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