Winterization is the technical term for preparing your home, car, business, or person for extreme cold weather.

My Norwegian friends tell me that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Winterization is a set of preventative actions you take so that your pipes don’t burst, your engine doesn’t seize, and you don’t get frostbite.

Corrective and adaptive actions are measures you take when these problems occur. 

You replace the pipes (corrective), repair the damage to your home (adaptive), replace the engine (corrective), or get surgery for a damaged limb (adaptive).

Preventative action is always less expensive than corrective or adaptive action.

Don’t be distracted by the blame-game as Texas politicians and energy officials point fingers. 

The failure to winterize facilities and ensure a reliable power baseload has resulted in a deadly and expensive nightmare for Texans.

You can’t control the weather, pandemics, or many other factors that affect your business.

You can control whether or not you invest in sensible preventative action.

Think of preventative actions in three categories:

Leadership: Investing in your people (and board of directors) so that they make good decisions and inspire people to contribute their best.

Culture: Strengthening your team’s operating system of values and expectations – improving how you work together and serve your customers. 

Strategy: Governing your organization’s purpose and direction and executing a solid game-plan to reach your goals.

Ten years ago, Texas had an energy freeze like it’s experiencing today. 

They failed to take preventative actions afterward.

What preventative actions will you take to protect your business?

It was a horrifying and despicable scene, the violent mob egged on by a sitting President, ransacking our Capitol to disrupt the final act of confirming the 2020 election results.

I used to live 6 blocks from the Capitol and briefed members of both Houses. To see those halls damaged was shocking. The loss of life deeply saddens me. I’m troubled by the state of affairs that led to this incident. 

A democracy is only as strong as the willingness of its people to protect it. Americans will need to rise to the occasion. 

The same divisive and intolerant practices that have characterized both sides of the partisan divide will not yield different results. 

Things can get much worse if we let them.

______________________________________________________________________

What are some practical leadership takeaways? 

1. A leader serves everyone on the team.

There’s a difference between a demagogue and a leader. 

A demagogue is one who gains popularity by whipping-up animosities. 

A leader inspires each person to contribute their best to the team’s success.

You’ve met this standard when your most vulnerable employees feel the safety and confidence to contribute their best and most authentic selves.

2. Character counts. 

You don’t have to be perfect. The only people who’ve never erred are the ones who’ve attempted nothing. 

You build character in the arena of life, making mistakes and learning from them.

The person who repeats and doubles-down on awful behavior is one to get off of your team. 

I’ve seen leaders rationalize toxic behavior. “The jerk gets results.”

The chickens always come home to roost – sometimes with the toxic leader present, other times you realize it after the fact. 

Toxic leaders damage people, teams, and institutions.

3. Values matter. 

Don’t handwave your values with feel-good statements. 

Be clear on your standards and expectations. 

Set the right example. Every employee should know what right looks like, and your actions should be the model.

Let people know that violence, bullying, and name-calling are unacceptable, too. 

No matter how self-righteous a person thinks they are, the physical, mental, or emotional abuse of another human being is wrong and damaging. 

Politically-correct bigotry is still bigotry, and it’s not OK.

4. Build bridges, rather than walls.

Right now, your employees—like many Americans—may be bitterly divided along political lines. 

A diverse team with buy-in to a common purpose, shared objectives, and respectful dialogue has resilience.

Belittling or lecturing people who disagree with you is the fast-track to resentment and paralysis.

If you want to get things done, you need to go to the other person’s bus-stop and see the issue from their point of view.

When you can describe their view back to them and get, “that’s exactly right,” you are ready to find solutions to challenging problems.

Empathy is fundamental to gaining buy-in and getting things done.

5. Keep calm and don’t recycle outrage.

In social and broadcast media, outrageous is contagious. 

Peddling outrage undermines civil discourse. 

Competing animosities escalate and eventually explode. 

What is your #1 leadership lesson?

Jeff Marquez authored a 4 part series in Hispanic Executive entitled “The Crisis Life Cycle: Where Are You Looking?” This series of articles covers working through a crisis and where to look to shape success. It can help assess your leadership, culture, and strategy.

Part 1: RAMP: React, Adjust, Manage, Prosper

Part 2: Engage Middle Management, Work On Your Business, Prepare for the New Normal

Part 3: Trust

Part 4: A New Culture Paradigm

Jeff’s latest article in Hispanic Executive, “Don’t Hide the Tortillas,” introduces a vision for the Hispanic community. “We are diverse. We are strong. And we belong.”

https://hispanicexecutive.com/dont-hide-the-tortillas/

As a second wave of COVID infections race across the U.S., nonprofit and foundation leaders face a daunting future. How will you succeed in 2021? The COVID19 pandemic has affected all sectors of society. While most businesses have suffered setbacks and have tried to pivot toward new profitability areas, nonprofits and foundations face particular leadership and management challenges as they strive to continue their organizations’ missions. Nonprofit revenues have fallen by as much as 75 percent, and most organizations cannot provide services in the manner they are used to providing. 

I interviewed seven senior leaders–presidents, vice presidents, executive directors, and senior board members of well-known nonprofits and foundations to learn about the challenges they face. I opted to offer them non-attribution so I could garner their full participation. The leaders were diverse, both female and male, from different geographic regions and backgrounds. I asked each of them about their current thinking on the following: nonprofit leaders’ most important focus areas and tasks; general challenges for a nonprofit or foundation; the importance of organizational culture; the importance of a winning strategy; and what action steps they think leaders should take in the aftermath of the COVID19 pandemic. As a group, they were eager to offer their thoughts and very candid in their responses.

Nonprofit leaders’ most important focus areas and tasks in the current era

People first! The COVID pandemic has upended the lives of our workers. Normally, the focus of a nonprofit or foundation is adherence to the mission. But the majority of leaders I spoke to are concerned about their workers’ mental and physical wellbeing. It is time to keep close tabs on their moods and challenges they and their families face or risk burnout, and low employee engagement and retention. 

That said, more than ever, a nonprofit or foundation must have a clearly articulated mission, vision, and strategy.  Leaders are concerned that a newly distributed or virtual workforce can easily veer from the organization’s priorities, contributing to mission or scope “creep,” which dilutes impact and wastes scarce resources on unimportant work. A way to combat this “creep” is to focus on the “why” of the organization’s mission to maintain focus in a distributed workforce.

Although not their top priority, the leaders I spoke with are adamant that they must continue to focus on sustainable funding and programmatics. A sound business model can weather short to medium term “black swan” events. Also, nonprofit and foundation leaders must involve their board members in the fundraising and revenue planning and require transparency in the metrics.

Current leadership challenges for a nonprofit or foundation

A huge concern of the leaders I spoke with is retention. The cost of hiring and training talented staff is approximately twice the expected annual salary of each worker lost to attrition. So training and retaining a multi-talented workforce, especially during the pandemic, is a critical challenge. I say multi-talented because several leaders were passionate about cross-training their workforce to ensure the loss of any one employee does not hamper operations. Position descriptions must include tasks normally performed by others.

Three leaders’ top concern was their own “leader isolation” from their team, exacerbated by COVID lockdowns and reliance on virtual meetings. They feel that they are losing the ability to sense where the organization is and where it is going. 

The third most common leadership challenge I heard was dealing with the current crisis while keeping an eye on and aligning with the organization’s long-term strategy. Several leaders find themselves in “fire-fighting” mode, focused on the challenges brought on by the pandemic while knowing that they need to spend more time on growing their revenues or modifying their strategy or mission. It has been a juggling act between short-term pivots and long-term action plans.

The importance of a positive organizational culture

All of the leaders I interviewed place a high priority on cultivating a positive workplace culture, especially during these difficult times.   Culture is an outgrowth of the organization’s values and indicates the degree that its leadership and workforce buy into those values. That includes the board.  One leader noted that toxic internal culture could permeate the board. 

Cultural change is challenging and can take significant effort, especially among a distributed workforce. Leaders say you achieve culture change in the long term by continuously communicating and living the organization’s values in all media publications, in meetings, and in staff check-ins. 

Some leaders said it is important to communicate the shorter term “wins” to staff, especially in a virtual workplace. All agreed that frequent staff check-ins are key to gauging staff welfare. At the same time, a few commented that part of their organizations’ culture-building plan is to allow staff work hours flexibility since working at home can create family conflicts that can affect their productivity.

A winning strategy is key

Six of the seven leaders said that their organization has a written strategy and that it is a must-do, as it creates alignment and guides their annual action plans. Two leaders noted that it’s best to keep the strategy short, simple, and easy to communicate. Most agreed that the strategy should look out no longer than three to five years, and it must be flexible to changing conditions to remain relevant during upheavals like the COVID pandemic. 

The leaders unanimously stated that nonprofit strategies are important for the board, who are not in constant contact with the organization. Hence, the board must be part of the strategy writing process and help shape it. Once the strategy is final, the board must support and promote it.

Finally, several leaders noted that adhering to a winning strategy helps prevent nonprofits and foundations from mission or scope creep and the possible resulting staff confusion or burnout in the event of massive disruptions like COVID.

Action steps to take in the aftermath of the COVID19 pandemic

Five of the nonprofit and foundation leaders I interviewed offered some great action steps to move your organization forward during an upheaval like COVID:

·      Nonprofit leaders must recognize both immediate and emerging community needs and realize that while providing material needs first, the effort must also identify emerging social requirements. An example: While providing food, shelter, and medical assistance to the jobless population, a successful nonprofit leader also partners with the local business community to find identify emerging local workforce shortages in the IT sector, and then creates IT training programs that benefit both the jobless and the local economy.

·      Nonprofits must prove their relevance and be responsible to their stakeholders. A leadership training program for executive directors, senior staff, and the board of directors can help improve alignment to strategy and immediate priorities and build trust to improve return on investment in the current environment. Also, make sure to place staff in positions that maximize their talent and interests to improve productivity and guard against a toxic workplace culture or worker burnout.

·      Nonprofit leaders must have the ability to pivot to their community’s needs. The key is trained staff who can recognize shifting requirements or priorities and make bold decisions. And be agile and ready to continuously pivot as needs are met and new conditions arise.

·      Nonprofit leaders, including boards, should conduct a look-back, or “hot wash” of their organization’s reaction to the onset of the COVID pandemic, and create an after-action report to recommend changes required to their strategy; realign their mission/vision/goals/priorities; create a staff training program to deal with “black swan” events, and most importantly, decide if a fundamental change in mission is needed, or even a merger with another organization. 

·      Find the wins. Embrace innovation to continue your mission with new IT tools. An unexpected outgrowth of the virtual workplace is recognizing that it levels the playing field between headquarters staff and field workers. Virtual meetings provide opportunities for inclusion as each staff member is a distinct “square” on the screen rather than sitting behind the leaders in a conference room. Headquarters junior staff and staff in the field are speaking up and having their voices heard for the first time. Also, one organization broke its annual plan into three 4-month sprints to maximize its flexibility to pivot as conditions change. 

I would offer the following two action steps nonprofit leaders can take now to create momentum going into 2021:

·      Individual weekly check-ins with your leadership and middle management teams are a great way to communicate your organization’s values. Don’t forget to ask each team member what you can do to help them overcome the challenges of working remotely. Here is a link to a free worksheet that will guide you through the check-ins: https://strategicleadersacademy.com/check-in

·      Leading with authenticity begins with knowing your WHO — your leader-persona. Leaders tend to be one of four broad leader-archetypes. Some people lead like Steve Jobs. Others like Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II, or Abraham Lincoln. Authenticity is about understanding and owning your WHO — being yourself as a leader. Once you know your WHO, you can be very intentional about becoming the best version of yourself. Once you know the WHOs of your team, you can help them become the best versions of themselves. Imagine the increase in productivity, engagement, and morale when everyone brings the best version of themselves to work every day. Take our assessment to find out if you are a Maverick, Pioneer, Operator, or Reconciler. Share it with your team and compare results. Do you have key leaders among all 4 types? Check out our free quiz: https://strategicleadersacademy.com/TLleaderquiz 

The events of 2020 have certainly brought a lot of upheaval to the nonprofit industry. But with the right mindset, leaders can set up their organizations to thrive in 2021. While focusing on mission is important, nonprofit leaders should also be evaluating organizational changes that result in increased resilience in their teams. If the events of 2020 tell us anything, it is that our people are and should be our priority. 

Now is a great time to renew your focus on your nonprofit or foundation’s mission, values, culture, and strategy. If you’d like to schedule a call, we can discuss your top three goals for 2021, the top three obstacles that are preventing you from obtaining those goals, and some action steps you can take now, all for free. I can be reached at [email protected]

John’s article for Forbes Coaches Council highlights leadership lessons embedded in the show’s memorable songs.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/10/26/what-the-play-hamilton-teaches-us-about-effective-leadership/?sh=39b1907245f5

As you know, a simple, effective decision-making process enables you to solve problems, avoid expensive mistakes, and seize opportunities that grow your business.

Here are the four most critical steps in the process.

Think FD3: Frame, Define, Develop, Determine.

1. Frame your decision statement with an action verb, object, and so that.

Clarity on what you are deciding and the purpose of that decision will save you hours of frustration and prevent you from spinning in circles.

“To purchase [verb] a new car [object] so that I can get to work [purpose].”

“To invest in marketing so that my ideal clients know how I serve them.”

2. Define your MUSTS and Wants so that you have clear criteria.

A must is a mandatory requirement that you can measure. Use “so-thats” for clarity.

“A compact car so that it fits in the parking garage.”

“Clear materials so that my ideal clients know the outcomes to expect.”

A want is something you desire but can live without if necessary.

“I want a blue car.”

“I want to invest less than $15,000.”

Rank order your wants, with ten being the most important and one being the least important.

3. Develop your options so that you have alternatives to compare.

You should create at least three viable options so that you do not fixate on the first solution that comes to mind.

You might wind up selecting what your “gut instinct” identifies, but creating options helps you avoid errors that come from what’s known as availability bias – defaulting to a recent, high-profile example that has stuck in your mind.

Advertisers rely on availability bias to influence your choices.

People who cancel airline tickets after a plane crash and decide to drive instead are using a high-profile incident to make a less safe travel choice.

4. Determine your best option by ensuring you’ve met the Musts, and you’ve got the most critical Wants.

Use a simple chart to check off the Musts and tally up the Wants.

The best score wins.

Frame – Define – Develop – Determine (FD3) is a simple, effective process that you can use for any decision you need to make in life and business.

Once you make the decision, you will need to deploy it to your team. We’ll discuss that in another post :0)

How well is this process working for you? Leave a comment below or send me an email: [email protected]

“I want my subordinates to make decisions,” Jim told me, “but they keep asking for permission.”

Why is that so bad, I asked him, you know they won’t make a wrong decision.

“The problem is that the decisions keep piling up on my plate. It’s like the salad bar at Olive Garden. Before you know it, you’ve got a mound of everything, and you lose your appetite for the main course. I feel like I can never get to the main course.”

Greens can be good for you.

“The problem is that I need to make my decisions – that’s the main course. My decisions are getting cold and stale because I’m choking on the salad bar. We’re losing opportunities because I’m in the weeds.”

That makes sense. What have you done to encourage your subordinates to make decisions?

“I tell them that’s what I want them to do. They nod in agreement. An hour later, the emails come in asking me permission to do this, that, and the other thing.”

What happened the last time someone made a poor decision?

“I kinda lost my mind.”

Does this conversation sound familiar?

I’ve had a version of it three times in the past week, which is why I’m writing this article for you.

The COVID pandemic and economic uncertainty have made people even more risk-averse.

Decisions that your direct reports should be making are piling up on your plate and reducing your bandwidth to do your job.

Here are three action steps that will help you boost people’s confidence to make decisions.

1. Define the decision-space. Have your direct reports outline the scope of their decision-making authority and boundaries. Discuss and refine. You’ll be able to reinforce the shared commitment to your common purpose as you do so. 

2. Set the expectations. Every time you lose your mind when someone makes an honest mistake, you discourage initiative.

Let people know how you will respond if a decision they make does not work out well.

If it’s a mistake of commission – someone erred when trying to do the right thing – then you need to underwrite the error and coach.

Underwriting the mistake will sustain their confidence that you won’t throw them under the bus. Coaching will help your subordinates learn from the experience.

A mistake of omission – laziness, ethical short-cuts, etc. – deserves punishment.

Walk your talk.

3. Practice. Rehearse the decisions and your responses if things go well or go poorly. When someone tries to put the ball in your lap, give it back to them, and review steps 1 and 2.

What’s your top takeaway about encouraging people to make decisions?

Let me know with a comment or email at [email protected]

The United States Army says that leadership is “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.”

A cringe-worthy business leadership definition is “the capacity of a company’s management to set and achieve challenging goals, take fast and decisive action when needed, outperform the competition, and inspire others to perform at the highest level they can.”

Here’s the problem with these definitions: any jerk with a big enough stick can meet these standards.

Here’s the effect: the lack of standards that differentiate leaders from jerks can prompt you to rationalize bad behavior that gets results.

As you know, excusing tyranny is a devil’s bargain that rarely ends well.  

“Chickenshit” behavior, to use historian Paul Fussell‘s elegant term for toxic leadership in the Army, ends up pushing your top talent out the door, demoralizing your employees, and creating a toxic workplace.

Disengagement, presenteeism, and turnover are the highest costs most companies face.

Turnover, according to Gallup, costs somewhere between 50 and 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

That means a 100-person company with a 50k average salary that has a 26 percent turnover rate (the U.S. average in 2017) loses $660,000 to $2.6 million each year.

What options would $1.6 million give you?

Getting turnover to a healthy eight percent begins with good leadership.

Here’s SLA’s definitionLeadership is the art of inspiring people to contribute their best to the common good.

Here are five action steps to inspire people to contribute their best to your company’s common good:

* Lead with authenticity so that you get past imposter syndrome and stop allowing the red cape at work to make you comatose at home.

* Inspire people to do what’s right even when no one is watching so that you avoid micromanaging and focus instead on growth.

* Get the right people in the right roles doing the right things so that you plug the drain on employee turnover and boost productivity 2X – 3X.

* Adapt quickly to turbulence and uncertainty so that you can innovate and lead change – and avoid slow-rolling and risk aversion that kills your best initiatives.

* Set aside empty cheerleading and carrots-and-sticks so that you can spark a genuine commitment to results.

What do you think of our definition of leadership? Add your comments to the article or email me at [email protected]

Historian and WWII veteran Paul Fussell has the best definition I’ve seen:

“Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant ‘paying off of old scores’; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances.”

Yes, America’s Greatest Generation had plenty of chickenshit.

It’s no surprise we do, too.

Substitute “business” or “nonprofit” for “military,” and you would not need to change much else from Fussell’s definition.

Good leadership cleans up chickenshit quickly.

Leadership is the art of inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success.

Petty harassment, bullying, upstaging, back-biting, bureaucratic pedantry, gaslighting, and cheap power-plays undermine your team’s performance as people look over their shoulders and cover their butts.

What happens in your halls, slack chats, and zoom calls is more important than what you write on the walls.