News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
“Try this – it worked last time.”
“Marvin had a similar problem. How did he fix it?”
“Just smack it!”
How often do we take a trial and error approach to fixing problems? It’s good to draw on our expertise and past experience, but every attempted fix costs time and money. So, we can’t afford to just wing it.
In these situations, a rational, step-by-step process provides great assistance. Throughout my career I’ve used a problem management process individually or with a group to address situations large and small. I’ve also taught this process several times to various management teams.
On Wednesday, June 19, I’m offering a Group Problem Solving workshop at ONEplace. This 90-minute session explores how to fully describe a problem, identify possible causes, evaluate those causes and confirm the true cause. The process helps us gather solid data and avoid common pitfalls.
While not panacea’s, processes like these are helpful management tools and set a thoughtful, logical tone to addressing challenges of all sorts.
I’ve read it yet again in another leadership book. This time the quote reads, “…no technique can substitute for face-to-face human interaction.”*
That’s why we scheduled the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE event earlier this month, to provide an environment for us to connect, get to know each other, and learn from one another. Our post-event survey provided great feedback on the event.
72% responded to the survey
86% said that the reason they went was to meet people & network
88% rated the event high overall
99% said that they would like to meet either quarterly (57%) or bi-annually (22%)
96% said that the best time to meet was after 4 pm
Overall, comments were positive and encouraging.
“I met several people that I will connect with again.”
“Perfect set-up with tables, chairs and pens/paper.”
“This event was great and I look forward to connecting with community leaders at future events.”
With the strong response and high preference for quarterly gatherings, we’ll stay with Wednesday evening and meet again in August, followed by a pre-holiday gathering in November. So, mark your calendars for Wed August 14, 4:30 – 6 pm and Wed November 20, 4:30 – 6 pm.
*Quote from “The Leadership Challenge” 3rd edition, by James Kouzes & Barry Posner, page 181
When I hear the phrase, “once upon a time,” I immediately relax, settle into my chair, and focus my attention on what’s coming next. I’m about to hear a story.
Stories form the foundation of virtually all our entertainment and learning. All TV series, movies, and books (even most non-fiction) are stories. Songs, lectures, dances, and many paintings evoke stories. It’s how we convey information and instruction, and it’s how we turn information into meaning,
Communicating with donors and other stakeholders requires us to tell stories. Yet, many of us struggle with where to start, how to gather stories, and how best to tell them.
Over the next few weeks, ONEplace offers events targeted on this challenge. Great Stores = Connection (May 29) provides interview questions to draw out information and tips on how to engage staff in gathering good stories. Plus, we’ll look at several examples.
In Assess Your Qualitative Impact (May 30), Demarra Gardner shows us how to evaluate our organization’s programs and services, drawing out the information that paints a comprehensive picture of how we are fulfilling our mission.
ONEplace also explores two arenas for telling your story with How to Win Corporate Grants (May 21) and Asking for a Legacy Gift (June 6).
Our stories carry power – power to inspire, encourage and motivate. No other medium comes close. Make it work for you.
How do you achieve clarity on gnarly issues?
As highly-wired, multi-networked, resource-rich folks we likely turn to our various webs of family and friends as well as books and blogs. Yet, we may be overlooking the most powerful teacher of all – ourselves.
When my son was a preschooler, he simply would not act on a suggestion or direction from me until he had made it his own. His entire body revealed his process from “I’m not so sure” to “maybe” to “I have decided that I’ll do this.” It had to make sense to him and, in essence, become his idea.
As adults, I observe (in myself and others) that we’re little different. Simply being advised or directed toward a certain solution or course of action doesn’t mean we’ll blindly give our assent. It needs to make sense to us. Often, this is a quick bit of consideration. But on those complex, many-layered issues, we need more.
Many authors suggest steps we can take, and our Achieving Clarity ONEpage resource provides a brief digest of these. Yet, outside sources alone don’t motivate action. Until we take the time to individually consider, mull and reflect – listening to the guide within – we will not commit to serious action.
When we want to achieve “buy in” with an individual or group, the critical step is not telling, it’s listening. How do you best listen to your inner guide?
A Hidden Wholeness
Who is in your learning network?
Who do you learn from on a regular basis?
Who do you turn to for your own professional development?
These are the questions that educator Dr. Mark Wagner poses at the beginning of his seminars on personal learning networks. He finds that, with so many of us working as “lone rangers” in our given organizations, we best keep our edge by building our own networks of learning or growth.
While ONEplace can play an integral role in your professional development, each of us needs to build our own dynamic learning network. Fortunately, the online connections available to all of us make this less of a challenge. Indeed, the greatest challenge may be the overwhelming amount of available information and connections.
While Dr. Wagner offers us some clear direction to building our personal learning networks, it’s important to keep some guidelines in mind.
First, your network is for you. Don’t follow someone on Twitter because other people do or don’t give in to the temptation to grade yourself by the number of connections or comments or likes on Facebook or LinkedIn. This is your learning network, so make sure it is serving your learning needs.
Second, your needs change so let your network change, too. Follow a thought leader’s posts and blogs as long as they are helpful. Some writers keep rehashing their insights, so after a few weeks, you know their perspective and can move on. Sometimes, you may wish to simply get new voices into your learning mix, so shake up the roster. The point is to freely adjust the mix to meet your changing needs.
Third, keep your network manageable. There is only so much that any one person can digest, so keep the number of blogs, tweets, groups, etc. within reason. Make sure the ones you follow give you the highest quality information, best connections, and most insightful conversations.
Take these three guidelines and Dr. Wagner’s information with you by downloading our ONEpage resource, Personal Learning Network.
Inside Drucker’s Brain
Your leadership team – even if only two people – forms the core of your organization. Everyone and everything take their cues from this group. So, it is vital that this team be solid and completely transparent.
In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni outlines four disciplines leading to organizational health: build a cohesive team, create clarity, overcommunicate clarity and reinforce clarity. He suggests that the two bedrock principles of building a cohesive team are developing trust and managing conflict.
If you’re like me, you are vigorously nodding your head. A leader’s failure to execute most often centers on his/her failure to build trust in the first place. Without trust, debates on critical issues disintegrate to manipulation and even winning at all costs.
Our ONEplace Leadership Series addresses these issues in the upcoming Take the Lead: Influence workshop (Feb 13). I encourage you to participate or, if unavailable, let me know your top leadership challenges. We’ll find resources and events to address your most pressing needs.
In Disney’s Aladdin, our hero’s disguise is betrayed when he asks Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” This is a bottom-line question. It sets the bar of any relationship, and gets down to the naked truth of where you stand and who you are.
Trust makes an impression.
Whether in a family or business relationship, trust means more than just doing what you say you’re going to do. It means that you can speak freely and openly with those you trust. You’re comfortable being totally honest and transparent with them. You’re willing to place your reputation in their hands.
In the workplace, trust’s impact goes beyond individual relationships. It affects the key organizational matters of maximizing performance and achieving desired outcomes. Without trust, we question our colleagues’ intentions and judge their personalities. Productivity disintegrates in the acidic pool of office politics.
So, how can we begin the process of building trust? A first step, as suggested by Patrick Lencioni, is the Personal Histories Exercise – a low-risk, 20-minute activity to help team members understand one another as people. By having each person state where they grew up, how many siblings they have, and an interesting or unique challenge from their childhood, team members connect at a personal level and begin to see each other as trustworthy human beings.
Lencioni offers other exercises and models on his website. The foundation of it all, however, is trust; and it is up to the organization’s leader to make the first move and model the desired behavior – not a bad New Year’s resolution!
Over the past two weeks, one lesson has presented itself to me in a variety of forms – the importance of clarity over and above certainty.
Without going into all the gory details, suffice it to say that processes have stalled waiting for every last fact to be gathered, people have adorned their arguments with extraneous and jargonistic detail to prove the absolute rightness of their point of view, and meetings have been endlessly prolonged while meaningless minutia was debated. It’s exhausting!
In his book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni names “choosing certainty over clarity” as temptation number three. While he affirms the importance of working with good information, he argues that many of us (CEO or not) take pride in our analytical skills and keen insights. Consequently, we spend too much time honing even-more-finely-detailed analyses into conclusions that get a nod but don’t move our organizations forward. Further, the higher impact issues before the group are left to the final few minutes of an already-too-long meeting.
Clarity, in contrast, means that you take a stand, and people understand the argument being made. They know points on which they agree and, perhaps more important, points on which they disagree. To speak clearly, however, requires us to set aside our fear of being wrong (or, at least, not-completely-right) and willingly invite others to challenge and improve our arguments.
Also, clarity makes accountability possible. Clarity of mission and purpose as well as clarity on individual roles and responsibilities means everyone knows why we exist, where we’re headed and who’s doing what. Everyone knows what’s expected and each person participates in keeping the organization on track.
In the study, Fearless Journeys, the researchers describe how several orchestras took on innovative ideas to invigorate their organizations. In the closing, the writer observed that what made all the difference was NOT the choice each made, but the fact that they dared to choose.
Any decision is better than no decision.
The Five Temptations of a CEO
Recently, I heard Mario Morino of Venture Philanthropy Partners speak of the “…acute shortage of the kind of leaders that high-performing nonprofit and public agencies require.”
This comment tracks with what I’ve heard from business and nonprofit leaders for years: leaders are in short supply.
Mario also says, “Bluntly put, the number-one limiter on our ability to create meaningful, lasting change in our social and public sectors is an acute shortage of the ‘right people on the bus.’” The “right people” he refers to are leaders, i.e., “people with a professional, personal, and passionate commitment to solving a problem about which they possess a commanding and deep understanding.” To be truly effective, organizations need leaders not only in the top jobs but throughout the organization.
ONEplace@kpl has doubled its commitment to bring you leadership training. Our ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy 2013 will begin in January and address every area involved with running a nonprofit. We also are looking to the character of a leader and offering an occasional series called, Take the Lead. The first session is November 27 and explores the importance of focused attention – committing to it, practicing it, and maintaining it.
Consider these opportunities as well as resources found on our Leadership ONEpage to help you develop your leadership skills.
A Mindful Nation
You’re leading a staff meeting, giving a report to the board, addressing a group of program volunteers, or having coffee with a donor. In these situations and others, you have the opportunity to tell a story.
We have the stories – volunteers, staff, and participants tell us wonderful tales of how they have been greatly helped and deeply touched. The challenge becomes presenting that story so the full impact is felt by the listeners.
On October 24, we’re hosting “Three Stories Every Nonprofit Should Tell,” a webinar by Kivi Leroux Miller, president of the Nonprofit Marketing Guide. This event explores the dramatic plot lines used by writers and offers steps on how to craft your story to achieve maximum impact (more info).
Put the power of story to work in your fundraising, board development, and community relations.
P.S. We also recently added November programming to our ONEplace calendar (check it out).