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Lynn Borton is one of the most grounded and genuinely kind people I know. She’s also an accomplished former executive with a major nonprofit, having spend 20 years at the organization, 12 of those as the chief operating officer. A few years ago she left that post to pursue her deep interest in fostering curiosity as a business tool. I had the opportunity to tape an extended two-part interview. In this first half, we discuss the role of the COO in a nonprofit organization. Two weeks from now we will publish the second half of the interview, where Lynn talks about her abiding curiosity about curiosity.


You can find Lynn’s business at choosetobecurious.com. You can email her at choosetobecurious@gmail.com or borton.lynn@gmail.com.  She tweets as @choose2Bcurious. You can also find Choose to Be Curious on Facebook. She’s available on LinkedIn, too.

Questions in this podcast included the following:

  1. You have been on a personal and professional journey over the last few years. Tell us first about your decision to leave a nonprofit after 20 years. What factors went into that decision? [0:48]
  2. Over 12 years, the COO position must have changed substantially. It’s an issue that nonprofits face a lot when considering whether to hire a COO. What duties should the COO have, and which should the CEO retain. Tell me about how you and the CEO initially divided those duties. [3:20]
  3. Did that division of labor remain entirely consistent throughout your tenure?  [6:30]
  4. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about pursuing a career as a COO? [7:26]
  5. What advice would you give an organization that was considering creating a COO position? [11:10]
  6. What top characteristics would you look for in hiring a COO for a nonprofit? [14:00]
  7. The Harvard Business Review published an article that we’ve both read, and which I will link to when we publish this interview, about the uncertainty of many COO’s about their responsibilities and how to maximize effectiveness. Do you think those authors are onto something, in that perhaps companies are not getting the most out of the COO role? [17:15]
  8. What advice would you give a COO in a nonprofit about how to do their job? [20:51]