Friday, December 22, 2006

Viral marketing as a smart and friendly system

Viral marketing is a smart a friendly system. You create something--a story, a video on You-Tube, or in this case, a remarkable digital Christmas card--and people will e-mail each other about it and the word spreads quickly. It's a very inexpensive way of marketing and can easily be adapted by nonprofits. Check out the Ashland College Christmas card.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Overseeing a culture of responsibility

It's the responsibility to top leadership to see both the intended and unintended consequences of the systems the organization sets up. Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban had a great post earlier this week on the fines the NBA commissioner handed out to the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks players involved in last week's brawl.

Cuban said, "I like that the commissioner fined the teams 500k, but I don't think it goes far enough. Not in terms of dollar amount, but in terms of assigning responsibility. I think the coaches, the President, GM and Owners should have been fined directly instead." He added, "The responsibility of the culture of a team and organization, of any business, starts with the owner and is implemented by the team's President, GM and Coach or whoever is in the position to manage the workforce."

Organizations our wholes. In the nonprofit world, when a direct care staff worker abuses a person receiving services, the staff person is rightly fired. But the board and CEO need to review the systems they have established that made the abuse possible.

The culture of an organization is supported by its systems. It's difficult leadership work to look honestly at the unintended consequences of the systems you have put in place to do good. But that's the responsibility of humble heirarchy leaders.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Distrbuted leadership

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, based in New York City, a Grammy Award-winning ensemble, has no cunductor and yet it performs Mozart and Stravinsky to rave reviews around the world.

In a fascinating Business 2.0 column, Jeffrey Pfiffer talks about the advanatges of what he calls distributed leadership--employees leading themselves.

The orchestra has a managing director but the musicians not only play in the orchestra but do fund-raising, staffing, and educational outreach. Traditional leadership too often creates bottlenecks and fails to bring out the best in everyone.

Check out the column. Nonprofits ought to take the lead in letting employees lead. I do believe it would be away to energize your staff. After all leading is fun. Why shoudn't everybody have fun for the benefit of the organization?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Your stories reveal the treasure

I have a friend, Jim Fitz, who works with Christian Peacemaker Teams. When he first began peace work he had a hard time writing reports to donors and supporters. But then he began to tell stories.

Here's a story from a November e-mail:

I was traveling with Juan, a rural Pentecostal pastor, on the way to an evening worship service near Cucuta, Colombia. He told me this story:

"One night the Paras (Paramilitaries) took a 23 year old mother in our church and shot her in front of her children, because the Paras thought she had killed her Para friend. The community was afraid to go to recover the body, for fear of what the Paras might do to anyone who showed sympathy to the mother. So they called me. I went that very night and recovered the body and gave her a proper funeral in our church, as a way of saying that the church was not going to be intimated by the Paras threats. As often happens here in this war, it was soon found out that the killing was a mistake for she had had nothing to do with the killing of her Para friend. Then, led by the Spirit, the church carried the coffin to where Paras lived and buried the body there.”

“This made the Paras face their awful mistake every time they passed the grave. As a result many of the Paras quit. They even had fights among themselves. And this event became the beginning of the end of the Paras control in the region. Three years ago we could not drive this road we are on tonight for fear of the Guerrillas or Paras. They are still around, but their control of the people is greatly diminished."

A mission statement helps people know who your nonprofit serves and how you are transforming lives but it is the stories that reveal the treasure.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Consensus and accountability

Yesterday I did a post that ended with me pondering how the Evergreen Leaders board can define its expectations for me as the CEO/Teachers Asst. and the organization in carrying out its mission. How can I report at each board meeting the effectiveness of Evergreen Leaders?

I am intrigued by an article in the Facilitation Quarterly called “The Link between Consensus and Profitability” The article summarizes a study done by Charles-Huber Heyvaert, a researcher at the University of Leuven in Belgium, that shows a positive link between consensus on overall objectives and profitability.

I was particularly intrigued that the study focused not on consensus on a particular decision but consensus on the overall objectives of the companies.

Nonprofits do not measure profitability but it has to be good when a nonprofit’s board has consensus on what key issues it wants to measure to determine our effectiveness as an organization in carrying out our mission.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday I met with the Evergreen Leaders board in a regular session. The board spent part of the time discussing its role. Someone mentioned that their role is to hold me, as CEO/Teacher's Assistant, accountable.

I responded that holding me accountable for EGL finances is easy because I can have our bookkeeper produce a financial statement for each board meeting.

But I would like the board define it's expecations of me and the organization in carrying out our mission. How can I report at each board meeting the effectiveness of Evergreen Leaders?

Our mission is to help nonprofits transform the lives of the people they serve and to be great work places. We do consulting, coaching, and leadership development workshops to help nonprofits to help thrive.

But how does the board measure our effectiveness in helping nonprofits carry out their mission and to be great work palces?

I think it's time to study John Carver again. And trust the board as the wrestle with what they expect from me and the organization.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

People have time for people

My daughter is in Ethiopia for a month long visit. Her husband is Ethiopian and this is their first visit since they were married three years ago. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail from a couple days ago:
  • One of his uncles, Tedla, took us around the city today and brought us to his home. He is married and has twins—boy and girl- 2yrs old. They are sooooo cute and make you smile. They live in a room about 6 feet by 10 feet. They share an outhouse with others in their compound. He is happy and so thankful for his children and for his wife. Each evening friends and family members come over to visit. That is one thing different than the states is that people have time for people.
I've been pndering that pharse: "...people have time for people."

In 1999 Gallup published First, Break All the Rules that featured 12 characteristics of great work places and one of the 12 was "I have a best friend and at work."

When it was published reviewers and commenatators scoffed at the notion that friendship is an important part of work. That's because people in our country assume that productivity comes from ignoring people and focusing on the work at hand. Perhaps people having time for people is the path to productivity.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday morning I pulled into a Chicago area Loyola parking lot on my way to see my rheumatologist. All the handicapped parking spaces were full. I drifted to the far side of the lots and found two vacant space, slipped my van into one, and swung my door wide to ease out my unbending knees.

After I was in my wheelchair I looked at the slender, empty space on the driver's side and thought, if a vehicle pulls into the slot, I'll never be able to get into the van. Lord, I'll need help.

Sure enough. When I returned from my appointment a car was parked on the drivers side. I looked around. A Middle Eastern man neared me. "Sir," I said, sitting in my wheelchair, "I can't get into my van with the car parked next to it. Could you please back it out for me?" I held out the keys.

"Yes, I will be glad to help you," he said in accented English.

He could drive off, I thought, as he backed up and manuevered the van into the lane. Once he had it in the lane he got out. I thanked him. He continued on his way and I loaded up my wheelchair.

A leader depends on the kindness of strangers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What to do when you are called in for questioning

Lately I've been on the road quite a bit and I'm listening to John Grisham's The Innocent Man. A small town Oklahoma police department and prosecutor "solved" two murders back through coerced confessions. A painful, gripping book. As I'm listening I think, if you are ever called in for questioning, ask for an attorney immediately even if you are innocent and think all you have to do is tell the truth.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Attracting great staff

While waiting for an open computer at a library I scanned old issues of BusinessWeek. The September 18, 2006 issue ranks the 50 best places to launch a career. The list includes two nonprofits, Peace Corps at #38nand Teach for America at #43.

For nonprofits to thrive they must attract talent and make it possible for that talent to thrive.

The best way to measure whether your workplace is a place where people with talent can thrive is to regulalry test your organization or department on the 12: The Elements of Great Managing . The book is a sequel to the 1999 runaway bestseller First, Break All the Rules.

I haven't read 12 yet but I have returned to First, Break All the Rules over and over again. I'll never forget doing a workshop and seeing Ed Sims, a direct service worker in a small group home, look at the 12 questions Gallup identified that distinguish a great work place. He picked them up and waved them and said, "They are exactly right. It's not about money. It's about these."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Spotting dangerous leaders

Recently I had lunch with Len Corti, a retired Fortune 500 executive. I love hearing his stories. He began telling me about a point in his career when he was raising money from investors for business start-ups. “I was dangerous," he said.

“Tell me more,” I said, puzzled by the comment.

“I was dangerous because I believed in what I was doing" he said. "I really believed in the start-ups and because I believed I raised money but that doesn’t mean the start-ups were all good investments.”

Since our lunch I’ve been pondering, "How do you know whether a person is a good faith leader or someone who is dangerous in their beliefs?"

I'm writing the next issue of the 7 Paths e-letter on that topic. If you'd like to read the issue when it comes out on December 14, and you're not a subscriber, you can subscribe to the free e-letter at the top right-hand side of this blog.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Are e-letters a good nonprofit investment?

Last week I stopped in at Gateway Services, a nonprofit I've done consulting and training for. When I do a workshop, I ask particpants if I may have their e-mail address and add it to our 7 Paths e-letter list. As I was rolling down a hallway at the npo, a staff member stopped me and said how much she appresciated learning from the e-letter.

In this day in age of overflowing inboxes of spam I've wondered if the e-letter is a good use of my time.

Then tonight the Studio 501c blog pointed me to an executive summary of a study on e-letters by Nielsen Norman Group. The key finding of the study:
  • Users tend to glance at websites when they need to accomplish something or to find the answer to a specific question. In contrast, newsletters feel personal because they arrive in users’ inboxes, and users have an ongoing relationship with them. Newsletters also have a social aspect, as users often forward them to colleagues and friends
  • The positive aspect of this emotional relationship is that newsletters can create much more of a bond between users and a company than a website can.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Today's main events

Today my goal was to have two conversations, breakfast with a potential Evergreen Leaders client and dinner with a young couple from our church. Of course, I could think of many other things to do today like this blog entry but I kept focused on the two conversations as my contribution to the world today.

I used to keep a to do list. I found it depressing because I could never get through the list in a day.

I became a much happier camper when I began planning on the two or three main events of the day and then filling it a few details each day around the main events.

Steven Covey calls it "first things first." Others call it planning the big rocks. I call it the main events.

It's almost 10:00 p.m. and I'm still riding high because my two main events were beyond what I could hope or dream. Speaking of dreams, goondnight, friends.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Whose cares more--nursing or housekeeping?

Within three hours of becoming a patient at a nonprofit, community hospital (a nasty bit spider-bite induced infection in my foot), a nursing supervisor had me furious. And my wife, Sarah, too.

No one may stay over night with a patient unless the patient is in serious condition, said a stone-faced nursing supervisor. A new policy, she said, because of boyfriends staying over night, homeless cousins, and people who had been drinking.

When I checked in I asked for a private room, glad to pay the extra $31 a night to make it possible for Sarah to stay in the room with me, something we had done last November when I spent five days in the same hospital with pneumonia.

Didn't matter to Nurse Stone-Faced. I'm disabled, I said. My wife can help me and it'll make easier for your staff. Use your call light, said Nurse Stone-Faced.

I want to appeal, I said. Talk to the administartor tomorrow. Implication to Sarah, get out of here tonight.

Organizations thrive on smart and friendly systems. The "no one stays overnight in the hospital except parents of young children and family of seriously ill patients" is smart and friendly for the night shift nurses who don't have to deal with unpredictable family members present.

But not for patients. According to my daughter who's an RN and studying to be a Nurse Practioner, the research clearly shows that patients recover better when family is present.

After the surgeon had cut a hole in my foot, drained the infection, packed it with gauze, wrapped it, and left, Sarah looked at me and said, "You look distressed."

"I thought I was done fighting hospitals," I said.

Almost 32 years ago in our first year of marriage I had to spend fives weeks in the hospital, most of it in a rehab hospital that allowed visitors from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Didn’t matter that we were newly weds. Visiting hours were visiting hours. Desperate to be a good husband, I talked my doctor into extending visiting hours to 10:00 and then we had hell to pay from the hospital staff who were angry that I got special privileges.

Getting a feisty look on her face Sarah said, “I’m going to find the administrator's home number,” thumbing through the phone book.

“You find the number, I’ll call him.”

“Mr. H, are you the hospital administrator?”


I launched into a succinct description of the situation and concluded by saying, “If this policy is applied to my wife tonight this will be the last time I will use your hospital.”

He handled it very well, asking clarifying questions, and then telling me that he would call the nursing supervisor and someone would get back to me. We knew Sarah could stay the night when a CNA brought in a reclining chair for Sarah to sleep in.

The next morning, Barb the housekeeper, a cheerful soul if there ever was one, blew into my room. She saw Sarah waking up on a recliner next to my bed and said, “You don’t look very comfortable.”

Sarah acknowledged she did not have a goodnight’s sleep on the chair. “Would you like a roll away bed tonight?” she asked Sarah. “The hospital has three of them,” said Barb. “I’ll look for one for you.” “Yes.”

In the afternoon Barb stopped in again. “I’m sorry,” she said. “All the cots are being used by parents who are staying with their kids.”

The next day when Barb breezed in and began mopping the floor, she said, “I told my husband last night that I felt terrible because I couldn’t find a bed for that poor woman who had to sleep on that uncomfortable recliner.”

Later in the day Barb popped in and said, “One of the children was just discharged and there’s a bed available. Would you like me to put it in your restroom and you can use it tonight?” “Yes.”

Sarah worked the evening shift at another hospital but when she arrived at IVCH at 1:00 a.m. she had a much more comfortable sleep thanks to Barb, the housekeeper. I about cry just writing this. Barb was deeply caring. She went out of her way to be kind to Sarah as Sarah stood by her man in the hospital.

The hospital has a slogan--"We care for you."

I have a hard time convincing myself that whoever dreamed up the no family overnight policy was caring for Sarah and me but I have no doubt about Barb, the smart and friendly housekeeper.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Headline turns my stomach

Actually it was not the headline but the subhead, reprinted in full below:

The nation's 2 million inmates and their keepers are the ultimate captive market: a $37 billion economy bulging with business opportunity

Business 2.0 December 2006, p. 62

The USA is the world leader in the number of prisoners with 715 per 100,000. Instead of acknowledging the shame of leading the world in holding people captive, Biz 2.0 cavalierly describes the inmates and their keepers as "the ulitmate captive market", one "bulging with business opportunity.


My ancestors came from Norway. The USA has 7 times as many prisoners per 100,000 as Norway.

For some reason or other I hear an echo from tha economic engine from our nation's past--slavery.

In fairness to the author of the Business 2.0 story, the story features a former prisoner who has started a business offering reduced collect call rates for prisoners. Collect calls that average four times the cost of regular collect calls is just one typical way that someone is making money off the "ultimate captive market."

I'm a big fan of nonprofits learning from the most humane practices of progressive businesses but some business practices should be avoided like e coli.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Trust is a beautiful thing

Imagine working at a place where they trust you to use your time wisely even when they can't see you? Check out the BusinessWeek Cover story, Smashing the Clock. Thanks for the heads up from Bill Harris' blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Giving and taking criticism

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.

-- Frank A. Clark

Clark's observation makes sense when you are criticizing from a position of power. Then your criticism needs to be as nourishing as a gentle rain.

But if you are in a position of power, you need to accept and welcome criticism as fierce as a driving rain. Why? Put yourself in the shoes of your critic. Criticizing a person in power is scary business. The only way the critic can criticize the person in power is to crank up his courage and spit it out. In that case it is not likely to come out gentle but it is likely to provide the leader, the person in power, with valuable information.

When George W. Bush ran for re-election as USA president in 2004 he made sure that his security people screened out every possible critic. They were very effective. Not once during the campaign was Bush heckled. After Bush's re-elction, his one purported critic within his first administration, Colin Powell, was out.

Subsequently, Bush missed important information from critics of his Iraq war policy until it was too late and he lost Republican control of the House and Senate.

The humble heirarchy leader knows that he needs the information provided by his fiercest critic.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

What will succeed mission statements?

Yesterday my daughter, Hannah Hackworth, called to say that she has been urging her workplace, Urban Jacksonville, to develop a mission statement. Urban Jax is an organization that provides a variety of services for seniors in Jacksonville, FL.

In mid-December thay have a staff meeting that will focus on developing their organizations mission statement. Hannah asked if I have materials on developing mission statements. I do. I've taught individuals and organizations how to develop their mission statements. I particularly like Laurie Beth Jones' approach to developing mission statements.

But I'm losing my enthusiasm for mission statements.

Recently I read a story where a consultant meeting with a group of 20 or so business CEOs asked them to write out their corporate mission statements. Then he had them place them on a table, mixed them up, and challenged the CEOs to find their mission statements. The mission statements were so much alike that the CEOs had a hard time picking out theirs.

Lately I've begun to consider treasure statements as an alternative to mission statements.

When a client knocks on the door of a nonprofit he does so with a mixture of desperation and hope. The knock on the door is the beginning of a journey with staff and client together searching for a treasure.

Whats that treasure? A transformation in the life of the client.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll do an occassional post as I ponder how to create a simple process that an organization like Urban Jacksonville can use to describe the treasure they have to offer to folks who knock on their door.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Treasure path basics

Nonprofit organizations thrive on the treasure of meeting deep human needs and being a great work place.

Every nonprofit begins when someone recognizes a basic, unmet human need and decides to create an organization to meet that need. In 1990 John Green launched Emmaus Ministries in Chicago. It began when John recognized that no one in Chicago was reaching out to male prostitutes and helping them to turn their lives around.

United Way has its roots in an organization that was launched in 1887 when a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. That year they raised $21,700 for 22 agencies and in so doing launched a movement that serves communities across the USA.

Thriving nonprofits continually focus on transforming lives through meeting deep human needs and valuing the people who produce the golden egg. In contrast, a nonprofit that values the bottom line above all else is a nonprofit in decline.

Here are some of the key behaviors you’ll find in a thriving nonprofit:

  • Our board clearly defines our treasure--who we offer our golden egg to and what their transformed lives look like.
  • The right clients knock on our door in desperation and hope.
  • Staff members are free to develop best practices to produce the golden egg.
  • Board and staff operate from basic human values.
  • All who work together to produce the treasure-- clients, board, staff, donors, funders, suppliers, and partners--are honored.
  • Each person is treasured based on their unique qualities and needs.
The above treasure path behaviors produce results. Here are the types of results you will see in a thriving nonprofit on the treasure path:
  • Clients’ lives are transformed.
  • The board measures the effectiveness of the organization based on clients lives being transformed.
  • Everyone knows their job is important because it helps produce the treasure.
  • Everyone--that means clients, board, staff, donors, funders, suppliers, and partners--are recognized for good work.
  • The organization has a culture of honesty, respect, responsibility, and quality work.
  • Every staff person feels cared for by their supervisor or someone in the organization.

For further resources check out the Treasure Path books at this 7 Paths web resource.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A homeless man and an industrialist

A homeless man and an industrialist

Today I have two new heroes, Gregory Lockett, a homeless man from Florida and Ray Anderson, chairman of a Georgia flooring manufacturing company that’s approaching $1 billon in sales.

Both Gregory, 48, and Ray, 72, are willing to take what I call the wilderness path to help their organizations thrive.

I met Gregory 12 days ago at the Pentecostal conference in Philadelphia. A man who has spent many years on the street, Gregory knows that homeless people are often arrested and then released without being charged.

When homeless people want to turn their lives around and get a job, their arrest records are a huge stumbling blocks even if they were never charged with a crime. Gregory knows because he’s been arrested 17 times but only charged and convicted three times.

Gregory, who has become a Christian, is launching FAVOC, an organization that works with homeless people who are “falsely accused victims of crime” to help clear up their arrest records to make it possible for them to get jobs.

All nonprofits start out on the wilderness path. They begin when the founders have an idea of how to meet an existing social need that is not currently being met. Nonprofits begin with a trip into the wilderness to discover the treasure that emerges when you create an organization that meets a powerful human need.

As Gregory takes the wilderness path, dealing with all the unknowns of creating a viable nonprofit organization, Evergreen Leaders has offered to provide the consulting services.

I’ve never met Ray Anderson but he became one of my heroes when I read about him in an Inc. magazine story. When Ray started Interface, a flooring manufacturing business 33 years ago he made sure it complied with environmental laws but he never thought about its impact on the environment. Then in 1994 he read The Ecology of Commerce by businessman Paul Hawken who is deeply concerned about what industry does to the environment.

After reading Hawken’s book Ray “asked his engineers to determine what had been extracted from the earth to produce the company’s income.” The engineers determined that it took 1.2 billion pounds of raw materials to produce the companies $800 million in income that year.

“I was staggered,” Anderson said later, “I wanted to throw up. My company’s technologies and those of every other company I know of anywhere, in their present forms, are plundering the earth. This cannot go on and on and on.”

Anderson decided to take the wilderness path, a completely unknown path for an industrial giant. He was going make Interface a sustainable company.

He defines sustainability as “taking from the earth that is not rapidly and naturally renewable, and doing no harm to the biosphere.”

Their first steps focused on waste reduction and the company saved $60 million in the first three years. That was just the beginning on their long and arduous journey to sustainability.

Interface has been on this wild path since 1994 and they project that by 2020 they will be completely sustainable.

Gregory is taking the wilderness path to create FAVOC, an organization that will help homeless people clean up old arrest records as part of helping them find work.

And Ray is taking Interface on the wilderness path as a way to help the company move from plundering the environment to sustaining a healthy environment.

You can learn more about the wilderness path on the 7 Paths blog.

Wisdom for the week: It takes a long journey into the wilderness to discover the treasure your organization has to offer the world.

Fair thee well, Rich

Lessons from a Noble Peace Prize winner

Lessons from a Noble Peace Prize winner

Last week Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize because of how he responded to a famine in Bangladesh in 1974.

An economist educated at Vanderbilt University and then teaching at Chittagong University, he went to Jobra, a nearby village suffering from the famine. He described to an Associated Press reporter what happened next:

Sufia Begum was a 21-year-old mother of three when he met her in 1974 and asked how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about five taka, the equivalent of nine cents, from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool.

All but two cents of that went back to the lender.

"I thought to myself, my God, for five takas she has become a slave," Yunus said in the interview.

The following day, he and his students did a survey in the woman's village, Jobra, and discovered that 43 villagers owed a total of $27

"I couldn't take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves," he said, and pay him back whenever they could. The idea was to buy their own materials and cut out the middleman.

Over the following year, they all paid him back — day by day.

“In order to get a loan from a bank you have to prove you don’t need it,” a friend once told me. In essence, banks do not loan money to poor people.

Yunus changed that. Out of his experience with the nearby villagers Yunus created a smart and friendly system of loans to the poor to help them launch businesses. When he approached banks in Bangladesh about loaning to the poor they refused unless he co-signed every loan.

Yunus went on to form Grameen, a bank that make business loans with an average size of $130 Instead of requiring collateral, Grameen “lent to groups of five people,” according to a New York Times story, “who helped ensure that each member repaid his or her share. It lent not only to farmers, but also to laborers and women who had a knack for crafts and shopkeeping. And it required borrowers to repay their loans in manageable, bite-sized weekly installments.”

Grameen’s smart and friendly system of loaning to the poor was soon adopted by others. “Last year,” said the New York Times story, “more than 100 million people received small loans from more than 3,100 institutions in 130 countries, according to Microcredit Summit, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group.”

Wisdom for the week: Nonprofits can multiply the amount of good they do by developing smart and friendly systems.

Fare thee well, Rich

Lessons from a scandal

Lessons from a scandal

As House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Congressional leaders struggle with former Congressman Foley’s sexual e-mails and instant messages with Congressional pages, I remember the painful lessons I learned when a former colleague at a religious nonprofit was involved in sexual misconduct.

Here are five lessons I learned:

  1. Leaders who do great good can lead double lives. My former colleague was a founder of the organization, dedicated to its well-being, and a fun person to work with. At the same time he led a secret life that included sexual abuse of minors.
  2. Sexual misconduct by leaders is a misuse of power. Congressman Foley, by position and age, had much more power than the teenage Congressional pages. He was using his power to benefit himself at the expense of the pages.
  3. There are powerful forces within organizations to cover-up misconduct. Misconduct is power wrapped in fear and shame. As the Foley scandal unfolds, it’s apparent that as long as three years ago a Congressional staffer tried to warn Hastert of Foley’s danger to pages. At the same time, leaders who see themselves as doing good, find it extremely difficult to expose themselves by revealing the shameful behavior of a colleague. Fear and shame fuel cover-ups.
  4. Misconduct by leaders never remains hidden. My nonprofit colleague managed to keep his secret life hidden for 15 years. He used his power and prestige to silence his primary victim. But, as many an institution has discovered, sooner or later misconduct always reveals itself.
  5. Scandal calls for humility. Damage control is the height of arrogance. Organizations cannot quietly manage significant ethical violations by a leader. When such violations occur, the organization needs humble leaders who will reveal the misconduct, take responsibility for seeing that the person is removed from a position of further misusing power, and seeing that those who were injured are cared for.

According to Evergreen Leaders humble hierarchy path, the best leaders have little personal ambition, an unwavering will to help the organization transform the lives of those it serves, and a will to create space for all to thrive.

Wisdom for the week: To humbly admit and quickly deal with ethical violations is the surest path your organization can take back to helping transform the lives of those it serves.

Fair thee well, Rich

Breakfast with Dave

Breakfast with Dave

Dave directs YSB, a nonprofit organization that helps children and families succeed. With a staff of nearly 80 working in several counties, it’s a challenge for Dave to be in touch with the stories of lives being transformed by the staff of the organization.

Recently I’ve been consulting with YSB as they develop an annual fundraising program. I enjoy working with Dave, his staff and board.

Part of my work has been to help them discover the treasure--the stories of lives being transformed--the organization has to offer donors. Dave realized he needed to meet with the staff and uncover the stories.

His solution was sheer humble hierarchy genius. He decided to do Breakfast with Dave. He is scheduling times to go to each office, meeting with staff in 25-minute intervals. He brings with him all the ingredients to make omelets and his omelet maker. He asks each staff person what they like in their omelets and that’s what they get.

While the omelet is cooking he asks, “What case are you most proud of?” Then he listens.

Evergreen Leaders humble hierarchy path is based on the principle that “humble hierarchy leaders have little personal ambition, have an unwavering will to help the organization transform the lives of those it serves, and create space for all to thrive.”

When Dave was first promoted to executive director of YSB he negotiated a salary lower than the normal executive director salary because he said if he was making that much money he’d be embarrassed to come to work.

The first Breakfast with Dave was announced by memo and e-mail but when the day came he discovered no one had signed up. He promptly called staff in that branch office and invited them to breakfast individually. Dave may have been humble about his salary but he has an “unwavering will to help the organization transform the lives of those it serves”. He knows he needs to hear the stories of lives transformed as part of creating an annual giving program to support their work in helping children and families succeed.

YSB staff often work with children and families in crisis. It’s easy for staff to feel like they go from crisis to crisis. Yet when Dave asks, “What case are you most proud of?” he is giving them an opportunity to recall when they and the organization are at their best in transforming for children and families.

Dave concludes Breakfast with Dave with a couple more questions: “Are you having any problems at YSB that I can help with? Do you have any suggestions for me? I need all the help I can get.”

Wisdom for the week: Serve omelets, keep the focus on transforming lives, and create space for all to improve the organization--that’s a great way to take the humble hierarchy path.

Fair thee well, Rich

In search of smart and friendly

In search of smart and friendly

Last year I spent a few days in two different hospitals. After each “visit” I was mailed a long questionnaire. I dutifully whipped through the surveys as quickly asossible.

I hate long surveys. I know they help hospitals and other businesses do a better job but I find them tedious.

Here’s the questionnaire I’d like to get the next time a hospital or other business wants to know how they can serve me better:

How likely are you to recommend our hospital (or business) to a friend of colleague? Circle one with 1 being very unlikely ranging up to 10 being extremely likely: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.

If you are you unlikely to recommend us, please tell us why?

Thriving organizations follow the 7 paths including the smart and friendly system path. This path is based on the principle that organizations thrive or die based the systems they use for getting things done.

Creating a system for getting patient or customer feedback is smart but a long questionnaire is not friendly.

The above questionnaire did not come from my imagination but from the work of Fred Reichheld who has spent over 25 years studying customer loyalty and who recently published The Ultimate Question.

Jack Brennan, CEO of Vanguard calls Reichheld’s approach "radically simple but incredibly valuable”. That’s the hallmark of smart and friendly systems--they are incredibly valuable.

Recently I used Open Space Technology to lead two meetings to get input from the board and staff of a nonprofit that I’m consulting with as they develop a fund raising plan.

Afterwards their CEO e-mailed me saying, “That approach is so simple it is deceptive. We really were involved.”

That’s another hallmark of smart and friendly systems--they are simple and get people involved.

Wisdom for the week: Thriving organizations continually use the smart and friendly systems path to keep their systems finally tuned.

Fair thee well, Rich

The treasures your employees look for

The treasures your employees look for

“Dad, I got a job!”

Music to a father’s ears. Yesterday my son Jon called to say that he has a job as a waiter starting today. Last May Jon graduated from Colgate University, moved to Brooklyn, NY with a fellow grad, and landed a summer job with Boys Club.

Last Friday he wrapped up the Boys Club position. He’s searching for a professional position in New York but in the meantime he needs to feed his 6’8” inch frame and pay the rent. His plan? Get an evening job as a waiter, leaving daytime hours open for his professional job search.

For three days he walked the streets of Brooklyn, NY looking for a job as a waiter. Restaurant after restaurant had no openings. Yesterday he walked into an Italian restaurant and they had an opening. After a brief conversation the manager asked, “Can you start tomorrow?”


Then the manager asked to see Jon’s resume. After glancing through it he said in surprise, “You don’t have experience as a waiter.”

“I’m a very quick learner, sir, and I’m a hard worker” Jon said quickly. He finally had his foot in the door and he wanted to keep it there.

The manager thought a moment, smiled, and said, “You can start training at 4:00 tomorrow afternoon.”

The manager hired a treasure. Jon is extremely personable and helpful and people like him. He’ll make a great waiter.

Right now Jon is looking for a job to pay for food and rent but soon he will be looking for other kinds of treasure through his job. He’ll want to know that his supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about him as a person.

In First, Break All the Rules, the author’s tell about the restaurant manager who let his staff know that when they needed a short term loan they should help themselves to money from the till and simply leave an IOU in the till until they paid for it.

The same manager made it a point of getting to know his staff, giving better hours to those who were supporting a family.

For twenty years the Gallup organization studied organizations to see what made a great work place and identified 12 treasures that separate great workplaces from so-so workplaces. According to the Gallup study Jon will be looking for workplace treasures like:

  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what you do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person.
  • There someone at work who encourages my development.

For a complete look at the fascinating treasures that employees look for according to Gallup’s study check out First, Break All the Rules or at Feedback for Real on Gallup’s website.

Wisdom for the week: Employees look for more than pay; they look for treasures from their worksite.

Fair thee well, Rich

Ps. Check out the 7 Paths, their principles and paradigms at the Evergreen Leaders website.

Uncovering your organizations treasure

Uncovering your organization's treasure

What does a restaurant chain specializing in breakfast and lunch have in common with a nonprofit that provides supports to adults with developmental disabilities?

Both focus on offering a treasure that folks seek over and over again.

It’s not easy for a business to discover the treasure that will keep its customers coming back nor is it easy for nonprofits to discover the treasure that transforms the lives of those who use their services.

For years the nonprofit, Horizon House, Peru, IL defined itself as an organization that makes it possible for adults with developmental disabilities to choose where they want to work, where and with whom they want to live, and what kind of recreation they want to enjoy.

Recently Jim Monterastelli, HH CEO, gathered his board and management staff to review their mission. The conversation revealed a drawback to focusing on offering choices to their clientele. The limited intellectual abilities of people with developmental disabilities means they have a limited understanding of the options they might choose from.

As the conversation progressed someone suggested that HH help the people they serve discover options to increase the array of choices they make.

Jim immediately recognized the treasure in the word discover. Horizon House could offer a variety of experiences to help their clientele discover the types of living arrangements, types and places of work, and types of recreation available in their community. As the people Horizon House works with discover their options their choices will be deeper and more genuine.

The treasure that an organization offers needs to connect with the deepest, most compelling needs of those the organization serves.

A couple Sundays ago I read in the menu the treasure offered by First Watch in St. Louis, a restaurant that specializes in breakfast and lunch. The treasure was not the food. It was a great, reasonably priced breakfast but we could have found similar food in lots of restaurants.

No, the treasure was in the First Watch promise:

The staff of First Watch promise to do everything possible to make your visit a moment of relaxation in a busy day. Meeting special needs or requests that you might have gives First Watch a chance to be a special restaurant. Let us know how we can be of service to you and we promise that we will go that extra mile to make you smile. (c)

I read that and immediately was touched. I was on vacation and looking for relaxation. Usually I feel like I’m imposing if I make a request. Here was a restaurant that invited me to make special requests.

I spend a lot of my time going the extra mile to make people smile. Like writing this e-letter at 8:30 at night because you, my readers, deserve the treasure of this e-letter today.

And this restaurant wanted to go the extra mile to make me smile.

How do you discover your organizations treasure? Here are four questions for you and your organization to ponder?

  • Who are the people that want the treasure your organization offers?
  • What do they urgently want to avoid? (Bad food in a restaurant; other people always deciding for you if you have a developmental disability)
  • How can your organization make sure people avoid what they want to avoid?
  • What are the compelling desires of the people who are seeking treasure from you? (Wait staff at a restaurant eager to go the second mile for you; nonprofit staff eager to help you discover new options for working, living, and playing, and then helping your choices come true--that’s magic if you are an adult with a developmental disability).

I’d love to hear about the treasure your customers or service recipients find in your organization.

Next issue we’ll explore another part of the treasure path--treasuring your employees/staff.

Wisdom for the week: Thriving organizations keep polishing their treasure.

Fair thee well, Rich