Saturday, November 30, 2013

"I Y'am What I Y'am": Why You Should Always Hire for Attitude

I'm not a big Popeye fan (although I do love spinach!) but this classic mantra - "I y'am what I y'am." - is a great reminder of how to hire smart.

As a leader and manager, the most important thing you will have the privilege to do is to build your team.  And that starts with recruiting for and hiring the best talent.

But how to you find and know who is best?

Hire for attitude.  Train for skill.

According to Bill Taylor, Co-Founder of Fast Company, "over the years, as I’ve studied high-impact organizations that are changing the game in their fields, they’ve adopted a range of strategies and business models. But they all agree on one core “people” proposition: They hire for attitude and train for skill. They believe that one of the biggest challenges they face is to fill their ranks with executives and front-line employees whose personal values are in sync with the values that make the organization tick. As a result, they believe that character counts for more than credentials."

Every company, including every nonprofit has a specific culture, "We're innovators; we lead!" "We're risk averse; we follow!"

The only way to make good hiring decisions is to know what your organization (really) values and to find people who share them.  

This is easier said than done.  It's easy to get blindsided by credentials and hard to get inside someone's head in a few short interviews, but it's possible. 

In addition to asking interviewees about work experience, get them talking about their passions.  What makes them tick? How do they have fun outside of work?  What is their favorite movie or novel?  These questions, while seemingly irrelevant, can tell you a lot about a person's priorities.  And can help you discern whether or not they will enjoy working with you!

Also, talk to references of a prospective hire.  What were they like to work with?  What did they bring to the last holiday party?  What's the worst mistake they ever made?

"But what about skills?" you say.  "What about experience?" 

Of course, skills and experience are important too, although the literature is mixed regarding how important your GPA is to your success on the job.  No one is suggesting that you hire a super cool chemist to become your chief fundraiser.  And there is nothing wrong with assessing a person's track record. 

Still, don't fall into the trap of thinking that skills alone are enough, especially in sales aka fundraising and other customer-facing positions.  

To be an excellent and successful fundraiser you have to be Likable.  You have to be able to attune, i.e., read and mirror other people, understand what motivates them and react.  You also have to be upbeat, enthusiastic, and inspired.  No one buys stuff from an Angry Bird!

Like most customer facing positions, fundraising is a skill but it's also a mind-set facilitated by empathic and persuasive communication. These behaviors are better suited to some personalities than others.  Don't delude yourself into thinking you can train someone else (including your partner!) to be more curious, helpful, interesting, and kind.  It won't work!

As Popeye attests, and research shows, personality is hard wired at birth and changes little over the course of a lifetime.  We are who we are!

"Your personality is going to be essentially the same throughout your life...U.S. Air Force research on personality types that began in the 1950s shows.  For decades, researchers tracked their subjects by observing their behavior and interviewing their families, friends, and colleagues. The conclusion? Basic personality traits did not change, Davidson says. "Introverts were introverts, extroverts were extroverts. The descriptions were constant."

In short, if you want to get great results you've got to recruit and retain awesome people.  Do this by defining the personality traits and attitude necessary for new team members to succeed and find a way to rigorously assess and hire for that.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

6 Lessons Learned From Life With a GREAT Boss

A great boss is a gift. 

With over ten hours a day and five days a week spent on the job, working for someone who truly cares about you and gets the job done is priceless!

Who are these great bosses and what can we learn from them?

1. Great bosses care deeply about other people.

I know it's a novel concept but to be a great boss you have to actually care about the people who work with you and for you.  Put simply, great bosses like people!  They are curious about what makes their donors, volunteers, and employees tick. And they take time to get to know and understand others.

2. Great bosses know their stuff AND are always interested in improving.

Great bosses garner respect because they are highly skilled in their areas of expertise.  They do what they do really well, i.e. they are competent.  That said, they are not wedded to past processes or success.  Instead, they are open to experimentation and are always on the hunt for ways to improve. 

3. Great bosses get results.

I've never worked for a great boss who wasn't also successful in getting results.  At the end of the day, great bosses want to WIN but not at any cost and not for its own sake.  They want to win because they truly care about the cause.  This is what motivates them.  They do good work and are careful to craft the culture and processes, and nurture the people who can make the magic happen.

4. Great bosses ALWAYS take blame and ALWAYS give credit. 

Great bosses are always the first to admit mistakes when things go wrong.  That said, they are not pushovers.  They will take their teams to task but they do it privately and they do it with the aim to improve the work product not shame or criticize others. 

5. Great bosses don't need to be in the center of every miracle.*

They know that they are only a small pixel in a much larger, more magnificent print.  And they don't need to hog the stage.  They may even shirk the spotlight.  Instead, their greatest pride comes from watching others succeed and creating the conditions under which their team members, colleagues, and organizations can thrive.

6. Great bosses are bossy! 

Working with a great boss is not all rainbows, unicorns, and fairies. In fact, in my experience, great bosses are actually quite demanding.  The difference is that they are tough because they care so much about the mission and getting the job done not because they get a cheap thrill out of wielding their power.

What did your best boss teach you?  And what are you doing to become a better boss?



*P.S.  Thanks to AA (Oops! now AL) for reminding me that the miracle is ALREADY happening and I don't need to be in the center of it.  I only need faith.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saying NO_Part 2

"Begin with the end in mind." - Stephen Covey

Yesterday I talked about the cultural constraints, facing women in particular, that hamper our ability to say "no" and make the best use of our time, talent, and treasure.

But culture alone can't explain why decision making is so difficult.  We have to also take personal responsibility for this task. 

Even the most powerful and empowered women make bad decisions. We stay in jobs and marriages for too long.  We accept lower wages and less respect for our work.  We don't LEAN IN and ask for what we want and deserve.  Again, part of this is due to cultural programming.  But there is another culprit at work too.  Namely, we don't know where we are going.

In other words, we don't have a clear vision of the END that we are trying to achieve. 

My husband reminds me that the captain's lack of clarity creates chaos for the entire crew!  How can you steer the ship if you don't know where you want to go? 

It's obvious that without the end in mind, you will not have a good rubric for making decisions.

More homework: This week, take 15 minutes to write down your definition of success.  Finish the sentences below.  Then use these "mission statements" as a guide to better decision making, including saying "no!"

"In a year from now, I will know I am a success at work because I will ..."
"In a year from now, I will know I am a success at home because I will..."



P.S.  Thanks to Richard Perry for reminding me that beginning with the end in mind is critical for effective decision making.  In short, you can't say "yes" or "no" unless you know where you want to go!

Saying NO_ Part 1

"The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes." - Tony Blair

My daughter is talented.  She was recently accepted into Show Choir at her school.  And she is up for a part in her first Middle School play.
The problem is she can't do both, because as her teacher so gently reminds her, "Sweetheart, you can't be in two places at once."
Thus, for the first time in her young life she is faced with hard choices.  And she is learning to say "no."
You may see this as a silly example of decision making.  Choosing between two great opportunities is NOT the end of the world.  But I disagree.  I think learning to say "no" to both good opportunities and bad is one of the hardest and most underrated skills in our personal and professional lives, especially for women. 
For women, the culture tells us that we should try to be everything to everyone, regardless of the toll it takes on our minds, bodies, and souls.  The culture tells us not to be too finicky because "this may be as good as it gets."  The culture tells us that it is not "nice" to be "uppity," driven, and ambitious.
But I say, "Bull!"
Saying "no" is one of the most powerful things you can do in your life, precisely because it opens new doors to new realities.  It also ensures that you are designing your own future vs. letting someone else architect your life. 
All great leaders say "yes."  They take risks, make deals, and embrace partnerships.  But they also ruthlessly say "no" to people, opportunities, and issues that suck their time and energy and don't help them to achieve their dreams, ambitions, and goals.
Your homework: This week, say "no" to two things that aren't moving you forward and don't make you feel joyful, i.e. that you don't want or need to do.  Build your self-confidence muscles and stand in your own power.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The 5 Cs of Nonprofit Success

Stating the obvious here but running a SUCCESSFUL nonprofit is HARD WORK!

Here is a new rubric to help you (and me!) do it better!

What else would you add?  Please respond in the comments!

1. A Compelling Cause

In order to run a successful nonprofit you need a compelling cause.  But let's face it, some causes like some products are simply more compelling than others.  Just because YOU are passionate about a certain issue, ideology, or identity doesn't mean people will pay for it and/or work with you to realize your vision. The art and science of fundraising and managing involves ALIGNING your work with your DONORS' and EMPLOYEE's interests.

If you want your donors and volunteers to jump out of bed in the morning to help you, you've got to have a compelling cause.

Here are the questions to answer.

What are our most compelling programs and services and why?

What does our organization do to change the world better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else?

2. Great Colleagues

There is ample research to show that people who have close friends at the office are happier and more productive at work.

This just makes sense!

Wouldn't you rather spend 10 hours a day with people you like, respect, and admire?

Here is the question to answer.

What can I do as a hiring manager, leader, and employee to build a collegial atmosphere in my organization?

3. A Kick-Ass Culture

There is also tons written about the role that culture plays in making or breaking an organization and how leaders must PROACTIVELY and CONTINUOUSLY set about building the one they want.

A great culture is like a great brand. It is something you tend to every day by modeling your organization's values in the way you think, walk, and talk.

For my money, a successful organization requires a culture focused on ACHIEVEMENT and INNOVATION.

Here's why.  1) People want (and star performers need) to hit the right targets. They need to know where we are we going.  And they have to understand their unique role in making progress.  This is especially true in fundraising and sales.  2)  People want (and star performers need) the freedom and responsibility to think about ways to improve the business.  Encourage your team members to "stick to the knitting" and execute well.  But also give them license to look around the corner to see what is coming next.

Here are the questions to answer.

How can we reduce inefficiencies?

How can we better delight our donors?

What else (a mobile website, social marketing, etc.) can we put in motion today to get us ready for the future?

If you need guidance on culture creation and communication, check out The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a Company We Love.  This is the benchmark. 

4. Fair Comp

If you read the research on what motivates employees, you will see that while compensation is not necessarily the most important driver of employee satisfaction, it is part of the package.

Pay people fairly so that they are not distracted by feeling or being underpaid. 

Nuff said! 

5. Cash

This is the biggie.  Sorry to state the obvious but you simply must have cash to run a successful nonprofit or for profit. Salaries, i.e., human bodies are not enough.  I'm dismayed at how hard it is for most nonprofits to answer this question - "What's the budget?" - when embarking on a new campaign or initiative.  (We are driving our vendors crazy!)

Cash is still king.

You need cash to tell donors about all the great things they are doing through your organization. You need cash to upgrade your software.  You need cash to enter new markets or find a new funding model.  You need cash to find new donors who may be interested in investing with you.  You need cash to train, reward, and celebrate your employees!

That said, cash is not a silver bullet. Plenty of nonprofits and for profits have squandered angel and other investments.

Here are the questions to answer. 

What are we doing to create a reserve or cushion to power our nonprofit?

Once we get more cash, how will we invest it STRATEGICALLY to ensure the financial health of our organization far into the future?



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hold Hands, Stay Together, Have Faith. We ARE the Change We Seek.

I was so moved by the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington yesterday. Here is what I learned/remembered.

1. Peace is possible.  When we practice peace in our own lives, it reverberates. When we practice peace we also honor all of the activists who came before - King, Mandela, Parks, Ghandi, Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi.  Our heroes and heroines were/are persistent, firm, and unfathomably kind in the face of struggle. We can draw strength from their witness and learn to be warriors for good too.

2. People want to live in fair, forward-thinking societies where everyone can flourish.  Sometimes we just get scared and confused. 

3. Holding hands and staying close, especially during the tough times, is vital. We NEED each other.  We BELONG to each other.

4. The glass of our collective life is half FULL. Get out of your house. Get into your community. SEE the amazing work that others do. You will be humbled and inspired by ALL of the stories that are not in the news!

5. The Universe is on our side!  We just have to keep breathing and keep believing.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
"The arc of the morale universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

SO MANY people want a more just, humane, and joyful society and are willing to do the work of FORGIVENESS and COMMUNION to get there.  Let's hold hands, keep breathing, and move forward together!

The future is open.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."  
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Patience is a virtue but it is not mine.

I honestly can't remember being patient a day in my life.  It is not my default setting.    I have to CONSCIOUSLY work to SLOW DOWN.

My days are filled with ENERGETIC activity.

Like most things, this is good and bad.  I'm a fast talker.  Have a quick wit.  Am a quick study.  But I also MISS information and other people with all of my rushing around.  

My daughter makes me pay attention.  She SQUEEZES it out of my unwitting pores.
  • "Watch me dance."
  • "Listen to me sing."
  • "Can I ask you another question?"
Silvia Boorstein calls patience "unglamorous courage." Hmmm.  I do like the idea of being a warrior...

While I get that everything happens in its own time.  And aspire to the "if you love something, set it free" philosophy.  Patience is much harder to practice in reality!

How do you WAIT for the answers?  How do you remember to BREATHE in and out every day?


Friday, August 9, 2013

Play the Tape All the Way to the End and Other Advice on How to Make Better Decisions!

NO, this is not a post about 80s bands! 

YES, I am betraying my age!

But I LOVE this advice from one of my wonderful friends and wanted to share it with you.

If you want to make better decisions for your organization, career, or family, "play the tape all the way to the end."

For example, when vetting a new marketing or fundraising opportunity. Don't get swept up in delusions of grandeur and millions in new money and immediately sign on the dotted line. 

Pause. Ask questions. Pause again.

Write out all the pros and cons of the deal.  

  1. Talk to a cheerleader.  What could go right? We raise a ton of money for our mission. We get amazing PR. We attract even more funding. (We all get raises!)  Yippee!
  2. Talk to a devil's advocate. What could go wrong?  We get waaayyy off mission.  We squander precious resources. We are unable to execute the program.  We alienate current funders. #FAIL
  3. Seek expert advice. Hint: Expertise = Experience not Title! Talk to someone who has already traversed this road TWICE!
In short, "play the tape all the way to the end." And ONLY THEN make your "go/no go" decision.

I don't know about you but I often decide with my gut. I am intuitive and can literally FEEL the rightness or wrongness of a next move. But making decisions based on intuition alone can be perilous. 

Especially, in high risk (and highly emotional) situations, we need the discipline, tools, and criterion for good decision making. And we have to be willing to be wrong to get it right!

In Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (which you MUST read), Chip and Dan Heath remind us that,
"Overconfidence about the future disrupts our decisions.  It makes us lackadaisical about preparing for problems.  It tempts us to ignore signs of early failure. It leaves us unprepared for pleasant surprises...Fighting overconfidence means we've got to treat the future as a spectrum, not a point."
And we have no excuse for not doing our due diligence. (Say that 10x fast!)  There are great tools out there, including Decisive to help us walk carefully and CONSCIOUSLY through alternatives.

Predicting the future is a crap shoot.  There are ALWAYS surprises in life and work. But you significantly increase your chances of success when you spend time (breathing!) and thoroughly vetting multiple scenarios.

Here's to better decision making!

Thanks M3!


Friday, July 26, 2013

5 Signs You May Need to Get Your Ego in Check


It powers our actions. 

It enables us to get out of bed in the morning, make new friends, speak in public, and get to work.

Any leader needs a strong ego, especially social changemakers and entrepreneurs.  

Going against the grain, i.e., fighting injustice, forging a new path, or developing a new product or service takes serious strength.

But too much ego can also be a disaster!

It can make us lose our bearings, alienate others, and block out reality. 

Unsure whether or not your ego is getting the best of you?

Take this test.

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may need to get your ego in check!

1. Do you think people are a means to an end vs. an end in themselves?  Hint:  They're not!

2. Have you stopped being curious and soliciting feedback from others?  Do you often assume you know best and are right?

3. Do you say "I" more than "We" when talking about your organization, company, or team?

4. Do you find yourself feeling chronically anxious or upset at work?

5. Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?  And that you must forge ahead with super human force?

Again, if you want to change the world, you WILL have to stand in the face of the naysayers. And this means having strong convictions and believing in yourself.

But don't let your ego run you over.  Find a healthy balance between holding your own and making space for other possibilities.



Friday, July 19, 2013

You Are Pure Potential: Use the Stories of Your Life to Succeed

"So much of life, it seems to me, is the framing and naming of things." - Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World

The stories we tell define us. 

How we narrate the challenges and successes we face can make or break our resolve.

Are we going out of business or are we on hiatus while we retool for greater efficiency?

Do I stink as a manager or am I learning from my HUMANITY and getting a little better every day like everyone else?

Is the Civil Rights Movement over or evolving?

I'm not naive. 

I know that where we get to in this life is deeply influenced by culture and history and luck.  We are not magicians or time travelers.  That said, we can learn to control our own minds and power our self talk.

If you want to grow in self-awareness and live a fulfilling life you have to do three things.

a) listen to the stories you tell yourself 
b) determine if the are true 
c) create more empowering narratives for the future

The good news is that you don't have to do this alone!

A great boss, friend, or therapist can and should help you reframe your narrative, especially if it is holding you back or keeping you down.

Don't be afraid to reach out to others you TRUST for their insight, coaching, and support.  And don't be afraid to drop the Negative Nellies and bad influences in your life.

As my former boss used to say, "We are all pure potential!" Use the stories of your life to harness the positive energy and life force within you.  Don't create negative narratives that hold you back!

My best,