I have a professional question for you: What’s in your locket?
A locket is a small pendant that includes a space for storing a small keepsake, e.g., a photo of a loved one. Worn on a necklace or bracelet, this charm holds a cherished item, and the wearer often opens it to be reminded of one so near to their heart.
So, what’s in your locket (real or imaginary)? Besides being a twist on a popular ad campaign (thanks, Capital One), it’s a relevant question for anyone who wants to enjoy their work. Job satisfaction – and effectiveness – is directly related to the laser-like alignment of your deeply held values, personal passions (loves), and outward actions and abilities.
Jim Collins calls it a Hedgehog Concept. Simon Sinek calls it his Golden Circle. Steven Covey calls them habits. Patrick Lencioni has a pyramid. And Peter Drucker posed them as six critical questions. While each of these authors (and several others) adds his own contribution to the discussion, they all build off of this place of inner-outer alignment.
Yet, while many write about it, few of us are so aligned. Like an aching back, painful barbs shoot through our activities and discourse. And we’re left feeling out of sorts.
This chiropractic conundrum of misalignment is often more intrapersonal than interpersonal. Few of us take the time to listen to our true selves (our inner voice) and understand our deeply held values and personal passions. Instead, many align with an external set of expectations packaged and presented as an appealing alternative to our dissatisfaction.
One of Simon Sinek’s (Start with Why) contributions to this discussion is the idea that people align with others who believe what they believe. He says it this way: “We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe.”
So, we need to open our lockets and peer inside to that which we hold dear and then find the words to speak it clearly to ourselves, our families, our organizations and community. Take some time – quiet, reflective time – to listen and learn from yourself.
My guess is this: once we align ourselves to the most important things in our lives, we’ll find that interpersonal (also intergenerational, interracial, intercultural) alignment comes much easier.
Allison Hammond (Arcadia Institute) offered a Voice from the Field workshop last month. She explored the various ways our organizations can welcome and support persons with disabilities as staff, participants, volunteers, and supporters.
At the Arcadia Institute, they work to make it possible for children and adults with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of community life, as they choose. In supporting area organizations, they encourage working with staff to think through and plan ahead for how they may accommodate volunteers or participants with disabilities.
On the question of accommodation, Allison reminded us that we don’t want to go overboard. Trying to be over-accommodating may make everyone uncomfortable.
Instead, Allison suggested that we ask the person what they need. For example, “What can I do to help make your experience with us more enjoyable or more comfortable?” Or, if you see someone struggling (e.g., straining to read instructions or struggling to move about the area), we can ask how we might be of assistance.
Creating a culture of inclusion and hospitality will help your organization serve everyone better. Toward this end, Arcadia Institute hosts Building a Community of Belonging on March 26, 2015.
With New Year’s Eve just hours away, I again find myself at an intersection. In addition to being the calendar year end, it’s also the second quarter close of our fiscal year. And, as a holiday week, it’s a time of less (or different) activity.
I like these times. It’s an opportunity to look back and look forward, to evaluate and adjust, to celebrate and to anticipate.
In his book, Traction, Gino Wickman draws upon the work of Patrick Lencioni and others and recommends that top management gather off-site every 90 days to review the previous quarter and finalize priorities for the coming quarter. Why every 90 days? He says, “The 90-day idea stems from a natural phenomenon – that human beings stumble, get off track, and lose focus roughly every 90 days.”
Wickman cites examples of this phenomenon at work, and I could add a few examples of my own. While it’s easy to casually nod in agreement, I shudder at his observation that human beings “lose focus roughly every 90 days,” because…
…we cannot afford to lose focus.
Lost focus wastes time and energy, dilutes the purpose of the organization, confuses funders and donors, frustrates staff and volunteers, and eventually leads to all sorts of crises. As leaders of our teams, departments, and organizations, maintaining focus is at the top of our list of responsibilities.
So, take some time – a half- or full-day – every quarter to hit the Pause button and keep yourself and your team on track. It will save you time, increase your service quality, and promote job satisfaction.
I enjoy basketball. While some individual players stand out, it’s the performance of the team that decides the game: working together, anticipating each other’s moves, and sharing the spotlight. Sure it takes practice, but it takes more than practice.
It takes trust.
On a team, trust means…
- You hold one another accountable without assigning blame
- You willingly give and receive extra efforts without keeping track
- Knowing that the team has your back, you take risks without guilt
- You communicate openly and directly with your teammates without fear
…and you do it all for your mission…for your cause.
Being on a team requires us to extend beyond ourselves. In our recent workshop on Mindfulness in the Workplace, Eric Nelson provided a compelling research- and case-based argument for mindfulness practice. The benefits were so varied and plentiful, I finally asked, “What’s the downside?” Without hesitation, he responded, “It challenges your identity.”
Mindfulness practice makes us face our assumptions and how they often differ from others’ assumptions. It chips away at our ego and helps us recognize how much we need each other to achieve better understanding as well as better performance. By letting go of our need to be right, we free ourselves to be correct. We free ourselves to trust.
I’ve written before on ways to build trust. Yet, these efforts falter when individuals stay wedded to their own assumptions and agendas. The more we understand ourselves and let go of our own egos, the more we open ourselves to trust our teammates. And that’s a step we must take on our own.
The ball is in your court.
I expect that every organization and business strives to be hospitable. We want staff, clients, visitors, supporters, and vendors to feel welcomed and comfortable in our place and at our events. Yet, even with best of intentions, we may run into times when we’re stumped.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Some situations may throw us for a loop. Many of us have faltered around language issues, physical challenges, cognitive disabilities, cultural misunderstandings and more.
We can take steps to prepare ourselves and our organizations to be hospitable in these situations: glean your staff’s wisdom by initiating the discussion; identify gaps in understanding and then research and share information at staff meetings; and take advantage of workshops offered by area agencies.
This week, ONEplace welcomes Allison Hammond (Arcadia Institute) to explore Supporting People with Disabilities in your Organization. Allison will help us discover how we can successfully include people with disabilities as participants, volunteers and employees. Plus she will highlight resources to assess and support our ongoing efforts.
Most of us desire an open and welcoming community. It starts with each of us creating that environment right where we are.
Most of us wouldn't call the holiday season relaxing, especially
for nonprofits with year-end campaigns to run. One way I divert some of the
anxiety that goes along with hectic year-end events is by setting a small, yet
achievable goal with a December 31 deadline. There is something distinctly
satisfying about bringing in the New Year on the heels of a personal
accomplishment. Below are five steps that have helped me set and accomplish my
1. When setting your goal, avoid your Achilles
Heel -- for now. Choose something less intimidating that will also have a
noticeable impact. For example, you might want to limit the time you spend
replying to emails.
2.Select the issue that you can easily measure.
Goals related to thoughts and emotions are tougher; i.e. "I will not
respond rudely to the client who always calls me screaming," is more
difficult to measure than something like "I will thank every client for calling."
3. Say what you will do. It may seem
trite, but words have power. When you mentally tell yourself not to do
something--"I will not let my paperwork pile up"-- it implicitly adds
pressure and negativity to the task at hand. Your goal should be an
action you will take.
4. Ensure accountability. I don't think
setting any goal is the difficult part, but rather, remembering the goal and
sticking to it. My favorite method of accountability is other people. I tell a
couple of close friends about my goal, and when they ask me about it, I can
either share the good news, or thank them for the reminder.
5. Adjust, adjust, adjust. You can't know
how realistic your goal is until you actually try to accomplish it. If eating
lunch away from your desk every day isn't possible, adjust your goal to one
day. Then, go back to step 4 and secure lunch plans with a colleague every
What has been your experience with goal-setting? What's your
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dov Seidman observes that we’re moving into a human economy. Having once been an agrarian economy and then an industrial economy, followed by an information economy, we now are transitioning into a human economy where successful employees leverage their creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit.
Seidman quotes Peter Drucker (Effective Executive, 1967) in support for committing to values and connecting with purpose in the workplace. He describes Drucker as being ahead of his time. I think he was simply more attuned to his people than the flavor of his time.
Successful leaders throughout the 20th century valued the human element. Look at Jim Collins’ list of top CEO’s and you’ll find several who built long-lasting organizations that valued their people more than their profit.
What they recognized is that – be it agrarian, industrial, information or human – each was an economy, i.e., “a system of interaction and exchange.” Regardless of what commodity is being traded, it’s people that perform the interactions and exchanges. It’s people that make any economy tick.
Seidman also points out that the systems are changing. Business and organizational policies and practices are valuing the human element more, and business schools are also attending more to developing so-called “soft skills.”
More and more, institutions are recognizing what many business writers keep claiming: it’s all about relationships. It’s true now, and it has been true for decades. Perhaps mainstream leadership thought is catching up with this.
One of the joys of working at ONEplace is the opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people: from long-term nonprofit leaders to those incubating start-ups; from seasoned board members to neighborhood advisory councils; from funders sitting on millions of dollars to social entrepreneurs sitting on a single idea. From all these discussions and more, I’ve realized one undeniable fact:
Each person brings a critically important contribution to the discussion.
This is not about asking “Who’s not at the table?” or making sure the discussion includes “representative voices.” This is about recognizing that every discussion is ill-informed because voices will always be missing. It’s also about making the effort to go beyond representative voices and seek out, invite, and create an environment safe enough for each critically important perspective to be raised.
We’re doing this on a few fronts, at ONEplace and in community centers. It takes time – sometimes years – to get acquainted and develop readiness, and then more time to build trust. But, as they say, “In five years it will be 2019 either way, so we might as well start.”
Posing open, honest questions that draw out the diversity of perspectives brings new light to the matter at hand. Just as light from one angle illuminates only part of a structure and casts shadows on other parts, light from many angles removes the shadows and illuminates the whole.
And, when I catch a glimpse of the whole, I realize the specious nature of the phase, “people in need.”
Rather, I desire to participate in the diverse circle which hosts people we need. In this circle, there is no teacher or student, no grantor or grantee, no provider or client. In this circle, each person claims, “There are eyes that see things I don’t see, ears that hear sounds I don’t hear, and hearts that bear burdens I don’t bear.”
Until every light shines, unencumbered, we’re all left in the dark.
When we think of organizational values, words like honesty, integrity, and service generally surface. Generosity is not commonly listed, unless it's United Way campaign time.
Yet, in the book, Change Anything, the authors give a nod to generosity when they discuss getting one’s career on track. Identifying what separates the best from the rest, they list three things: know your stuff, focus on the right stuff, and build a reputation for being helpful.
They look to "Individuals who are singled out by their colleagues as the go-to folks in the company" and say that "people describe them as experts who are generous with their time."
We also know them by other descriptions: team players, mission-focused, and helpful. "Theirs is not primarily a self-serving motivation. Top people are widely known...because they help others solve their problems."
Of course, one pitfall here is trying to use generosity as a means of getting ahead. At the heart of it, generosity is about placing your focus outside self, outside organization, and on to the greater purpose, the greater cause. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more we focus on the greater goal beyond our organization, the better it is for our organization and career.
Another pitfall is helping so much that one’s own work doesn't get done. Certainly, boundaries must be observed. Remember, the second point above was "focus on the right stuff."
So, next time you hear someone say, "Got a minute?" hear it as an opportunity to connect with a colleague, further your mission, and contribute to a generous workplace culture.
At ONEplace, we define leadership as taking full ownership of one’s roles and responsibilities. This includes taking the initiative to:
- Learn what you need to know
- Building relationships necessary to be effective
- Listening & learning from others as well as freely sharing with & teaching others what you know
Effective leadership in any position demands building and nurturing strong collaborative connections. These relationships not only increase one’s capacity to do an excellent job, but they tend to make work much more enjoyable.
Also, one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase your organization’s capacity is through building relationships. Most of us know from experience that working collaboratively with others creates synergy – a dynamic in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This works with teams within an organization as well as collaborations between organizations.
As you may have guessed, encouraging strong collaborative relationships within the nonprofit sector is one of our top strategies at ONEplace. We deliberately present workshops and other events to encourage, promote and opportunify strong collaborative connections, such as: solving problems together (Nov 4), nurturing young donors (Nov 5), connecting with nonprofit colleagues (Nov 18), or building a stronger board (Nov 20).
Make building strong collaborative connections part of your personal strategy. It will raise your awareness, and you’ll find that every day presents relationship-building opportunities.