"Does this look alright, Ben?"
"Wanna double check this for me, Ben?"
"UUUggghhghgh.....totally forgot to [enter any easy task repeatedly explained to me]."
These are the things you will hear from me when my father-in-law and I are working on our new house on weekends. Needless to say, remodeling is hard.
No, my father-in-law and I aren't moving in together. He is helping my wife and I with the new house. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be able to do it. Well, we would, but it would take forever and it wouldn't be pretty. In fact, I would probably end up calling one of those HGTV shows to save us from the mess I would end up creating. Why? Well, I really don't know anything about house repair or remodeling.
Give me a broken laptop, I can probably fix that. Show me your website, I can probably give you some tips on how to improve it. Fix a house? Nooope.
Don't get me wrong, I care about fixing our house. I value it, the process, and learning as much as I can; but the problem here is that I don't know of the methods necessary to be successful at fixing a house.
I don't have a VALUES problem, I have a methods problem.
Thankfully, my father-in-law is SUPER patient at showing me the ropes when he can. However, that is naturally going to take time.
What is great about this arrangement is that he is showing me the "Wagner Way." What is the Wagner Way? It is the term I jokingly, but somewhat seriously, coined that describes his methodology. Basically, it the opposite of the "Hack Job" way; no shortcuts. We work smarter, not harder....efficiency is equal to quality and effectiveness (and inappropriate humor to name a few principals).
But here's the thing: before my father-in-law had the proper methods, he first had the proper VALUES.
It was with these values, instilled in him by his father, and working with his hands with his brothers since they were very young, that he was able to develop a proper framework for his methods.
Let me give you a quick example: if the value was "hurry up and get the job done," then that would naturally inform his methods (enter, the hack job).
But because of years and years on focusing on doing the job right and with the right tools, he has learned how to do a great job, pretty damn fast.
So what is the takeaway? Well, besides the fact I'm eternally grateful for my father-in-law, I want to say no amount of new tools, trendy apps, or fancy strategy, can make up for a value system that limits you.
If I need a wrench to do the job, I don't care how bad I want to use my hammer, it won't work. And if I don't care about the job, or respect the goal enough to make it a point to switch up my tools, then I won't get the job done. Period.
Many of us are working at organizations with leaders who are trying to force us to work with hammers when what is needed is a wrench... or something else.
So when your managers and leaders say any of the following:
You might want to let them know (kindly, of course) that perhaps, those aren't problems at all. Perhaps, these things are just results; the natural by-product of a series of inputs, or methodologies that will never truly get the job done. Perhaps, they just have a VALUES problem.
Instead, they should value some of the following:
When we have these values at play informing our methods, it can be truly amazing what we can build (or remodel) together.
I'll be honest with you. I am NOT a fan of Walking Dead or any sub-segment of the horror genre. Before you stop being my friend, hear me out.
I grew up in Camden, New Jersey. There was enough things to fear growing up; I didn't need to actively add half-dead people who eat human flesh to this list...
But, there is something even scarier than zombies to me....
Yeah...zombie organizations. What are they?
Zombie Organizations are organizations that have been around for several years that are not really dead enough to close down, but not really strong enough to progress and grow. They just...keep hanging around.
Why does it scare me so much?
Well, mainly because the thought of all these great organizations with good intentions not reaching all the lives that they could be reaching scares me...
They want to create social change, but not bad enough to learn how to scale the impact in a sustainable way.
They've been stuck for many years without changing, which can stink (get it? Zombies? They don't change their clothes...See what I did there? Okay, sorry...moving on).
There is one major thing that keeps Zombie Organizations alive enough to survive..and that is lazy learning.
What is Lazy Learning?
So many organizations think that learning the latest information about their space equates to becoming a better leader...or becoming more equipped to grow an organization...
WRONG. Just, so....very...wrong.
It makes you more informed. That's it.
Not making the distinction between learning about your industry vs learning about growing your organization is LAZY learning.
You only learn about things that are convenient and interesting to you. You don't want to challenge yourself with learning things that might be unfamiliar to you...
For example, technology. How up to date is your website, by the way? Not that you have to learn everything, but don't you need to learn enough to know what you NEED?
Let's make this very clear: educating yourself is NOT the same thing as empowering yourself.
For example, if you are a president or CEO of a community change organization, reading the amazing book The New Jim Crow won't DIRECTLY impact your ability to lead your staff or mobilize the community. It WILL NOT make you more effective in communication as a leader. It WILL NOT make you better at coordinating and mobilizing events for action. And it certainly WILL NOT make you better at fundraising or crowd-sourcing...in like, forever.
You see, reading topical books related to your mission or space will never DIRECTLY impact your ability to lead and grow your organization. Yes, there is a certain point where you have to know what you are talking about, but you also have to know how to make use of it; after all are you a scholar or a social change catalyst?
It may indirectly make you more informed and influential when talking about the subject, which can indirectly make you more effective in communicating as a leader...but that is a passive by-product. It isn't the same thing.
So, what will make you more effective? What will help you GROW in both size and resources?
Learning about social media marketing from someone like Gary Vaynerchuck...
Learning about how to serve and connect with your community online by what we call "Platform Building" with Michael Hyatt...or
Learning how to translate a mission statement into goals and incorporating it into the organization's culture by reading Verne Harnish...
Learning what is already working in creating social change in the inner city with the help of Tavis Smiley and Policy Link...
Oh, don't front like numbers don't matter. Of course, numbers aren't everything, but we all know that increased staff/volunteers and funding can make social change impact easier. These things can help you get there.
If your organization can't afford experts or experienced consultants...maybe it is time to do the next best thing...read up on experts in other fields and translate that as best you can in your space; learn from them. You would do better at picking their brains through these types of resources, rather than picking the remains of the latest report that tells us what we've already known about the problems we've faced for decades.
If you want to learn more about other great books or frameworks for growing your organization, email me to tweet me @joedlopez1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading. Please share what books or experts helped you and your organization out in the comments section.
When someone is trying to highlight a dysfunctional behavior, it isn't to diss you, but to uplift you. Don't let ego get the better of you.
I'm beginning to understand more and more that focus is the antidote to the noisy world we live in. Focus helps us pause (mindfulness) long enough to create the space needed to prioritize, gain clarity, and even rev up the creative juices. This zen-like practice forces us to accept the very thing we have a hard time coming to grips with: that we can't do it all.
I would like to submit the following to anyone who will read this: acceptance that you can't do it all brings freedom. Freedom to let go and be free from the false sense of urgency we are constantly plagued with; free from the expectations we entertain from others or put on ourselves.
Focus says "I can only do one thing at a time, and I choose this. Everything else is secondary".
Here is a great book that I would recommend on the topic. Click on the image to learn more.
Here is a great blog you can check out on ways you can incorporate it in your every day life if you aren't up for the long read from the book:
We all want to make a difference. But how bad do you want to make a difference is the real question. I used this video when I spoke to students about success and the psychology of achievement. When you want something so bad that it feels like you NEED it, then you are more likely to take action that moves the needle. Ask these questions to determine if you just want to want success in making a difference, or actually NEED to make it happen.
Do you want to make a difference so bad that you are willing to:
If not? Then you have to give yourself a gut check. How bad do you really really want to be successful at making a change?
There is nothing more painful for a visionary than being a visionary with ADHD.
I'm not kidding. If you are lucky enough to be called a visionary leader, and you suffer from this, life can get pretty tough. Why? Because your ability to cast vision....after vision.....after vision....of how things should be without actually getting there gets old. You lose credibility.
Sure, people will habitually leave and new people will replace them and start the new cycle of becoming enthralled with the charisma of the vision and inspiration, but you never really grow or go anywhere....or at least anywhere far.
Inspiration, especially the one that comes from a new vision, isn't leadership! And if you are casting a vision for your organization through inspiration alone, without having strong anchors in systematic and strategic yearly planning, then you truly aren't doing your vision justice. I would go so far to say that you are just being selfish keeping the vision to yourself without having it shared in reality with everyone else. Besides, what is the point of having a vision if you can't penetrate reality and impact those you lead?
Everyone talks about being busy. Well, here is a newsflash:
Everyone is busy.
The question is, what type of busy are you?
Is your "busy" the type that is going to get you 80/20 results that you want? Or is it the type that gives you anxiety because you have three digits following "unread emails" in your email notification?
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
There is no way around it. How we spend our time is a direct reflection of our values.
What are your values? If I asked you what they were, would you able to list them or explain them to friends? If so, could I "reverse engineer" your calendar and get an idea of what your values are? If not, then there is an opportunity for living out your values more.
If we are talking about work, do I see time dedicated to reading up on your industry and planning ahead for the trends? If not, sharpen your axe.
Do I see weekly or monthly staff/team trainings to make you exponentially more effective? No? Then stop reading this and sharpen your axe.
"But I don't have time!"
Sharpen your axe anyway. We have to understand that there is a price when you sharpen your axe. You have to literally shave off the edges off the blade to get a fresh one. There is always a trade off.
We have to decide to sharpen the axe even when it is difficult. (Did you know the word "decide" has its roots meaning "to cut off"?)
We have to CUT OFF anything that keeps us from investing and building our capacity in leadership and operations. We have to cut off this mentality that makes us think we have to answer EVERY email, EVERY call, EVERY social media notification immediately.
Otherwise, we are living someone else's values and you demonstrate that you don't have any.
Applying 50% of a 100% rock solid plan doesn't give you 50% of the results.
For example, I would be a fool to expect to follow 50% of a recipe and expect to get 100% of the final product and taste. That cake would be bland or burned.
I would even be more of a fool to think I would get 20% at that.
Unless you know the area or topic inside and out like an expert (like many of our grandmothers who just eyeball everything and still make amazingly delicious food because of YEARS of mastery) then you need to model those who are successful and find "the recipe" of what works.
It is funny how we can fall in the trap of slacking on this. But would you allow it in other areas of your life? Would you want your doctor to only follow 50% of the plan for an operation or surgery? Do you want your mechanic to fix your engine 30% of the way? Of course not. Then why should you apply a solution half way and expect outstanding outcomes? Just because it might be hard to see the direct impact doesn't mean we should give up on it so easily. Let it bake. Let it simmer. Give it time. Stick with it.
We have to understand that small and subtle details matter when trying to engineer great results. Stick to the plan. Master it. THEN you can tweak it.
Everyone wants to be considered visionary. I know I do. But more important than that, I want my life not to be marked by just vision alone; I want my life to be known for action...that I actually did what I set out to accomplish.
But to do this, you must not only know the vision, you must have some concrete idea on how to get there.
For example, it isn't enough to know "true north" for your life, organization, or an industry...or even culture. You need a practical roadmap to get there. You need to know how many tolls you will pass, how much gas it takes to get there, etc.
I find many "visionaries" don't like this level of planning and preparation. It can feel stifling. True visionaries know this is just part of the process and push through this aspect.
Sure, anyone can be "visionary" (or at least pretend to be). Not everyone can lead others in how to get there. You need to be able to do both, or, find someone who can help translate vision into action.
I guess I could just sum up this post with this fact:
There is no Steve Jobs without Steve Wozniak. Either find your Woz, or plot the path, not just the destination.
While I do agree with Michael in principal, the notion that it doesn't matter if you're black or white doesn't hold true in the real world. Let's just step back for a moment and think about the social implications of color alone. It has been no secret that many have highlighted and identified color and various associations as a contributing factor to racial bias in society. From literature, media, to the criminal justice system; many have negative associations to the color black or blackness.
"Being Black is Just About the Same as Having a Felony" In the Job Market.
Princeton professor writes for CNN on this important topic as well. Take a look at the findings of her little experiment. I wonder what more could be done to support entrepreneurship in marginalized communities as an alternative solution until these issues are better addressed and dealt with. I don't think this path is considered enough and more can be done to support this avenue as a legitimate tool for social justice and economic development. Read the excerpt below.
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