Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanks for the Feedback (Or Not)

We know that receiving valid feedback for improvement on our performance and then acting on it is a helpful way to continue our professional development.  However, it is all easier said than done.

This is one of the helpful themes of the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and, frankly, you’re not in the mood).  What a great, though long, title!  This really captures part of the challenge of acting on feedback.

I recommend the book and here are a couple of quick takeaways you can start using today, if you want feedback for improvement:

*Ask people (coworkers, supervisor, direct reports) “What’s just one thing I could work on to improve.  Please make it as practical as you can.”  Ask enough people that you find a theme.  Don’t try to work on everything that people suggest!  Pick just one thing.

*Sometimes people have a hard time identifying something for you to work on.  As a twist on the first suggestion, ask instead “What’s one thing you see me doing that gets in my way?”  Again, look for themes and pick just one thing to work on.

*Finally, when you start to implement a change in behavior according to the feedback, remember that change is hard and give yourself time to change.  Try small experiments with the change and do not expect to be newly perfect all of a sudden. 

We can all improve and continuous improvement is a hallmark of a great leader.  Put take it one thing at a time and build on your improvements.  And make sure to thank people for their feedback – even though, you know, it may not be delivered perfectly.


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 31, 2017

Endangered Resource: Focus

The battle for Focus is on!

As if it is not enough that we already have too much to do . . . now the “devices” have entered the fray.  If it’s not your computer, then it’s your “smart” phone, or your (Dick Tracy-like) Apple watch.

You can try to focus – but then what is that text say?  Or the Linked In update, or Tweet, or FaceBook message . . . much less the more normal email.   (Good thing no one uses the phone any more or we would really be in trouble.)

Personally, my mantra as I go throughout the day is “focus” – I am constantly coaching myself.  And the other day I was in a colleague’s office where she has a little sign on her computer in caps: FOCUS.

Here are a few little things you can do:

*Turn off “pop-ups” on your computer – most email systems have a way you can do this.  While you are working on a Word document or some other project you won’t be distracted.  Also, turn off Notifications on your phone.

*On Monday, make a list of the three most important things you want to get accomplished during the week.  Print it out and put it somewhere visible in your workspace.

*At the beginning of every day, write down the most important thing to get done that day – keep it someplace visible in your work space (even a post it note).

The frenzied pace of today’s work world is challenging to us all.  We need to FOCUS as much as we can to make an optimal 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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SOAR Without SWOTs

Frequently I tell people (including the grad students I teach) that strategy can be done well in many different ways.  Certainly, I prefer the Mission Impact approach, but there are a lot of great methodologies out there that can work for organizations.

One interesting approach is S.O.A.R., which you can read more about it at this link.  S.O.A.R. stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results.  In this model, stakeholders are engaged to identify Strengths and Opportunities which then lead to the creation of Aspirations and desired Results.


S.O.A.R. which has its basis in Appreciative Inquiry, which is defined by the S.O.A.R. authors as “a philosophy and organizational change approach that builds on strengths and what is called the life-giving forces of the organization’s existence, its positive core.”*

While they do not include Weaknesses and Threats in their acronym, they are not left out.  The authors add: “Weaknesses and threats are not ignored. They are reframed and given the appropriate focus within the opportunities and results conversations. Ultimately it becomes a question of balance. Why not spend as much time or more on what you do well and how you can strengthen a strategic advantage? What gives you more energy to take action? What gives you confidence to set a stretch goal and achieve results?”*

S.O.A.R. leverages a 5-I Approach which asks the following questions:

Initiate: How shall we work together?

Inquire: What are our strengths and opportunities?

Imagine: What can we aspire to?

Innovate: What can we create to achieve our aspirations?

Inspire to Implement: How do we move forward to achieve our goals?

Answering these questions then provides a roadmap forward for the organization to implement its strategy.  If you like this basic description then think about ordering the book (it’s a quick read) and SOAR on to enhanced Mission Impact!

*Stavros, J.M. & G. Hinrichs. The Thin Book of SOAR, Thin Book Publishing, Bend, OR, 2009.


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 3, 2017

“Do More with Less???”

Can we find out who invented that phrase?  – “Do More with Less.” How crazy! I want to have a talk with him (I am sure it was a him.)

Don’t get me wrong – I am all in favor of efficiency.  And, if in pursuit of a new process to accomplish a goal you end up inventing a way to do more with less, then great.  Even setting that as an inspiring goal could be a super idea.

But that is not how “Let’s do more with less” usually gets discussed.  It gets discussed as a “spin” on a situation where more is needed, but resources have been cut.  So some brilliant “leader” tries to inspire their team with “Let’s do more with less!” 

The problem is that it often happens to people who are already under-resourced and overworked.  So it wears thin quickly.  If you find yourself in a really tough situation where resources have been surprisingly cut and you really must “do more with less” – then don’t try to put a positive spin on it.  A chocolate covered cowpie is still a cowpie.  

Be straight with your team, e.g., “we have been dealt a tough hand and we need to make the best of it.”  Yes, it does provide an opportunity to try to be creative.  But here’s the thing – don’t try to make it your new culture.  Do your best to lower the need for “more” and redouble your efforts to get additional resources.  Otherwise, you will encourage burnout and your best people will go to an organization where they “Do More with More” – how’s that for a slogan!

Resource challenges occur in good times and in bad; they are a part of any organization’s life.  The key is engaging the situation proactively and working through it with a positive attitude – without making it the “new normal.”

P.S. For a fun Dilbert “spin” on “More with Less,” see here.



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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Good vs Great

One of the primary roles of a leader is to focus their team or organization on the most important goals and issues that will lead to high performance.  This is no small feat.  It requires strategic thinking and great discipline.

Any organization has many improvements it "could" make in its operations.  But there is only so much time and are only so many resources.

Leaders need to make sure that they and their organizations are not distracted by working on operational improvements at which they may already be doing “good enough.” Some improvements are not going to get you very far – in a strategic sense.

The key is selecting strategic areas of improvement where you are good – but can become great, maybe even fantastic.  If being fantastic in that area will lead to overall long term success, then that is the place to focus.

You can't accept mediocrity, but you cannot be great at everything either.  One of the most important things leaders can do is to say “no” to certain proposals – while pointing the team toward the strategic initiatives that will be the priority.  What do you need to say “no” to today?

Management guru Jim Collins* once said that “Good is the enemy of great,” and this is true in many ways.

The road to organizational excellence for enhanced Mission Impact is not an easy one – which is why so few find the destination successfully.  Focused leadership on matters of strategic importance is key.

*Good to Great, Jim Collins, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001.


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.