John O’Grady recently authored an article for Forbes Coaches Council: A Proven Formula For Successfully Reaching Your 2021 Goals. You can view the article here.

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.

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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?

Mid-level leaders, this is for you.  

As we enter 2021, the challenges you face have never been greater:  
· You must contend with all the new ideas to kick-off the new year
· You must influence your boss without whining, nagging, or appearing as a threat
· You need to influence your peers, so you gain buy-in and avoid coming across as a threat, a backstabber, or a goober
· You need to lead your team and get results, sometimes implementing plans that you do not fully agree with but need to support
· Let’s face it, you will have to develop and execute the return-to-new normal/office/remote work plan

As tough as 2020 was, you are resilient. 

It’s time to invest your 2020 lessons into your 2021 success. 

Join me on Wednesdays in 2021 for “Message from the Middle,” your weekly “share” to increase your value and expand your impact on your team, the boss, peers, and clients. 

Follow me here or join the group at https://lnkd.in/gNpE9JA

CEOs and C-suiters who know where their strength comes from are also welcome.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quoted a tech expert who predicted that technology would soon replace mid-level leaders. 

After all, he suggested, if technology can monitor employee productivity, what’s the point of middle management?

There are two matters to consider before you jump on the bandwagon.

First, your apps will have a hard time addressing one of the biggest productivity drains that companies face: presenteeism.

Presenteeism is the practice of being at work and doing things to look busy but are not boosting your mission and impact.

More importantly, productivity apps do not inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success.

CEOs make a big mistake in believing that the role of mid-level leaders is to make sure people are doing their jobs. 

If that’s the case, then you’ve either hired the wrong people or failed to gain their buy-in.

The first line team leaders and mid-level managers make or break your culture, productivity, and performance.

This level is where people gain buy-in or not. 

This level is where people decide whether they will do only the minimum or contribute their best and most authentic selves to your mission.

Gallup reports that 67% of Americans report being unengaged at work — that’s 67% presenteeism.

Your top-quality first line and mid-level leaders turn that number around so that people are spending two-thirds of their time or more contributing their best selves.

You will inspire people to contribute their best, willingly, to your team’s success by practicing these six habits.

First, be authentic so that you lead as your best self, prune away average habits that hold you back, and build the right team around you. 

Second, follow the three core principles of trustworthinessrespect, and stewardship so that people believe in you, bring out the best in each other, and your team gets better each day.

Next, practice empathy so that you can see yourself and your team through the eyes of others and stay ahead of the competition, avoid blindsides, and bring out the best in each teammate.

Fourth, take responsibility so that you can promote innovation and sensible risk-taking and hold people accountable for results and values … without feeling like a jerk.

Fifth, connect the why so that everyone knows exactly how their work contributes to success. Once this happens, your team will do what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch.

Finally, multiply your experiences. Personal experience is the best teacher of leadership. It is also the school of hard knocks, and the tuition can be costly. Learning from others lets you gain many lifetimes of experience very quickly to make sound decisions and avoid expensive mistakes. 

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

John O’Grady recently authored a 3 part series with Forbes Coaches Council on “Cultivating a Culture of Trust.”

Part 1: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Part 2: Common Challenges

Part 3: Pragmatic Ways to Overcome Common Challenges

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/

Dear Chris,

“What steps can I take to get the best from each day?” Karen G. wrote. 

I love getting these requests from you :0)

1. Organize your day by blocking off 1 hour + chunks of time you dedicate to your priorities. Let every other requirement flow around those chunks.

2. Set three objectives that you will accomplish each day (work on these during your priority times). Keep them achievable. Don’t boil the ocean. Write four paragraphs instead of four chapters.

3. Reward yourself when you meet your three objectives. Make some Oolong tea; grab a cappuccino, take an extra walk with your dog. This practice helps you build the habit of keeping commitments to yourself.

4. Schedule time for your personal, social, familial, and other priorities each week. Sundays are a great day to set your weekly agenda so that you maintain balance and dedicate time to what’s most important in life.

5. Set boundaries and stick to them. If you don’t have the time or something is outside your expertise, say so. The people who matter will respect your boundaries and will appreciate that you are not destroying yourself trying to please everyone.

1- 5 help you put first things first, so you are focused on what matters most.

6. Give thanks. A handwritten note is powerful. A quick video, email, or text is super, too. Recognize someone for awesomeness at the store, restaurant, hospital, or other places you visit during the day. 

Catch people doing something well and let them know you appreciate what they do.

7. Laugh

8. Offer to help. There’s so much opportunity to do the little things that make a big difference. Perform random acts of kindness.  

9. Exercise. Take a walk; ride your bike; go for a run; go to the (home) gym.

6 – 9 release endorphins that reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your self-esteem

10. Read a national paper and a local paper. Know what’s happening in the country and world as well as in your community.

11. Give people your undivided attention when you are speaking with them. Be fully present—no multitasking or smartphones. 

12. Take time for personal growth. Read a book or article, watch a video, listen to a podcast. 

These last three enrich your life and boost your impact.

What is your top action step to get the most from each day? 

Fight, flight, or freeze.

Those responses to fear are hardwired into your amygdala.

Freeze is the most common for leaders, and it can be a silent killer for your business.

A simple framework to understand the fear and overcome it will help you seize opportunities in the 2021-renewal while others are standing still.

You’ve seen it happen. You don’t start the business; you don’t invest in success because of past experiences or self-limiting beliefs about the future. 

Uncertainty heightens the fear of making the wrong decision. 

You cover the paralysis by delaying or asking for more information and new options. 

I’ve done it. I’ve seen it affect an American President, general officers, CEOs, and nonprofit boards and executive directors.

I learned the hard way that you have to get to the root cause of fear to address it.

Imagine a quad chart. 

On the east-west axis, you have past and future.

The north-south axis is success and failure.

1. Fear of past failure occurs when you tried something before, and it did not work out. A business initiative failed, an innovation tanked, you got fired or chewed out. “I can’t do this because I failed last time.”

2. Fear of past success happens when you succeeded at something – perhaps against the odds, and you worry that you cannot pull it off again. “There’s no way I can get those results again, and falling short will diminish me.”

3. Fear of future failure is widespread. You worry that your business or initiative will fail, and you will suffer the consequences. “I want to take this step, but what happens if it doesn’t work?

4. Fear of future success is more subtle. You believe that you will not be up to the challenge of managing growth, “I’m ok leading 10 people, but I cannot handle 50.”

5. Fear of the present uncertainty. Imagine a box in the center of the quad chart. You fear that you might make the wrong decision. “I don’t know if a recovery is coming in 2021, so I will wait and see before making a decision.”

These “freeze” responses keep you standing still. 

When you are standing still, and others are moving forward, you are losing ground.

It’s like stuffing your money into a mattress. 

You don’t lose the money, but inflation lowers its value, and you are missing opportunities for growth. 

Once you understand the nature of the fear, you can take steps to address it.

1. Fear of past failure. Identify the problems that led to the failure and put measures in place to prevent them from recurring.

2. Fear of past success. Reframe your measures of success. Focus more on developing others or creating different business lines, for instance, than meeting past targets.

3. Fear of future failure. Put together two or three viable options for reaching your goals and compare them. Create an action plan for the best option. Once you see how to achieve your goal, getting there becomes much easier!

4. Fear of future success. Determine what capacities you need to excel at the next level and develop them. Find the right support to help you succeed and avoid expensive mistakes along the way.

5. Fear of the present uncertainty. Review your options (to include doing nothing) and assess the risks and opportunities. Pick the best option and go with it. Your decision will probably work out. At worst, it is unlikely to be fatal, and you can make adjustments along the way.

What is your top takeaway from this article? Leave a comment below or email me directly: [email protected]

P.S.  If you’d like to discuss your 2021 goals, use this link to schedule the time that works best for you.

We will discuss your goals and obstacles during the call, and then I’ll offer you two or three action steps that get you moving forward. No sales, no B.S.

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]