Monday, April 24, 2017

If You Really Had $100 Billion

When I encourage people to create an aspirational vision of what they would want their organization to look like if they could have it any way they wanted it – it is often hard to get them to “think big” or “think outside of the box.”

To help people think big, I sometimes say “Imagine you just received an unrestricted gift of $100 billion.  The donor said to do anything with it you want.  What would you do with it?”

Wow – with that kind of money you could do some incredible things.  I encourage you to use that question with your staff or Board one of these days to help them dream big.

The new Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.  Groudbreaking is May 2.
A few years ago, I was privileged to facilitate strategic planning for Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.  At first, the Board was thinking about a strategy for raising money to fix up the current house.  But when I asked them what they really wanted – if they could have anything – they said “New House!”

Even though they did not have property for a new house or the money, they dreamed and dreamed big – HUGE actually.  You can read this earlier blog (“Ritz & Disney at Grandma’s House”) about how they dreamed.

Next week, Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore is going to break ground for their new house!  You can read more about it here.  They got the property and raised money – not $5 million, not $10 million or $20 million.  They have raised $27.5 million and are closing in on their goal of $30 million.  It is going to be an amazing place for children and families.

If I would have told the Board – in our first meeting a few years back – that they would figure out to a way to raise $30 million for this effort, I think they may have laughed me out of the room or fired me on the spot.

But this just goes to show the power of vision, aspiration, and commitment to it all.  Way to go RMH of Baltimore!!!  You are making an amazing Mission Impact of the lives of kids and families.


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 11, 2017

Big Happy Audacious Goals

When I talk with people about setting BIG Almost Impossible Goals, I will sometimes hear “Oh yeah, just like ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ in that book (Built to Last) by Jim Collins & Jerry Porras!  BHAGs!”

To which I say “Sort of.”

The “Hairy” in BHAGs is “scary” – like taking a big risk.  Hairy, scary goals might be appropriate sometimes – but research shows that they are not effective if an organization is desperate.  If you are thinking “We need to turn things around, let’s go for it and bet our future on this new idea.  Failure is not an option!”  Then, according to research reported in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review by Sitkin, Miller, & See (The Stretch Goal Paradox), this may not be a good idea.

This is because success rates with a “stretch” goal are improved if an organization has a winning attitude (recent successes).  Desperate organizations usually do not fit this mold.

Interestingly, though, a lot of successful organizations don’t even try Almost Impossible Goals because they have gotten too used to “winning.”  The idea of taking a risk and having a possible failure is too much for them.  Hence, the “Paradox” in the title of the HBR article.

I have found that it is helpful if organizations can think of these Almost Impossible Goals as “Happy,” not “Hairy.”  I encourage people NOT to set these big goals unless they are actually willing to fail at them.  Of course you don’t want to fail.  But once you can accept that failure at a wonderfully big goal is not so terrible, it gives you the freedom to really play with ideas and get creative.  You can be in a “happy place” and really go for it without looking back.

If scary, hairy goals work for you, then great.  But I prefer the more fun approach of Big Happy Audacious Goals (see here to learn more).  Even if you don’t make it, you can be happy and proud that you pursued something you really care about to make 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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Activate Your Brain

We all want to be able to count on our brains working at an excellent capacity every day, every week, and every year – into the future.  But it turns out that in order for that to happen, we need to take good care of our brains – to fully “activate” them.  This is the topic of Scott Halford’s book, Activate Your Brain, which is based on extensive secondary research. 

Here are my key takeaways on how to nurture our brains so they have the stamina we want:

*Physical Exercise: “Exercise is the single best thing we can do for brain health.  Extra oxygen and renewed blood cells help the brain do its job much better.”  Stanford’s Director of Longevity and Aging, Laura Carstensen, says “there is nothing known to us that can benefit our brain better than exercise.”  And you thought it was only helpful to help you keep looking good!

*Sleep: Problems from lack of sleep “include a decaying brain, decreased memory and learning ability.” It also affects “the executive function of the brain.”  “When we don’t sleep enough we lose our mental nimbleness.”

*Focus the Brain: Halford contends that “one hour of focused time is equal to about four hours of distracted time.”  We need to stop multi-tasking and consider practices like Mindfulness which help us keep the brain present and focused.

*Set Goals: “The brain is a completion machine.”  If we set clear, specific goals and then put our brain to the task we will maximize performance.  Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I set goals for everything.  Learn more about effective goal setting here.

*Hydrate:  Most of us need to drink more water every day and this helps refresh the brain – which is approximately 75 percent water.

*Brain Food: Here are some tips on good foods to eat for the brain from Halford and other sources (see this link): blueberries, fatty/oily fish (e.g., salmon), almonds, vegetables (especially tomatoes, broccoli, and other dark green veggies), whole grains.   

*Brain Exercise: One of the best ways to exercise the brain is to learn new things.  This should always be a part of our professional development planning.

This is a long blog, but it’s one less book you have to read!  Activate Your Brain so you can have the stamina to make a quality Mission Impact today and throughout your life.   


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, March 13, 2017

Preparing for the Storm

In church one day the Pastor said “Everyone here is either in the midst of a storm or coming out of a storm or heading into a storm.”

I thought “I’m not in any one of those – my life is pretty great right now.”  And that’s when I had my “aha” moment.  What the Pastor was telling us is that even if life is great right now – you will sooner or later be in a “storm.”

We know it is true – challenges and difficulties are just a part of life.  They come along sooner or later in sizes great and small.  And you can apply this at the individual level and the organizational level.

So the question is – especially when we are in the good times – what are we doing to prepare for the “storms” ahead?

As an individual – are we taking preventative care of our health, are we saving money, are we nurturing our relationships, are we investing in our professional development, are we taking care of our spiritual lives?

As an organization – are we investing in our staff, are we nurturing our board and volunteers, are we building reserves, are we spending time with our stakeholders, are we fostering innovation, are we networking and collaborating with like-minded organizations?

If you are in good times right now – and “good times” are relative (the Great Recession was not so long ago) – then now is the time to prepare for the stormy days that surely are ahead.  If we do this then we are going to be better prepared to make a Mission Impact – perhaps at the time when people need us most.


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, February 27, 2017

Your Reservoir of Trust

A problem is going to arise and your leadership will be needed.

And people are going to need to trust you.

Will they?

How deep is your reservoir of trust?

At this moment, you better hope your reservoir is very full – especially if it is a big problem you are facing.  But there is nothing you can do now to add to it.  Building your reservoir of trust takes time.

How do you build up trust between yourself and others?

You can start by being always respectful of others and honest with them. These two things go a long way and they are, unfortunately, in short supply with a lot of people.

Honesty is more than not telling blatant lies.  It is about being open, talking straight, having candor.  Don’t “spin” or speak vaguely so others can make up interpretations of what you mean.  Especially if you have bad news – give it straight without “sugar coating.” 

You want to be someone that others can count on for the truth.

Take care in making ethical decisions.  Let people know that is your intent when you face an ethical dilemma and ask for input.  Make the best decision you can and communicate openly about it.

All of these things can help build your reservoir of trust.  It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.  Someday, you are going to need people to believe that they can count on you.  You can start today by giving them reasons to think that is so.



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.