Monday, May 18, 2015

Encourage Constructive Conflict

This is the second of a five part series on high performance teamwork, based on the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  The five major dysfunctions that Lencioni has identified, which is backed up by the research are:

*Absence of Trust
*Fear of Conflict
*Lack of Commitment
*Avoidance of Accountability
*Inattention to Results

Fear of Conflict cannot be overcome without trust – so check out the prior blog here if you missed that.

Once you have a team that trusts one another, then leaders need to role model what constructive conflict looks like.  All too often, people are conflict avoidant.  Conflict does not have to be nasty and, in fact, constructive conflict makes a team stronger. 

When a team member makes a suggestion, many people will hesitate to say something even if they think it is a bad idea.  But high performing teams know that they will only make the optimal choices if they get many ideas on the table and evaluate all of them.  So, as a leader who wants to role model constructive conflict you can say things like:

“Thanks for your idea, Rob.  What do the rest of you think?  Let’s brainstorm at least five different possibilities before we make any decisions.”

Another simple technique is to break your team into two or three sub-groups and have them brainstorm ideas to bring back to the full team.  I often do this in strategic planning sessions to encourage divergent thinking.  You can also take care to carefully assign people to subgroups who may have differing opinions.

If you are going to role model constructive conflict it is vital that you react appropriately when someone suggests an alternative to your latest brilliant idea.  If you can do that and encourage others to do the same, then you are on your way to becoming a high performing team that makes an exceptional 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, May 5, 2015

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This is the first of a five part series on high performance teamwork, based on the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  The five major dysfunctions that Lencioni has identified, which is backed up by the research are:

*Absence of Trust
*Fear of Conflict
*Lack of Commitment
*Avoidance of Accountability
*Inattention to Results

I highly recommend the book and will, in this series, provide you with an overview of how to overcome each of the five dysfunctions.

Building trust is the bedrock of high performance teamwork.  So how do you build trust in a team?  Here are a few insights.

First, as the leader of the team, you have to personally exhibit strong ethical behavior. People watch and evaluate everything you do.  They need to know that they can trust you to do what you say you are going to do; that you are honest and fair.  This will build their respect for you.

Next, provide opportunities for team members to get to know one another more personally.  For example - off-site retreats, ropes courses, and personality styles assessments (e.g., MBTI, DISC, StrengthsFinder) can be used to help team members get to know one another in more depth.  As another example, I serve on a board where the new chair took us on a retreat and had each person give a six-eight minute presentation on their life – broken into three segments, however we wanted to organize it.  It was very impactful and I felt more connected to my fellow board members afterwards.

Finally, let yourself be vulnerable to the rest of the team and role model that this is okay behavior.  None of us are perfect and yet, as leaders, we often feel like we have to be perfect in front of everyone else.  If you can lower that veil of invulnerability, it will engender trust among you and others.  And, importantly, it will role model this behavior for others.

There are no magical ways to immediately build trust in a team.  But, following these suggestions can put you on the right path to more effective teamwork and enhanced 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, April 21, 2015

Nonprofits, Innovation, & Lean Startups

You want to drive innovation throughout your nonprofit, but you don’t think you have the time or money to try new things.  You would benefit from learning about the “Lean Startup” method – which is the current model that businesses use to develop new products and entrepreneurs use to start new companies.

Here are some of the key ideas of Lean Startup that apply to nonprofits:

*Experiment.  You don’t have to have everything figured out at the beginning to try out a new program/service.  Use an experimental mindset.

*Develop a Minimal Viable Product/Program.  This is a scaled down version of the program that you want to run, but it is robust enough to make the impact that you intend.  If it works as an MVP then you can scale it for more impact.

*Listen and Learn.  Use the MVP with small selected groups of people and be open to feedback from them.  Measure your results.

*Pivot.  Be prepared to take the feedback and make continual changes until you get it right – until the program is making the impact you really want.

Example.  Imagine you have a brilliant idea for a new program to provide to those you serve in your community.  But you know it is going to cost a lot of money to scale up and hire the staff you need to serve everyone. 

What to do?  Try a Lean Startup! Develop the program idea to a point that it is a Minimum Viable Program – it is robust enough to make an impact.  

Then use some of your current staff to try it out on a smaller subset of people you serve. Treat it as an experiment you can learn from.  Make improvements as you listen and learn. 

Once you have made changes based on the feedback and you are ready to scale it, you can take the results of what you learned to funders.
    
Use the Lean Startup approach to try new programs/services, see what works, and expand your 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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Engaging Resistance to Change

You are trying to change things for the better, but you keep facing lots of resistance.  “If people would just go along then things would be a lot better!”

Well – maybe not.  Maybe their resistance will make your effort even more successful.

In their excellent article in Harvard Business Review, Decoding Resistance to Change, (April 2009) Jeffrey & Laurie Ford suggest that we consider using resistance as a “resource.”  Here are some of their suggestions:

*Resistance is a Resource.  “Ask yourself ‘If I viewed the resistance as feedback, what could I learn about how to refine the change effort?’”  What a healthy change in perspective!  All too often, we feel like we are sure what the change should look like and how it should unfold (I know I do).  When someone disagrees we can get defensive instead of trying to really listen and learn.

*Boost awareness.  Don’t be concerned about sharing your change ideas with various individuals and groups even if you think you will hear resistance.  Even if people share complaints you are still keeping the dialogue of change alive.

*Be open to changing the change.  Even though you thought you had figured out how the change was going to look, you might end up with better results if you keep an open mind to ideas from “resistors.”

*Focus on purpose.  Continually remind people of “why” the change is being considered.  If you can focus on agreement around “why,” then “what” and “how” can be less contentious.   

As Ford & Ford conclude “Resistance, properly understood as feedback, can be an important resource in improving the quality and clarity of the objectives and strategies at the heart of a change proposal.  And, properly used, it can enhance the prospects for success.”

Good luck with “engaging” resistance and making your change improvements even more successful.


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, March 24, 2015

Are You Following Your Passion?

This is one of the questions that Dr. Gerald Suarez* helps us answer for ourselves in his excellent new book, Leader of One.  Just before his death, Dr. Stephen Covey, provided this endorsement for Leader of One:

“J. Gerald Suarez’s extraordinary experiences in the White House and on campus help frame this remarkable book by offering wise perspective and deep insight into the struggle of balancing one’s life’s gifts, passion and direction.”

So what guidance does Dr. Suarez give us for knowing if we are following our passion?  Here are some examples.  He suggests asking yourself to think about this scenario:

“Your employer guarantees your current salary for life, adjusted for inflation.  You are told that you are free to do whatever you please; there are no expectations whatsoever and no adverse repercussions.” (p. 38)

What a great question!  Suarez goes on:

“What would you do?  Would you report to work as usual?  If you decide to work, why would you?  If you would not go back, also ask why.” (p. 38)

“To most of us, the possibility that we can take away the financial aspect of our current jobs lets us consider what we really want to do.  We can pursue a course of action because it feels right.  It gives us a sense of joy.  It nourishes and energizes us.” (p. 39)

“Removing these constraints, even if simply through a mental exercise, allows new themes and possibilities to surface.  If you listen carefully to these themes and reflect on the possibilities, you can find yourself operating from a wholly new perspective.” (p. 39)

These are just some examples of the pearls of wisdom in Leader of One.  I highly recommend it and encourage you to order your copy soon!  Peter Drucker once said that the most important person we lead is ourselves.  Indeed true.  Leader of One helps you understand how to do that most effectively.

*Dr. J. Gerald Suarez is Professor of the Practice at the Robert H, Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and former Director of Presidential Quality for both the President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush Administrations.


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.