Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Satisfaction in The Cause

We work hard and sometimes circumstances beyond our control thwart our progress.  I’m often asked “How do we keep ourselves motivated in the face of all these challenges?”

I hate setbacks and external circumstances that get in my way.  But I try to take “satisfaction in the cause” that I am working to advance.  I wake up every day and remind myself of my mission and then take satisfaction in giving full effort to move it forward.

I also take satisfaction from working elbow to elbow with others similarly committed to the cause.

And to pursuing excellence in all we do.

Of course we want to make measurable progress toward our mission “goal line.”  But we have to take satisfaction in knowing that we are pursuing noble and, sometimes, daring missions. 

After all, it was Helen Keller who said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

For me, at the end of each day I want to be able to say to myself: "'I have fought the good fight, I have finished my race for the day'.  I have made as much Mission Impact as I possibly could today.  And tomorrow is a new adventure."  Good luck to you in your important, daring mission adventures.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tug-of-War: Strategy vs Culture (Part 2)

Picking up from Part 1, to align culture with strategy to achieve mission impact, at Bethany College we executed an action plan to build the preferred, new culture keeping the best of the “clan culture” (charming small college) and adding elements of innovative and competitive cultures.

As a result, the distance from where we began to where we were going created a tug-of-war within the college. One end (A) of the rope stood the stagnant-clan culture of 2007 characterized by talking only about mission, normalizing mediocrity, prioritizing loyalty over performance, and thinking we're good. The other end (B) stood our preferred innovative-competitive culture characterized by being guided toward vision, expecting quality, prioritizing performance over loyalty, and thinking we can be great.

Our Guest Blogger is Dr. Ed Leonard, President
of Bethany College (Lindsborg, KS)
Knowing from the beginning a new culture and break-through results would create tension, the board and senior leadership stood firm on our end (B), refusing to lower our aspirations or back-off our strategy.

We also knew we could strengthen the pull on our end (B) through new hires by recruiting the right people who shared the new culture and direction.

We observed how faculty and staff responded differently to the tension. Some responded creatively with the energy to lead the college’s emerging disruptive innovation. Others responded competitively with the energy to shape the college’s competitive advantage. Yet others sadly responded to the tension emotionally, opted out, and left the college. We learned getting the right people in the right seat also takes an understanding of how they respond to the tension of change and results.

Here is what I hope you take away. If you want your mission to have impact, you need a bold strategy. A bold strategy needs culture aligned with it. Aligning culture to strategy creates tension. Don't relieve the tension by lowering aspirations or backing off strategy. Manage the tension by getting the right people on the bus who embrace the tension as creative and/or competitive. Then watch your organization sling-shot forward!


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tug-of-War: Strategy vs Culture (Part 1)

Mission impact is driven by strategy. Yet there is very little written on the reality that strategy is driven by culture. As president of a small, independent college in mid-America who embraces the teachings of Rob Sheehan in Mission Impact, I'd like to share from the trenches why a nonprofit CEO should not overlook the cautionary adage, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

When I became a college president in 2007, I stepped into the story of a 125 year-old college whose enrollment was at its lowest level in 40 years, had tired and weary facilities and landscaping, and struggled through serious operating deficits. Seven years later, enrollment is up 34%, $27 million has been invested in facilities and landscaping enhancements, and finances are stable.

Our Guest Blogger is Dr. Ed Leonard, President of
Bethany College, Lindsborg, KS.
The change that had to happen for these results to occur began with clear purpose and direction. However, after several years of slow build-up, the last two years have seen remarkable breakthrough. That occurred, I would suggest, because my senior leaders and I, with unequivocal board support, began assessing and building a new culture.

Our assessment revealed the current culture was a stagnant, "family-like" clan culture (think charming small college) and needed to be re-energized with more innovative and competitive elements to reach our preferred culture. That is, we had to build a new culture that lessened talking only about current mission to being guided by future vision, that eliminated normalizing mediocrity to expecting quality, that shifted the priority from loyalty to performance, and from thinking we're good to thinking we can be great.

To be more innovative, we launched several new entrepreneurial initiatives and supported skunkworks. To be more competitive, we established goals for key employees and held them accountable.

Even as the new culture started taking shape and we started seeing breakthrough results, tension and push back began to appear. How did we respond? Stay tuned for Part 2.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Implementing Almost Impossible Goals

The implementation of traditional Attainable goals is straightforward.  By definition, you figure out how you are going to accomplish the goal while you are setting it.  Usually this means that there has been a certain process you have been using in the past that you are making some incremental improvements to.  Based on your projections of how well those improvements are going to work, you forecast your goal.

Almost Impossible Goal Implementation is quite the opposite.  By definition, an Almost Impossible Goal is one that you think you maybe have a 1% chance of accomplishing AND you don’t know how to do it.  The goal is not a forecast, it is an aspiration.

So what’s next after setting an Almost Impossible Goal?

Conduct a series of brainstorming sessions with people who have enthusiasm for the goal.  You want people who have the mindset of “I don’t know how we are going to do this, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could figure that out!”  You want them to be focused on how much more of a Mission Impact you would be able to make by accomplishing the goal.  When doing the brainstorming, keep these things in mind:

*People usually do brainstorming incorrectly.  The idea is to generate as many ideas as possible – without self-monitoring for quality.

*Rather than opening up a free-for-all session, start with “brain-writing.”  Give everyone ten minutes to think silently on their own of new ways to try to accomplish the Almost Impossible Goal.  When the ten minutes are over, ask each person to read one of their ideas.  Call upon each person to share one idea at a time until all ideas have been shared. 

*Rigorously enforce the “no evaluation” rule when people are reading their brain-writing lists.  There is No Commentary while people read out their ideas.

*Once all ideas are shared, open the floor to suggestions for what are the most promising ideas.  Encourage people to build upon ideas that have been shared.

*Remember, amazing new ideas usually do not appear overnight or on schedule!  This is why you have to have multiple sessions spaced out over time.

*Try responsible experiments with ideas that seem to have promise.  See which ones work and which ones fail.  This is sometimes referred to as failing fast.  You will learn more as you quickly try out ideas.

*Don’t give up!  Just because none of your experiments are working does not mean you will find that new idea sooner or later.  They say that Edison tried 10,000 different versions before inventing the filament for the electric light bulb.

*Remember that you set the goal because you were inspired to make more of a Mission Impact – and that is admirable.  If you fail then count it as a Noble Failure.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Leader's Focus

You are remarkably busy.  Everyone is.  But you are a leader and you need to stay focused.

There are thousands of things to do and it is very easy to let your focus roam to the immediate urgencies of the moment.  These urgencies are important, but don’t let them distract you.  You need to keep your focus on the long term, while paying attention to immediate issues.  If there is anything that distinguishes a leader from a manager, this is it.


Keep your focus on:

*Closing your Mission Gap.  Imagine what the world would look like if you were accomplishing your mission 100%.  And compare that to the way the world looks like today.  Your job is to remind people that your collective job is to close that gap.  Remind them of the big picture and the progress they are making toward that with the work they are doing.

*Your Strategic Goals.  You set Strategic Goals to close the Mission Gap.  If someone suggests a new activity or idea, then you ask “How does that support our Strategic Goals?”  Of course the Strategic Goals need to be broken down into annual goals and activities and accountabilities.  But as all that is going on you need to remind people of the connection of the daily activities to the Strategic Goals and how you are all making progress toward closing the Mission Gap.

Focus!  And you will surely make more of a Mission Impact.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.