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leveling up your leadership with Danielle Rocheleau

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“I'll talk often to clients about the idea of building a culture of succession so that we know from the get go that when we hire someone into the organization, that our hope is to offer development pathways. It doesn't necessarily mean climbing the ladder, but an opportunity for professional growth and naturally with professional growth, we need to be open and honest around feedback.“ Danielle Rocheleau

leveling up your leadership with Danielle Rocheleau

Your employees are your BEST asset when it comes to having an impact, yet it’s also one of the most under invested in resources. In today’s episode, we have Danielle Rocheleau from Laridae sharing ways to support your employees in honing their skills and empowering them as leaders.


  • The reason why investing in your team is important for your organization

  • Identifying opportunities and providing support to employees

  • The importance of onboarding process for internal candidates

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Connect with Danielle:

  • Email:


[00:00:00] Cindy: I don't know about all of you, but when I was working my way through the non-profits sector, one of the things I was really aware of was the environment in which I worked and how the leaders around me specifically managers were, how they were at their job of managing people and one of the things, actually, one of the number one reasons I went to do my MBA was because I felt like our sector promoted people from frontline workers and experts into management without the support to help them be managers.

[00:00:39] And I'm so excited because we are going to talk about what that support looks like today and how we can empower our teams, not just to be really great experts in the work, but also to create amazing work environments and step into leadership roles.

[00:01:04] As you know, I'm your host, Cindy Wagman, and you are listening to the Small Non-profit podcast where we bring you practical down to earth advice on how to get more done for your small organization. You are going to change the world and we're here to help.

[00:01:20] So, as I mentioned today, we are going to be talking about workplace culture but specifically around how to empower people to take on roles where they are leading people, where they are in management functions to create the environment where everyone thrives.

[00:01:38] And so my guest is Danielle Rocheleau, who is the CEO of Laridae, which is a certified B-Corp that works to strengthen non-profits through strategic direction and capacity building and specifically they focus on working with social service and community-based health organizations.

[00:01:57] Danielle is also herself very community oriented and thrives on change and impact. Danielle, welcome to the podcast.

[00:02:07] Danielle: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Cindy. I'm very excited to have this conversation.

[00:02:10] Cindy: Yeah. So I'm not shy about sharing my experience working for managers who I felt weren't the best managers and this is something a common thread I see. come up over and over. So I'd love for you to start just telling us a little bit about like how prevalent is this of an issue and, and what impact does it have on our organizations?

[00:02:33] Danielle: Mm-hmm, it's a great question, Cindy. And I share in your, in your story, I would say in my experience when I was first promoted into management to the non-profits sector. I remember asking, well, can I have some training? And they all kind of looked at me blankly, like why would we do that? Like, we've all just figured it out. So like, why wouldn't you just figure it out? And I remember just feeling completely unprepared and I'm sure how to move into that new role of managing people specifically with respect to my peers.

[00:03:05] Right? At one point they were all my peers and then now I'm their manager. So what happens then, and, you know, fast forward, a number of years working with Laridae and really getting an opportunity to engage with non-profits across, you know, really broad geography in, in various sectors doing kind of strategic planning and really focusing on those pieces and then realizing how consistently that senior leaders would fear how best to kind of integrate strategy through the organization

[00:03:39] And you know, how do we get it from there all the way to the frontline and how do we make sure everyone feels like they're a big part of it. And that's where we went well that's the role of the middle manager, right? That's anyone who has direct reports needs to help, take that and translate it into bite size pieces that interconnect with every person.

[00:03:58] So it was that kind of thinking that started to push us into this area of learning more about what kind of investments are put into management. What kind of onboarding processes, how are we setting clear expectations around, how your change your, your role changes, all that kind of stuff, and that's how we started to really learn more a gap that kind of exists within the sector

[00:04:20] Um, so I would say like, it's, it's prevalent across all non-profit organizations and truthfully in for-profit as well. It's kind of an organization-wide challenge.

[00:04:32] Cindy: Yeah. Before we dive into kind of what support those middle managers need. I wanna talk about the impact what's at stake when we don't, because I mean, we're, we're in the middle, maybe of this great resignation and you know, people are becoming more and more aware that culture is so important to our work. So, what's at stake when we don't invest in our teams.

[00:05:02] Danielle: Mm-hmm, it's a great point. So really over the last 10 years that Laridae’s been, been doing the work and specifically in the last two to three years, we've really been paying attention to the impacts of change on not just organizations as a whole, but like the entire workplace culture.

[00:05:19] Cindy: Mm-hmm

[00:05:19] Danielle: And we've moved through the biggest change I would suggest that organizations have ever faced specifically in the non-profit sector. You know, last year we did like 30 strategic plans. We've engaged like hundreds of people through lots of different processes and there are three common themes that have naturally been coming up in these conversations.

[00:05:37] And it's the massive challenges of attracting and retaining great people. The importance of integrating diversity, equity and inclusion through the entire organization, from the board level, through staff, to the clients we serve and finally, what is a healthy workplace culture, right? So those are the three big pieces that keep coming up.

[00:06:00] And when you look at the impact of having effectively functioning management teams, those elements can start to, I mean, there's no band aid solution but you'll start to feel a movement around what that looks like because really it's about ensuring that you're kind of building your own candidate pool.

[00:06:28] I mean, we're in a point in time where we, as a, as a sector are competing across the board for the same candidates, right? So you need to invest in building up your own future leaders by setting clear language around even how we define our culture and how we define how we should behave as managers to create that consistency of experience across an organization is pretty important. And what you inevitably do by focusing on that is creating an internal community of practice specifically around management, right?

[00:07:03] Cindy: Mm-hmm

[00:07:04] Danielle: So one manager might be one department and they've run into an issue, whereas later on another manager runs into the same issue. Okay, so let's share the resources how did you navigate that, you know. And with that common language around what those structures and systems mean, it just levels the playing field in terms of how they can engage each other effectively and ultimately. I mean, culture is based on, or is given shape based on our behaviors and our ethical models and our values. And that's one really effective way of ensuring consistency through an organization.

[00:07:42] Cindy: Yeah. I wanna dive in a little to like what this training, like, how do we actually do this work? Right. You know, always what comes up for organizations is cost because that's always a constraint, but you know, it doesn't have to be like you can obviously work with people, but regardless of your budget, there has to be this investment.

[00:08:07] So what are some ways that we can start to empower those middle managers to actually create these communities of practice and you know, culture to, to build that culture in an organization where do we start actually saying, okay, you're really good frontline workers. What are the actual skill sets we need you to develop?

[00:08:30] Danielle: Yeah, yeah, so, I mean, there are a few different pieces that come to mind when you pose that question and I'll kind of start at the highest level organizational leaders really give shape to the culture that they want to have and by being clear on the organizational values. And actually thinking explicitly about what that culture is,

[00:08:54] it's pretty important because you might say, you know, we wanna have a culture of empathy and, you know, welcoming culture for everyone involved or so, like just by, by giving it some language, then at least you have the messaging to communicate that across and many of us don't even consider how we would define healthy workplace culture.

[00:09:16] Cindy: Yeah.

[00:09:17] Danielle: Right? So I think that's like one big piece when we're looking at moving managers from, you know, that frontline role into a more management type level. I think we also need to be very clear about what will remain the same,

[00:09:32] Cindy: mm-hmm ,

[00:09:33] Danielle: but what will change? So we are presenting that opportunity to the employee with clarity, transparency and setting clear expectations because what we see often is that's never set. We see it as a promotion. Great. I'm gonna get more pay, I'll have more autonomy and like authority to do what I wanna do without really understanding what that means and how it interacts with the workplace culture.

[00:10:02] So then we end up there and we're like, oh, darn. Like I actually just loved the client engagement and doing that work and I don't totally love managing people. Managing people is one of the hardest things, because people are very,

[00:10:17] Cindy: It's usually the hardest thing.

[00:10:19] Danielle: That's a variable that you can't control and usually they respond differently than you expect in almost every circumstance.

[00:10:26] Right? So, so really being clear and setting those expectations of yes it means maybe more pay or more authority, but it also means that you don't really engage with the clients as much and you're actually coaching people on how to engage with clients, and you are an internal communicator. Most managers don't see their role as communications at all.

[00:10:48] Cindy: Mm.

[00:10:49] Danielle: So it is now your role to relay messages through the organization and, you know, so it's those kinds of elements that we just need to speak clearly about and think critically around so we can message that appropriately. Cause ultimately it comes down to, it needs to be the right fit for us but also the right fit for them. Right?

[00:11:08] Cindy: Yeah.

[00:11:09] Danielle: Being kind, being clear is kind. And I think that's kind of the starting piece. And then the final practical element is really thinking through, I guess, two pieces. What is the management style we have here at this organization, right? Is it how can we give shape to what that looks like? Is it very top down?

[00:11:30] Do we wanna move away from a top down environment? What kind of authority do we wanna give to those people so that they have that autonomy? So, you know, defining that management style within the organization and then what's the onboarding look like? How are we making sure that they know the role? They understand the role, they have the tools and the resources they need to be effective and what's the support that they need when they run into road blocks.

[00:11:59] Cindy: So it sounds like the number one starting point is, you know, clarity. So if you're the board or the executive director, like you need to clearly define both the organizational values, what this work is of the manager, like how does it different?

[00:12:19] Danielle: Mm-hmm

[00:12:20] Cindy: How, what the organizational management style is. And I wanna come back to that, but, and then how to onboard,

[00:12:27] Danielle: mm-hmm

[00:12:28] Cindy: Okay, I was