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

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]

Managing your time was the #1 response to our top challenges survey.

It was #1 for solopreneurs and microbusiness leaders and #3 for small businesses of 11-50 people.

These results are not surprising.

You probably don’t have a full-time employee to manage your calendar.

You have to run AND grow your business at the same time. You probably don’t have middle management that runs your operations while you focus on growth.

The four horses of the 2020-pocalypse: COVID, economic shutdown, social unrest, and a divisive election have created a series of urgent, existential crises.

You give and give and give to help your clients, customers, employees, family members, and causes that are important to you.

Your time is the first casualty amidst these urgent demands.

To regain control, you need to follow the first principle of time management.

Pay yourself first.

That’s right, it’s just like any sound investment strategy. Pay yourself first.

Follow these steps to get back in control of your time.

1. Block off one- to three-hour chunks of time two or three days per week. Solid chunks of time are what you need to get growth-related things done.

2. Schedule these times on your calendar so that no one but you can override them.

3. Let your team know about your “growth time” [this time also gives them predictability – they know you are not going to parachute in on them].

4. Protect these chunks of time ruthlessly. You will find that you can address the vast majority of urgent demands outside of your growth-time.

5. Avoid the checkerboard calendar, where all you have are 10-15 minutes of white space at a time. It’s not enough to get anything substantial done. Putting four or five of these short blocks together, though, gives you a chunk of time to get sh!t done.

When you use this method, you will be amazed that the number of hours you work per week does not increase. It might even decrease.

By getting rid of your checkerboard calendar, you free up time during the day to do the heavy-lifting that you normally saved until after-hours.

You and your family and your team will be a lot happier and more productive when you pay yourself first.

 What is your top time management action step? Leave a comment here to let me know.

***

If you want more action steps to regain control of your time, let’s set-up a call. You will:

1. Clarify your priorities so that you know ways to make the best use of your time and energy.

2. Uncover the hidden time and energy bandits that are robbing your bandwidth and emotional well-being so that you can put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

3. Get clear action steps using the pay yourself first principle so that you regain control of your time, talent, and energy — and your balance.

Schedule your call here or by using this link: https://callSLA.as.me/Chris.

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

Outrage is bad for your emotional well-being.

It’s like snacking on anger all day long.

It’s bad for your business, too, because it sucks your time and depletes your energy.

Sadly, playing on outrage [if it’s outrageous, it’s contagious] is a television and social media business model.

You are the victim.

I’m a firm believer in a healthy sense of outrage.

You don’t cross certain lines with me – bigotry, disrespect, and predatory behavior are among them, as you know.

I’ll let someone know they’ve crossed the line, and I move on.

I’ve got people to serve and an impact to make.

Unfortunately, TV and social media want to absorb your time.

They hook you with that steady drip of addictive outrage. You lose track of time.

Some of my clients spent over ten hours per week on social media and cable news during the workday.

They didn’t realize it until they tallied the time during one of our mastery program sessions.

Imagine what you could do if you took even 50 percent of that time back and applied it to your priorities.

You’d start regaining control of your time and energy.

You would be more productive, less angry, and better able to grow your business.

Here are three action steps to regain control of your time:

1. Tally your social media and TV time for the past couple of weeks. Find out how much time you are investing in outrage.

2. Devote 3-to-5 minutes a couple of times per day to social media and TV. Get your fix and get out.

3. Pay yourself first. Set aside chunks of time each week to work on your priorities. Schedule everything else outside those time.

BOOM! Take these three steps, and you will be on your way to regaining control of your life.

If you want more action steps to regain control of your time, let’s set-up a call to talk. You will:

1. Clarify your priorities so that you know ways to make the best use of your time and energy.

2. Uncover the hidden time and energy bandits that are robbing your bandwidth and emotional well-being (yes, you lose emotional intelligence when you spend time raging) so that you can put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

3. Get clear action steps using the pay yourself first principle so that you regain control of your time, talent, and energy — and your balance.

The call is free for 7 people each month. I only ask that you make a small donation to your favorite cause.

You don’t need to tell me the cause or the amount, just that you donated.

You will feel great that you supported your cause :0)

Schedule your call here or by using this link: https://callSLA.as.me/Chris.

If you want to nail your next 100 days, you need to focus.

Get command of your time, talent, and energy, so that you have predictable times every week to work ON your business.

You can get so carried away meeting everyone else’s demands that you allow your priorities to gather dust.

You spend your time on email, social media, and in constant firefighting.

You find yourself at the end of the day wondering where all the time has gone.

You don’t have enough time for the fire-prevention tasks that allow you to grow sustainably.

I’ll get to it tomorrow. Rinse. Repeat.

Stop the madness.

Here are four action steps to get out of the spin cycle.

1. Set your priorities. Maintain a top 3 so you don’t diffuse your efforts.

2. Put good ideas on a Not-Now list, so you maintain visibility, but don’t get distracted.

3. Make your Not-To-Do list and outsource, delegate, or drop everything on it.  

4. Weekly planning. Set aside chunks of time each week for you to work on your business. Make these the same days and times so that you build a natural rhythm and bring your best to these sessions.

Focus is part of the 8-step process so that you can nail the next 100 days, build momentum, and rack up wins, even in turbulence and uncertainty.

You will get this process during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from your next level of success.

Get the peace of mind that you have made time to work ON your business.

What is your top takeaway from this article? Let me know: [email protected]

Decide’s Latin origin means to kill off or to sever.

To make a decision thus means to kill off the alternatives.

Common decision-making errors result in you killing off the better alternatives – they are short cuts to expensive failure

Here are two doozies.

Confirmation bias happens when leaders place excessive weight on data that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and discounts contrary information.

We are living this problem right now. 

People on one side of the political spectrum highlight worst-case data on COVID-19. Their opponents emphasize opposite data. 

So many “expert” assessments and statements by political leaders are tainted by confirmation bias that ordinary people like you and me lose faith in their credibility.

It’s not just a political problem.

I fell into the confirmation bias trap myself. 

I wanted to take people on leadership trips to Normandy battlefields. I know the impact these experiences have on leaders and teams, and I’m very good at delivering them.

I wanted to do a lot of good for a lot of people, so I was eager to get going.

I believed that a good social media campaign could lead to mass interest.

A digital marketing agency I hired felt the same and suggested that Facebook ads would be a winner. They had had success with Facebook ads before, with a life-coach. They believed that they could replicate the outcomes. 

We made a series of (really cool) videos, created a complicated sales funnel, and crafted the ads carefully. 

We launched the ads. The videos were really popular and we saw superb engagement rates.

No prospects. 

We needed to create enough volume, we told ourselves, and the ads would pay off. Even if only .1 percent were interested, one million views should lead to 1000 prospects. 

We spent more.

We got nearly 2 million views and 300k “likes.” 

No prospects. No buyers.

I finally shut off the ads.

It turns out that we had tapped into an audience that loved military history, but they were not leaders or buyers.

Most entrepreneurs and leaders go to Facebook to keep up with friends and family, not for business advice.

That was an expensive lesson. 

******

We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

*******

Status quo bias, on the other hand, increases resistance to change, even if your situation sucks and your plan is failing.

Leaders perceive that the status quo is safe. After all, the executive team signed up for the approach at one time.  

Board members or executives poke holes in alternatives, shoot-down proposals, and emphasize the risks of change.

Some resist change for fear of being “wrong” in adopting the current plan. 

Others do not have an apples-to-apples comparison of risk, so they place more confidence in managing the challenges of the failing plan they know than in a proposed alternative that they don’t. 

Solo-entrepreneurs and small business leaders with status quo bias make a decision one day and then talk themselves out of moving forward the next morning. 

You get trapped in the hamster wheel.

Here are two action steps to deal with these problems.

First, assess your assumptions. 

Ask “what must be true” for the plan to work. Those are your assumptions. 

Do a sanity check on the validity of the assumptions.

Do the same with alternate plans. 

This approach gives you an apples-to-apples comparison of the risks and opportunities.

It also helps you check your confirmation bias.

Second, use premortems.

A premortem is a story or two about how the plan failed so that you can identify the indicators and warnings. 

Make those indicators and warnings part of your risk assessment.

When the indicators and warnings light up in the wrong direction, you know it’s time to make a change.

Red-teams or designated critics can be helpful, too, but I prefer the pre-mortems. 

Leaders may rationalize away the former because they are supposed to point out problems. 

They go with the plan anyway and lose the benefit of the premortem’s indicators and warnings.

The premortem is something the decision-makers own, so they are more likely to take them seriously.

We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from making even better decisions :0)

Get the peace of mind that you have decided to work ON your business

What is your top takeaway from this article? 

P.S. Do you want to nail your next 100 days? Of course, you do. Here’s the free training that will help you do exactly that. It’s perfect for solo-entrepreneurs, consultants, and micro-business owners.

You are one decision away from nailing your next 100 days.

Are you trying to put the eggs back together or are you making omelets?

There’s a world of difference between the two approaches.

COVID-19 and the economic shutdown have wrecked the economy and created new social expectations.

People are unlikely to gather closely together until there’s a vaccine or herd immunity.

Open office plans – Good riddance.

Work from home or from remote locations is no longer scary. More employees are going to demand these options. Your culture needs to treat in-office and remote as equals or you will have two classes of employees.

Online conferences and training are productive and far less expensive than doing them in-person. There are trade-offs, of course, but leaders now have options.

It’s tempting to want to put the broken eggs back together, to return to the way things were in January 2020.

For some leaders, that’s reasonable.

For many, though, it’s a fool’s errand.

You will miss opportunities to restore your growth as you cling stubbornly to past practices and expectations.

You won’t adapt your flywheel, so your competitors will pass you by as you spend time, energy, and resources trying to recreate the past.

Your top talent will leave because you are out-of-step with people’s expectations. It’s like asking Millenials to accept a Mad Men workplace. Not going to happen.

Imagine what it would be like to be making omelets while everyone else is fumbling around with the eggshells?

This is exactly where you want to be – ahead of the curve.

Here are some practical questions to help you do that.

1. What emerging social and economic trends are affecting your customers?

2. What steps can you take to meet these new needs and expectations?

3. What trends, such as remote workplaces, are affecting your culture?

4. What steps should you take to meet these expectations?

5. What resources do you need to take these steps?

You got it. Five clarifying questions that help you make omelets when everyone else is staring at the broken shell and drifting yolk.