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Catalyst, Resources
These are not easy days for leaders of any type.

The sudden and drastic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last few weeks have required us to make important decisions amidst great uncertainty; and in many cases have to revise those decisions repeatedly as new information and insights emerge. We have had to lead our organizations with as much calm and confidence as we can muster even while processing our professional and personal fears. Most leaders I know have risen to the occasion beautifully.

As demanding as it has been so far; I expect leadership to become more difficult in the weeks and months to come.

Most leaders respond well to crisis. We are motivated by the urgency and need for action. In many ways we like the pressure, and the rush involved in handling the unanticipated can actually be invigorating. Adrenaline is a powerful thing.

Our leadership teams, employees, and communities have also stepped up. Again, there is a remarkable ability to accept difficult circumstances when something of this magnitude is happening all around us. We can tolerate a lot for a while if we believe it is for good reason.

But that initial period of easy adaptability will come to an end and the adrenaline will fade. That is when leadership will require greater nuance and strength. As one deeply insightful article describes, we are facing an ice age, not a blizzard.

There are many great resources to help us understand how to lead through this crisis as it extends. Many come from people more experienced, studied, or insightful than me. I’d welcome you linking to the ones you find most helpful in the comments at the end of this post.

What I think I can offer are a couple particular reminders; things we probably already know but may not be acting on.

1. Your organizational Culture is far more valuable than your Strategy right now. 

The plans and priorities you had even six weeks ago have probably been completely abandoned. What remains as you try to change on the fly is the quality and strength of relationships you have built over time. Healthy cultures will find ways to shift resources and approaches with strong engagement from staff and stakeholders. Unhealthy ones will not. 

This is not the time to take Culture for granted. Continue to invest actively in people. Find ways to have both formal and informal interaction. Continue to train and treat (or school and spoil) your team even under pressure. It will pay off.

We have a quick, insightful, and highly actionable tool to help you understand, evaluate, and improve your organizational culture.

2. Your personal Character outweighs your skills and experience.

None of us have done this before. Even the most adept at remote working have never done it under these circumstances. The playbook for this situation is being written day by day, even hour by hour; you can’t find it in a library or bookshop. That means we all need to discern which of the multitude of “expert” voices we will listen to and which insights we will try to apply.

Ultimately it will be leaders who are adaptable, relational, and trusted that will find ways forward. Those who are driven by selfish motives or insecurity will find it extremely hard to maintain engagement. Make a point of checking in on your own identity and actions regularly and find some safe people to help you stay (or get) on track. People follow those they trust when all else is uncertain.

If you want a practical tool to do a personal character check up for yourself or your team please let me know.

3. Prioritize Celebration.

A quick glance through my social media feeds show that people are rapidly tiring of the latest projections and predictions. As much as we need to keep up with critical information, we are longing for good news. This is only multiplied, exponentially, by the enforced isolation of this particular crisis. Celebration is a strong counterpoint to fatigue.

Expect that your team, donors, clientele, and community need more celebration than you do. Find and flag as many examples as you can of the ways the things you are doing are helping, even if that only means reducing the degree of harm people experience. Make a point of drawing attention to what is hopeful. 

Whether you are a religious person or not there is a universal wisdom in the Bible’s advice:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Your efforts to give people reason and opportunity to celebrate in this time of turmoil may be the most important thing you do.

If I can help you work through any of these things as you lead please contact me.

It would be my pleasure to help you as you lead. You may also find some useful insights into Celebration and organizational Culture in The REACTION Dashboard.
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These are unprecedented times.

As difficult and uncertain as things are, I’ve been deeply impressed with the ways people are adapting to pandemic precautions. The creativity, dedication, and care demonstrated by charity leaders I see is truly inspiring. I am humbled by your commitment to serving others and your flexibility to handle essentials while supporting your teams. It is a time for leaders to shine.

But in truth, even the best efforts from leaders in this moment are severely limited by everything they’ve done in the past. If you have been driven more by insecurity than a rooted sense of deep identity, and you’ve neglected to build a healthy organizational culture there isn’t much you can do that in the midst of a global pandemic to turn that all around. You can admit your failings and try to improve but it’s going to be extremely difficult.

On the other hand, those leaders who have been working at their own leadership health and that of their teams are able now to see the fruits of that investment as they are able to adapt to uncertainty and rely on their people to step up to demanding circumstances. 

I put it this way on Twitter a couple days ago:



So kudos to the leaders who have done the work in relatively easier times to be able to handle this reality. That is the real work of leadership.

What is this crisis revealing about you and your organization?

During the pandemic response I am working from home to “flatten the curve” and protect my community. If you or your organization would be interested in a leadership session using any of our tools or just an encouraging conversation please Contact me.
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Leadership


Humble is hard.

As much as humility is an admired trait (for most of us at least), the process of becoming humble is rarely pleasant. It usually comes at significant cost to our ego, if not our reputation.

Leaders today live in a tension between understanding that humility is the path to greatest organizational success and a culture that is increasingly geared to self-promotion. We know that everything we do is ultimately reliant on many others, but we also have to recognize our own contributions. With so much emphasis on the individual; empowered by social media, profiles and awards, and seeing those who champion their own achievements rising around us, it can be difficult to know how to represent ourselves honestly.

For many years I was one who ascribed to the idea that doing good work quietly would always be seen by those who really matter. I convinced myself that any promotion of my accomplishments was inappropriate and selfish. I deflected compliments and diminished my abilities as nothing special. I thought that was humility.

I was wrong.

It’s taken me years to be able to confidently and openly express the things I do well and have achieved. (Maybe it’s a Canadian thing).

I was intimidated by, and jealous of, people who posted their awards or called attention to their successes. It looked like bragging. It was beneath me.

Wrong again.

I am learning, so very slowly, that humility is not demonstrated by denying my gifts. It is in holding them loosely and being eager to celebrate the gifts of others. Pretending that I am not proud of the results of my hard work is false humility, waiting for others to prop me up with praise. It is no less insecure than the people who constantly trumpet themselves for affirmation. Demeaning myself isn’t humble it’s harmful.

So what are humble leaders really like?

-They talk more about team than about self.
-They take more responsibility for failures than successes.
-They understand their strengths and use them confidently.
-They understand their weaknesses and show them openly.
-They encourage others to surpass their own achievements.
-They accept praise and thanks with gratitude.
-They intentionally develop others, and themselves.
-They have an accurate assessment of their own abilities and contributions.
-Their identity is not dependent on their performance.
-They commit themselves to the cause, not their personal brand.
-They admit mistakes and ask forgiveness.
-They earn respect rather than demand loyalty.
-They are teachable and accept both affirming and critical feedback.
-They celebrate achievements eagerly and give credit where it is due.
-They inspire humility in others.

Obviously there are far more…

What does humble leadership look like to you?
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Leadership, Resources, Vision
One of the growth areas for Catalyst in the last few years is facilitating Strategic Planning sessions. It’s work I love but I confess I’ve had a hard time figuring out the best approach. Most of what I’ve seen and tried has left me feeling unsatisfied, like there’s something missing that keeps it from approaching the kind of impact we aim for.

The problem for me is that so much strategic planning is terrible. Whether its brainstorming sessions with no connection to reality, or droning meetings lost in detail, it seems like much of what passes for strategic planning is nearly useless if not counterproductive. 

There has to be a better way.

Pat of the problem is with our basic understanding of strategy. We treat it as something static that gives us a false sense of control. Strategy lies.

But what I’m seeing over and over in guiding charities, churches, schools, and businesses through strategy sessions is that the bigger issue is that we try to treat Strategy as a separate thing from Execution and Culture. 

It’s fine to consider each of these components of a healthy and effective organization with some distinction, but they are inextricably entwined. There is no brilliant Strategy that can work without focussed Execution and supported by a thriving Culture. Our attempts to solve Culture and Execution issues by improving or innovating Strategy are doomed to frustration.

So change the approach.

By incorporating Strategy, Execution, and Culture all into the strategic planning process we do a much better job of identifying the real issues and opportunities. We show respect for the participants who often know that strategy isn’t the problem. We recognize that our organizations are integrated systems, not simplistic machines. And, perhaps most importantly, we leverage the effects of all three components to increase engagement, improve outcomes, and align every form of energy towards a brighter future – which is what we were hoping for to begin with.

There are lots of ways to plan a strategic planning process that will draw on Strategy, Execution, and Culture. My approach is always adjusting to accommodate new insights and tools to better serve the uniqueness of each situation. What is clear is that any approach that fails to intentionally address all of these is dangerously incomplete and inadequate for the realities of leadership today.

If you’re anticipating doing some strategic planning this year I’d love to hear how you’re designing the process to get results that are useful and effective. And if Catalyst can help contact me.

For an introduction to the Strategy/Execution/Culture approach to leadership read the last chapter of The REACTION Dashboard.
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Leadership, Resources, Uncategorized

Being the new kid is difficult.

Being the new leader is too. 

For anyone starting a new leadership role or joining a new organization in a leadership capacity there are a mix of emotions:

Excitement – This is awesome! Can’t wait to get started! So amazing that I get paid to do this!
Insecurity – Can I handle everything this requires? What do I need to do to earn trust and build credibility? Will they like me?
Pride – I’ve worked hard for this. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for. Started from the bottom now we here! 🙂
Pragmatism – Where do I park? Which is my workspace? What details do I need to take care of so I can get on with the job?
– Hope – We are going to do some great things! I can imagine something beautiful from this! The future is bright!
– Doubt – What did they not tell me about what’s really going on here? Do I have the time/team/resources to succeed?

Whatever you may be feeling as you begin, this is a key time. What you do in the first few weeks and months of a new role has leverage for your entire tenure.

Here are a few things I’ve seen leaders do that set the right tone and lead to excellent results:

1. Prioritise. Find out what are the most important and most urgent things your supervisor/board expects you to accomplish. Early expectations can be unrealistic, but they are also the basis for your initial credibility as leader. Get as much clarity on these expectations as you possibly can and determine to act on them.
2. Plan. Don’t just wing it. Even if you’ve been able to rely on your instincts in previous situations that strength has the potential to undermine you now. I highly recommend the book The First 90 Days as a guide to establishing your first moves. It is deservedly the prime resource for this situation.
3. People. Building relationships is (almost) everything! Unless you have been given a definitive urgent change mandate nothing you do at the start will have greater positive long term results than getting to know your colleagues and letting them know you. Ask more questions. Commit to learning. Be relentlessly curious.
4. Patience. Leaders often think they need a couple “quick wins” to earn the confidence of the organization. That is partially true, but too often it is a reflection of insecurity more than reality. The wins you need may have more to do with connection than change; especially in a healthy organization.
5. Pray. (Or if you aren’t the praying sort: Pause). Take time regularly, more than usual, to connect with the deepest truths you believe and be reminded of what matters most to you. It’s tempting to be swept up in your new reality and lose touch with the core identity that is essential to your ultimate success.
6. Protegé. Build a list of experts and advisors who will take your calls. Even if your role has some assigned mentors you are wise to have interested outsiders who care enough about you to give honest insights. And make a point of reaching out to them sooner rather than later. It’s not a mistake to schedule a couple check-ins as soon as you can, even before what you will know what to ask them.
7. Persevere. Nearly all the leaders I advise quickly find some things in a new role that were not what they expected. Early challenges tend to be disproportionate as they are magnified by the stress of a new beginning. Dig in, trust your experience and strengths, and lean on the help that is available to you. It gets better.
8. Perspective. Take the long view whenever possible. As important as the first 90 days are, they are not everything. Your whole life and career are not likely to be determined by this season and the ultimate success of the organization probably isn’t either. Starting well is a significant advantage but there are many traps to be found by rushing to make things happen that aren’t going to matter much in a few years time.

If you are in a new leadership role I am rooting for you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

And as a bonus to those who read all the way through: I have 5 copies of my book The REACTION Dashboard to give for free to the first five leaders in new roles that ask for them. If having a healthy culture is something you care about this book can help you make that happen. Just contact me to request a copy.
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Catalyst, Leadership, Resources

Are you looking forward to getting your organization moving again after the year end festivities?

Most charities work hard right up to the final day of the calendar year to maximize fundraising as donors give for an annual tax receipt. 

For many, the first weeks of a new year are a relatively less urgent time when there may be greater potential for investing in strategic priorities beyond the daily whirlwind of tasks and deadlines. It can be a time to refocus and reinvest as well as to recover.

This may be the best opportunity all year to take a closer look at your organizational culture and see what is worthy of celebrating and what needs to change for you to achieve your ambitions for 2020. Of course you should be considering and working on culture all the time; but it rarely reaches the top of the priority list when things are busy. It’s very important but by the time it becomes urgent it may be extremely difficult to fix it without serious damage.

So here are 7 Simple Questions you can ask alone, or with your team, to check in on the health of your organizational culture:

1. Do we all understand the Reason for our work well enough to state it briefly in our own words?

2. How are we being intentional about managing the seasonal ebbs and flows of Energy and developing the habits that fill us?

3. What are 3 things we are doing currently that are not in strong Alignment with our priorities and how are we fixing or eliminating those things?

4. Where is there a communication gap that is muddying the Clarity we need to have our greatest impact and who is responsible for closing that gap?

5. What Trust damaging behaviours have we tolerated for too long for fear of losing a high performer or just because we are uncomfortable with conflict?

6. Which potential or imminent Warning Lights are indicating dangers to the health of our organization?

7. What specific things are we doing this month to Celebrate our steps toward success that we want everyone involved in our organization to understand and/or replicate?

Taking even just 15 minutes to answer these questions, and then acting on the answers, could be exactly what you need to set your organization on course for a healthier and more effective year ahead.

For more practical insight into how leaders can understand, assess, and improve organizational culture check out www.reactiondashboard.com or contact us for a free initial consultation.
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Leadership, Vision
It’s no coincidence that the words values and costs are so strongly associated.

Your values, political, organizational, or personal, mean close to nothing unless they cost you something.

We are living in a time when there is a rise in expressed hatred and bigotry. We are seeing the lowest versions of people and even nations celebrated. None of this is new, but it feels like a growing wave. It is difficult for leaders to know how to respond.

I hear increasing calls for public declarations of allegiance, participation in movements, and joining petitions. In some cases I sign on, in others I don’t.

I’ve written before about discerning when is the time to take a stand for or against a controversial situation.

But more and more the tension is arriving within organizations. As people are urged to declare their stance on matters that may have little to do with the reason for what you do they may try to force you into creating a policy, position, or proclamation. The pressure may come from the fringes of your team, donors, or network; or from core people.

With so much potential for being misinterpreted (even deliberately), the best guide comes from your organization’s established values. Even if you have never explicitly identified values, the stories you tell about yourselves and the things you do at your best reveal them fairly clearly. 

(Catalyst does offer a values training workshop that has been very helpful for recognizing values and distinguishing them from mission and vision; contact us to learn more about our story-based approach.)

When suspicion and consequences are both high, wisdom returns to core values and uses them to craft a response that expresses the heart of the organization.

A few tips to do this well:

1. Prioritize Posture Over Position: Unless the matter is truly essential for your organization, developing a new policy under duress can be a trap. Instead of rushing something that may raise further problems, express your core convictions and commit to learning and compassion. Those who demand a specific rule do not always have your organization’s interests in mind.

2. Offend On Purpose: Think carefully about the reactions you will face and craft your responses to align with those you serve, partner with, and relate to most closely. It may be impossible to avoid offending anyone, so decide who’s favour you can live without and anticipate their departure. If your organization is dependent on satisfying people who don’t fit your values you are better off suffering the short term impact of losing them than the long term impact of relying on them.

3. Refuse To Rush: The urgency of social media and the 24 hour news cycle make it seem like you need to determine your stance instantaneously. You don’t. Hurried decisions don’t allow for the quality of research and reflection that weighty matters deserve. Having to backtrack because of unanticipated consequences always undermines your credibility.

4. Listen Well: The loudest voices aren’t always right or even well-informed. Seek out input from those who have earned perspective over time whenever possible. Many matters are more nuanced than they may appear and the tendency to be caught in an echo chamber affects us all. There are some certainties and absolutes, but there are also many who oversimplify things to achieve influence.

5. Be Bold: Confidence comes from knowing that you have done your homework, followed your values, and gotten your key stakeholders aligned. When you decide to make a statement or take a stand do it with conviction. If it is worth your effort it is worth your courage, and worth the potential cost that may follow.  

Mature leaders don’t go looking for a fight in an area that isn’t core to their organization’s purpose. But if the heated tenor of our society requires you to enter the battlefield, do it well and with the assurance that your actions are driven by values you truly believe in.

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Leadership

I don’t sing well.

This isn’t any form of humility; it is an objective fact supported by decades of people cringing or shuddering when I let loose with my best efforts.. It has gotten somewhat better over the years but I can still vividly remember leading a campfire sing along as a teenager and being laughed at by the whole circle for how far off key I was. That kind of humiliation sticks with you.

I don’t get invited to sing these days, but I do a lot of other public communication. Writing, speaking, facilitating, hosting, and training are all regular parts of my work and personal life. I have a fair degree of confidence in all of them.

The danger is that I can be just as tone deaf in those forms of expression as in music.

And so can you.

It used to be that a lot of leadership communication was to a predictable and supportive audience of insiders and supporters who could be relied upon to give the benefit of the doubt if something sounded a little off. We got comfortable being off the cuff and informal because the conversations were with “the family”. Even if we messed up people assumed the best about us and did the work to figure out what we were trying to say.

Endless examples show us that’s no longer the case.

Today we have to expect that anything we say, write, or post may find it’s way into the public. And that includes those who may be motivated to find and exploit the flaws in our messaging.

Some of us are annoyed by this. We liked it when we could get away with using outdated vocabulary or borderline stories. We felt secure in the confidence that people would “know what I meant” and not “take it out of context”. We feel betrayed by being exposed to critique, ridicule, and judgment.

That may be justified, but it doesn’t matter. The raw reality is that we can no longer control the audience or reach of our message. We need to expect that what we say in a whisper may be broadcast widely.

This requires developing some new skills and sensitivities.

1. Cultural Awareness: As language and culture evolve it’s common for words and phrases that were once clear and acceptable to become ambiguous or even offensive. Haydn Shaw in his book Sticking Points reminds us that only about a generation ago thongs were sandals with a strap between the toes; that’s not the understanding your younger colleagues or community will assume if you talk about leaving yours at the beach.

We need to be active students of the culture, and not just our particular subculture, to ensure that we are sending the message we actually intend.

2. Expertise vs. Opinion: Leaders (like teachers, physicians, or clergy), can easily get into the habit of expecting our ideas to be highly valued. We’re used to people listening to us. Too often that leads us to assuming confidence about things we really don’t understand. Being exposed as ignorant for spouting off on a subject outside our true expertise is a fast way to lose credibility on what we really do know.

We need to stay on topic and be clear about where we are truly expert and where we are just giving our own take.

3. Humility Works: I need to get a lot more comfortable using the phrase “I don’t know”. Admitting some level of uncertainty or incomplete awareness disarms critics and actually increases the confidence of most of our followers who already know we aren’t perfect. Taking a curious posture and being eager to learn are far more valuable in the long run than being a “know-it-all”.

We need to commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning and be students more than teachers.

4. Sincere Apology: Even the best of intentions and careful communication may not prevent a misstep from time to time. Arrogant leaders double down on their statements, feeling victimized, and demand to be judged on their intentions. That only serves to alienate all but the most devoted followers.

Taking responsibility for our errors, acknowledging any harm we have caused, and committing to being better builds bridges. It may be taken advantage of on rare occasions, but more often it will earn an opportunity to communicate again more effectively.

Some of you don’t care. You figure if people don’t or won’t give you the benefit of the doubt you don’t need their support. You’re tired of being so “politically correct”. You value boldness and authenticity and refuse to be so careful all the time. You want the freedom to say things the way you want to say them.

That’s an option. It will inevitably cost you the chance to be heard by significant numbers of people who might be really interested in joining you; but you can rest in your confidence that your way is always right and anything else is compromise. There are a surprising number of people who will rally to that kind of leader.

As for me; I’ll be over here trying to figure out how to share my message in ways where my delivery won’t get in the way of what I’m really trying to say.
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Leadership
Do you remember Trivial Pursuit?

Family night in the 1980’s frequently involved moving our coloured “pies” around the board answering general knowledge and pop culture questions to earn what my dad always called “wedgies”. At our house winning Trivial Pursuit was worth major bragging rights.

The game was so popular that there were stories of people memorizing thousands of answers from the boxes full of cards. Those cards were ultimate authority, even when we sometimes disputed their accuracy.

I haven’t heard of anyone playing Trivial Pursuit in years but my kids have become masters of trivial information. Rarely a day goes by without some “fun fact” being shared from a popular meme page or Instagram feed. The sheer volume of information exposure we all experience daily is overwhelming.

And yet, we are still struggling with basic matters of kindness and ethics.

It’s no news flash to observe that more information hasn’t made us more wise.

I frame the situation this way:

Information + context and corroboration = Knowledge

Knowledge + compassion and application = Wisdom.

Of course Wisdom is the highest form and the one to which we aspire, but it would be a mistake to think we can focus there entirely. We need to gather Information from a variety of sources, scanning the horizons (and our newsfeeds) like a Searchlight to see what might be worthy of further consideration.

When something captures our interest we can try to understand the context around it and find corroborating evidence to shape and support our Knowledge. This is like a Spotlight drawing our attention and increasing our awareness of what we find.

Finally, when we want to bring change or influence we narrow the focus further like a Laser, seeking ways to make the Knowledge relevant and beneficial.

In every case the energy is essentially the same (light), the difference is the degree of focus.

(I’ve written on this approach previously in terms of using our individual and organizational energy; but now I see it equally helpful in handling the endless and demanding flow of content surrounding me constantly.)

There’s no magic formula for how much attention to give to each of Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom. Circumstances and seasons require different emphasis at different times. Why is helpful is to remind myself that my desire is for increasing Wisdom, and Information and Knowledge are important as part of that process.

Anyway, I’ve missed a pile of tweets while writing this so I’ve got to resume scrolling. Thanks for sticking with me this long.
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Uncategorized
I’ve recently talked to two charity leaders I respect about their organizations entering their “3.0” phase.

People much more studied than myself can offer a fuller exploration of the stages of development organizations experience, and whether they differ in the charitable sector. What I’m pondering is how leaders approach organizational culture in each of the common (oversimplified) stages.

Organization 1.0 The Start Up

Most often driven by a charismatic founder, start up charities are typically working on the frontlines of an issue or community. They are tactical, adaptable, and highly committed. Staff and volunteers may not have begun as family or friends but they soon take on those characteristics in one another’s lives. Passion is the defining quality of the organizational culture; systems and structures are inconvenient nuisances if not openly suspect. 

These organizations are dependant on a culture that is usually a strong reflection of the personality of the founder(s). A “you and me against the world” mindset and absolute loyalty to the cause are rarely questioned. It’s exciting, demanding, fluid, and extremely engaged.

The danger here is that the culture can easily become inbred. Asking hard internal questions or challenging assumptions can be seen as betrayal. Even a desire to learn and grow may be filtered through the primary leader as the arbiter of truth and value. 

Start Up charities can leverage the energy of this phase to drive the hard work of getting established, while being deliberate about preventing one person or a small inside circle from being the only considered opinions. Fostering humility and curiosity as core practices can help overcome the tendency to overestimate their own insightfulness.

Organization 2.0 Founders vs. Settlers

When the founder leaves or otherwise becomes less authoritative and certain, the organization can begin to broaden its leadership base and increase the focus of programs and projects. Developing systems that address some of the hazards of a Start Up and taking a higher level strategic look at where you fit into the larger ecosystem of influences on your chosen area of impact become critical matters, but they often feel like a drag on the positive energy that motivated so many of the first generation staff, volunteers, and donors.

A growing awareness that “we don’t know everything” usually leads to existing team members developing some level of specialization. Networking with some relevant partners is valued, but may not easily contain the vulnerability to derive the most benefit. A move to greater professionalism is held in tension with powerful memories of how fun and urgent things were at the beginning.

This is the stage in which outsiders begin to settle into board and staff roles without the shared history of the early years. They rarely have the same degree of radical loyalty and sacrifice that was common in the Start Up, and some degree of tension is to be expected and must be resolved.

Everything is in flux, including the organizational culture. Unspoken rules and untested assumptions become a minefield everyone must navigate for the organization to mature. Clarity is the critical need. As frustrating as it may be, now is the time to invest significant time, energy, and resources in drilling down on the core mission, vision, values, and dynamics that will remain essential when so much is changing.

Organization 3.0 Best Practices

Having navigated the dangerous waters of 2.0 and found core clarity the organization is now primed to leverage their hard earned experience and insight to push for greater strategic impact. Often this involves increasing advocacy work and being an intentional example to others. Expertise becomes more valuable than seniority and some long term team members may find that their role has outgrown their capacity.

A strong focus on best practices and involvement in higher impact networks and partnerships requires a significantly different approach. The metrics change, commitment is more to the cause than the organization, and its no longer essential that we all be best friends. Naturally this will leave some nostalgic for 1.0.

The danger here is that maturing strategy and execution can eclipse giving attention to organizational culture. We return to making assumptions instead of having conversations. Unspoken expectations can quietly accumulate and begin to undermine all the good that has been developed.

Wise leaders will push against the tendency to build and maintain silos, continually casting a vision greater than the sum of the parts. Team building needs to be emphasized alongside professional development, with fun in high supply. Culture conversations must stay on the agenda and seen as at least as important as strategy and execution. Staleness and excessive turnover are very real risks.


There is something to be written about how these stages merge, decline, and repeat. But that’s not for today. The hope here is that leaders will consider what is necessary in the current stage of their organization’s development to establish, maintain, and multiply a healthy culture than enables the greatest impact.
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