Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Don't Compromise on Strategy

Sometimes compromise is necessary. 

If a group can’t reach collaborative consensus then you have to move to voting, where different factions give up something they want in order to make the result the least distasteful option available – that will get the required votes.  The results are quite sub-optimal and, by the way, this describes our current situation (for years) in the US Congress (I’ll stop; both parties are totally at fault).

The most famous story of how distasteful compromise can be is when King Solomon was petitioned by two women who both claimed an infant to be their own.  His judgment was to cut the baby in two and give a half to each woman.  The real mother recoiled and said the other woman could keep the baby.  And this is how the very wise Solomon determined the child’s real mother.

Don’t compromise on strategy.  No one wants half a baby.

Don’t be satisfied with a watered down version of what you really want – of the future that inspires you.  You can’t go two places at the same time.  Give your strategic planning committee the time to work through the options and ultimately join hands to support a clear future strategy.  Yes – you may even need to bring in an outside facilitator to navigate through such a situation.  But don’t take the easy route of agreeing to something that no one vehemently objects to but neither will anyone enthusiastically support.

Search your hearts for the dreams of what you really want, share these with one another, and then work toward a consensus vision and strategy that everyone can enthusiastically support.  You will engage the future much more effectively 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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Balanced Life Myth?

The cover story of the March issue of Harvard Business Review* is focused on Work-Life Balance, which – the executives surveyed by the authors – consider either a myth or elusive ideal.  However, through the research these authors conducted of senior executives, some helpful ideas emerge. 

The overall theme of the research is that we each need to own making choices around our priorities and not fall into a “victim” mentality about our lack of time.  Also, achieving “balance” day in and day out may, in fact, be a myth.  We can get closer to balance when we pursue it over a period of months or years.  Here are some of my other key takeaways:


*Define Success for Yourself.  Choose what success looks like for you in the various important areas of your life and don’t be swayed with definitions that others use.  What does it mean to you to be successful at work or as a parent or as a partner or a friend?

*Create Support Networks.  Communicate your picture of success to those closest to you at work and outside work.  This could mean trusted colleagues at work who can be allies as well as friends who can provide emotional support or even pitch in when you are in a bind.

*Manage Technology Wisely.  Or it will manage you.  Train your various environments on what their expectations should be about how “plugged in” you are when you are at work, during the evenings, on weekends, and on vacations.  Clearly communicate this and then make sure to follow the behaviors you told people to expect.

*Collaborate with Family/Friends.  Make sure that those closest to you personally understand what success looks like to you, ask them to help you build your support networks, and make sure they understand how you are managing technology.  The Harvard research showed that those who had enrolled their families and friends with their pursuit of a balanced life were much more satisfied with their situations.

Unexpected challenges face us all and can knock whatever “balance” we have out of whack day to day or even over a period of weeks.  But if we take a long view and are clear about our priorities and choices, then we can all get closer to that elusive ideal of a balanced life.

*“Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life,” Boris Groysberg & Robin Abrahams, Harvard Business Review, March 2014, pp. 58 – 66.


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, March 27, 2014

If Not-For-Profit, Then For What?

We can’t figure out what to call ourselves.

I most often hear “non-profit” or “not-for-profit,” but both describe what we are NOT – not what we are FOR.

We certainly aren’t for loss – though some organizations are mistakenly managed this way!

We have tried so many alternative labels:  philanthropic, independent sector, social sector, non-governmental, mission-based, charity, etc.

Part of the challenge is that we are FOR so many things.

We’re for healthy kids, for a green planet, for well-educated young people, for the arts, for cures to illnesses, for everyone being well-nourished, for the humanities, for everyone having safe affordable housing, and the list goes on and on and on. 

Here’s an idea, let’s try “Mission Impact Organizations.”  That’s what we are and what we are FOR.  We all have that in common!  No?  You don’t think it would catch on?

Hmmm.  Well, while it would be nice to come up with a new label for our sector, maybe we just need to make sure that each organization clearly communicates what they are here FOR.  And this is communicated in our mission statements.

We need to be clear on our IMPACT (the difference we make) and AIM (for whom/what) when we state our mission.  For a mission statement mini-case, check this link.  Make sure that you are clear on your Mission Impact so people know what you are here FOR.


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 18, 2014

The Dark Side of Confidence

Confidence is absolutely necessary to be a successful leader.  And yet, gone too far, it can become arrogance and can lead to poor decisions – even disastrous decisions.  How do we find a balance?

One way to balance this is long term versus short term confidence.

Long Term:  “I am confident in . . .

. . . the importance of our mission and the impact we make.”

. . . the talents of our team.”

. . . the value of working hard together on the mission.”

Short Term:  “We have a challenge/opportunity here . . .

. . . I have a few ideas, but no obvious answers”

. . . I want to hear your ideas.”

. . . if we work together we can create the best next steps.”

As leaders, we need to give up the old-fashioned, heroic notion that we need to have all of the answers.  We need to be open-minded about the best direction to take in the short term while being ever confident in the long term.

Arrogance can be a huge leadership derailer.   Once we think we are invulnerable, we are a step away from being proven wrong.  Try backing off the temptation to be the Hero Leader and invite your team to be partners in forging the path ahead.   It could provide a significant improvement for 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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Experts Get Stuck in Status Quo

When you are stuck in the status quo there are a lot of things you miss.  Opportunities are one of them.

If you are sure that there is no better way of going about doing what you are doing, then you will for sure miss Opportunities.

If you are an expert and you know that this certain way of doing things is the right way, then you will not see Opportunities for new ways to do things.

But if you give up your arrogance (come on, I am talking to myself) that “you know the best way to do it,” then you just might have a chance at seeing a great Opportunity right at your doorstep.

One of the best ways to discover Opportunities is to set Almost Impossible Goals that you have no idea how to accomplish.  By definition, once you set an Almost Impossible Goal then you need to search for an Opportunity on how to accomplish it.  And if you make a commitment to that goal, then you certainly won’t give up until you discover that new way.

This is what former GE CEO Jack Welch called Bullet Train Thinking.  He said that Japanese executives told their engineers that they wanted them to invent a train that would go from Tokyo to Osaka in three hours – instead of the six that it used to take.  There was no “tweeking” that would get them to three hours.  They had to invent an entirely new technology.

Don’t get stuck in incrementalist, status quo thinking.  Check here to learn more about Almost Impossible Goals 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.