Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Time to Think, Part Two: Vacations

As discussed in the last blog, finding time to think during the regular work day is important for our creativity and productivity.

But finding time for a full recharge is just as important.   And that means “unplugging” from work during vacation.


In a recent article** in The Wall Street Journal, Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E Brands, states the following:

“I realized that unless I unplug completely on vacation, I cheat myself out of generating fresh, new, creative ideas. In the long run, business suffers from my burnout.

“I also think that if our people don’t disconnect, they end up compromising their contributions to our overall mission. More importantly, they fail at what should be their top priority: cherishing time with family and friends, and having work-life balance.”

But how to do it?  Brian has a very creative plan.  He works with his assistant to change his passwords on his email and social media accounts, and to not tell him what they are until he returns from vacation.  He has his COO cover for him while he is gone.

“The results have been revolutionary,” says Scudamore.  “I come back from vacation super-charged, rested and feeling like I gave my family and friends my best self.”

I admit that it sounds difficult and amazing that this CEO can pull this off.

But I challenge you and myself to try.  The next time I go on vacation (soon), I am going to take some baby steps.  I am going to try THREE WHOLE DAYS not checking work email.  And then I’ll just glance at it after that.  We’ll see how it goes.  Maybe I will be up for changing my passwords the next time around.

The more refreshed we are – day in and day out – and over time, the better quality we can bring to our work and make an even more significant Mission Impact.  Try a real vacation next time! 





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, July 6, 2016

Time to Think

“Slow down, you move too fast.  You got to make the morning last.”
                  -Simon & Garfunkel, The 59th Street Bridge Song

How many times has it happened to you?  You glance at your Smart Phone during a meeting and notice it is 2:30 p.m..  “What!?!  Where has this day gone already?”

Today’s workplace is characterized by endless meetings and tons of email.  We seem to be busy, busy, busy from the time we wake up and glance at that Smart Phone to check emails that have come in overnight.  And recent research from the University of Maryland shows that American workers are spending even more time on the job than they did ten years ago.  But, what about the “quality” of all that busyness? Consider this quote from Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB North America:

“We are infinitely more productive when we have time to think.” (Fast Company, July/August 2016)

Time to Think. What a concept!

Consider this quote from a recent article in The Wall Street Journal*:

“Managers and knowledge workers, such as consultants, now spend 90% to 95% of their working hours in meetings, on the phone and responding to email”

Sound like your life?  And there’s more:

“Research and advisory firm CEB Inc. has found that 35% to 40% of managers ‘are so overloaded that it’s actually impossible for them to get work done effectively,’ said Brian Kropp, a CEB leader who works with chief HR officers.”
 
If you can give yourself time to think, I suggest it will improve the quality of your work in two ways: the quality of your decisions and the quality of your creativity.  It will probably also improve the quality of your relationships.

How to do it?  Two suggestions to begin:

*Renegotiate expectations about your availability with everyone

*Begin blocking time exclusively for you to think and get your own work done.  No meetings!

You deserve it.  Give yourself Time to Think.

*The Wall Street Journal, “So Busy at Work, No Time to Do the Job,” June 28, 2016.


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.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Money & Mission Balance

How much of a reserve fund should you have?

We can debate exactly how much is too much some other day, but I bet you know your nonprofit should have a much bigger reserve than it has now.  Could your organization survive another Great Recession?

The challenge we all face is finding that balance between “Money” and “Mission.”  Nonprofits don’t exist to “make money.” But we need it to fuel our efforts – short run and long run.  This past Spring I co-taught a graduate fundraising course for our Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at University of Maryland.  Our mantra was “No Money, No Mission.

If your organization wants to exist to serve others in the long run – which most nonprofits do – then I suggest that you budget effectively for the long run by proactively setting up a Long Term Investment Fund.

Here is the budgeting process I recommend:

1.  Conservatively forecast revenue.  NOTE: Don’t start with expenses on what you WANT to spend.  Start with reasonable forecasts for revenue and then set expenses.  Otherwise, you will tend to overestimate revenue.*

2.  Liberally forecast expenses for programs/activities that you would like to undertake. 

3.  Add an additional expense line in the amount of 2% of revenue for “Long Term Investment Fund”

4.  Eliminate expenses until you have a projected surplus of 2% of revenue

If you follow this faithfully then you should produce a solid surplus every year that can go into your Long Term Investment Fund (reserves).

And yes, you will probably have to cut some funding from programs in the coming year in order to meet the surplus and reserve targets.  Maybe you don’t get all the way to the 2% targets in the first year you do this, but I encourage you to work toward them.  Otherwise, you will never have enough of a reserve.

This is really not about Money vs. Mission.  It is about Mission today or Mission today AND tomorrow.  It is hard to discipline one’s self for today because you are CEO now or Board Chair now, but you need to think of tomorrow and being prepared to withstand another Great Recession.  Those you serve will need you then even more than they do now – and you need to be there!

No Money No Mission!


*Forecasts are reasonably predictable – based on data.  Goals are what you WANT.  Forecasts are what you are sure of and they belong in budgets – not goals.


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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Your Summer Staff Retreat

Many organizations like to take a day during the summer to call a “time out” and gather the staff together for a retreat.  Depending on the size of the organization, this could involve everyone or, at larger organizations, departments may end up having their own retreats.

What makes for a successful retreat?  Here are some tips:

*It’s a Retreat.  Some organizations say they want a “Charge” or an “Advance” – not a “Retreat.” There is a time and place for all of these.  The type of “Retreat” I am referencing is when we have all been working really hard all year and we want to relax, celebrate, pause, and reflect.  You can Charge later.

*Get Away.  It does not have to be held at a fancy, expensive lodge in the woods.  It can be as simple as a local park or conference room at a hotel.  Just get out of the office.

*Unplug.  Turn in all smart phones at the beginning of the day and give them back when the day is done.  Have one phone number that everyone can give out for emergencies.

*Set Clear Expectations/Goals/Agenda.  A “Retreat” means something different to a lot of people.  Make clear what the expectations are for the day.

*Don’t Over-Program.  The idea is to relax, celebrate, pause, and reflect.  Give yourselves time to do that.

*Highlights for the Year.  Take some time to reflect upon the most important accomplishments for the year.  Celebrate!  You have been working hard.

*Lessons Learned.  This can start as an individual reflection and then move to the organizational level.  What have we learned about how to do our work most effectively?

*Small Groups.  Do a lot of activities in small groups with reports back to the larger group.  Mix the groups up so people get to know others even better.

*Reconnect to Mission/Vision.  Make sure to wrap up with some activities that remind everyone of the important work that you do, the impact you make, and your visions for the future.  Success stories are a nice way to do this.

*What else?  There are lots of other productive activities you can do to round out a solid staff retreat – ropes course, team-building exercises, personality assessments, etc.   

Take some chill time this summer to Retreat with your team – to relax, pause, reflect, and celebrate the Mission Impact you are making.  You all have been working hard!  You deserve it!!!


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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Your Strategy & Your Board

How involved should your Board be with your strategic planning process?

As usual, opinions vary all over the map on this question.

On one end of the spectrum, some people view strategy-making as the responsibility of the staff.  The Board should be generally informed – and certainly consulted if anything “wild” is being considered – but their main role is to ask good questions, and then approve “management’s” strategy.  And they should definitely stay out of reviewing annual operating plans.

On the other side, there are those who believe that the entire Board needs to be intimately involved with the entire strategy process – including a careful review of a detailed implementation plan.  Granted, some of these tend to be more of our smaller nonprofits – but this philosophy exists even in larger organizations.

Which is right and how do you decide what is best for your organization?

In my view, it is essential to involve every Board in three different aspects of the strategy process:

*Mission Affirmation:  What impact do we want to make and for whom/what?

*Mission Metrics:  What metrics will we use to track progress?

*Visioning:  What would the world look like if we were accomplishing our mission 100%?  What would our organization look like, ideally, so we have the opportunity to accomplish our mission as effectively as possible?

Beyond that, the next question I encourage clients to ask themselves is “How instrumental will the Board be in the successful implementation of this strategy?”  The more important they are to successful implementation – and that includes giving and raising money – the more involved they should be.  You can include the Board – or at least Board representatives – in the setting of Strategic Goals, SWOTs (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), and Strategy Themes.

As an example, a few years ago I was consulting with a group and a core of their Board was very involved with the strategy process.  They came up with an exciting vision and participated in creating some really big, bold goals.  At the end of the process, the Board members were fired up!  And this Board is experiencing a lot of success in accomplishing those goals – including raising a lot of money.  I seriously doubt that would have had the passion they now have, had they not been so involved.

Engage your Board properly with strategy and make even 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.