How Lyn Freundlich Keeps Human Resources Human

Photo of Lyn Freundlich
As Practice Leader, Lyn has provided human resources consulting services to dozens of organizations, and has trained more than 3,000 other nonprofit professionals.

“I love the people who do this kind of nonprofit work,” says Lyn Freundlich, leader of TSNE MissionWorks' Human Resources Training and Consulting Practice. “The people who come, ready to push their sleeves up and work hard against inconceivable odds to make the world a better place. Anything I can do to help them be effective matters.”

Over her career, Lyn has worked at several mission-driven organizations in the Boston area, including Greenpeace, AIDS Action Committee, Countdown to Kindergarten (as the Executive Director), as well as TSNE. With that experience and the support of her team, Lyn has created our Human Resources Training and Consulting Practice, which includes group workshops, one-on-one coaching, and consulting. The practice has provided customized training or consulting services to at least 75 nonprofits, and has trained more than 3,000 other nonprofit professionals.

The practice helps nonprofit organizations, some of whom may not even have designated Human Resources departments, work with their staff better. Supervising well, compensating equitably, developing relationships deliberately—these types of HR concerns are, Lyn argues, how organizations stay true to their principles and encourage employees to do their best work.  “In nonprofits it isn’t as if we are building widgets,” laughs Lyn. “When we invest in the people who do the work, we are investing in the work. The more effective our staff are, then the more effective we are as an organization.”

Through her work, Lyn encourages organizations to see staff as “whole people.” A good example is her effective supervision training, which is a particular passion of hers. The training gives supervisors the tools to create the trusting, mutually respectful relationships that are foundational to success. One key element of her training is helping people work through the issues of power that play out in supervisory relationships:

“In the world of social justice nonprofits many of us work to dismantle the power structures that inherently contribute to inequity. Yet we mostly work in organizations that are at least somewhat hierarchal. Supervision is a reflection of that structural power, and pretending it isn't just gets people into trouble. So we actively engage people in those conversations. You're supervising somebody who used to be your office mate, your friend; you're 25 and that person is 65; you're white and that person is a person of color, these are all difficult dynamics that need to be unpacked. I think it's a relief to people to be able to name and recognize what they are experiencing and to then explore ways to move through and beyond it.”

Watch Lyn Lead an Effective Supervision Training

Lyn’s respect for the nonprofit workforce is also apparent in her coaching and consulting. For nonprofits that are not large enough or do not have the budget for dedicated human resources staffing, she serves as the stand-in HR staff member. In this role, as in her workshops, she equips supervisors to build “mutually respectful and trusting relationships” with staff and to manage any performance issues that come up. In addition, she intentionally acts as a sounding board for staff at all levels of the organization on how to address conflicts or to improve working relationships. She even encourages people to speak with her about professional development and for career advice. For many years, Lyn provided this service to Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women. She says, “Working with Rosie’s Place staff, and interacting, even in passing, with their guests (as Rosie’s Place refers to the women they serve) reminded me regularly why I was drawn to this work in the first place.” Lyn reflects, “There are amazingly dedicated people doing incredible work. The opportunity to work with them to become even more effective is inspirational and an honor.”

Beyond helping the nonprofit workforce with day-to-day operations, Lyn keeps an eye on larger trends in the nonprofit sector, and in particular, she is passionate about fair pay. She says, “Our workforce fills some of the most important roles in society—caring for the young and very old, advocating for liberty and justice, ensuring that our democratic process is accessible to everyone—yet there seems to be a general sense that nonprofit staff don’t deserve to be paid the way that employees in other sectors are compensated. This makes no sense to me!” To support the workforce, Lyn partners with co-worker Rodney Byrd and an experienced compensation survey group, Nonprofit Compensation Associates, to produce TSNE’s Valuing Our Workforce, a regional compensation report. The data enables nonprofit employees to know their value, and helps organizations pay fairly. In addition, Lyn helps nonprofit organizations evaluate their own compensation structures, and establish practices that are fair and consistent with their values.

Lyn is optimistic about the practice’s impact, and feels a great deal of pride when clients say things like, “I think about your training every day, ” or “Thinking with you about how to deal with this personnel issue gave me confidence to address it directly.” As she says, “When I saw this job opening at TSNE fourteen years ago, I thought, ‘That's what I’ve wanted to do since I left my first nonprofit job.’ That organization had a laser-like mission focus. But I realized pretty quickly that organizations needed to be more intentional about how they treat people so that all of that passionate commitment could be better leveraged. Doing this work really has been a dream come true.”

You can learn more about her practice on the Human Resources Consulting page. Lyn also spearheads TSNE's regional compensation and benefits study and authors the study's companion report and analysis. 

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