Eight Questions to Ask Employees

 

As a leader right now, your concerns are overwhelming: family, friends, employees, the future of your business. The dual crisis of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown could have your business hanging in the balance, too.

There is so much to do, so much worry, so much uncertainty. But you are tackling the challenge.

By now, you have gotten a lot of good advice on crisis management. You and your team have started to adapt.

You also know that we are at the beginning of the crisis lifecycle. We are not yet at a new normal.

Still, you want to make sure that the measures you are putting in place are both prudent and resonate with your employees. You want them to have confidence in you and the future.

Now is the time to check-in with your team on these issues, so you can make changes that sustain your high-performing team. 

Here are eight questions to ask your team. You can use the standard Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree scale. I’ve adapted these from the excellent Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

As we are adjusting to the crisis:

1. I am very enthusiastic about my company’s mission.

2. At work, I clearly understand what my leader expects of me.

3. I believe that the people on my team share my values.

4. I use my strengths every day at work.

5. My teammates have my back.

6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.

7. I have high confidence in my company’s future.

8. My work challenges me to grow.

Buckingham and Goodall argue that high performing teams consistently answer Strongly Agree or Agree to these questions. 

These questions also serve as an excellent inventory for you as you manage the crisis and look ahead to the future. 

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Invest in your team

How are you investing in your team? 

I just finished reading Nine Lies About Work, a terrific book about ways to build high-performing teams. 

They discuss eight questions that reliably indicate a high-performing team. Here’s #8: “In my work, I am always challenged to grow.” When your employees answer “strongly agree” on this and seven other questions, there is a very high probability that your team is high-performing.

There are some excellent ways you can challenge your team members to grow. Regular, personal check-ins where team leaders ask questions like “what’s going right for you?” and “in what ways can I help you?” boost engagement. 

So do opportunities to grow and develop. The best leaders resist the urge to use classes or programs to make your employees more well-rounded — to work on their supposed weaknesses.

After all, a manager’s ability to accurately assess a person’s strengths and weaknesses are meager. The best person to determine your strengths and weaknesses is YOU.

Real strength is what you love to do, not just tasks that you perform well. What you love to do strengthens you and gives you energy. These are the kinds of jobs, activities, roles that put you in a natural state of flow. 

Tasks or activities that drain you sucks your energy and leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted – even if you do it well – it is not a strength. You will burn out quickly.

When you work with your team to learn their real strengths and put them in positions that let them use their strengths each day, you are more likely to create a highly-engaged, high-performing team.

An excellent place for you to start is to help your people understand their servant-leader archetype: Pioneer, Reconciler, Operator, or Maverick. This assessment helps them narrow down the ways they best contribute — the roles that put them in a natural state of flow.

Next, design each person’s work around their natural state of flow. 

Third, map your team to find out if you have any gaps. If you are missing an archetype or have a significant imbalance across the four, you will need to find ways to cover the holes. Doing so will probably include having some people do tasks that are outside their flow. That’s ok as long as you provide them opportunities to replenish their energy, AND you have most of their work inside their flow.

Finally, do a weekly one-on-one check-in with each direct report. Help each person be the best version of themselves and provide them the resources and clear expectations they need to excel.

SLA’s Sustainable Growth Mindset® courses give you step by step ways to Elevate your Team’s PerformanceDevelop your Healthy Culture, and Build your Winning Strategy.

You can take these self-directed courses at your own pace as you boost your team’s engagement and performance. 

Investing in yourself and your team is among the most worthwhile things you can do. 

L
earn more about these courses by clicking HERE.  When you’re ready use promo code SLABLOG and save 20%!

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

 

Avoid being Scapegoated

Want to avoid being scapegoated for the next breach?
You need Total Trust alongside Zero Trust

You are a new CISO in the financial services industry. You are excited about the job but anxious due to the scale of the cyber threat from a range of actors: lone-wolf hackers, organized crime syndicates, governments and their proxies, and insiders. As you think through your game plan for addressing these threats, what’s your most important first step?

A. Get the latest technology and management tools.
B. Develop new, mandatory, IT security training for the company or client.
C. Bring in consultants to advise you on the latest threats.
D. Tighten protocols and increase penetration stress tests.
E. None of the above

Unless you picked E you will end up as just another victim. Your company will be
inadequately prepared to prevent a breach. Your team’s flat-footed response after the breach
will result in major losses to the business. You will be the scapegoat.

When your back is against the wall and you have to prepare your team to deal with new and
unprecedented threats, this is what you should do. It’s the opposite of what every guru is
preaching.

Your first step: Build Trust. Up and Out; Down and In

Zero Trust is an important technology and cyber security precaution. No one should be
granted total access to information.

A zero-trust approach to workplace relationships, however, is disastrous. When dealing with
your people and teams and those you support, you need to earn Total Trust.

You were hired because you seemed to be the best qualified person for the job, but that does
not mean you are trusted by your CEO, peers or team.

Compared with people at low-trust companies, notes a Harvard Business Review study, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.

Lack of total trust sets you up for failure:
 You will not make much headway on getting cyber security imbedded in the culture;
 You will not be invited to board meetings to discuss cyber security;
 You will have little interaction with the CEO;
 Your C-suite colleagues will try to poach your budget and client;
 You will be seen as an impediment to growth; a distraction from business;
 You will have high rates of employee burnout and turnover;
 Your team’s vigilance and responsiveness to threats will be unequal to the task.

Fortunately, you do not have to share in this fate.

When building trust, think 1) Up and Out and 2) Down and In.

Up and Out: It is tempting, particularly for leaders of highly technical teams whose missions
are poorly understood across the company, to start building relationships from your silo –
your comfort zone and point of view. This common approach is the fast track to poor
communication and mistrust.

To build a trusting relationship with your boss and your peers, you have to meet them at their
bus stop. That is, you must see things from their point of view, talk their language, and
understand their interests and concerns. They won’t trust you fully unless they know you “get
it.”

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You can “see yourself” and the business from their point of view.
 You discern how they view you and your team.
 You recognize their perceptions about how you affect their performance and the company overall.
 You understand the company’s vision, mission, goals and values and how you contribute to success.

Question: Can you explain all the above so clearly that it makes sense to a 5-year-old? If not,
you do not know it well enough.

Down and In. Build trust with your team. Trust is earned. It is not given because of your
position.

Being trustworthy means being worthy of trust. This is most powerfully expressed in your
competence and your character. Your team needs to believe that you can do the job, that your
word is good, that you will treat each employee with respect, and that you will be a good
steward of your people, teams and organization.

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You set clear performance and behavior expectations;
 You meet those expectations yourself;
 You hold everyone equally accountable – no favorites;
 People bring you bad news immediately without sugar coating;
 Employees provide you with candid feedback without fear of backlash;
 Your employees understand their mission clearly and how it relates to the mission and goals of the company.

Question: What have you done today to show your team that you are worthy of their trust and
respect?

When you have total trust, your CEO and board want to hear what you have to say, your
colleagues will see you are a partner, and your team will have higher rates of engagement and
lower risk of burnout and turnover. Your company’s cyber security will be far stronger, too.

Christopher Kolenda, PhD, founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, helps CISOs and
Cyber Security leaders elevate the performance of their teams, slash disengagement and
burnout, and boost the quality of their strategies and plans.

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Make a new mistake

Are you Ready to Make New Mistakes?

There are many reasons not to trust people who say they have never been wrong. Every leader who dares to grow, innovate, defy conventional wisdom, or make a positive impact makes mistakes and experiences failure. To err, after all, is human. We all make mistakes.

Good leaders, though, make new mistakes.

They learn and avoid repeating the errors they have made — especially the expensive ones. Your new mistakes, though, can be expensive. Some are catastrophic.

Leaders in a competitive market who rely solely on personal experience are particularly vulnerable to business-ending new mistakes.

They only learn in the school of hard-knocks where the tuition is really expensive. Sometimes those hard-knocks are knockouts.

How do the most successful leaders avoid these problems?

They learn from their own experiences and those of others. The very best leaders make truly new mistakes. They avoid the mistakes that they have made themselves AND they avoid the mistakes that others have made.

Reading is the fast track to learning from others.

How do you know which books and articles to read?

That’s exactly why we’ve created this reading list. It contains some of the best books and articles on Leadership, Culture, and Strategy, so you can avoid wasting time on nonsense.

We have also organized the list by theme, so you can focus on the issues most important to you.  For instance,

Our Leadership Themes include:

  • Lead Well: Trustworthiness, Respect, and Stewardship
  • Practice Empathy: Your Short-Cut to Gaining Cooperation
  • Take Responsibility: How to promote innovation
  • Connect the Why: Gain commitment through Common Purpose

Check out our Culture Themes:

  • Forge Balanced Teams: How to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusion
  • Align Values and Practice: What Happens in the Halls Trumps What’s Written on the Walls
  • Build Resilience: How to Bounce Back Higher
  • Stop Toxic Subordinates: The Altar of Short-term Results is the Fast Track to Failure
  • Position High Impact Leaders: Put your Top Talent in a State of Flow

How are these for Strategy Themes:

  • Strategy governs Plans: How to Make Sure the Dog Wags the Tail
  • Manage Silos: How to Avoid Letting Success Fall through the Cracks
  • Embrace Complexity and Uncertainty: How to Create and Seize Opportunity in Chaos
  • Courage: Developing the Strength and Wisdom to Decide
  • Learn and Adapt: How to Make New Mistakes

So, are you happy to repeat your errors and those of others…

Or, are you ready to make truly new mistakes?

Get the Reading List HERE

If you already have our Reading List, check out these webinars:

Wait? These webinars say they are for Cyber Security Leaders.

That’s true, but the same concepts work for anyone who leads human beings.

Ready to make truly new mistakes? Get the Reading List HERE

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Get Ahead Of The Cyber-Threat

with this one powerful habit

cyber security

You face a dizzying array of threats: lone-wolf hackers, organized crime, government-sponsored proxies, and insider threats. These groups are highly aggressive and adaptive and often operate with impunity. They threaten our businesses, infrastructure, livelihoods, and way of life. Cyber is the new frontier of freedom and you are on the front lines.

The enemy always finds a new tool or tactic.

If you are a cyber-security leader, it’s natural to look for an advantage in technology because those are the tools of the battle. Any technical superiority you gain, however, seems fleeting. It’s like a hamster wheel. The enemy always finds a new tool or tactic. The adversary also has advantages in timing, being able to stage attacks when they want. They can attract talent for higher pay than you can afford. They take advantage of people in your company who are cyber-complacent or simply not paying attention. You have to be vigilant constantly.

Your advantage comes from your leadership.

Your competitive advantage, though, is not in the technology or tools. Your real competitive advantage comes from your leadership: your ability to build relationships with the C-Suite and board to get cyber-security ingrained in the culture and governance, create a culture on your team that attracts, engages, and retains the right talent, and act strategically by making sound decisions, managing risk and uncertainty, bridging silos, and learning and adapting. As you know, personal experience is the best teacher of leadership. It’s the school of hard knocks. Learning from your own mistakes and triumphs helps you improve on what you have done before.

Personal experience, however, has a very poor track record in preparing leaders to face new and different challenges and opportunities. Many find themselves to be prisoners of their own past, searching in vain for answers as their competitors race forward. The Blockbusters in a Netflix world.

Leaders who rely on personal experience are guaranteed to be incompetent.

As a Cyber Security Leader, you cannot afford to simply learn from experience. The adversary is too adaptive and the consequences of being outmaneuvered by them are too high. You are fighting a chameleon-like cyber-insurgency with ever-evolving tactics, techniques and procedures. You need every strategic edge you can get.

Learning from others in a variety of disciplines is the best way to multiply your experiences in a very short amount of time. There are three great ways to do this. Reading great books and articles, using advisers and mentors to challenge our thinking and provide different perspectives, and experiential learning – training, workshops, and off-sites that help us gain different ways of thinking about the challenges and opportunities we face.

This is exactly why we have put together this reading list for cyber security leaders. It is organized thematically by what we call the 3 BIG things: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy. This combination of great books and articles allows you to be highly targeted in your approach to multiplying your experiences by learning from others.

Check out the reading list here: Cyber Security Leaders Reading List

 

Avoid the Talent Trap
by Emphasizing Trust

Avoiding the Talent Trap

Why do business and athletic teams with the most talented people so often fall behind or get beaten by teams of lesser talent? The 2004 USA Men’s Basketball team, the example par excellence, was beaten by the far less talented teams of Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina. 

The poor performance of the American team was a classic example of the Talent Trap. The uber-talented individuals on Team USA could not play together as a whole. The other teams with less talented individuals could. Trust overcame the talent deficit.

NFL Talent Trap

I used the chart above with an NFL team that is looking to revise their player acquisition strategy. The teams that win consistently tend to seek players of high trust and good talent. The teams that are loaded with talent but have little trust often have lots of internal friction, drama, and sub-optimal performance. Sadly, there are a lot of highly talented people who are simply toxic.

It’s much easier to develop someone’s skills than to turn a selfish person into a trustworthy team player. Why don’t companies and teams measure trust with the same energy and precision as they measure talent? 

To build and evaluate trust intentionally, start with these three steps:

  1. Identify your most important standards and expectations … and WHY they are important.
  2. Define what right looks like for each one of them for leaders and employees; use these as part of your screening during the hiring process. 
  3. Hold everyone accountable to meet these standards and expectations, especially your top talent. 

Improve the Success of Your Company’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs

by Using Leader Archetypes in These 5 Steps

Diversity and Inclusion Programs

DIVERSE WORKFORCE

The business case for a diverse workforce, explains the Wall Street Journal, is clear. 

Less obvious is how to retain a diverse workforce. According to one study, women are twice as likely as white or Asian men to leave their employer. Black and Latino males reportedly leave at 3.5 times the rate of their white or Asian male counterparts. A lack of inclusivity is often blamed for the turnover. A 2007 report estimates that failed diversity initiatives cost American companies $64 billion annually.

In short, current efforts to hire a diverse workforce may be costing some companies more in employee turnover than the gain in productivity. 

THE CHALLENGE

This challenge could be one of the reasons smaller companies seem less likely than larger ones to diversify. Even among larger companies senior leadership and boards still tend to be white and male. This homogeneity is even more troubling considering the emphasis on diversity since before the turn of the century — more than enough time for the rise to senior leadership. 

A recent study by McKinsey, a consulting firm, shows that women tend to have their careers derailed early. Most fall behind their male counterparts in the move from entry position into first-line management — the so-called first rung. 

Bigotry and misogyny among some managers are no doubt parts of the problem. 

Another part of the problem could be the tendency for leaders to clone themselves. This unconscious affinity bias leads people to select and promote others like themselves. Sometimes this bias is based on gender, ethnicity, or religion. 

In many cases, though, it is based on an idealized and personalized version of what it takes to be a successful leader. Since the person in the leadership position sees themselves as successful, selecting and promoting similar people is perceived as sound practice. Cloning seems to be a common mistake among relatively inexperienced managers, which may account for the first-rung problems in large companies and poor diversity in smaller companies. 

Developing leaders to appreciate a broader range of leadership archetypes could reduce affinity bias and improve diversity and inclusion at more senior levels.

OUR RESEARCH

Our research has led to four major leader archetypes: Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks, which we call the PROM leader persona method™. Each archetype has natural inclinations and points of energy. Pioneers are innovators. Reconcilers build teams and manage consensus. Operators create the systems and processes that get things done routinely. Mavericks solve complex, wicked problems. Organizations need them all.

They also have their natural dis-inclinations, or requirements that tend to drain their energy. Pioneers and Mavericks, for instance, can find details to be soul-sucking. Operators and Reconcilers can get bored without clear requirements. Hiring people into roles irrespective of their archetype has a good chance of producing low job satisfaction, rapid burnout, and low perceived fitness for promotion. 

A wider appreciation for diverse leader archetypes and the roles that bring out their best can improve the hiring and promotion processes and better set-up women and non-white males for success. Helping people be the best version of themselves will enhance the quality of mentoring and feedback.  When added to the very important inclusion training, sensitivity to leader archetypes is likely to improve senior leader diversity.  

STEPS TO TAKE

Here are five steps to take:

  1. Determine your leader-archetype by going through our short self-assessment and explanatory videos. Have your managers do the same so they can have a broader point of view. To gain greater depth, check out our e-book.
  2. Decide which leader-archetypes are best suited for the different management roles in your company.
  3. Add leader-archetype to your employee’s skill sets so that you can set people up for success.
  4. Promote diverse candidates into roles for which they are best suited. 
  5. When you have women or non-white males candidates in roles not aligned with their leader-archetype (companies often do this to give leaders broadening experiences), be sure to put talented, diverse leader archetypes around them.

CONSIDER

Considering leader-archetype in selection and promotion processes is no panacea. Diversity and inclusion challenges are likely to remain as long as people allow affinity bias based on physical or cultural differences to influence them. Deliberately setting up your employees and managers for success by considering their leader-archetype is likely to improve job performance and satisfaction, reduce employee turnover, and enable your company to more fully realize the competitive advantages of a diverse and inclusive team. 

 

HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR ‘WHO’

How to find your who

I have two things of value for you.

First, we have been doing a lot of research on leader authenticity. Good leadership starts with knowing and owning your WHO. Each person is hardwired differently. Knowing and owning WHO you are as a leader makes you sincere and genuine.

There are lots of different personality tests — Highlands Ability Battery, Myers-Briggs, TTISI, Predictive Index, DISC, etc. These assessments provide highly detailed information, which can be very enlightening.

I’ve also found, though, that I had difficulty using these assessments to understand myself as a leader and what that means in the context of a leader team. I had trouble seeing the forest for the trees.

This challenge led me to look at the very basic ways people are hard-wired that affect how they lead. We wanted to find which factors were durable (unlikely to change as we grew or with context) and salient (directly affects how we operate as leaders). Stripping away those that seemed malleable, we came up with two factors that seem durable and salient: introversion – extroversion and detail – vision orientation.  

Putting these in a quad chart reveals four distinct leader-personas: Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks. We call this the KSLA’s PROM Leader Persona method. 

PROM Method

To find out which one you are and what that means to you as a leader, take this short assessment:  (CLICK HERE TO TAKE ASSESSMENT)

No matter what field you are in — nonprofits, business, sports, government, or military — knowing and OWNING your leader persona will help you see yourself, lead with authenticity, and build diversity of the mind around you.

We will be coming out with more of our research on leader authenticity in the coming weeks.

Second, did you ever notice that the WE comes before me in aWEsoME? Organizations that want a healthy, winning culture need people willing to work together as a team. This is more likely to happen when:

  1. Leaders take the time to explain the big picture and the strategy to reach the organization’s goals — the WHY;
  2. The values and expectations are clear and are consistent with what actually happens in the workplace — the HOW;
  3. People have faith and confidence that their leaders will care for them as individuals, even as people work together in teams. 

These key points have been consistent over time. The Battle of Shiloh, among others, is an example: The Confederate leaders got none of these three things right. Here’s what happened next.

https://youtu.be/K3130LoCBGs

Best wishes,

Chris Kolenda

P.S. if you like these videos, please sign up for our YouTube channel — hit the bell so you get notified when we roll out a new video.

5 Reasons Why Your Development Strategy is Failing

5 Reasons Why Your Development Strategy is Failing

THE RIGHT FOUNDATION

“Kim” was searching for the right development strategy. As the new executive director, she wanted to boost the nonprofit’s revenues and invest marketing resources for the biggest payoff. Some told her to invest in Direct Mail, others to focus on major donors and foundations. Yet other experts suggested a video-centric social media effort aimed at individual donors.

As I began asking Kim some questions about the nonprofit, the reasons for the fundraising problems came clear: she took over a nonprofit that had not gotten the right foundations in place. Until that occurred, no amount of fundraising tactics would work.

A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR GROWTH

Here are the five elements to a solid foundation for growth:

  1. Board governance. Does your board govern effectively? Does everyone on your board donate? Major donors and foundations, especially, will avoid supporting nonprofits that have ineffective boards or directors not willing to put their own money into the organization.
  2. Transparency and Accountability. Watchdog ratings are a quick check to assess whether the nonprofit is using resources wisely. Would you prefer to donate to an organization that has high marks or low marks? Poor ratings are donation killers.
  3. Strategy. Donors want to know the nonprofit has thought through the challenges and has an approach to the mission that stands a reasonable chance of success. Donors expect you to be able to explain your strategy in clear, simple, and believable terms.
  4. Impact. Are your efforts doing any good? Too many nonprofits measure efforts rather than outcomes. Serious donors want to know that their support will make a difference. A combination of personal examples and quantitative measures is the gold standard.
  5. Personal Connection. Donors with a deep, personal connection to the cause are likely to support your nonprofit sustainably. How are you creating such bonds?

Without a solid foundation in place, fundraising tactics are the noise before failure.

GET THE FUNDAMENTALS RIGHT

Kim is now focused on getting the fundamentals right so the development effort has a chance to succeed. Her efforts look like a list of best practices for new nonprofits. She is:

  • Working with the board chair to establish key governance committees and board director expectations.
  • Providing charity watchdogs, such as Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and Give.org the needed documents so they can begin rating her nonprofit. She has also learned from them their standards so she can make sure the right transparency and accountability measures are in place.
  • Developing a sound strategy and implementation plan that she can explain in clear, simple terms.
  • Establishing a compelling set of outcome measures so they can begin collecting and assessing the right data, while also gathering powerful personal stories from beneficiaries of their work.
  • Developing creative ways to create personal connections to the mission for her ideal donors.

BRAVO, KIM!

So many nonprofits are understaffed and overloaded with work. This can create a situation, as it had for Kim’s nonprofit, in which the executive director is overwhelmed trying to keep up while the volunteer board is not fully aware of the costs. This is often a recipe for slow failure. Dedicating time and effort to the 5 important-but-not-urgent issues at the top of this article can help your nonprofit create a solid foundation (and will probably reduce the volume of daily crises, too!).

Which D-Day Leader are You?

Which D-Day Leader are You?

June 6, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the intrepid invasion at Normandy, France. Less than a year later, Hitler was dead and Nazi Germany defeated.

Many factors led to the success at D-Day. Strategic Leadership was a key difference. 

The Allied military leadership team outclassed the Nazis, completely fooling them as to the location of the main invasion, taking advantage of their byzantine decision-making process, and preventing large-scale counterattacks on the landings.

The 4 main allied commanders in the Normandy campaign: Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley and Patton were great leaders, yet each was hard-wired differently. They complemented each other — turning diversity into strength.

Find out which D-Day leader most closely resembles the way you are hard-wired as a leader.