Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Are You Following Your Passion?

This is one of the questions that Dr. Gerald Suarez* helps us answer for ourselves in his excellent new book, Leader of One.  Just before his death, Dr. Stephen Covey, provided this endorsement for Leader of One:

“J. Gerald Suarez’s extraordinary experiences in the White House and on campus help frame this remarkable book by offering wise perspective and deep insight into the struggle of balancing one’s life’s gifts, passion and direction.”

So what guidance does Dr. Suarez give us for knowing if we are following our passion?  Here are some examples.  He suggests asking yourself to think about this scenario:

“Your employer guarantees your current salary for life, adjusted for inflation.  You are told that you are free to do whatever you please; there are no expectations whatsoever and no adverse repercussions.” (p. 38)

What a great question!  Suarez goes on:

“What would you do?  Would you report to work as usual?  If you decide to work, why would you?  If you would not go back, also ask why.” (p. 38)

“To most of us, the possibility that we can take away the financial aspect of our current jobs lets us consider what we really want to do.  We can pursue a course of action because it feels right.  It gives us a sense of joy.  It nourishes and energizes us.” (p. 39)

“Removing these constraints, even if simply through a mental exercise, allows new themes and possibilities to surface.  If you listen carefully to these themes and reflect on the possibilities, you can find yourself operating from a wholly new perspective.” (p. 39)

These are just some examples of the pearls of wisdom in Leader of One.  I highly recommend it and encourage you to order your copy soon!  Peter Drucker once said that the most important person we lead is ourselves.  Indeed true.  Leader of One helps you understand how to do that most effectively.

*Dr. J. Gerald Suarez is Professor of the Practice at the Robert H, Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and former Director of Presidential Quality for both the President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush Administrations.


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 9, 2015

Seven Habits of High Performing Nonprofits

Mario Morino is at it again – making contributions to the improvement of the performance of nonprofits across the sector.  His earlier contributions have included sponsoring the creation of the Organization Capacity Assessment Tool (check this blog for more) and then in 2011 it was writing the important book, Leap of Reason (see this blog for more).  Now he has led a group of nonprofit executives, consultants, and scholars to create The Performance Imperative.

The Performance Imperative includes a definition of “high performance” and a set of “seven pillars” which, if followed, will lead a nonprofit toward high performance.  First, here is the definition of high performance:

“High performance is the ability to deliver—over a prolonged period of time—meaningful, measurable, and financially sustainable results for the people or causes the organization is in existence to serve.”

And the seven pillars are:

1.  Courageous, adaptive executive and board leadership

2.  Disciplined, people-focused management

3.  Well-designed and well-implemented programs and strategies

4.  Financial health and stability

5.  A culture that values learning

6.  Internal monitoring for continuous improvement

7.  External evaluation for mission effectiveness


Maybe you have your 8th pillar or another one that you would add or substitute, but you must admit that this is a very strong list.  My favorite is #1!

Is your organization on the path to high performance?  Read more about The Performance Imperative here and use the ideas to lead you to 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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What Keeps You Awake at Night?

*How do we cut costs?

*How can we raise more money?

*Who should we hire (or let go)?

These are likely candidates to keep you awake at night.  But if you are a senior leader for a nonprofit then I am going to add another one to your list.  I know.  You are welcome.

I’m not encouraging more sleepless nights, but I am encouraging you to work on something unless you are sure you have it handled.  I am suggesting that, based on research*, there is a high likelihood that your Board members use different criteria to judge your nonprofit’s performance.

Try this test.  Circulate the following question to your senior staff:

“What criteria should we use to determine the extent to which we are accomplishing our mission?  What results, outcomes, and specific evidence should we look at to make this determination?”

See what you come up with.  Based on research I did years ago*, which has been replicated since and confirmed through my consulting work, you will probably get responses all over the board.  This is not good.  Without agreed upon performance metrics, all you have to rely on are the varied opinions of those on your team.  You are not unlike a football team on which everyone has their opinion on where the goal line is.  This makes it very difficult to coordinate action, set priorities, and make strategic decisions.

And it gets worse.  If you do the same exercise with your Board then I predict even more variance in their responses.  Why is this a problem?  If you think you have had a successful year and they are looking at different criteria than you are, then it could be an unwelcome surprise.

My advice?  Don’t lose sleep over this!  Get proactive and start the conversation with your staff and Board about this soon.  This is way better than you being surprised at a future Board meeting.  And that would end up costing you a lot of sleepless nights in the future.

*If you want to check out the research on this, see the Resources section of my web site at this link.


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 9, 2015

Lead Change in Big SMART Chunks

You know that changes must be made, but the amount of effort that will be required and the size of the change seems almost overwhelming.  This is often the case with important changes.

But remember the old adage – “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”


I suggest identifying a “chunk” of change that you are willing to go after during an upcoming three – four month time period.  What one big thing can you get done that will set you off in the right direction in making the even bigger changes that are necessary?  Focus on a three – four month period so you can make the “chunk of change” a high priority for a manageable amount of time.

Once you have your idea for that “chunk of change,” then turn it into a SMART goal.  Make sure that it is Specific and Measureable, so you can monitor your progress.  Make sure it is Relevant to your larger vision for your organization, and that it is Time-bound with a specific date.  Then finally, you need to pick an “A” to complete your SMART goal.

Do you want your SMART goal for your change to be Attainable or Aggressive or Almost Impossible?  I always encourage people to Stretch, so I will recommend a Big goal.  But you can read more about the trade-offs of these different SMART formulas in this brief article, The Power of Goals.

Don’t let the size of the change freeze you.  Go after that Big SMART Chunk of Change in the next few months and you will be making 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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Add “Nothing” to Your Calendar

My last blog told you to shorten your “to do” list.  And now I am suggesting that you add “nothing” to your calendar???

Originally this blog was going to be called “The Importance of Reflection,” but I decided the new title might get your attention better.

Here is what I am specifically suggesting:

*Block thirty minutes of time now for doing nothing each day.

I don’t mean thirty minutes to catch up with email.  I mean doing nothing – except to spend a few minutes reflecting.

Why?  We are all too busy.  We are doing, doing, doing all day long and do not take regular time to actually reflect.  This makes us lose focus and, sometimes, rush important decisions.

Some things to reflect on:

“What do I need to give my most focused attention to in the next twenty-four hours?”

“How have the last twenty-four hours gone?” 

“What important things have I learned in the last twenty-four hours?”

Your answers can span your work and personal life.  On some days the most focus you need for the future may be helping your daughter with her homework that night and on others it will be that report you need to give to the board of directors tomorrow.

If it helps you to write, then journal.  Otherwise, just take some unstructured time to think and reflect.

Try it a few times to see how you like it.  If you see the value then automatically block a certain time of the day where you schedule no meetings and then protect the time vigorously. 

Taking the time to reflect makes us more thoughtful, effective decision-makers and leaders.  And that helps you 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.