Thursday, June 28, 2007

Work free space

I am off for three, work free, weeks in Minnesota and New York City.

I love working. At the same time, heading up a nonprofit start-up like Evergreen Leaders takes a lot of creative energy. Over the years, I have discovered that if I take a good vacation in the summer, when I get back to work I suddenly have a creative burst that helps me move through intransigent issues that have been a drag on whatever organization I am leading at the time.

Earlier this morning I did a post on Rhythm Path basics. I'm off to create space in my life for that creative burst that will shape my work with Evergreen Leaders when I get back.

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The rhythm path basics

If you sustain high positive energy on an extremely demanding job, you almost certainly have predictable ways of insuring that you get intermittent recovery. Creating positive rituals is the most powerful means we have found to effectively manage energy in the service of full engagement.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz

Principle: Organizations and individuals thrive on daily and seasonal rhythms.


Shriveling: “To be productive, we override the natural rhythms of life.”

Thriving: “To be productive, we ride the natural rhythms of life.”


¨ Organizational structures support rhythm of challenging work and renewal rituals.

¨ Staff workers are honored for developing positive energy rituals that balance stress and recovery.


¨ Staff workers are highly productive.

¨ Staff workers do not burn out.

¨ Organization is known as a great place to work.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Treasure path basics

When potential clients and potential staff knock on your nonprofit’s door, they are looking for a treasure. You need to know the answer to two questions. What are they looking for? What will they find?

Rich Foss

Principle: Organizations thrive on the treasure of meeting deep human needs and being a great place to work.


Shriveling: We value the bottom line above all else.

Thriving: We value transforming lives through meeting deep human needs and we value the people who produce the golden egg.


¨ 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 looking for the treasure we offer.

¨ Staff members are free to develop best practices to produce the golden egg.

¨ Board and staff operate from basic human values such as trust, openness, respect, and responsibility.

¨ All who work together to produce the treasure--board, staff, clients, donors, funders, suppliers, and partners--are honored.

¨ Each person is treasured based on their unique qualities and needs.


¨ 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 is recognized for good work.

¨ A culture of honesty, respect, responsibility, and quality work.

¨ Every person feels cared for by their supervisor or someone in the organization.

Check out this quick summary of the 7 Paths.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Humble hierarchy path basics

Decisions are like gold. Share the gold.
Rich Foss

Principle: Humble hierarchy leaders have little personal ambition, an unwavering will to help the organization transform the lives of those it serves, and a passion to create space for all to thrive.


¨ Shriveling: Leaders use power to benefit themselves.

¨ Thriving: "We constantly focus on transforming the lives of those the organization serves and creating decision-making space for the voices and talents of all to produce the treasure."

Organizational behavior

¨ Majorities and minorities lead together.

¨ Leaders create open systems to share information and decision-making.

¨ Everyone has access to the information they need to make good decisions.

¨ Everyone, including service recipients, is involved in making crucial decisions.

¨ Supervisors and co-workers involved in hiring decisions.

¨ The organization humbly learns from critics inside and outside the organization.


¨ Good decisions are made based on shared information.

¨ Barriers of race, gender, disabilities, etc. are overcome for the benefit of the entire group.

¨ Everyone’s talents are used to produce the organization’s treasure.

¨ Everyone, including service recipients, enjoys making decisions to help the organization produce the treasure.

¨ The organization constantly uses feedback to thrive.

¨ Radical trust takes root within the organization.

Check out this quick summary of the 7 Paths.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Coaching trail blazers

Coaching trail blazers
April 5, 2007 issue of 7 Paths e-letter

“Dad, I didn’t get the Community Foundation grant,” my daughter, Hannah Hackworth, said in a phone call last week. “That’s the eighth grant I’ve applied for and didn’t get.”

I love to coach trail blazers, those folks like Hannah who head off into the wilderness, determined to find collaborators who will co-create a new nonprofit or a new program.

Years ago Terri Barton, executive director of Urban Jacksonville, a Florida nonprofit that has served elders and their families for over thirty years, recognized that older Americans often have unmet mental health needs.

For instance, the suicide rate among older adults in the United States is 50 percent higher than all other age groups.

Three years ago Hannah was hired to coordinate a mental health assessment and referral program for Urban Jacksonville. Through her work she discovered an unmet need for a community process to address to the well being of older adults who have severe mental health disorders, medical problems, and complex life domain needs. Such folks are at risk for suicide, homelessness, incarceration, exploitation, neglect, hospitalization or long-term care placement.

“At the heart of the problem,” Hannah says, “our current health systems are highly fragmented and a source of utter confusion” for elders who often find themselves interacting with numerous doctors, hospitals, home health agencies, senior programs, etc.

Hannah’s solution is not to create a new nonprofit but to create a new way for existing nonprofits and governmental organizations to meet the mental health needs of older adults.

Concord, New Hampshire has developed a model community process that Hannah wants to adapt for Jacksonville, a much larger city. Through the model nonprofits “wrap services around” the individual, through innovative, community-based and comprehensive coordinated services.

This week she hosted a meeting of 31 government and nonprofit leaders to identify the gaps in mental health services to elders and to begin to lay the groundwork for the wraparound program in Jacksonville. On the way out of the meeting a Jacksonville official said, “I’ve been working for the city for thirty-one years and this is one of the best meeting I’ve ever been to.“

As a nonprofit trailblazer, Hannah faces the same challenges as business entrepreneurs who search for partners and pitch investors for the funds they need to launch their business.

At my suggestion, she contacted someone in the Community Foundation who worked with her on another project. Rather than ask why she didn’t get the grant, she asked for help in improving her application. Next Tuesday she has a meeting with a foundation official who will help her improve her application.

Hannah, like other nonprofit trail blazers, has wandered into the wilderness with a clear vision of the treasure--how to meet a crucial unmet need in the human community.

She’ll keep searching for companions to co-create the treasure of wraparound community process for elders with mental health issues. And when she finds them together they will do what none of them could do alone.

Wisdom for the week: Nonprofit treasures are created one conversation at a time.

Fare thee well, Rich

My neighbor's labor of love

My neighbor's labor of love

March 22, issue of 7 Paths e-letter

Last summer Sarah and I stopped in at a neighbor’s farm on a Sunday afternoon. Dan was cutting granite pieces for the fireplace in the lodge he’s building. The lodge is located in a wooded area next to a pond with a fountain.

Recently I asked Dan how the lodge is coming along. He said that he has decided to sell it. “I like to build things and I realized that I don’t want the hassle of running a retreat center,” he said.

“It’s been a labor of love,” he added.

For a couple weeks that phrase--it’s been a labor of love--has surfaced periodically in my thinking like a fish leaping in a pond.

I grew up in a family where men used their hands in their labors of love. My father was a farmer and a lumberjack; my seven brothers are machinists, electricians, loggers, builders and an electronic communications specialist.

I was the odd man out in my family, the one who was never good with his hands. Then I became disabled and making a living with my hands was out of the question.

Fortunately I discovered a labor of love that fit me perfectly--working with words. I began hauling words out of the woods to carve them into stories. I began stacking words in the shape of poems.

Five months before I called a group together to found Evergreen Leaders, I launched this e-letter. Writing to each of you is a labor of love.

My neighbor knows what he loves to do. He loves to build things. He had been dreaming of building this lodge for years, he said. He could have made a mistake and thought because he built his dream lodge, he had better run it.

Someone is going to purchase and cherish my neighbor’s labor of love--someone who loves running a retreat and meeting place. People will come a great distance to enjoy the craftsmanship of my neighbor and the hospitality of the new owner.

Wisdom for the week: Make your work a labor of love; organizations thrive on craftsmanship.

Fare thee well, Rich

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fervently calling a soldier a hero

One day several year ag0, shortly after America began a policy of torture as part of its response to 9-11, I suddenly had a sick feeling in my stomach. What will this do to the men who do the torturing? What will it be like when they return to the USA?

Now this Washington Post story describe the tortured lives of torturers after they return to the USA. Torture, it turns out, is not a smart a friendly system that brings about the treasure of democracy.

It seems to me that one way we as a country deal with our guilt over sending young men and women to distant lands to kill and maim and be killed and maimed is to fervently call our soldiers heroes. The story aptly described that when you are suffering for what you've done in war, being called a hero doesn't help.

A humble man does not cut a soldier off by calling him a hero. He istens.