Sunday, August 6, 2017

Our Mom’s Legacy: Love & Duty

Our Mom passed away last week, and since then I have been reflecting on her amazing life.  We will have a memorial service for her in a few weeks at which we will hear wonderful stories from others about the difference she made on the planet during her eighty-six years here.

To me, a good part of her legacy can be summed up in two important words: Love & Duty.

Mom was also a Pittsburgh Pirates fan!
Mom had great Love for her family – her parents, brother, kids, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and more.  She had great Love for her friends, for her Church & God, for various organizations she belonged to (e.g., PEO), for the community, and for her fellow man/woman.

Mom expressed her Love in a wide variety of ways.  But one thing is for sure.  To Mom, once you have Love for someone or some thing, then there is a Duty involved in carrying out that Love.

For my three siblings and me this meant the kind of devotion that many other kids have also been blessed to experience.  Her active participation with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, swim meets, softball games, baseball games, etc., etc., etc. meant a lot to us.  She demonstrated that same devotion to her extended family and friends.

But Mom also took it a step further.  Once she retired as a Nurse, she carried out her Love for others with a Duty to serve.  This turned her into an amazing volunteer.  Locally she was active in Hospice and the Church and the Red Cross and more.  Her Red Cross Duty also took her across the country.  She served others during floods, after terrible airline crashes, helped rebuild homes after Katrina, and went twice to Ground Zero after 9/11.

And for Mom, Duty is all about doing what you say you are going to do, doing it well, and doing it on time.  It sounds simple, but what would our organizations look like if every person actually did what they said they were going to do, did it well, and did it on time?  Transformational!

Just Do It – carry out your Duty like Mom!

Thanks for the great example Mom – we love you and miss 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, July 24, 2017

Be a Flexible Optimist

THE IDEA:  While optimism is a very helpful attitude for success, research shows that it needs to tempered at times.

The field of positive psychology, with leaders like Dr. Martin Seligman, has demonstrated that an optimistic attitude can lead to higher levels of success for people in a wide variety of activities.  In fact, Seligman and others have developed training programs that can actually help people become more optimistic and successful.

But can optimism go too far

Yes. And this is where “flexible optimism” – a term Seligman invented – comes in.

Essentially, the most successful optimists understand they need to be careful when they are pursuing a big goal with a lot of risks.  They talk with others – especially natural pessimists – to see what risks others see in the potential course of action.  Then, either they decide not to pursue that course of action or they go into it well informed – and prepared to handle possible setbacks.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was pursuing a risky goal.  Things were not looking good as he got very close to the deadline and I asked him, “What are your back-up plans if this does not work out?”  His response: “Failure is not an option.” 

On one hand, I appreciate that attitude.  But, in this case, he did fail.  And then he and his team needed to scramble to figure out what to do while they were very stressed out.  Their response to the setback would have been much more effective if they had time to calmly think through their options before the panic of the failure was upon them.

Once we take the time to carefully assess the risk of a goal we may dial back our ambition.  Or we may go for it – fully informed and prepared to live with the consequences of not making it all the way.

Acrobats who perform death defying high wire acts without a net may provide more thrills for audiences, but the ones who use nets live longer.  The same is true for leaders who want 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.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Fulfillment of Noble Pursuit

THE IDEA: When we water down our dreams we limit our performance and actually insult our own integrity.

Deep in your heart you want something – in a big way. You have a vision of the ideal you want, and you are passionate about it. Yet, many of us hesitate to say it out loud. Rather than boldly saying what we really want, we will instead settle for something smaller.

Instead of “no one homeless in our county,” it becomes “fewer homeless.”

Instead of “market leader,” it becomes “improved market share.” 

Instead of “best place to work,” it becomes “better place to work.”

We are susceptible to watering down our dreams because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves if we do not fully attain what we want. 

If you find yourself doing this, then remind yourself that true fulfillment comes from pursuing our deepest passions – even if we never fully achieve them. When we lower our goals we are essentially lying to ourselves about what we really want. Let’s not do that!

Countless research studies show that setting higher goals leads to higher performance even if you do not fully achieve the goal; see here.

We need to revel in the pursuit of something we truly care about and want, all the while knowing that we might not make it all the way. It is more fulfilling to know that we pursued our dream with vigor!

Impact leaders DREAM BIG!


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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stretch Goals, Boards, & Banks

One of the difficulties in setting Almost Impossible Goals is trying to figure out how to communicate them to people who just don’t get it.  I encourage you to share this article on The Power of Goals with those who have not been exposed.  But, let’s face it, even after that – some people just don’t understand.

If that is your situation, then I suggest you not push the matter too far – depending on the audience.  For example, my experience is that some Boards do not really want to know what your “goals” are, they want a “promise” from you regarding the results you are going to produce.  In other words, they want a “forecast” – not a goal.  They don’t want your aspirations or dreams, they want to know what they can count on.  I suggest – give them what they want.

You can do this with complete integrity and still keep your Stretch Goal. Let’s say that you raised $100,000 in your annual fund last year and your team set a Stretch Goal for $140,000 for the coming year – a big stretch!  Now, it would be IDEAL if your Board understood the stretch philosophy and got excited about assisting with this big, bold goal.  

But, if they are not bought in, then I suggest keeping the Stretch Goal quiet and giving them a reasonable forecast – maybe a 5% increase up to $105,000.  Then add “Of course, we are always working on ways we can do even better.”  Now you have an accurate forecast – which is what they want.  And you have a bold goal for your team – which is what you want.

By the way, if you have a loan or a line of credit with a bank – they don’t want to see bold goals.  Show them something conservative when you share your budget and make sure you do even better every year.  That will keep your loan intact.

Almost Impossible Goals can do amazing things for your organization.  But until we have everyone converted to the philosophy you need to be careful how you share them.  This will let you make even more of a Mission Impact – and keep your job (which is nice).


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, June 5, 2017

Integrating Staff & Strategy

You know you have a brilliant strategy – but it is not working.  What’s up?

There are a myriad of reasons why excellent strategies are not implemented effectively.  Here are two basic pitfalls that you can avoid.

#1.  Undercommunicating the Strategy.  John Kotter, in his classic book, Leading Change, says that leaders very often do not communicate their vision and strategy for the future nearly as often as they should.  The strategy and vision are so clear to them that they don’t think they need to talk about it more.  As a leader, you should take frequent opportunities to remind everyone in the organization of your future and how you plan to get there.

#2.  The Strategy is too Complex.   You need to be able to communicate your strategy simply – not in a five inch thick binder.  D.J. Collins and M. G. Rukstad discovered this problem when they researched a wide variety of companies, which was reported in Harvard Business Review a number of years ago*:

“Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. . . .  They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.”

There are many other reasons why your great strategy may not be implemented well, but avoid these two common errors and you will stand a much better chance at making a significant Mission Impact.

*D. J. Collins & M. G. Rukstad, “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is,” Harvard Business Review, April 2008.


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.