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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thankfulness & Savoring: Revisited

Below is a blog from Thanksgiving 2012 in which I discuss the power of savoring each moment, and being thankful for it.  I mention having a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with my Dad and savoring our time together -- because "at 87+ who knows how much longer I will have time with him."

Well, Dad died on this past Saturday night.  And while I am sad and will certainly have grieving to do for a while, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I have taken the time to savor our moments together during the past many months.

Slow down and savor your good times with your loved ones.  The memories will last a lifetime.

-------------
You probably don’t have time to read this because you are ON THE GO!

Same here.  In fact, I didn’t have time to write this because I am ON THE GO!

But, if you take a couple of minutes to read this it just might improve your quality of life.

I have been reading some of the positive psychology books recently, two in particular by Martin Seligman.  One is Learned Optimism, which I recommend.  The other is Authentic Happiness, which – if you like the first one, check it out as well.

The positive psychology movement is targeted at showing us how we can take the good things in our lives and make them even better – or “to make normal life even more fulfilling” versus fixing what is wrong with us.

Here are a few takeaways from the research.

*Optimistic people are more successful and have happier lives.  And you can actually learn to be more optimistic.  Really.   Check out the book.

*People who regularly take the time to be thankful for what they have in their lives are happier – more fulfilled.

*And finally, people who take the time to slow down and “savor” what is good in their lives are also happier and more fulfilled.

I understand those last two ideas, but it is hard for me to put them into practice because I am always ON THE GO!

However, this past Thanksgiving morning I decided that I should “slow down” a bit and try to be extra thankful – and to savor the day.  This turned out to be a very cool experiment.

*I was thankful for the beautiful day I had during my four hour drive to see my Dad.  I savored the beauty of the sunny fall sky.

*I tried to make every minute with my Dad really count – savoring the moments.  He’s 87+ so who knows how much longer I will have time with him.  I am so thankful for him.

*During our Thanksgiving meal at one of his favorite restaurants, I decided to slow down and really savor the Lobster Bisque.  I actually noticed that they had put a lobster shaped cracker on top.  Mighty tasty and nice presentation.

*I savored our conversation.  I really tried to listen carefully to Dad and was really appreciating what an amazing man he is.  I tried to focus on him rather than all of the other millions of things running through my mind (what will the next blog be about?).

*It was a very fulfilling day – I think I will always remember it.

Okay.  Thanksgiving is over, but I am trying to take the lesson I learned that day and apply it in at least some small ways every day.  Like you, I am ON THE GO!  But life is a little sweeter when we slow down a bit, recognize what we are thankful for, and savor the good things we have in our lives.

Happy Thankful Savoring to you.



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, August 25, 2014

Brain Training

We all know that we need to train our bodies if we want peak physical performance.  So the same makes sense for our brains.  But until very recently we have not understood exactly how to do that or what the implications are.  Now we do.

Recent advances in neuroscience have demonstrated that various “mindfulness” training activities actually strengthen parts of our brain that allow us to improve our focus and executive capacity.  As a bonus, these activities also improve our health, lower stress, and make us happier.*

Mindfulness training activities are now being promoted among many leading companies, including Google, which pioneered its Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute – now a private entity.

Mindfulness training can include things like meditation, yoga, journaling, and other attentiveness activities that allow the brain to practice focusing.

The value of meditation has been discussed for many years, but until only recently has neuroscience been able to track actual changes in brain functions as a result. 

Unfortunately, many people who try mediation get frustrated quickly because they get distracted during the practice.  As it turns out, that is normal.  In fact, the value of the exercise is training the brain to notice when it becomes distracted and bring it back to the focus of the meditation.  Bringing back the focus is the workout.  Spending as little as ten minutes a day can make a difference.

More and more is being written about this.  Check out these sources from The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Mayo Clinic, and Psychology Today. Also read how the Seattle Seahawks credit meditation with helping them win the Super Bowl.  The same is said to be true for the German World Cup soccer team.  It worked for Samurai warriors, so I guess this all makes sense.

I can’t write enough here to explain the methods of these mindfulness activities, but I hope to peak your interest enough to click some of the links, read the Mayo book referenced below, learn more, and try some of these activities.  I have personally experienced the value of these exercises and have recently added more, including yoga – which more and more athletes are using for its physical and psychological benefits.

Train your brain!  It will make you more effective, less stressed, and healthier.

*The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living, Amit Sood, 2013.


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, August 12, 2014

Delusions of Success

“We met our goals!  Look at how successful we are!!!”

Recently I gave my goal setting presentation to a great nonprofit group (Global Communities) in which I discussed the tradeoffs between Attainable, Aggressive, and Almost Impossible goals.  Some people like to set small Attainable goals so they can be successful more often.

At the break, the CEO (thanks for this David Weiss) said “You know, Rob, organizations which set small goals and think they are being successful, are sometimes deluding themselves.  If you keep setting small goals you may not be making the kind of progress you really need to make.  And then pretty soon you are irrelevant and out of business.  I have seen it happen time and again.”

Great point, David!  If we are not at least Aggressive with our goal setting then we are not pushing ourselves to be more creative and think outside the proverbial box.  Of course, setting Almost Impossible goals really makes you think outside the box and reinvent the ways in which you have been pursuing certain goals.

Check out my full article that discusses Attainable, Aggressive, and Almost Impossible goals here: The Power of Goals.

Leverage the true power of goals and watch your Mission Impact grow exponentially.  


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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Strategy in Uncertain Times

“How am I supposed to create a strategy for the next three – five years, when I have no idea how the environment is going to change in even the next three months?”

This was a very astute question asked during the Breakthrough Strategy seminar I taught earlier this week for nonprofit executives in Columbus, Ohio.  In an environment that has been called “permanent white water”* how can we effectively plan for the future?

Here are three specific suggestions.

Keep Focus on Mission.  Remember that there are some key aspects of your organization that won’t change often – especially your commitment to accomplish your mission.  If you are swimming in the ocean with the waves tossing you one way and another, keep your eyes focused on a specific spot on shore where you want to go.  If you don’t do this then you will end up going where the tide wants to take you, rather than where you really want to go.  Keep readjusting your actions with a focus on Mission Impact.

Specify Your Assumptions.  Once you have set your goals, identified your SWOTs, and set your strategy, then specify the most important of the assumptions that your strategy is based on.  Keep an eye on these.  If they change dramatically, then you may need to adjust your strategy.  This usually does not lead to changing your goals, but to changing the types of strategic actions you will take to achieve the goals.

Do Scenario Planning.  If you are in an environment in which you can expect two or three potential changes ahead, then take some time before these things happen to decide what alternative actions you will take in each case.  By doing this calmly, before the big changes happen, you can be better prepared to effectively pivot and implement new action plans.  This is especially helpful in a political environment.

By Keeping Your Focus, Specifying Your Assumptions, and Doing Scenario Planning, you can not only survive – but even thrive in a permanent white water environment.  Remember, change often brings about new opportunities as well as challenges.

*Peter Vaill, Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water,1996.


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.