BoardSource Leadership Forum Day Two

Will Novy-Hildesley and Heather McLeod-Grant introduced planning tactics around Adaptive Strategies for The New Normal.  Participants completed a quick and easy to follow workshop on planning for the future by answering the following questions.

  • Core: What are the six words (preference for verbs over nouns) that describe your organization.  Now underline the top three.  Finally, circle the single word that best describes your cause.  Is it authentic?  Does it resonate? Words like inspire, empower, engage are used by many organizations and may hard to serve as differentiators.  Consider a word that is unique.  This word represents your purpose or core belief.
  • Explore: Using the example of bouldering in the sport of rock climbing the presenters illustrated the importance of having a proving grounds.  Bouldering allows climbers to fail repeatedly due to low heights and the presence of padding for crash landings.  This form of practice has transformed the routes being climbed on the bigger rock faces because climbers have found a safer place to fail as they prepare.  What initiative could your organization attempt that will transform your journey even if you fail repeatedly at the start? 
  • Connect: Who do you need to connect with that is outside your current sector/area of expertise?  Example, Boise State Football Coach Chris Petersen exchanges leadership ideas with other leaders in a group called “The Gang.”  The members come from diverse sectors but each is uniquely positioned to talk about leadership.
  • Evolve: What specifically will your organization look like when it reaches it next level of excellence?  Will their be wait lists to serve on the board?  Will model the Zappoos strategy of paying people to not take a job if they have any reservations after orientation?  Will your organization be branded as the leader within your sector?  Will your vision be met?  This is your strategic focus.

Sterling Speirn, the CEO of the Kellogg Foundation gave the keynote talk.  He had insightful observations for funders and the nonprofit community.

  •  Be willing to hold board/staff meetings where there is no decision-making or votes.  Have a generative conversation about “what-if?”  Focus on sensemaking, not decision-making.
  • When does counting people change to people counting?
  • Do not be so quick to limit an initiative to a time and dollar cap (e.g. 5 years of funding and $500,000).  Commit to a problem until it is solved or be willing to be involved for a generation.
  • His mantra as the new CEO years ago, ‘I did not come here to change the foundation, I came here to change the world.’
  • Be willing to challenge the sentiment, “change is great, you go first.”

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