievance procedures is to create time, distance and insulation between the staff member with the complaint and the person in the organization who can do something about it. To avoid complaints taking on a life of their own, you must deal with complaints forthrightly, face to face and in a timely fashion.  It can be painful.


  1. Everything you reduce to writing will be misunderstood and everything you communicate verbally will be misunderstood. It is always easier to unwind misunderstandings that are not the result of something written.







Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
Write Letter / Contact Publisher
© all photos/text

Archive of Issues

Archive of Narrations