Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Secret of Alchemy

The last days of summer are speeding by, but there is still time to pick up a book for that final summer read at the beach or pool this weekend.  And I recommend The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.

The Alchemist is an oldie, but goodie that I finally got around to reading recently.  It is a fable of a young man who goes in search of his destiny.  The Alchemist he meets in the story does not teach him how to turn lead into gold, but instead how to turn dreams into reality – which is golden in its own way.

A few of my favorite passages:

*At one point the young man was robbed of everything he had and was totally penniless.  “As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.  ‘I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.”  We are all adventurers on our various quests.  The young man chose to focus on the vision of his future quest rather than his temporary misfortune.

*As the young man’s pursuit of his quest continued, he wondered if its achievement was impossible.  The Alchemist counseled him that “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”  And he encouraged the young man to focus on the passion for his vision, his Personal Legend.

*Later, the young man realized that there was a significant chance that he could die in the pursuit of his vision.  Again, the Alchemist counseled him “Then you’ll die in the midst of trying to realize your Personal Legend.  That’s a lot better than dying like millions of other people, who never even knew what their Personal Legends were.”  This reminds me of that great Helen Keller quote: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Did the young man achieve his vision?  I can’t reveal that, but I can tell you that he learned many lessons that you will enjoy reading about.  If we passionately believe in our visions with all of our heart, magical things can happen.  Enjoy The Alchemist


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 17, 2015

Foster HQCs to Enhance Mission Impact

HQCs = High Quality Connections

If you want a workplace in which:

*Individuals are thriving

*Teams are more effective

*The overall organization performs at a higher level

Then you should consider encouraging more High Quality Connections among those you work with.  Ground-breaking research by University of Michigan professor Dr. Jane Dutton* and others demonstrates that HQCs in the workplace have these positive effects.

How can you create HQCs in your workplace?*

*Convey Presence.  Fully engage with a person when you are talking with them.  I know one executive who has started closing his laptop when people stop in to meet with him to help him be less distracted and send a message that he is fully present in the moment.

*Be Genuine.  Show people that you care about them in a genuine, heart-felt way.  You can’t fake sincerity, so seek to bring your authentic self to every work interaction.

*Communicate Affirmation.  Acknowledge the positive contributions of team members when you have the opportunity.  Expressing appreciation costs nothing yet is worth gold for people.

*Listen Effectively.  Be responsive.  Close out distractions.  Practice Active Listening and ask people if they feel as if you have heard them.

*Supportive Communication.  How we say things matters.  We can express our views without being defensive and use a supportive tone.  Communicate clearly without baggage.

People want a workplace that is vibrant and supportive, not corrosive!  When we utilize more of these HQC producing behaviors, we are building a more resilient workplace and making more of a Mission Impact.

*Dutton, J.E. “Fostering high quality connections through respectful engagement.”  Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter, 54-57, 2003



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 3, 2015

Faith & Philanthropy

What common ground can a rabbi, an imam, a priest, and a minister find about philanthropy especially when the conversation is moderated by Washington Post super journalist, Sally Quinn? As it turns out – a lot.

The question posed to this 2015 Bridge Conference panel of clergy representing three of the world's great religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, was "What impact does faith have on philanthropy?"

L to R, John Wm Thomas, Msgr John Enzler, Iman Yahya Hendi,
 Rev Dr Dennis Perry, Rabbi Danny Zemel, Sally Quinn, 
The tone of the panel discussion boiled down to three words or phrases:

*Common ancestry
*Grace
*Giving as a sacred act

The Power of a Common Heritage: Rabbi Danny Zemel, Temple Micah, pointed out that Judaism, the root faith for both Islam and Christianity, encouraged giving more than 4,000 years ago.  In fact, "tzedakah" refers to teaching Jews the obligation, not choice but obligation, to give. Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain at Georgetown University, shared Islamic tradition that uses similar words, "zakat" and "sadaqa" that traces back to a powerful and timeless directive: "And remember we took a covenant from the Children of Israel (to this effect): Worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practice regular charity.”

Grace: "Grace" for Jews and Christians is that unmerited, unearned favor that gives us the ability to do good works, including philanthropy. Muslims also hold that our power to do good works is because of God's grace. What better example is there to describe grace than the panelists’ conversation around the question of whether they would support each other's causes. It was here that Mgsr. John Enzler, CEO of Catholic Charities, pointed out the generosity all faiths, Catholics, Muslims and Jews in providing financial and spiritual support to the National Cathedral after it suffered a devastating earthquake in August 2011.

The Sacred Act of Giving: The Rev. Dr. Dennis Perry, a United Methodist clergyman, reminded all that when we do those things that exemplify the best of life, the highest values of life, we call them "sacred" or "holy". Those are labels that elevate an action to the level of the divine. Philanthropy, giving, is just such an "elevator,” for when we give, when we favor others with love, we are emulating the best, the highest, the holy.

As we seek to raise philanthropic funds for our various nonprofits, it is helpful to keep in mind the various motivations that people have to give which may include (or not) philanthropy as an extension of their faith.


Our Guest Blogger today is John Wm. Thomas, my co-convener of this session at The Bridge Conference; retired as COO of Children's Hospital Foundation in 2008 and now consults for non-profits nationally and regionally.

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, July 20, 2015

How to Get Your Board to Fundraise

In her excellent book, Engaging Your Board in Fundraising, Kathy Hedge first points out six significant mistakes nonprofits make when they attempt to get volunteers engaged in fundraising.  She developed this list through interviews with nearly 50 nonprofit leaders from across the country:

*We forget that board members are volunteers.  They are busy and don’t live the day-to-day reality of the nonprofit like staff do.

*We are waiting for board members to mobilize themselves and take initiative around fundraising.  We don’t realize that they are waiting for staff to lead so they can assist.

*We don’t set clear expectations about fundraising with individuals before they join the Board.  We are reluctant or vague about it.

*We start the conversation about fundraising at the wrong place and at the wrong time.  Rather than jumping right into a fundraising conversation, we need to start with need and mission.

*We use a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  We need to realize that different Board members will engage differently.

*We don’t know how to “manage up.”  The inverse power relationship of a Board member who is of higher authority can be tricky when staff are trying to get them to do things.

In six easy to read chapters, Kathy explains how we can overcome these mistakes and empower our Boards to fundraise effectively.  My favorite is Chapter Two, “Connect to Mission.”  This includes ideas like making sure to include “mission moments” at Board meetings – a story of mission accomplishment or example of an impact you have made.  Another great tip – hold some meetings at a location where you are carrying out your mission to make your impact real.

There are lots of other great ideas in the book and I highly recommend it.  It takes focused work, but you can get your Board members to fundraise and further leverage their 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, July 6, 2015

Producing Team Results for Mission Impact

This is the final installment 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 research are:

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

The first four steps of building a high performing team are vital, but so many teams falter with Inattention to Results.  The key reason is connected to the fourth dysfunction – Avoidance of Accountability.  Once people are convinced (or told) that they need to be accountable, most will want to be accountable only for activities, not results.

Here is how to fix this dysfunction: insist that everyone on your team set Outcome-Based, SMART Goals.

Outcome-Based.  Goals should be set in a way that they describe the important result that you want to produce – the outcome, not the activities you hope will produce the result.  Once outcome-based goals are established, then you can set activity goals that are connected to them.  To convert activity goals into outcome goals, ask yourself “to what end” are we doing these activities.

SMART Goals.  You can read more extensively about this in my brief article, The Power of Goals, but goals need to be Specific & Measurable, otherwise you don’t really know if you are making progress.  They need to be Relevant to the most important aspects of the Mission.  And they need to be Time-Bound – there must be a date attached to the goal.

All you need now is the right “A” to spell SMART.  Some people like “Attainable” goals so they can assure themselves of success.  Others like to push themselves and set “Aggressive” goals.  And I like to encourage people to set “Almost Impossible” goals which help produce breakthroughs in performance.  Any of the “As” can work – they just need to fit your situation.  Again, I encourage you to read more about these options in The Power of Goals article.

Effective teamwork is vital for the success of any organization.  By applying these five aspects of high performance teamwork, you can tap into the talents of your team and lead it to ever higher levels of 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.