Thursday, December 31, 2015

Set Your 2016 Goals Now!

Happy 2016!

As is my annual tradition, I will start the new year out with a reminder of my advice from an article I wrote in The Washington Post a couple of years back: “Set Goals, Not Resolutions.”  And also see my full article on The Power of Goals at this link.

If it’s time for you to set those once-a-year resolutions that you know will fade by March, then this article is not for you.

But if you are ready to make a long-term commitment to achieving higher levels of performance and having more satisfaction in life, then consider getting serious about goal-setting:

*Set goals as outcomes – on what you really want, not the activities that may lead toward them.

*Make sure that all your goals are SMRT:  Specific, Measurable, Relevant, Time-Bound

*Use the right “A” in your SMART goal formula.  All goals need to be SMRT.  But to be SMART you need to pick the “A” that is right for your situation. Here are your options:

1.  Attainable Goals, which you have an 80+% chance of accomplishing, are good if failing will have many negative consequences.  Attainable goals are good to build some momentum with easy wins, or to learn more about new environments, or if you are concerned about getting discouraged.

2.  Aggressive Goals, which you have a 35% chance of accomplishing, will improve your performance.  Research shows that the more difficult the goal, the higher the level of performance.*  If you feel like you have a good system and you want to maximize performance of it, then this method will help you do it.

3.  Almost Impossible Stretch Goals, which you have a 1% chance of accomplishing, will require you to design innovative ways of going about accomplishing your goal.  “Working harder” on the same process won’t do it.  You have an opportunity for breakthrough performance with Almost Impossible Stretch Goals.

*Celebrate Noble Failure.  If you are inspired to pursue a goal and you go for it, but you don’t make it all the way, then appreciate the progress you have made and appreciate that you worked hard at something you really cared about.  This mind-set will bring you more long-term success than letting the fear of failure keep you from doing what truly inspires you.

I provide more extensive detail on goal setting in this article, The Power of Goals.  If you use these principles and apply them to your personal and work life then I promise you much higher levels of performance, fulfillment, and satisfaction.   But it only works if you take it on as a true, committed discipline – not a once a year fad.  Good luck with all of your goals!


*A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance, by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham


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, December 7, 2015

More Than Fundraising Needed

“We cannot fundraise our way out of government cutbacks!!! Board members whose organizations serve low income and disadvantaged populations must advocate for the clients they serve.”

-Chuck Loring, BoardSource Senior Governance Associate & Senior Partner; Loring Sternberg, Associates

Chuck Loring is an expert in Board Governance and Fundraising.  He is a former nonprofit CEO and a leading nonprofit consultant (full disclosure – he is also a friend).

I think that Chuck’s words here are a rally cry for every Board member of every nonprofit organization in America.  And, in fact, he is part of a real rally.

The rally is called Stand For Your Mission.  It is a campaign which calls on all nonprofit decision-makers to stand for the organizations they believe in by actively representing their missions and values, and creating public will for important policy changes.  It is a collaborative effort initiated by the Alliance for Justice, BoardSource, the Campion Foundation, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, the Knight Foundation, and the National Council of Nonprofits, the campaign seeks to unleash the full potential of nonprofits to advance their missions by engaging board leaders more directly in the advocacy work of their organizations.

Some of the goals include:

*Bring about a sustainable shift in the understanding and expectations around board engagement in advocacy

*Move advocacy from an ancillary to an essential role for all board members

*Strengthen our collective ability to advance the public good

Check out their web site and see how you and your Board can be involved.  We all need to be even stronger advocates for our causes regarding public policy so we 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Promoting Mission & Values

We know that mission, vision, and values are core to the identity of any organization.  And I often tell leaders that one of their most important responsibilities is to keep these in the forefront of their coworkers minds.  But how do you do that?

Recently, Dr. Alex Triantis – our Dean at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland – had our marketing/communications and facilities teams work together to post our Mission and Values on nice big signs at the front entrance of our building, right by the elevators.  They have been there for a while now, but the other day I realized how much I liked them there.  What better things to look at to help you focus as you begin another day at work!


Our values include:

*We do the right things the right way.

*We embrace challenges and opportunities.

*We have a collective passion for excellence.

How can you not get fired up looking at that first thing in the morning!?!

And our mission includes the phrase “We equip current and future leaders to assess complex problems and deliver innovative solutions.”  I tell our EMBAs that we expect them to be Innovative, Impact Leaders.

You can read more about our mission and values at this link.

What can you do to help keep your mission, vision, and values in the forefront of people's minds in your organization?  Big signs may not be the answer for everyone.  But there are ways – big and small – that you can help keep the importance of your Mission Impact alive for people.  You are only limited by your creativity.


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, October 28, 2015

Diversity Fuels Creativity

Greetings from Singapore, where I have been attending the annual Executive MBA Conference with other leaders from across the globe who run these programs at various universities.  This is always a mentally stimulating meeting in which thought leaders from top corporations and universities share what they believe today’s – and tomorrow’s – executives need to thrive in our ever-changing world.

One continuing theme I heard from many speakers – and that we all know is true – is the need for organization’s today to be continually innovative and creative.  But how do we do that?

A number of speakers stressed the importance of diversity and divergent thinking among leadership teams as a way to fuel innovation.  Today’s leaders need to:

“Be Flexible”

“Value Differences.  Believe that difference is good.”

“Influence others without using authority.”


“Foster a culture where people feel free to speak their mind.”

One speaker said “Don’t allow hierarchy to squash innovation.”

All of this is easier said than done.  It means that you, as a leader, need to proactively recruit people into your organization and onto your senior team who think differently than you do.  It will be uncomfortable and require you to work through conflicting viewpoints.

It would be a lot easier to hang out with people who pretty much think the same way you do.  But if you do that, you are unlikely to continually produce innovative, breakthrough ideas.

Leveraging the divergent views and talents of others is more important to making a Mission Impact than ever before.


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, October 12, 2015

Your Personal Mission & Vision

You have spent a lot of time figuring out your organization’s mission and vision.  How about your personal mission and vision?

There are a lot of different ways to go about writing up your personal mission statement.  Here are some questions to get started on clarifying your personal mission:

“What do you want your personal legacy to be?”

“What are you leaving behind?”

“What contributions do you want to make to others and to the world?  

Once you write up your mission then you can create a vision.  My favorite question is:

“What would you want your life to be like if you could have it any way you wanted it?”

When I went through this exercise, I first identified the most important “domains” of my life – those aspects that are most important to me.  For example, some of those included Spiritual Life, Work Life, Fun, Family & Friends, Health, etc.  And I then went on to describe what those aspects of my life would look like if I could have it any way I wanted it.

What should you do with this once you have it all done?

There are lots of valuable ways to use your mission & vision.  I briefly review my personal mission most every morning when I do my prayers & meditations.  I feel like it gives me focus for the day.

No surprise – I use my vision to create five year goals for myself.  Then I use those to set annual goals.  I review the vision and goals every week as I make my action plan for the week.  Too much?  It works for me!  You can devise your own system. 

The main value is taking some time to get clear on “Why Am I Here?” & “Where Am I Going?” and then working along at “How Am I Going to Get There?”  As you work on that last part, I recommend following the advice in my article The Power of Goals.  Good luck to you on your path to make a personal 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, September 29, 2015

How to Stop Overcommitting

Would you like to STOP:

-Rushing to/from meetings?

-Missing workouts?

-Getting reports in at the last minute?

-Burning yourself out?

Then you need to stop overcommitting.

Admit it.  There is a certain “jazz” you get from being constantly busy.  It can be intoxicating to serve the tyranny of the urgent.  In his book First Things First, Dr. Stephen Covey identifies this addiction to urgency as the first thing you need to kick if you really want more control of your time.  It makes you look busy, but maybe not very productive.  And urgency is certainly the enemy of quality work.

Here are three more tips to STOP doing the things above and to actually produce even higher QUALITY work.

1.  You actually have some control in your life.  Identify what you can say no to – and start saying no.  Kick the ALWAYS SAYING YES habit.

2.  Where you cannot say no - negotiate longer deadlines.  Let’s face it, not everything needs to be done yesterday.

3.  Block significant chunks of time on your calendar to get “work” done – no meetings; and stick to it.

There is no easy answer to getting today’s work life of constant change, tons of emails, and endless meetings under control.  But these suggestions will help.  You will be happier and make even more of a Mission Impact when you implement them.


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, September 14, 2015

The Value of Nurturing Stakeholders

You know it’s something you should spend more time on, but it gets put on the backburner.  This blog is dedicated to encouraging you to take “nurturing stakeholders” from your “C” list and moving it up to your “A” list.

We all know how important it is to have strong relationships with our stakeholders, whether they are donors, board members, volunteers, alumni, people who use our services, staff, community leaders, etc.  Nonprofits do not have “shareholders” as owners.  But the closest thing we have to “owners” are our stakeholders – and we owe it to them to keep them updated on what we are doing and to regularly get their input on our activities.

And this should not just happen every three – five years when you are doing your new strategic plan.  It should be an ongoing, regular process.  You don’t have to wait until it is strategy time to do a survey, hold a town hall, run some focus groups, or have some individual meetings to share what is going on and ask for input.

I know one CEO who makes it a point every week to have at least one lunch/coffee with one or more stakeholders.  Taking this personal time means the world to people.

Who are the most neglected stakeholders?  I would be interested in your nominations, but I find that it is often past board members.  They finish their term and we don’t know what to do with them.  How about asking them out to coffee every now and then?  If you have a national board and that is unrealistic, then maybe you do a special email message just to past board members two or three times a year – and not just when you are ready to ask them for money.

Our stakeholders are our core.  We could not exist without them.  And some day you are going to need them more than you realize.  I say it’s time to put stakeholders on the “A” list.


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, 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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

No Accountability, No Performance

This is the fourth 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 the research are:

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

With trust, constructive conflict, and commitment a team is ready to soar.  But two more elements are required and today we are focusing on accountability.

Holding people accountable is a key leadership responsibility.  It is not complicated, but takes organization and persistence.

First, before ever adjourning a meeting, make sure that everyone on the team is clear on what they are accountable for and by when the task is should be completed.

Next, make sure you record the tasks and due dates.

Third, follow-up with people when they miss deadlines.

Finally, you need consequences – especially for chronic cases of missing deadlines.

Simple, right?  Then why do so many leaders mess this up!?!

I think it is because it can be uncomfortable to hold someone accountable, but leaders often underestimate the damage done when you let people avoid accountability. 

Allowing people to avoid accountability breeds resentment in a team.  High performers want to be on a team where everyone is committed to excellence.  You will quickly lose your best people if they see that others are not held accountable.  And it will lead to mediocrity among those left behind.

So, be a leader and hold people accountable.  It will set a standard of excellence for everyone to live up to and allow the team to 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, June 1, 2015

Building Commitment to Your Team

This is the third 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 the research are:

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

Establishing trust and creating a culture where constructive conflict is valued were the topics of the first two installments of this series.  Once you have that, you can really go places as a team.  However, a lack of commitment from even one person can be a cancer that spreads throughout a team.  Here are some things you can do to build commitment:

*Hire for mission commitment.  Make sure that people are excited about your purpose.  FYI – this is not just a “nonprofit” thing.  I recently heard the CEOs of both Pepsi and Deloitte discuss the importance of purpose during their visits with us at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

*Role model your mission commitment and acknowledge it in others.  Be a leader!

*Keep the vision for the future alive.  Remind people where you are going!  You cannot remind people often enough of the future you are creating together.

*Make sure that every person understands their role in helping to accomplish the mission and vision.  They need to understand “why am I here?”

Commitment to mission within a team that trusts one another and can engage in constructive conflict put you on a great path.  Stay tuned for tips on overcoming the final two dysfunctions so you can build a team that makes a breakthrough 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, May 18, 2015

Encourage Constructive Conflict

This is the second 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 the research are:

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

Fear of Conflict cannot be overcome without trust – so check out the prior blog here if you missed that.

Once you have a team that trusts one another, then leaders need to role model what constructive conflict looks like.  All too often, people are conflict avoidant.  Conflict does not have to be nasty and, in fact, constructive conflict makes a team stronger. 

When a team member makes a suggestion, many people will hesitate to say something even if they think it is a bad idea.  But high performing teams know that they will only make the optimal choices if they get many ideas on the table and evaluate all of them.  So, as a leader who wants to role model constructive conflict you can say things like:

“Thanks for your idea, Rob.  What do the rest of you think?  Let’s brainstorm at least five different possibilities before we make any decisions.”

Another simple technique is to break your team into two or three sub-groups and have them brainstorm ideas to bring back to the full team.  I often do this in strategic planning sessions to encourage divergent thinking.  You can also take care to carefully assign people to subgroups who may have differing opinions.

If you are going to role model constructive conflict it is vital that you react appropriately when someone suggests an alternative to your latest brilliant idea.  If you can do that and encourage others to do the same, then you are on your way to becoming a high performing team that makes an exceptional 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, May 5, 2015

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This is the first 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 the research are:

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

I highly recommend the book and will, in this series, provide you with an overview of how to overcome each of the five dysfunctions.

Building trust is the bedrock of high performance teamwork.  So how do you build trust in a team?  Here are a few insights.

First, as the leader of the team, you have to personally exhibit strong ethical behavior. People watch and evaluate everything you do.  They need to know that they can trust you to do what you say you are going to do; that you are honest and fair.  This will build their respect for you.

Next, provide opportunities for team members to get to know one another more personally.  For example - off-site retreats, ropes courses, and personality styles assessments (e.g., MBTI, DISC, StrengthsFinder) can be used to help team members get to know one another in more depth.  As another example, I serve on a board where the new chair took us on a retreat and had each person give a six-eight minute presentation on their life – broken into three segments, however we wanted to organize it.  It was very impactful and I felt more connected to my fellow board members afterwards.

Finally, let yourself be vulnerable to the rest of the team and role model that this is okay behavior.  None of us are perfect and yet, as leaders, we often feel like we have to be perfect in front of everyone else.  If you can lower that veil of invulnerability, it will engender trust among you and others.  And, importantly, it will role model this behavior for others.

There are no magical ways to immediately build trust in a team.  But, following these suggestions can put you on the right path to more effective teamwork and enhanced 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, April 21, 2015

Nonprofits, Innovation, & Lean Startups

You want to drive innovation throughout your nonprofit, but you don’t think you have the time or money to try new things.  You would benefit from learning about the “Lean Startup” method – which is the current model that businesses use to develop new products and entrepreneurs use to start new companies.

Here are some of the key ideas of Lean Startup that apply to nonprofits:

*Experiment.  You don’t have to have everything figured out at the beginning to try out a new program/service.  Use an experimental mindset.

*Develop a Minimal Viable Product/Program.  This is a scaled down version of the program that you want to run, but it is robust enough to make the impact that you intend.  If it works as an MVP then you can scale it for more impact.

*Listen and Learn.  Use the MVP with small selected groups of people and be open to feedback from them.  Measure your results.

*Pivot.  Be prepared to take the feedback and make continual changes until you get it right – until the program is making the impact you really want.

Example.  Imagine you have a brilliant idea for a new program to provide to those you serve in your community.  But you know it is going to cost a lot of money to scale up and hire the staff you need to serve everyone. 

What to do?  Try a Lean Startup! Develop the program idea to a point that it is a Minimum Viable Program – it is robust enough to make an impact.  

Then use some of your current staff to try it out on a smaller subset of people you serve. Treat it as an experiment you can learn from.  Make improvements as you listen and learn. 

Once you have made changes based on the feedback and you are ready to scale it, you can take the results of what you learned to funders.
    
Use the Lean Startup approach to try new programs/services, see what works, and expand 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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Engaging Resistance to Change

You are trying to change things for the better, but you keep facing lots of resistance.  “If people would just go along then things would be a lot better!”

Well – maybe not.  Maybe their resistance will make your effort even more successful.

In their excellent article in Harvard Business Review, Decoding Resistance to Change, (April 2009) Jeffrey & Laurie Ford suggest that we consider using resistance as a “resource.”  Here are some of their suggestions:

*Resistance is a Resource.  “Ask yourself ‘If I viewed the resistance as feedback, what could I learn about how to refine the change effort?’”  What a healthy change in perspective!  All too often, we feel like we are sure what the change should look like and how it should unfold (I know I do).  When someone disagrees we can get defensive instead of trying to really listen and learn.

*Boost awareness.  Don’t be concerned about sharing your change ideas with various individuals and groups even if you think you will hear resistance.  Even if people share complaints you are still keeping the dialogue of change alive.

*Be open to changing the change.  Even though you thought you had figured out how the change was going to look, you might end up with better results if you keep an open mind to ideas from “resistors.”

*Focus on purpose.  Continually remind people of “why” the change is being considered.  If you can focus on agreement around “why,” then “what” and “how” can be less contentious.   

As Ford & Ford conclude “Resistance, properly understood as feedback, can be an important resource in improving the quality and clarity of the objectives and strategies at the heart of a change proposal.  And, properly used, it can enhance the prospects for success.”

Good luck with “engaging” resistance and making your change improvements even more successful.


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 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.