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When a cause is in sharp decline we would expect that it would grind down quietly as people give up, give in, or go away.

But that’s not how it happens.

More often than not it’s actually the opposite. Instead of quietly succumbing to demise we see organizations, movements, and positions grow more strident, more aggressive, and more convinced even as the end becomes inevitably near. Social media dramatically magnifies this tendency.

Why does it happen?

The Loudest Leave Last.

When a cause is exposed as misguided or success revealed to be too costly or highly unlikely the adherents who are only loosely aligned will quietly slip away, often without any comment. They are soon followed by those who are genuine in their support but have other commitments competing for their energy who prefer to apply themselves where the odds are more in their favour.

This is the inflection point. This is where leaders determine whether the end will come in dignified acquiescence to the reality or as a final fight to the death with no quarter asked or given.

If the latter path is chosen the demands for greater loyalty and more rabid commitment soon follow. The sense of persecution and of being united against a powerful opposition become oppressive to all but the truest believers. Soon all that remain are those who are so passionate, so determined, so sold out that there is no room for anything but absolute commitment. Anything less than everything is unconscionable and the slightest hesitation or capitulation is seen as betrayal.

There is something admirable in people who are willing to give themselves so fully to something they believe in. It speaks to something profound when we see them so devoted to something beyond themselves. But mostly it looks tragic to all but those inside.

Devotion brings out both the best and the worst in humanity, and perspective is often the way we determine which it is.

For those who find themselves among the faithful remnant to a cause there is a nobility in fighting to the bitter end. They become increasingly distinct from the surrounding culture, increasingly distrusting of outsiders, increasingly certain of their own righteousness. At some point there is no longer an option to exit.

As leaders we need to be intentional to avoid the ease of echo chambers that will remove any challenge to our perspectives. We need to be wary of the tendency to radicalize our cause for reasons of insecurity, ego, or power. The temptation is very real.

To be clear; there are things worth dying for. We won’t agree on exactly what they are, but they exist. I don’t meant to suggest that avoiding extremes is always admirable. At times it is more cowardice than wisdom. Commitment (to the right things) is a virtue.

What I am trying to do is to simply point out that just because voices are getting louder does not mean there is more life. More noise does not mean more vitality. It may be the final cries of a falling warrior.

The loudest leave last.
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Uncategorized
It finally happened.

At 48 years old I got glasses for the first time. Just for reading, and I can get by without them; but they sure help.

When I put on my reading glasses it is much easier for me to focus on the things I want to give my attention to. Without them it’s a strain to see what I need to see.

It occurs to me that leaders often have to strain at least a little to see the things that are most important. One of the lessons from the many uncertainties of 2020 is that much of what we focus on; strategic planning, long range forecasting, strong execution systems; is vulnerable to circumstances beyond our control. 

I believe in the high importance of Strategy and Execution but dynamic times reveal that Culture matters more. Healthy organizational cultures are able to adapt more effectively to even prolonged periods of constant change that make carefully crafted strategic plans and high performance systems irrelevant.

Wise leaders will take that lesson and choose to focus on intentionally developing healthy Culture.

In a similar way, our proficient Skills and hard-won Effort have been revealed to be more dependent on situations and circumstances than we realized. It’s a deeply rooted sense of Identity that enables leaders to manage intense complexity and uncertainty and come out of it intact. 

Our leadership eyes are finely tuned to see things like Strategy, Execution, Skills, and Effort; but not so good at focusing in on Culture and Identity. Maybe we need a set of lenses to help us see and pay attention to these often overlooked areas.

If this rings true for you like it does for me maybe we can help. Contact me to set up a clarifying conversation about how to see Culture and Identity more clearly, and pick up a copy of The REACTION Dashboard for a practical tool that you can use on an ongoing basis.

2021 is a good year to improve our focus on the right things.
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Uncategorized
Feeling isolated as a leader?

Been called a micromanager?

Have a sense that the weight of the whole organization is on your shoulders?

I’m willing to bet you have an issue trusting your team.

Trust is a big topic and there are lots of excellent resources that explore the intricacies of why it is important and how to establish, maintain, and rebuild trust. (It’s even one of the 5 Elements of Healthy Culture in my book). But you probably don’t need a broad overview of theory right now. So here are some quick practical tips.

Think of trust as a combination of Character and Competence. High trust happens when we believe that someone will do their best (Character) and that their best is good enough to get the job done (Competence). If either of those is lacking, trust is weakened.

We can work with people we don’t completely trust but it requires us to invest extra time and energy in double checking their work or their motives. That can be effective if it leads to higher trust, but it is demoralizing if it doesn’t.

Think of the key person on your team you have the hardest time trusting right now. Is the issue primarily a matter of character, or competence?

Character Issues

If you don’t believe they are acting with proper ethics and integrity you need to confront them. Calling out character issues is something many leaders find very difficult but the alternative is to let things slide, constantly doubt them, erode your team culture, and repeat the cycle indefinitely. Character issues rarely resolve on their own.

Confronting character issues requires courage, tact, preparation, and personal integrity. It is not easy, but it is a core leadership competency. If you can’t bring yourself to do so; or you can’t do it well, invest in some training or coaching for yourself. There are several excellent models available. I find both Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations to be very helpful, (with a slight personal preference for Crucial Conversations).

Competence Issues

If you don’t believe your team member is competent you need to train them. Covering up sloppy work or avoiding giving proper authority to someone because they aren’t ready is a sign of your own poor leadership. Invest in developing your people. Give them the resources and opportunities to grow their skills and see what happens. Expect them to succeed.

Helping people find roles that match their abilities and temperament is one of the superpowers that distinguishes excellent leaders. Profiling tools like Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, or DISC, (when used for find the proper fit rather than for pigeon holing people or assessing their performance), can be very insightful for everyone involved, but ultimately competence comes down to getting the job done. 

If you’ve established clear expectations for both character and competence, made a real investment in someone, and given them the fair opportunity to earn your trust, and they haven’t done so it is time to make a change. You may be able to find a workable alternative for someone who has character but lacks competence, but someone continually lacking in character probably need to be dismissed.

Your cause is too important to be diminished by your lack of trust in your team. Make a commitment to not letting it continue. Either do what it takes to build trust, remove those that can’t be trusted, or depart yourself if you can’t (or won’t) do the hard work required.

Trust me, trust matters that much.
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Leadership, Resources
More than 2/3rds of the leaders I’m going to be working with most closely over the next year have started their current leadership role in the last eight months; during a global pandemic.

On Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast, prominent search consultant and author William Vanderbloemen predicted that 2021 will be a year of extremely high turnover. I think its already underway. A surprising number of charities have transitioned their first chair leader (Executive Director, CEO, Lead Pastor, Czarina?) in the midst of this year of dramatic uncertainty.

What’s it like to come into the top role of an organization experiencing phenomenal stress, constant dramatic change, and with strict limitations on the ability to be together with your new team?

It’s hard.

All the well established First 90 Days strategies have to be approached in completely different ways, if they work at all.

Building trust with people who are living in fear and turmoil (in both the global sense and for the wellbeing of their immediate loved ones) when you can’t have team building events, staff retreats, or even casual time hanging out at lunch or over a coffee is difficult.

3-5 Year Strategic Plans have been largely abandoned and the sense of impending doom from the lasting economic impacts of COVID-19 has made budgeting feel like reading tea leaves.

Programming models are in constant flux and we don’t really know when anything resembling stability will return or what it will look like if it does.

So what can a new leader do to establish credibility and give direction?

Here are three very practical things newly arrived leaders can do that will help them succeed.

1. Prioritise Relationships: As obvious as this may seem, the more dependent we are becoming on digital dynamics the more essential it is that we feel connected. Invest time in getting to know the people at every level of your organization as much as you can. Risking a little vulnerability and learning to laugh together will have significant lasting impact for everything you will want to do for as long as you stay in that role. People first.

2. Push Pause: Many organizations are running way faster than a sustainable pace and have been for most of a year. People are drained. Without intentionally interrupting the way things are going you may well be grinding toward a dangerous decline. No one wants to close programs when people are in great need, but finding ways to ease off or even shut down for a bit may be crucial to lasting impact. New leaders often want to rush into things to make their mark. Don’t. Taking your time and giving space for your team to breathe a little is responsible leadership.

3. Play Your Cards: There are questions you can ask as a recent arrival that you won’t be able to after you’ve been there for a couple years. There are decisions you can make in a time of crisis that won’t fly when things are more stable. The New Kid card and the Crisis card allow you to understand and expose things that are often avoided and have people accept the changes you need to make even if they are costly. Don’t make change for change’s sake to try to prove to the staff or board that you deserve your new job; but when you are convinced that something needs to be done, do it decisively.

There is almost always some level of insecurity or imposter syndrome that comes with being the new leader. These circumstances amplify that for many of us. And yet the need for effective leadership may be higher now than ever. This is a time for leaders to demonstrate wisdom and courage regardless of how long they’ve held their role.

If you’re trying to figure out leading in a new role this year one of the best things you can do is intentionally build a small group of advisors who can help you process your situation and decisions, and explore who you are in the midst of it. If you’re not sure who to ask to support you, get in touch with me. I may be able to help.
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Full program description below or click for pdf version:
Catalyst Foundation Leadership Intensive 2021

Healthy Leaders, Healthy Organizations

Catalyst Foundation Leadership Intensive 2021

Charity leadership is harder than ever. COVID-19’s lasting impact, economic fallout, and global uncertainties with no clear end in sight have made best plans and practices fall apart around us. The leadership approaches we were trained in can’t answer all the questions we have to ask now. On top of that, many of the ways we’ve developed leaders in the past are now impossible.


In 2021 Catalyst Foundation is offering a unique new Leadership Intensive to help you lead well in this reality.


Healthy Leaders, Healthy Organizations brings together the most impactful tools from our three year Partnership Program in a format that can be delivered entirely remotely to any charity, anywhere in the world, in a single calendar year. And it may be just what you need for yourself and your organization to thrive.


Leaders who commit themselves and their teams to the Leadership Intensive can expect to be challenged, encouraged, and invested in towards long term growth in organizational health and impact, as well as sustainable healthy leadership. You will develop and maintain an Organizational Leadership Plan and a Personal Development Plan that will guide your growth for years to come. Your team will be guided in exploring new tools, familiar ideas, and proven approaches to strengthen your organizational culture. 


It is a significant commitment. It will bring significant impact.


Key Components:


  1. Monthly PACE Sessions with first chair leader: General coaching (Perspective, Accountability, Challenge, Encouragement)
  2. Organizational Leadership Plan: Guided questions to help build and update the plan.
  3. Catalyst Content Sessions (5+): Webinar/Zoom sessions of our core tools (Kryptonite, Self Care, 4 Types of Values, 6 Hats for Boards, Facilitation 101, etc.)
  4. Team Training Sessions (4+): Facilitated Zoom sessions for each organization separately (REACTION, Story to Strategy, 4 Disciplines of Execution, Power of Celebration) *Custom sessions are also possible as needed.*
  5. Summer Book Club: Facilitated online discussion


Program Schedule (may be improved to match needs):


Month

First Chair Leader

Facilitated Team Training

Catalyst Content Session

Practical Assignment

January

PACE

 

Healthy Organizations: Strategy, Execution, Culture 

Organizational Leadership Plan

February

PACE

 

Healthy Leaders:

Skills, Effort, Identity

Personal Development Plan

March

PACE

REACTION Dashboard 

 

Address Warning Lights and Celebrations

April

PACE

 

6 Hats of A Board Director

Board Development Plan

May

PACE

 

5 S’s of Strategic Communication

Review External Communications

June

PACE

Self-Care and Stress Strategies

 

Update Personal Development Plan

July

PACE 

(if available)

 

Summer Book Club (Optional)

 

August

PACE 

(if available)

 

Summer Book Club (Optional)

Update Organizational Leadership Plan

September

PACE

4 Disciplines of Execution 

 

Effective Meetings Plan

October

PACE

 

Kryptonite: Identity and Insecurity

Update Personal Development Plan

November

PACE

 

Facilitation 101: Leading Conversations That Count

Update Organizational Leadership Plan 

December

PACE

The Power of Celebration

 

Final Feedback & Commitments



Financial Considerations:


In recognition of the pressures experienced by charities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Catalyst’s founders have committed to fully subsidize the 2021 program – representing a $7500+ value to each participating organization.  To help with subsidies of future program participants and to support other charitable work, each organization selected to participate in the program will be invited to make a monthly donation of $100 (or annual donation of $1,200) to the Generosity Plus Fund, a donor advised fund managed by The Foundation Office (www.thefoundationoffice.ca), registered charity #835065038 RR 0001.



Eligibility:


Because this program can be delivered entirely remotely we are able to make it available to charities anywhere in the world that are able to:

-Commit to the entire process

-Participate comfortably in the English language

-Have reliable internet access for Zoom/Skype sessions


Ideal partners will be organizations with:

-a minimum of 12 active staff

-an expectation of stability in senior leadership roles for the duration of the program and 1-2 years following

-support from the board of directors for participating in the program

-a desire to make ongoing leadership development a core aspect of their organizational strategy and culture.


We welcome charities to apply regardless of location, cause, religious affiliation or lack thereof, annual budget, or past involvement with Catalyst. Applications will be processed with consideration for both anticipated impact on the charity and the impact of the charity on the world. Our desire is to provide this opportunity to a diverse group of participants and special consideration will be given to underrepresented communities.


Application Process:


An online application form can be found at www.catalystfoundation.ca/charity-leadership-intensive-2021. Applications open November 6, 2020 and must be submitted by November 23, 2020 to be considered. We encourage all interested charities to schedule a conversation with our Executive Director prior to completing the application.


All applicants will receive a response on or before December 1, 2020.


Questions?

We welcome questions either through the contact form on our website or by direct email to our Executive Director – chris@catalystfoundation.ca


It is strongly advised that you arrange a conversation with Chris Wignall (Executive Director) before beginning the application process.

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Catalyst is pleased to offer a fully funded opportunity for charity leaders and teams to receive leadership consulting workshops to help overcome the challenges of 2020. Capacity is limited. See details below and contact us to see what we can do together.

Click on this link for pdf and links:
Leadership Consulting Opportunity for Canadian Charities Fall 2020



Leading a charity is never easy, but this year’s unexpected challenges have multiplied the difficulty while simultaneously taking away some of the capacity needed to address it all. 

Catalyst Foundation (www.catalystfoundation.ca) is pleased to offer a selection of consulting services to charity leaders at no charge for the remainder of 2020. 

The generosity of our founders to support the cost of this opportunity is much appreciated.

Chris Wignall (Executive Director) is a respected consultant and trainer with more than 20 years of leadership in the charitable sector. He has been exclusively focused on the health of leaders and organizations through Catalyst since 2008. His combination of insight, compassion, practicality, and humour provide leaders with a rare advisor who understands the demands they face and is able to give guidance that makes an actual difference.

Programs Offered:

  1. The REACTION Dashboard: A practical tool leaders and teams use to understand, assess, and improve their organizational culture. This memorable and repeatable approach will guide you to address culture warning lights; but also to tap into the remarkable leverage of strategic celebration. (90-120 minutes)
  2. Self-Care and Stress Strategies: Timely, practical approach to help develop healthy habits, identify your own stress strategies, and improve wellbeing. A great way to demonstrate your care for your team. (45-90 minutes)
  3. The Six Hats of a Board Member: Many board members don’t really understand the various roles they play. The resulting confusion creates chaos and hurts the organization. This unique, interactive approach helps your board with clarity and focus. (60-90 minutes)
  4. Leader’s Kryptonite – Insecurity & Identity: Nothing undermines leaders quite like insecurity does. This engaging workshop is a reflective and applicable approach to managing insecurity and leading out of a rooted identity. (90-120 minutes)
  5. Custom Sessions: Your leadership needs may not align perfectly with any of the above programs. Chris has the experience and insight to work with you to create a session specifically for your team. Contact him to explore the ways we can help.

**All of these programs can be delivered remotely for the safety and convenience of everyone involved if preferred.**

There is limited capacity for this opportunity. If you are interested in discussing whether it might be a fit for your organization please contact Chris@catalystfoundation.ca


Bonus: Catalyst is able to offer a free copy of The REACTION Dashboard book to up to 20 charity leaders who would like to receive one regardless of their involvement in this opportunity. 

Email chris@catalystfoundation.ca with Subject Line: REACTION Offer 2020 and your mailing address to request your copy.


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Uncategorized
A little over a dozen years ago I was diagnosed with a significant hearing loss.

It appears I have always had difficulty hearing certain tones within the typical vocal range and have adapted to distinguish some sounds without even realizing I was missing them. Wearing hearing aids makes a difference.

I don’t talk about it a lot because I rarely need help from others to manage, and I don’t see hearing issues as a core part of what my life and work are about.

Just this morning I learned that the term “tone deaf” is offensive to some people with hearing disabilities. It had never occurred to me that this might be true. In fact I have used that term fairly often in conversation, training sessions, and in some  blog posts. It is an effective way to express the dynamic when people are unable to recognize how their actions or communication are being perceived differently than their intent. And I was demonstrating the behaviour by using the term.

I am sorry for using a phrase that is hurtful to people. I try to be sensitive to these things and I will avoid using that term in the future.

I know some would push back at least a little here. It’s a common phrase that is rooted more in music than in disability, and the typical usage is pretty harmless. There’s certainly no intent to hurt or offend and (from what I can tell) many hearing impaired people don’t object to it. 

So why should I use a less familiar term?

It’s not about political correctness. It’s about compassion and priorities.

It’s also not just about this particular phrase, but every example when well intended language gets in the way.

There are things I want to say, messages I want to deliver, and ideas I want to share that matter quite a lot to me. I believe in them and I think a lot of people, especially leaders, should consider my words and apply the ideas to their lives and leadership.

If my tone, terminology, or timing is off-putting to some people they won’t do that. They will either refuse or simply be unable to take in my messages because I’ve turned them off with something that is far less important to me. What I want to communicate is lost to some people I’d like to understand it.

That’s bad communication.

And blaming your audience for not receiving your message because they are sensitive to something you did that got in the way is arrogant and ineffective. It means you are protecting an insecure ego instead of accomplishing your purpose.

Sometimes we needs to get over ourselves and out of our own way.

Too many leaders allow their intended impact to get sidetracked (or sabotaged) by fighting for the wrong things. We allow ourselves to be distracted defending things that aren’t that important to us, but are meaningful to others. We dig in our heels and think we are showing strength when we are really just throwing the acceptable grown up version of a toddlers tantrum until we get our way.

Take notice of the things that you react strongly to, or that get a strong reaction from others. Challenging people, even offending them, about something that is truly core to your mission and beliefs can be excellent leadership. 

Losing your audience over something unnecessary is bad leadership.


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Uncategorized
“Never let a good crisis go to waste” – Winston Churchill 

As plans to begin relaxing public health measures and re-open parts of the economic sector are being announced many of us are  asking what will be different post-COVID. In many of these conversations people seem to be operating from a passive posture. We are trying to anticipate broad societal changes over which we have little or no direct influence.

As valuable as it is to do scenario planning to respond well to outside forces, there is a better exercise for leaders right now.

What are the changes this season makes possible for your organization?

Here are a few possibilities you might consider:

1. Establish an Innovation Incubator: We’ve been adapting so rapidly in the last two months that we now understand that it is possible to make significant changes quickly, and to launch them incomplete and improve them on the fly. Start up organizations do this intuitively. More mature organizations may need to set aside an allocation of time, energy, people, and resources to operate a “skunk works” unit who are expected and empowered to experiment with ideas, approaches, and programs that are higher risk than most. Our generation of continuous change will favour those leaders who devote some portion of their support to entrepreneurial innovation.

2. Seek and Destroy: Most leaders have something in their organizations that they would love to eliminate, but haven’t had the courage, political clout, or justification to do so. Some of these are sacred cows and invisible elephants, others are systems, events, or projects that are just slightly too far out of alignment with the strategic direction or of too little impact to continue. You are unlikely to ever again have such an opportunity to clean up your organization according to your priorities. Now is the time.

3. Transform Governance: Board directors have been exposed by this crisis. Some have risen to the challenge to offer greater insight and support to the organization. Others have revealed their lack of awareness or commitment. When we were making urgent and difficult decisions in the early days and weeks of the pandemic impacting our work we saw what our boards are truly providing. As we anticipate emerging in the months to come we may be able to clarify the roles and expectations of the board in new ways. Start with understanding the 6 Hats each board member wears, then have a discussion about what kind of board you really need for the next stage of your work. Adjust accordingly.

4. Buff Your Brand: This crisis has forced us to examine our priorities in profound ways. Some things about how we function have been affirmed, others found wanting. These odd months before a new normal is truly in place are a chance for reviewing the way you represent your organization to your constituents or the public at large. Many marketing consultants are offering online workshops at discounted rates or for free. Whether it’s a new website, strategic social media, a deep cleaning of all your old blog posts, or any other aspect of your brand; your image and reputation can be shaped to best represent where you want to be in the future.

5. Stimulate Celebration: When I first developed the tool that became The REACTION Dashboard the idea that celebration was a major strategic and cultural point of leverage wasn’t on my radar. It has become the aspect that most leaders tell me has had the greatest impact on their lives and leadership. Exploring creative ways to involve your team, donors, beneficiaries, and community in celebrating in these days when we long for good news is a powerful opportunity. The culture of your organization is being shaped by everything that is happening. Wise leaders aren’t just letting that happen. Are you intentionally making yours a culture that celebrates meaningfully?

Catalyst is happy to provide a free consultation with charity leaders who are working to be healthy leaders leading healthy organizations. Contact us to set up a session.
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Leadership, Resources
My cynicism got the better of me.

A few weeks ago, when this COVID-19 pandemic was beginning I had multiple conversations in which I was asked how leaders could improve organizational culture in this time of distant work and high stress. I said there wasn’t much hope.

I was wrong.

In the time since those conversations I have seen leaders demonstrate care and compassion for their teams. I’ve seen them display sincere vulnerability in appropriate ways. I’ve seen them rally their teams around their mission and take on immense challenges, often with remarkable success. 

I’ve seen cultures strengthened significantly.

It turns out (as people wiser than myself already knew), that times of stress don’t only reveal the cracks in organizational health; they also provide a powerful opportunity to address some of those issues. There is great opportunity in crisis for those who are able to engage it well.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise. Some moments are high leverage, and this is certainly one of them. Physical separation from our teams doesn’t prevent us from deepening our connections and affirming our shared commitments. In some cases the change of situation becomes an excellent opportunity to make impactful adjustments.

So, how can leaders improve their culture in the midst of great challenges?

1. Be Human: Sudden adjustment to working from home and worrying about the wellbeing of our loved ones gives us a glimpse into life beyond work for our colleagues. Take time to ask more questions about how people are doing. Be compassionate about the limitations and difficulties of home schooling, cabin fever, constant stress, and loneliness. Talk about your own challenges in a way that doesn’t always set you up as the ideal. Emphasize relationship in the ways that mean the most to your people.

2. Focus on Purpose, not Productivity: We all talk about impact measures and the importance of mission. Now is a time to lean in to that aggressively. People are working odd hours, without familiar settings and resources, and with more distractions than ever. Don’t add to the pressure by having unrealistic expectations. Instead have open conversations about the challenges we face and how we can have the greatest effect for our mission under the circumstances. We need to count results, not activity; and we need to give our people the opportunity to shape their work with that in mind.

3. Celebrate!: For most of us the desperate urgency of the first days of the pandemic is over. Life is turning into a grind, with no end in sight. We are longing for normalcy that may yet be far off. We’ve abandoned most of our goals both professionally and personally, and so many of the typical highlights of our lives aren’t happening. We need celebrations! We need to have our successes recognized and our accomplishments acknowledged. We need the moments of joy to punctuate our days. We need good news stories, victories, and opportunities to cheer one another on. More than ever, we need leaders who are attuned to the power of celebration and committed to making it happen.

I’m not proud of being wrong, but I’m really glad I was. 

This is absolutely an opportunity for organizations to become healthier in ways that will long outlast the current situation. We’d love to help you do that.



Check out The REACTION Dashboard for a practical guide to understanding, assessing, and improving organizational culture in any circumstance.
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Uncategorized
Once upon a time…

There were two leaders, May and Jay, who found themselves trying to guide their organizations through a time that was called “unprecedented” so often that the word lost all meaning. They had risen to the challenge of the initial crisis with energy, decisive action, and great compassion; and their teams and organizations had handled the changes very well. The leaders were grateful for the people they worked with and beginning to think beyond the immediate issues into a longer season of change.

Quite predictably, both May and Jay as motivated leaders were thriving in the demands of the challenges. They told a few trusted friends that although the global situation was truly tragic, they were feeling enthused as leaders by stepping up to what needed to be done. They were tired, but it was the good kind of tired that comes after a solid workout or an invigorating project.

Equally predictably, some of May’s and Jay’s team members were tired, but in a different way. They had also risen to the challenge in selfless and committed ways, but their initial wave of enthusiasm had worn off and it was becoming more difficult to keep up with the needs of the day while also managing family, friends, loved ones, and life in something like lock down. The team were still doing everything they could and May and Jay could not have been more proud to lead them, but the strain was starting to show.

May loves her team. She wanted to help them handle the challenges of the time. So she shared with them what worked for her.

She sent every employee a copy of Getting Things Done and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and offered an online book club on how to apply the ideas to get the best results. She shared her personal priority practices and set up a weekly webinar where everyone could share goals and outcomes for their personal lives as well as work. She also arranged for an outside consultant to provide a session on how to manage time and energy while working from home. She wanted everyone to have the tools they needed to thrive.

Jay loves his team. He wanted to help them handle the challenges of the time. So he shared with them what worked for him.

He sent every employee a box of cookies from a local bakery and a copy of You Are Awesome! He shared his personal peace practices and set up a weekly happy hour where staff gathered online with a beverage of their choice to chat and laugh together. He also arranged for an online concert and scavenger hunt for employees and their families to enjoy together. He wanted everyone to have the treats they needed to thrive.

Some of May’s team felt overwhelmed. They felt like all these tools were really assignments that added to their obligations.

Some of Jay’s team felt overwhelmed. They felt like all these treats were really distractions from the important work they need to do.

May and Jay were confused. They had given their very best to their teams and it wasn’t working. Instead of appreciated they felt deflated and misunderstood; and even a little annoyed if they were totally honest.

May and Jay had a conversation and shared what was going on.

“May, you’re too intense! You need to lighten up a little and help people find some freedom so they can do their best under demanding circumstances.” Jay said.

“Jay, you’re too casual! You need to be more focussed and help people find some structure so they can do their best under demanding circumstances.” May said.

Of course they were both right.


We all need both structure and freedom in our lives at all times. Wise leaders know to provide both treats and tools. Some of us are drawn to one more than the other, though very few are as extreme as May and Jay. The challenge is when we innocently assume that others have the same needs that we do. As you lead and care for your team in demanding or unprecedented situations be sure to check whether you are giving them what they need, or just projecting your own needs onto them. If you need some help sorting this out contact us for a free coaching session.

Photo by   Zahabiyah Quresh  on  Scopio
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