Monday, November 28, 2016

Instant Gratification vs. Innovation

If I told you that if you reduced your nonprofits services by 10% this coming year, you could be back to where you are the next year along with a 20% improvement that would carry on in future years, would you make the reduction?

I hope that you would say “yes” – the math works.

But if I said you had a “chance” to get the 20% improvement – not a guarantee – then it becomes tricky.  And that is the problem that a lot of organizations – for profit and nonprofit – have with innovation.  They are unwilling to take the chance that investing money and time in innovation will pay off in the future.  It is a short term focus.  And it is not unlike the problem of instant gratification.

You have probably heard about the Stanford Marshmallow Study in the 1970s.  Children – four and five year-olds – were given a marshmallow and told that if they would wait to eat it until the adult comes back into the room in fifteen minutes they would be given a second marshmallow.  But if they eat it before the adult comes back, that’s all they get.  (Click here for fun video example.) When these children were tracked through their adult years, the ones who exercised delayed gratification had much higher quality of life in a wide variety of measures.  Having the self-control to focus on the future and delay gratification paid off in a big way for these children.

Can we learn delayed gratification from these children and forgo some of today’s services for the hope of more in the future?

It is admittedly challenging.  Most nonprofits are dealing with real people who have real challenges right now.  But it is likely that you will continue to have people with these needs into the future – probably more than you can serve.  Therefore, investing in the future makes sense if we want a long term Mission Impact.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  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, November 8, 2016

CEO of Your Health

You cannot make much of a Mission Impact if you do not have good, quality health.  And whose job is that?  You are the CEO of Your Health.  How would you evaluate your performance in that CEO role?  Here are some suggestions for improvement:

*Create A Health Vision.  What do you want your health to look like, feel like, and be like all through the decades as you age?  Create a picture of this for yourself along with a description.

*Set Health Goals.  Set some short term achievable goals – especially if you are re-committing to your health, along with longer term stretch goals that will take you toward your vision.  See here for more on effective goal setting.

*Design a Health Strategy.  Now that you know what kind of health you want, how will you get there?  Who are your Docs and how often will you see them?  What are your sleeping and eating habits?  What vitamins (if any) do you take?  What kind of exercise will you do and how often (FYI: “I don’t have time for exercise” is not a good health strategy.)

*Health Strategy Implementation.  Create specific action plans for your goals and strategy.  As a CEO or supervisor, you know that strategy often breaks down at the implementation stage.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Get a coach if you need one or some accountability partners.  Don’t be discouraged if you have ignored your health for years.  While it is best to start early with implementing your strategy, you can catch up.  Check out the book “Younger Next Year.”

Remember that you “hire” your Docs and they are like consultants.  I fired a cardiologist a few years ago and got a new referral.  When the new Doc asked me why I changed I said “I fired him because he was not paying close enough attention to my situation.”  I have been getting very good service from the new guy.  Also, get second opinions if you question a diagnosis.

[NOTE: Being the CEO of Your Health does NOT mean that you pretend to be an MD! Don’t self-diagnose unless you stubbed your toe and don’t self-medicate unless it’s a beer after your favorite team lost.]

You are the CEO of your Health.  As one of my mentors used to say, we don’t have a “health care system in the USA,” we have a “sick care system.” We need to take control of our health future so that we have good quality of life through the years, can enjoy life more over time, and make a Mission Impact while we can.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Using “Worry” to Your Advantage

What keeps you up at night? Agonizing over some thorny decision? Overthinking possible outcomes? Tormenting over the possibility of failure? You are not alone. The hyper-competitive work environment in which we live feeds our imaginations overtime, and, hence, our worries.

The great Samuel Johnson, a chronic worrier, labeled worry a “disease of the imagination.” We are capable of imagining the worst, allowing a stream of dark thoughts to crowd our mind. Is it worth it? Is worry its own reward? If we fret about an upcoming presentation in front of a large, forbidding audience and it turns out well, do we attribute it to all that effort we invested in imagining the worst?

GUEST BLOGGER:
Dr. J. Gerald Suarez
Great leaders and strategists use worry to imagine potential implications and consequences of their decisions. By doing so, they are able to anticipate what can go wrong and design better plans. Successful entrepreneurs masterfully use worry to sense, respond, anticipate and effectively deal with uncertainty and risk. Other executives see worry as a catalyst to prevent obsolescence or stagnation.

However, when worry escalates and becomes omnipresent, it can lead to postponement, paralysis, fear, distress, all forms of dysfunction, and even medical problems.

How can we manage our worries? Recoding our apprehensions each day is a good way to start. Keep an inventory of worries and become mindful of the things that we can influence and the ones beyond our control. Revisiting our journal will help us assess the actual danger from the imagined peril. We may find that it was never as bad as we imagined it to be. Get the facts and look for evidence since worry is often rooted in misinformation. Avoid the paralysis of perfectionism and learn from failure. Stay socially engaged and share your worries with your executive coach or a trusted colleague. Doing so, can help us see our worries within a new context and help us calm down.

Can we worry less but worry better? Yes, but first we must acknowledge that worry is a type of thinking that is self-imposed. Since worry results from our own mental creations, we must shift our thinking in a serious way, even turn it upside down, and instead imagine positive outcomes, and believe in them. It is our choice: We can be immobilized by fear of failure or motivated by a vision of success, even if success doesn’t actually pan out as we wished. At least we can sleep at night.


 J. Gerald Suarez is professor of practice in systems thinking and design and a fellow of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Change at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He is an executive coach and author of “Leader Of One: Shaping Your Future through Imagination and Design.” See also a longer version on this topic in The Washington Post.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

SWOT Your Goals!

SWOT Analysis (evaluating your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is the most widely used tool in strategic planning.  But that is not the only time you can use it!

It is also very helpful to SWOT any goal – individual or organizational – that you have.  But make sure you put the SWOT in context.  Ask these questions:

*Given my/our commitment to accomplishing this goal, what strengths do I/we have that I/we can leverage to meet it?

*Given my/our commitment to accomplishing this goal, what weaknesses do I/we have that I/we need to fortify to meet it?

*Given my/our commitment to accomplishing this goal, what opportunities do I/we see in the external environment have that I/we can seize to meet it?

*Given my/our commitment to accomplishing this goal, what threats do I/we see in the external environment have that I/we need to block to meet it?

Once you have done a SWOT on your goal then look at your answers to inform your strategy for the way forward.  Pay attention to the sequencing of your actions.  Hopefully your weaknesses and threats are not of great concern.  But if they are, address them up front.  Maybe, for example, you need to fortify some weaknesses before you can seize your opportunities.  And definitely try to use creative ways to leverage your strengths that allow you to seize opportunities.   

Set BIG goals that inspire you!  (Read more here about effective goal setting.)  Then SWOT your goals to develop a winning strategy to accomplish them.  This is how to make a breakthrough Mission Impact.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Is That Goal Really Impossible?

As regular readers of this blog know, I advocate setting Almost Impossible Goals as a way to drive innovation and creativity for individuals, teams, and organizations (read here for further info).

A question I am often asked is, “We have been working on this goal without much progress, how much longer should we try before declaring it Fully Impossible (versus Almost Impossible)?”

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has a great series of
ads about ending cancer.
First, once you think and feel that the goal is Fully Impossible, then it is time to restate the goal – either with a longer timeline or a smaller magnitude.  This is because once you think and feel that it is Fully Impossible, you will not try as hard – which is part of the point.

However, I encourage you not to give up too soon!  If you are not making the progress you want, that simply means that you have not yet invented the way to make it happen!  Even four years into a five year goal, you may invent something new and amazing that will help you accomplish the goal – or at least get really close.

The point is, none of us can predict the future.  We have no idea of what we are truly capable of.  So let’s keep our minds open as long as we can.  If we get to the end of the time we set for accomplishing the goal and we don’t make it, then let’s see what we have learned, be proud that we tried hard, and set a new goal for the future.

In 1970, Congress set a goal to cure cancer by 1976 as a fitting way to celebrate the bicentennial.  And they put a lot of funding behind it.  While we have not fully accomplished the goal, we have made great progress in cancer treatments.  Many people are alive today due to those new treatments.  And, there are thousands of people across the country who have not given up and are still working tirelessly to cure cancer.  I greatly appreciate their relentless effort toward the goal.

Be careful not to declare your goal Fully Impossible too soon.  And if you don’t make it, get recharged to continue the pursuit.  Lives might not depend on it. But then again, maybe they do.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  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.