MSLOC at 15: Graham Murphy: Growing with Arabella Advisors

MSLOC at 15: Graham Murphy: Growing with Arabella Advisors

Graham MurphyWe’re celebrating 15 years of the Masters in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program through a series of profiles highlighting the professional lives and experiences of alumni and students. View the full series here.

In this story, meet Graham Murphy, senior director of culture and talent at Arabella Advisors, a mission-driven company that provides strategic guidance to foundations, families, and high net worth individuals for effective philanthropy.

Graham Murphy (MSLOC14) was on the ground floor at Arabella Advisors as it grew from a small start-up to a nationwide company of consultants who advise donors. Now senior director, Murphy is responsible for cultivating Arabella’s most precious asset: its talent.

We talked with Murphy about his experience at Arabella, how the MSLOC program broadened his skill set, and a special new addition to his family in the following interview:

You’re the longest-serving employee at Arabella. Describe your career growth:

Ten years ago, I started as the third employee, doing everything from managing our books to running one of our businesses. Arabella had an innovative approach as a for-profit company working in the non-profit sector. This was before companies like Toms Shoes and other social enterprises gained widespread recognition, and it wasn’t totally familiar to me back then. It was an amazing place to grow up professionally, and learn about business and nonprofits. As I grew in my career, I started to focus on specific areas of the business and increasingly took responsibility for managing our culture and talent strategy.

How large is Arabella now?

We now have more than 150 staff members in four different offices across the country. It’s been an amazing ride growing from a few people to a thriving national organization.

You’re navigating the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors on a daily basis. How has the MSLOC degree prepared you?

I’m able to put the skills I learned to use in a variety of different ways. It’s also given me the confidence to take on projects that don’t necessarily fit in my purview. When the organization is undertaking significant change, I can bring the design thinking approach to bear.

Can you give an example?

A few years ago, we redesigned our entire compensation program, which was a huge change management project. If I had not been through MSLOC, I would have been like a lot of people — just move quickly to design something, implement it, and move on. But I learned how critical it is to be slow and methodical about defining the problem, designing the solution, implementing in stages, communicating the change and managing adoption.

How did that work?

Our team had a tiered communications plan, from leaders down to staff, that emphasized transparency. We gave plenty of opportunities for feedback and questions, and I even met with staff in all four of our offices to get their input on our design. It wasn’t just about spending more resources, but doing it in a way that would improve satisfaction with our program and align it with the market. As a result, we saw our satisfaction in compensation increase two-fold in just a year, and we did it without significantly increasing costs.

Were there skills that MSLOC helped you hone?

Before the program, I wouldn’t have had the patience to make sure I had that amount of buy-in. But I’m proud to say the project is still being pointed to as a best example of managing significant change in our organization.

Your time in the MSLOC program included taking courses online and in-person. Any preference?

I actually liked the mix of in-person and virtual. With the in-person courses, you get to interact more with colleagues. But the virtual sessions, especially the three-day retreats, were really well planned out. Having done both, I didn’t feel like I missed out because they all were equally good.

After more than 10 years at Arabella, what continues to inspire you?

I work with a bunch of smart people who want to make a difference. Our staff members are there to make an impact. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to run a for-profit with people so focused on mission, but that’s who I love working with. And I’m happy to say that 95 percent of staff say they have a good relationship with colleagues.

And there’s something else that’s been inspiring you lately!

My husband and I adopted our son, Collin, in July. We’ve been taking turns doing paternity leave, and it’s been great — he has been such an easy baby.

You’re something of a pop culture expert. What have you been binge-watching lately?

I’ve always been interested in politics, so any show that takes place at the White House is on my list. We’ve been streaming Madam Secretary and Designated Survivor. When Collin eats, we’ve been binge-watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. So, if Collin grows up to be a curmudgeon, we’ll know why!

Learn more about the MSLOC program.

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