Connecting Your Tribe

I spoke with a colleague today who works for an organization that has traditionally created content.  The business pushed information out.  Recently the company decided to change their brand and position themselves as a key resource for survivors.  Now social media is being used to help survivors connect with each other.  For the first time the members of the tribe can speak to each other.  The organization is suddenly the center of the conversation.

Are you helping your tribe speak to each other?  How powerful would your cause be if you could help facilitate a broader conversation?

Veteran or Old

In many professional sports you hear the term ‘rebuilding year’ when a team is no longer in contention for the playoffs.  It is a chance to add youth and new players in hopes of creating the chemistry to make a run at a championship.  On the other end of the spectrum is the philosophy of a team filled with veterans.  Players who have been there and won the sport’s highest crown.  These are sought after additions to any team as they have demonstrated a mastery of the game, maintained a high level of composure and built a legacy of achieving the ultimate goal- winning.  It is a knife’s edge that separates the thin line between the high value tag of ‘veteran’ and dreaded description of ‘old.’

How many social sector organizations qualify as veterans?  Venerable organizations that deliver consistent results and are held in high regard throughout the community?  When people speak about attributes in the community these organizations are mentioned.  The chamber of commerce refers to the organization in its promotional materials.  On the other side of the tracks is the cause that once was.  Perhaps the Founder could not let the cause grow gracefully or a board lost focus, programs became stagnate, or a scandal knocked the champion off its pedestal.

How do you keep your organization vibrant?  How do you assemble a group of champions without become a relic?  Do you allow for innovation?  Is the mantra, ‘we have always done it that way’ become your clubhouse cheer?  How do you play like a champion and not and old-timer’s game? 

Maybe it is Just Me

Maybe it is just me but I have taken notice of the following items this week:

  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy is now posting a section announcing mergers.  For example it highlights the pending merger of three United Ways in N.H. or an agreement between a land trust and farmland conservation group in Washington State.
  • Forbes Magazine’s April 12 issue has a section dedicated to SecondActs that highlights the work of once highly compensated employees from the financial sector who have taken on a cause in the social sector, often without compensation or with a significant reduction from their previous salary.
  • His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama is using Twitter to spread his message of compassion.
  • TED held a session titled TEDxVolcano with participants from a previous conference who were stuck in London due to the suspension of air travel.  Checkout Peter Greenberg’s talk about the impact on air travel.
  • The iPhone App store is now selling applications specifically designed for nonprofit fundraising.
  • The Nonprofit Quarterly’s Newswire posted a link to a story that pondered the potential collapse of the nonprofit bubble.
  • Seth Godin’s Levy flight mathematical concept changed this blog just in a week’s time.

Change is constant.  Sometimes it is just subtle enough that I do not fully appreciate its impact until I seem the parts summarized.  A couple years ago I would have been amazed at any one of these headlines but now I take them in stride or barely notice their impact.  It is a great time to be in the social sector, despite the challenges of mergers, a recession, limited volunteers, competition, or the fear of pending doom.  The sector has more direct communication and control over its message, impact, outreach, networks, sphere of influence and fans than anytime in history.  For some causes the captain may have turned on the seat belt sign or perhaps that noise I was the wheels touching down at another great destination.  I am going to have a look around.

Turn Right To Go Left

In the movie Cars, Doc teaches Lightning McQueen that sometimes you need to ‘turn right to go left.’  After many painful attempts, Lightning finally learns the art of the power-slide and cornering on dirt.  Sometimes the opposite force works more effectively than common logic would recommend.

Checking on my social community of Facebook friends I see friends stuck everywhere from Frankfurt to Turkey and on to Dubai.  They are waiting on the cloud of volcanic ash to disipate enough to allow for air travel to resume.  Suddenly booking a EuroStar train ticket is next to impossible, bus tickets are in high fashion and long road trips are the only alternative for everyone from Opera singers to cyclist trying to get to their weekend performances.

You never know when the world might turn right to go left and your organization may be the unexpected beneficiary of a global power-slide.  Being able to respond in real time to opportunities has become a competitive advantage for many organizations.  Is your enterprise ready to counter-steer?

The Least

What is the least amount of change that your enterprise could make that would would be most transformative?

  • Who would you add or subtract from your board?
  • What revenue source could you enhance?
  • What expense could you cut?
  • What program could you alter?
  • How could your marketing effort be shifted?
  • What staff member could you add?
  • What one thing could you leverage to another organization?
  • Who would you partner with on one element?
  • What one metric could you start monitoring?

What if you did each of these little things over the next month?  Would the sum of these changes by cumulative or exponential?

Landing the Plane

Arriving by plane Chicago last night the orchestrated dance of landing patterns was visible watching the planes with landing lights circling the airport.  It was a great reminder of how much energy and planning it takes to land a plane in a busy airport.  The stair-step altitude approach with reductions in speed and course all to funnel the plane into a final approach to one of the runways.  
When leading an organization do we take into account the energy and expertise required to alter the course of an existing program or initiative.

  • Some secondary schools are closing foreign language programs in favor of another language or budget cuts.  The school must support the students enrolled in the existing language courses as they sunset the program.  If they are launching a new language program they must prepare for a programatic shift.  For a period of time a school may have a duplication of staff, classroom constraints, scheduling conflicts and other challenges as they navigate the process.
  • A local foundation is moving from granting individual scholarships to a model that awards restricted funds to youth organizations.  The youth programs will then distributed the funding to children enrolled in the programs.  The end result for the recipients is the same but the process has changed dramatically.  New partnerships, forms, schedules and resources have been required.
  • The Girl Scouts of America amended their business plan and in doing so launched a realignment initiative that reduced its local and region councils from over 300 to almost 100.  This transformation has take multiple years, required a significant investment of time, money and resources.  It has been a priority and other opportunities have been delayed.

Are you committed to the change you are considering?  Do you have the time and expertise necessary to “land the plane”?  Is your organization prepared to change speeds and altitude?

This Moment: Tonight

Starting the week and wondering if I am picking-up where I left off from last week or starting with a clean slate? My ‘to do/project list’ certainly contains items that trace their vintage to previous days. Reality is that the current moment is the only currency I can spend. It can be as spectacular or dull as I command. Change is taking place with or without my participation, regardless of how established my routine.

For any late night television fans, this week brings the launch of Conan O’Brien ads host of NBC’s Tonight Show. It takes a monumental change sometimes to realize how comfortable the I was with Jay Leno for the past 17 years. A normal Monday night under Jay’s reign would have included the predictable ‘Headlines’ segment. Now there is plenty of uncertainty as to what will appear during this evening episode of the Tonight Show with Conan.

Makes me question: am I my routine or am I the moment?

What are you focused on? Are you repeating or innovating? How do your strengths and talents support your effectiveness each moment?