Are you disappointed with your nonprofit board’s performance in fundraising? If so, you’re not alone.
Consider this from the BoardSource 2010 Governance Index, “Year after year, nonprofit leaders identify fundraising as their board’s greatest weakness and most important priority for board improvement.”
That was written in 2010 and chances are, it’s as true today as it was three years ago when it was first typed.
Is that true for your board? Do board members continue to render lackluster performance in fundraising despite your best efforts to motivate, inspire, cajole, beg, or even guilt them into fundraising?
Most likely it won’t get any better either. Why do I say that?
History and physics.
Well maybe not world history or quantum physics, but two observations -- one about history and one from a physicist.
George Santayana noted, “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”
If your board has a long history of fundraising “failures”, what lessons have you learned from those “failures”? If you haven’t stopped long enough to examine what’s behind those disappointing results and instead doubled down on your effort to get your board aggressively fundraising, that’s where physics come in.
Or at least an observation from the beloved physicist Albert Einstein, who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
If you’ve diagnosed the primary problem with your board fundraising as having the wrong people on your board which leads to the perpetual playing musical chairs with board members until you get the perfect people on the board that will go and fundraise. Well, perhaps you see what Einstein had in mind.
What if the problem is not with who is on the board, but rather the problem is how you’ve defined and understood fundraising?
Even more pointedly, What if the foundations of your fundraising are faulty?
Before writing me off as either a heretic or a lunatic, please read on.
What would happen if, in your organization, you recast your understanding of fundraising and how you approach it?
Imagine for a moment that instead of looking at fundraising as a set of activities you undertake to raise money for your organization, you began considering fundraising as an outcome or result from an entirely different set of activities.
Stay with me.
Fundraising is defined as “raising money for a cause.” That very definition casts fundraising as a transaction and this gets to the heart of the matter for many people.
A transactional approach to fundraising for many board members ranks either right above or right below a root canal on the pleasure scale.
Here’s how transactional fundraising is often perceived (by board members coerced into action).
“Let me see if I get this, you want me to arrange a meeting with a friend, acquaintance, or business associate, spend a few minutes in awkward small talk and then ask them for a BIG contribution to our organization?
Ick! Yuck! Are you kidding me? Im not comfortable doing that even if I wanted to AND I don’t. No thanks.”
Okay, it that’s how your organization approaches fundraising, then it’s not on the pleasure scale at all, it’s on the pain scale. Something to be avoided like the plague.
And people wonder why your board members don’t respond enthusiastically?
Attempts like that are trying to get people to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them. It’s awkward and embarrassing -- and, in many cases, rightfully so.
Consider for a moment, what do people like to do?
That could generate a long list, but in keeping with our topic, people like to talk about things they are passionate about. People like to share good news with friends, colleagues, and neighbors. People like to socialize by gathering for coffee, tea, dinner, or a party.
Imagine that your board members are so excited about the great things happening in and through your organization and they are so passionate about the mission that they want to share that great news with others?
If this happened, could it result in natural, even organic, ways of introducing new people to your organization and your organization to new people?
Is it possible that some of those people might be so stirred and interested that they want to learn more about this wonderful organization doing amazing work in the community (your organization)?
If they learned more, might they be interested in investing their time as volunteers or their treasure as a financial supporter?
If that happened, would that result in raising resources (including money) for your organization?
DING! Do you hear bells ringing?
What if you developed a campaign that encouraged and equipped board members to introduce their friends, neighbors, and associates to your organization and provided natural ways for that to happen?
It’s what I call relationally rich resource development.
Stir up and unleash the passion of board members for your organization’s purpose. Get them so excited about it, that they want to share your great work with others. Create opportunities for them to introduce and connect others to the organization.
Raise friends for the organization and trust that the funds will follow.
In this model, relationally rich resource development is the activity, raising funds is simply one result. This is not transactional, and it has the potential to be transformational for all involved.
It works, it’s fun. Interested in learning more? Stay tuned. If you can’t wait, contact me now.
Earlier this week I was in a planning meeting to plan another meeting. You’ve attended meetings like that, right?
There’s a high stakes meeting in the near future and you assemble a group of the brightest minds you know to make a plan for that meeting. In this particular case, next week’s meeting involves leaders of two support organizations sitting down with a key leader to secure his commitment for a major upcoming multiyear project in which his support is vital to the project’s success. Of course, failing to garner his support will be detrimental for all involved.
As we were talking through the meeting goals, objectives, and logistics we began envisioning the desired outcome we wanted to see. Someone said, “It would be great to get a quote from the agency director to include in the program launch.” Heads are nodding, indicating agreement that a quote from the agency director would be great.
Great? I’m thinking we ought to get a quote without having a high stakes meeting.
Feeling that irresistible urge, I asked one of my favorite questions, “What’s the highest potential outcome of next week’s meeting?” (More on this below).
Instantaneously, the energy and discussion dramatically shifted to a higher plane!
Instead of thinking about the least we could get by with, we began considering what’s the most that could come out of this meeting.
“The director could offer to champion the project and give his full support to it.”
“He could offer valuable insights that are critical to the success of the project.”
“What if he created a video expressing his support for the project?”
“Imagine the impact it would have if he would agree to attend the kickoff in person and provide the keynote.”
“What if he requested periodic status reports and monitored the progress of the project?”
Suddenly, those were the new outcomes for next week’s meeting. And all of that because of one single question.
One question elevated the energy and excited the imaginations of those in the meeting. It unleashed creative thinking and raised our expectations. Hopefully it creates a new set of possibilities for this project and puts it on a trajectory towards greater success than it might have otherwise have.
Ever found yourself in a situation where, either alone or as part a group, you’re battling low expectations and small thinking?
Small thinking leads to small action, or worse, no action at all.
Small thinking is often a response to considering small questions.
What’s the least we can get by with?
What’s the smallest request we can make that they won’t say no to?
Those questions may yield safe, predictable responses. But, playing it safe does NOT change the world or our communities in it. Playing it safe preserves the status quo and we desperately need a shake up of the status quo.
Questions like these are Safe, Low-Ask Propositions and yes, they are a SLAP in the face of people who are moved to action by big, hairy, audacious goals (Jim Collins’ BHAG).
Our little thinking does not lead us to the audacious solutions needed for the complex and complicated issues we face today. Little thinking keeps us confined and constrained -- bound up when you need a breakthrough.
Daniel Burnham encouraged leaders to, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood...make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”
One key to making big plans and aiming high is asking bigger, better, bolder questions. It is also important to ask them in the affirmative, not the negative. For example, the most common question I hear from my friend and mentor, Hildy Gottlieb, is what would that make possible? Note she doesn’t ask, “what prevents that from happening?” Phrasing the question that way focuses our attention in the wrong direction and magnifies the reasons something may not work or happen.
Incidentially, Hildy is the mentor who equipped me to ask, “What’s the highest potential outcome of any situation or opportunity?” Thanks Hildy, that question continues to prod my thinking and serve my clients.
Asking positive questions not only prompts us to bigger, bolder, and better thinking, it also reaches deep within us, stirs us to new levels of creativity and imagination, while also inviting us to dream bigger.
Before your next staff or board meeting, equip yourself with powerful, positive questions you can ask. By so doing, the next time you find yourself in a situation or meeting where you feel slapped by safe, low-ask propositions, you will be able to ask powerful positive questions that enliven the discussion, elevate the thinking, and encourage big, hairy audacious action.
Need help with powerful, positive questions? Checkout the Encyclopedia of Positive Questions, Volume I or explore resources on the Appreciative Inquiry website.
This article was originally published last week as a blog post for the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Sharing it here for our friends and followers.
Words matter. The right word makes a world of difference in what’s communicated and understood. Mark Twain observed, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lighting and a lightning bug.”
Likewise, those of us who embrace servant leadership face a similar challenge in assigning the proper meaning to the “servant” part of servant leadership. Some people have a negative reaction to the concept of servant and others simply misunderstand it.
Let’s look at the negative connotations first, as they create stumbling blocks for many. And, in some instances, these struggles are legitimized by personal histories. Serving and servanthood are often associated with servitude, where a person, or group of people, is forced into bondage and subjection as a slave to another – that’s slavery and bondage. In the context of servant leadership, however, serving and servanthood are not at all synonymous with servitude.
A thorough reading of Robert Greenleaf and it is quickly understood that power and its proper use are central themes and tenets of servant leadership. Any abuse or misuse of power for personal gain or advancement is contrary to servant leadership.
Servant leadership is also misunderstood when people confuse wants and needs and seek leaders to cater to their wants, whims, and wishes. Instead of choosing a leader who serves their legitimate needs, they want a genie who grants their wishes.
That would be butler leadership, not servant leadership.
A classic quotation from Greenleaf is: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Greenleaf held a high and noble view of service and envisioned servant-leaders helping their followers navigate Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Perhaps our best glimpse into how Greenleaf understood serving is summarized in what he offered as the best test of servant leadership. “Do those served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or at least, not be further deprived?”
As I read Greenleaf’s best test, it’s like watching people ascend the heights of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Having their physiological needs (food, water, shelter) met and their higher level needs of safety, belonging, and esteem satisfied, they reach the point of self-actualization and are now at a place where they too become servants of others and are able to reach out and help them on their journey.
It’s a virtuous cycle of service.
A servant-leader may indeed serve you a cup of coffee or tea or even help you change a flat tire, but please don’t mistake random acts of service by someone in a leadership role as being the same thing as servant leadership. The best test of servant leadership isn’t whether or not a person occasionally serves others, but whether they serve others in such a way that they too join the chorus and carry on the virtuous cycle as an authentic servant-leader.
>>> Curious about the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and my work with them?
In addition to my work with X Factor Consulting, I've affiliated with the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership as Director of Greenleaf Consulting Partners. Through the Greenleaf Center, we're working with organizations, institutions, and associations interested in learning more about servant leadership and provide customized consulting and training to help them implement servant leadership principles and practices. Feel free to contact me if you're interested in learning more about our consulting services, retreats, or including a keynote or workshop on servant leadership at an upcoming conference.
Maslow's Hierarchy - By J. Finkelstein (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Butler on call - by scukrov, (http://www.featurepics.com/online/Bulter-Call-Bell-918281.aspx)
What would happen if board members approached board service as servant-leaders?
That was the topic of one-day board retreat I was privileged to co-facilitate last week in Phoenix, Arizona. Our primary text for this workshop was the classic essay Trustees as Servants written by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1974. My partner for this session was none other than friend and colleague, Joe Iarocci, CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.
Our mission was to design and deliver a one-day workshop that allowed the board of directors for an international nonprofit organization to consider what it would mean if they approached their board leadership roles as servant-leaders. For many of these board members, this was their first formal introduction to servant leadership.
The day included a brief introduction to the philosophy and practices of servant leadership along with an exploration of the natural fit that Robert Greenleaf saw between trusteeship (board service) and servant leadership.
Greenleaf had a high view of trusteeship. He wrote,
"Trustees are accountable to all parties at interest for the best possible performance of the institution in the service of the needs of all constituencies – including society at large. They are the holders of the charter of public trust for the institution."
As you can imagine, this was an exciting and enlightening day.
Something amazing happened as the board members learned about servant leadership. It actually confirmed what Greenleaf believed about trustees and servant leadership.
Everyone in the room realized something important about themselves.
They realized that while they may not have formally learned servant leadership, they were already servant-leaders. As they heard the philosophy and practices shared, heads were nodding in agreement. Light bulbs of self-awareness were illuminating.
Through this session, they gained insights and understanding of the servant leadership philosophy and its key practices. They also learned a common vocabulary with which to discuss servant leadership and fulfill their roles and responsibilities as trustees.
In addition to the introduction to servant leadership, the day was filled with several guided discussions through which they explored what it means to approach board service as servant-leaders and how, as a leadership body, they could better lead and serve the organization by intentionally adopting and implementing servant-leadership principles and practices.
These robust small group discussions were then synthesized by the board as a single group. This experience was practice in the art of consensus which Greenleaf described as "a group judgment that will be accepted as superior wisdom.”
This board was energized!
As the day was concluding, we led the group to consider the next steps in the servant leadership journey and reminded them that servant-leadership is a lifelong journey, not a destination.
Consensus was reached quickly and the board identified several logical and natural next steps on their journey.
Here’s part of the beauty of servant leadership. These board members as individuals and the board as a whole had begun this journey long before this board development session.
We helped them see the journey they were already on and equipped them with knowledge, skills, and resources to be more intentional as they continue this journey as servant-leader trustees.
If you're a board member, do you and your fellow trustees view your board service as opportunities to practice servant leadership not only to the organization, but more importantly to the community at large? If so, what difference does that perspective bring to your work individually as board members and collectively as the board?
If you've not yet considered board service as servant leadership, perhaps it would be a worthwhile discussion to launch with your fellow trustees. Hopefully you will reach the same conclusion this groupd did and realize, as one of these board members said, “servant leadership fits us like a glove.”
If you need help getting started or continuing this journey with your board, please reach out to us.
Everyone leaves a legacy!
Legacy is the enduring impact and impression of one’s person and presence on others. It’s how people remember us after we’ve left a position, place, or ultimately, this planet.
Legacy is the shadow we cast on others. Our shadow follows us wherever we go and falls on those around us. Most of the time we’re unaware of its presence and reach, yet that doesn’t stop it from following us and falling on others. So it is with our legacy.
Our legacy includes both those things we intentionally do to influence others as well as the things we habitually do that others see, hear, and remember. One element that makes a great leader great is the harmony between the things they intentionally do and the things they habitually do.
Great leaders not only talk the talk, they walk the walk and people observe the congruence between their words as well as their deeds and between their professional and personal personas.
Great legacies linger and endure the test of time.
Last month we celebrated the 84th birthday of a great leader who left an enduring legacy. January 20 was the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy continues almost 45 years after he left this planet. Dr. King cast a long shadow that continues impacting and influencing leaders, generations, and nations.
Dr. King’s birthday was first observed as a national holiday in 1986. Eight years later there was a significant shift in how his birthday was observed. President Bill Clinton signed federal legislation in 1994 recognizing Dr. King’s birthday as the Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service and now, MLK Day is the single largest day of community service that is observed in all 50 of the United States and around the world.
Legacies are formed over a lifetime, not just in the last years of one’s life.
Honoring Dr. King’s birthday as a day of service to others is the embodiment of his legacy. Dr. King saw the importance of service early in his life and ministry. He advocated serving others as the antidote to self-centeredness in a sermon entitled Conquering Self-Centeredness delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in August of 1957. In that sermon he admonished, “An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Later in the sermon, he passionately intoned, “Find some great cause and some great purpose, some loyalty to which you can give yourself and become so absorbed in that something that you give your life to it.”
He was a servant who saw the value of a life lived in service to others. He recognized the difference between fame and greatness and noted that, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service... You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
Yet, Dr. King was both great and famous. Fame found Dr. King. He did not seek it out; it sought him. He became the face, voice, and symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, but first and foremost, he was a servant and serving others, even the Movement made him great. In his case, it also made him famous. If he were forced to choose fame or greatness, he would have chosen greatness.
Why do I believe that? That belief is rooted in a prayer from that same 1957 sermon. “Help me to realize that I’m where I am because of the forces of history and because of the fifty thousand Negroes of Alabama who will never get their names in the papers and in the headline. O God, help me to see that where I stand today, I stand because others helped me to stand there and because the forces of history projected me there. And this moment would have come in history even if M. L. King had never been born.”
It’s no accident that we now observe Dr. King’s birthday by serving others. It’s an appropriate expression of his legacy.
What legacy are you leaving?
Dr. King’s legacy offers insights on how each of us can leave a legacy that lasts for years into the future. While we may, or may not, become famous, we can become great.
We choose to become great by choosing to serve others. Dr. King noted that, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?”
By doing for others, you are leaving a legacy. It's a legacy that life is not about you, but about others. The time is always right to ask, what legacy are you leaving?
Attributions for graphics: Shadow by Andrey and obtained from FeaturePics.com. Dr. King photo By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. What are you doing for others from University of South Carolina http://www.sc.edu/eop/MLK/MLK_images/mlk2010.jpg.
Years ago when I was just beginning my career and was truly a novice, I longed to become an expert and to be regarded as such. Being called an expert had this aura of...well, an aura of expertise to it.
Expert sounded sophisticated, impressive, and refined.
At that time, I thought becoming an expert was a destination, a place of arrival, the pinnacle of knowledge, the end point on the continuum of learning. Well, that simply illustrates how ignorant and naive I was then.
A funny thing happened along the way to becoming an expert. The more I discovered and learned, the greater was my awareness of just how much more there was to discover and learn. While I was progressing on the continuum to expertise it slowly dawned on me that this is a continuous journey and as long as I’m alive, I will still be learning. There are, and always will be, new depths to explore, new discoveries to make, and new horizons to pursue. That journey is vividly illustrated in this image of the three stages of expertise.
None of this is to disparage expertise. People often invest a significant amount of time and money to acquire or develop their area of expertise. It’s simply an attempt to properly frame, or perhaps even, reframe what being an expert is and to note the subtle difference between being an expert and having expertise.
Just exactly what does it mean to be an expert?
Webster’s defines expert as, “a person with special knowledge or ability who performs skillfully”. The Oxford Dictionary defines an expert as “a person who is very knowledgable about or skillful in a particular area.”
While I agree with both of those definitions of an expert (after all, some word expert crafted them), there’s another definition I’ve come to prefer.
An expert is someone who knows a lot about a little.
An expert doesn’t know all there is to know about anything and they certainly don’t know all there is to know about everything. They just happen to know a lot about one thing, or perhaps, a few things.
In other words, an expert is a specialist - someone who knows a lot about one thing contrasted to a generalist who knows a little about a lot of things.
Consider this, when you need an expert, what you are really saying is, you need someone who knows more than you do about the subject at hand. An expert could be someone in the same field as you, just farther along the journey or someone from another field. Either way, they are able to draw on knowledge, wisdom, and skills to help you with the issue at hand.
Looking at it this way, I bet that you, too, are an expert.
Whether it’s in the realm of your profession or an area of passion; there are areas in which you have special knowledge, wisdom, or skills. What really qualifies one as an expert is developing expertise in a specific discipline or area.
Problems and challenges arise when people confuse having expertise in one finite area with being infinitely wise and knowledgable across all areas.
Consider that whether you are a consultant, a counselor, or clergy it’s likely you’ve developed one, or more, areas of expertise. Acquiring or developing that expertise is the springboard for serving others with excellence.
Being, or becoming, an expert is a means to an end, and not an end of itself.
Don’t confuse being an expert with becoming an enlightened guru in an exalted state of knowledge. Instead, consider it being an experienced guide with an extensive set of tools and experiences by which you are able help others on their journey.
Having expertise equips you for greater effectiveness in the work you do with individuals, organizations, or communities. It equips you with additional tools and resources to do your work, while also providing you with keen insights and awareness to do that work better.
Expertise, properly directed and employed for the betterment of others, is to be esteemed. Being an expert, simply for the sake of being an expert or solely for the betterment of yourself, is most likely eschewed by readers of this blog.
So, what is the real value of being an expert? It's found in having expertise that enables you to serve others more effectively.
What's your perspective and experience?
Graphic sources: 3 Stages of Expertise from Simon Wardley via Creative Commons; Guru by Creatista and sourced from FeaturePics.com
It’s another year and the New Year is that time when about half of Americans resolve to do something different in hopes of changing something about themselves, their lives, or their jobs.
Recently published research reveals that:
45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions
64% stick with them after one month
46% are still at it after six months.
That got me looking at lists of resolutions and what kinds of resolutions top the lists for most Americans.
Perusing those lists led me to wonder what tops the list for nonprofit leaders and executives related to their boards of directors.
And, well, that led to this: The Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofit Boards for 2013.
10. Get Organized. That’s a great step forward. Create clarity in your documentation and communication.
Some simple steps include creating an annual calendar including the scheduled meetings for the year and the key topics to include at each meeting. If you don’t have a board book or board policy manual, create one. That way all key documents are in one place and it’s easy to find pertinent information when you need it. Here’s a sample template for a Board Policy Manual.
9. Volunteer/Volunteer More. Granted, board service, in and of itself, is a volunteer activity. However, board members find incredible value by volunteering in other program activities beyond board service.
Volunteering is one of the best ways for them to experience the mission first-hand and also provides opportunities to connect and engage with staff, volunteers, and clients. These experiences can make for better informed board members which leads to better board decisions. As a bonus, it keeps their passion for the mission fresh.
8. Learn Something New. This is a treasure trove and could allow board members to learn vital basic skills like reading financial statements, budgeting, board roles and responsibilities. It might also include opportunities to learn more about your community, clients, or partners. As a board, adopt the mindset of lifelong learners and find ways to learn together.
7. Travel More. Travel is an enriching experience and provides opportunities to learn new things (#8) and make new friends (#5).
If your organization provides services at multiple locations consider taking a field trip to visit those locations and allow board members to see the programs in action. Perhaps you could develop an exchange program where you visit other organizations to tour their facilities, observe their operations, and discuss their effective practices. Of course, you’d reciprocate and do the same for them. Here’s one innovative partnership combining learning and traveling.
6. Improve Work Situation. For many boards, there are abundant possibilities on ways to improve how, when, or where, they do their work.
For some, it’s committing to begin and end meetings on time. Perhaps it’s adopting a board code of conduct to raise the level of respect and professionalism in your meetings. It might also include addressing personality conflicts between certain members that spill over into your meetings.
Perhaps, it’s adjusting when or where your board meets. Find the best time when board members can devote their best thinking to your organization. Make sure your meeting venue is conducive to conducting board business.
5. Make New Friends. Apply this internally to the board and externally beyond the board to your broader community.
Provide regular times for your board members to get to know each other socially and to develop relationships that both enrich and enhance their board experience. Reach out to connect new people to your organization through volunteering in programs, serving on committees, or participating on an advisory council. Besides making new friends you can also build a strong bench of future board members.
4. Improve Financial Situation. Every nonprofit organization I know is seeking to ensure their survival and/or solidify their sustainability in our rebounding economy.
Engaging your board in this planning and in these discussions is vital. Find nonthreatening ways to engage board members in relationally rich resource development to further fund your mission this year.
3. Be More Philanthropic. Every ED dreams of having a board where 100% of their board members are personally invested in funding the mission. Hopefully you are already there, if not, seek to engage 100% of your board members giving at a level that is personally significant for them.
2. Lose Weight. It’s one of the most frequently listed resolutions and applies equally to nonprofit boards. If you have extra weight on your board resolve to shed it this year. Maybe you have board members in name only, those who never attend meetings or have any significant involvement with the organization. Explore ways to re-engage them if at all possible. If there are truly dead weight, then find a way to gracefully and quickly transition them off the board.
And the number 1 resolution on most lists...
Get Fit! And yes, nonprofit boards can be fit, fat, or somewhere between. Resolve that 2013 is the year your board gets serious about getting fit as a board and provides the leadership your organization craves.
Like people, boards can lose their vim, vigor, and vitality and become lethargic and lifeless. If that describes your board, recovering its health is possible, and, depending on the situation, may require some dramatic actions to do so.
The year is young! Consider one, or more, of these resolutions for your board, it could make a world of difference for your organization and those you serve. If you need help, give us a call.
Consider joining me on January 23, 2013 as I lead a webinar on Board Wellness: A New Paradigm for Board Excellence for MANY, the Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth & Family Services. Click here for more information and to register.
Photography credits: Top 10 resolutions from Pixels Away, Bright Idea from jorgophotograpy, Business People Meeting from nruboc - sourced from FeaturePics.com. Business Warm Up! from agenziavisione - sourced from iStockPhoto.com.
Today is the day it all ends...well, at least that's the way some people interpret the Mayan calendar. Admittedly, I don't share that interpretation. BUT, imagine for a moment that this was the end. I realize the world ending might evoke sad thoughts for many -- please don't let yourself go there. Instead, consider what wouldn't you miss if the world ended today?
What things would you be glad to see come to an end?
Earlier today I was journaling and reflecting on several things as 2012 winds down and 2013 ramps up. To be frank, there are a few things I really want to see end both in my personal life and in the world at large.
Then the thought struck me, why not make it a Mayan Milestone Moment? Hey, the whole world doesn't have to end today, but why can't today be the day that I say goodbye to those things I no longer want lingering in my life?
So I did. I dealt with some of those loose ends and lingering issues in my life and then I thought about sharing this with others.
How about you?
Are there recurring thoughts that continually badger you and prevent you from taking that small step forward leading you to the giant leap you know lies in your future?
Are there strained or broken relationships you want to see reconciled?
Do you have regrets lurking in the shadows over things you've said or done that you could remedy with a call, visit, or letter?
Are there issues in your organization that you just keep ignoring and hoping they'll go away?
Consider joining me in marking a Mayan Milestone Moment today. Don't say goodbye to the whole world, just to those one or two things that are really weighing you down and holding you, or your organization back.
Take the time today to deal with them, resolve them, and leave them behind.
Now, since the world is not ending today, let me take this opportunity to wish you, your family, and friends a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy New Year!
We certainly need the message of hope that this Season offers as well as peace on earth and good will towards all.
Early this year I made the commitment to expand into video blogging in 2012. It took longer than I had hoped, but here we go.
As many of you know I'm a student of Servant Leadership and identify myself as a servant-leader. That is certainly not to claim that I practice Servant Leadership perfectly-- make no mistake about it, I don't.
However, I choose to be public about my commitment and aspiration to Servant Leadership so you know where I'm coming from and what to expect when working with me. Four years ago, when I decided to go to graduate school to study Organizational Leadership, I chose Gonzaga University because of its commitment to Servant Leadership. Studying Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga was a great decision as well as a wonderful learning experience.
Recently, I've affiliated with the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and together we've launched Greenleaf Consulting Partners to assist organizations and institutions as they implement the principles and practices of Servant Leadership. So it only seemed fitting to make Servant Leadership the subject of my first video blog.
I hope you enjoy this change in format; I'd love your thoughts and comments. Click here if you want to leave a Comment or Like It on the YouTube page -- I'd certainly appreciate it or you can share your comments below. You can also click here and respond to a poll asking how you first discovered Servant Leadership.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.” Well, at least they do in the popular children’s song.
But in real life, do the wheels always go round and round? Or are there times they go thumpity-thump, thumpity-thump because a tire is flat. Even worse are there times your wheels go screeeeech with sparks flying everywhere because the wheels fell off and your momentum came to a grinding halt?
If the bus, in this case, happens to be a metaphor for the board of your organization, then maybe the wheels don’t always go round and round. At least that’s my experience and perspective as a consultant who spends a good bit of time working with nonprofit boards.
I’ve yet to have an initial conversation about a board along these lines,
“Our board is wonderful and everything is great. We’re looking for someone to come in and help us go to the next level of wonderfulness. Are you available the third Tuesday of next month?”
Hey, I’m an optimist and have hopes that one day that call will come in. And yes, even boards that are performing well need to fine tune their structure and processes so they continue that path of high performance.
If you’re fortunate to be part of a high performing board, please don’t take it for granted, instead, be grateful that some one, or some group, has invested a lot of hard work and focus to reach that level of peak performance. Consequently, your organization and the community you serve are benefitting as a result of the board’s excellent performance...if they are not, something is amiss.
You see, boards don’t exist in isolation, seeking to optimize their performance solely for the sake of becoming a well-performing board with well orchestrated meetings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against well-performing boards and well-run meetings; actually I prefer them as long as they are not in, and of themselves the ends you seek.
On the contrary, boards and board meetings are means to a greater end. The end or litmus test, if you will, of board effectiveness is this:
Is the board leading the organization to accomplish it’s mission and fulfill it’s vision?
Are those served by the organization becoming healthier, wiser, and more self-sufficient? Are they growing as individuals and reaching a point in their journey where they are giving back to others? That’s the real measure of a high-functioning board! I sincerely hope your board keeps aspiring to that level of peak performance.
However, if you’re dealing with deflated tires or have lost the wheels on your board bus, what do you do?
First, don’t lose hope. You can’t afford to lose hope.
Second, don’t give up. You can’t afford that either.
Beyond that thought, it is time to do some serious self-examination and self-evaluation to gain insight on where you are, where you want to go, and how to best get there.
Please don’t use assessment as a cover up to play the blame game. Assessment and evaluation work best when you conduct them in guilt-free zones. Remember, you’re looking for a way out, not to go deeper in the pit of poor performance. Assigning blame only digs deeper ruts.
While I’m a huge fan of Jim Collins and see the wisdom of having the right people on the bus. Hold off on that for a moment and first look at the bus, or as Simon Sinek suggests, Start with Why.
WHY do you even have a board in the first place? Of course federal and state law requires it, but honestly that’s not a sufficient why -- it’s a legal constraint. As a why, it’s a very low bar. If legal compliance is the extent of your motivation, low bar performance is what you will get.
You need to discover your why.
Why do you want or need a board? There are plenty of good reasons why you should have a board.
The really great reasons are focused outward, not inward.
A great why is to maximize mission mobilization. Wanting to do as much good as you possibly can with the resources and assets entrusted to you, that’s a great why.
With that as your purpose, you need a board to steward, shepherd, and strategize how best to do that.
Then, and only then, can you adequately assess the who, what, and how best suited for your board.
Who are the best people to help you fulfill your why? What is it that you will collectively do as a board and how will you do it?
Great questions to explore them in the next post. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear the WHY your board has discovered that motivates it to accomplish great things.