Accelerating Past Overwhelm

Uncategorized Aug 10, 2022
 

As mission driven change agents, some of us have been running in the red zone so long we don't even know what it looks like to shift gears and find our "pace of grace."

This post is about finding ways to overcome overwhelm, remain hopeful and maximize our positive contribution in a world that can feel like its moving from one crisis to the next…

 Navigating three phases of psychological response to a crisis

In a world that feels more volatile and uncertain than ever, it can be helpful to recognize three phases of psychological orientation--individually and collectively--in response to crisis.  More than two years into a global pandemic, not to mention multiple intersecting additional crises, many people are still anchored in the apprehension or acclimation orientation.  These approaches leave us focused on meeting needs near the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy.   One reason that we can stay stuck is that the continued uncertainty and dislocation from...

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Strategic Leadership 101: Developing A Landscape Analysis

Uncategorized Aug 04, 2022
 

Context eats strategy for breakfast! 

This saying points out the danger of  jumping into strategic planning without fully considering the landscape--the context--in which we are operating.  In this latest post in our series on strategic leadership, we are going to look at how to create a landscape analysis which maps the context in which your strategic choices unfold.  Whether you are a donor, a philanthropy advisor or a social entrepreneur, it makes sense to get familiar with this process and use it whenever you are making significant strategic choices about how best to achieve the impact you envision.

Strategy: A Working Definition

How you carry out your mission

Consistent with your values

In order to maximize your potential impact in pursuit of your vision

Landscape Analysis: An Essential Foundation for Strategic Planning

A landscape analysis:

  • Pressure tests your theory of change and your theory of action against the reality of your operating environment...
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Strategic Leadership 101: Developing A Theory of Action

Uncategorized Jul 28, 2022
 

Saying no is sometimes called the essence of strategy.  But if you actually want to make change in the world, you also need to take action. 

In a previous post we talked about creating a compelling shared vision, which is the starting point for any strategy that has a chance co working the real world where the outcomes we hope to achieve are more than we can bring about through our own action.

Now, in the next post in this series about strategic leadership, it's time to talk about strategy: how do we actually  contribute the most we possibly can to the change we envision out in the world?  In this post we'll focus in on one of the foundational elements of strategy: your theory of action. 

 

Strategy: A Working Definition

Strategy:

How you carry out your mission

Consistent with your values

In order to maximize your potential impact in pursuit of your vision

 

Theory of Action vs Theory of Change

These two terms get thrown a lot in strategic planning...

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Strategic Leadership 101: Crafting a Compelling Shared Vision

Uncategorized Jul 20, 2022
 

Research going back several decades reveals that the two most important attributes people look for in a leader they would willingly follow are honesty and vision.  

This post is the first in a series about how to show up as your best self in a  strategic leadership role, whether you are running an organization or in charge of a team within a  larger organization. How do we marshal the tools of strategic planning--vision, mission, values, theory of change, theory of action etc.--in the most compelling possible way?

We'll begin by looking at the question of how to craft a compelling shared vision.  

 A compelling vision is about clarity and shared purpose in pursuit of a better future

As change agents, our vision for a better world is necessarily larger than ourselves--and this means we need a vision  that doesn't just come from our own head and our own heart.  We need to figure out how to engage others to co-create that vision. As a...

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Structuring Your Giving Part 3: Choosing the Best Structural Form(s)

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2022
 

Figuring Out Which Giving Structures Make the Most Sense for You, Part 3

 As we began to explore in a previous post on this topic, there’s a lot to consider as you try to figure out which giving structures are the best match for carrying out your giving.  Here’s what I recommend: begin by identifying which of the key functional questions (what, where, when, who, wealth stock and whatever else) reviewed in this post and the previous post are most relevant to your giving.  Then consult the corresponding sections of this summary chart to see which of the 7 structural forms (checkbook philanthropy, donor advised fund, private foundation etc) are the best fit.  

You can download a full size version of this table here.

You’ll still need to do your diligence and consult your financial and legal advisors before making your own decisions, but this chart is great for getting the big picture with a side by side  view of the...

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Structuring Your Giving Part 2: Choosing the Best Structural Form(s)

Uncategorized Jul 06, 2022
 

Figuring Out Which Giving Structures Make the Most Sense for You

 There’s a lot to consider as you try to figure out which giving structures are the best match for carrying out your giving.  Here’s what I recommend: begin by identifying which of the key functional questions reviewed in this post are most relevant to your giving.  Then consult the corresponding sections of this summary chart to see which of the 7 structural forms (checkbook philanthropy, donor advised fund, private foundation etc) are the best fit.  

You can download a full size version of this table here.

You’ll still need to do your diligence and consult your financial and legal advisors before making your own decisions, but this chart is great for getting the big picture with a side by side  view of the different features and attributes for the 7 main structural options for your giving: 

  1. Checkbook philanthropy
  2. LLC
  3. Private non-operating foundation
  4. Private...
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Structuring Your Giving, Part 1: 7 Structural Forms for Donors

Uncategorized Jun 30, 2022
 

Form Follows Function

 One of the key questions that donors often ask as they are gearing up their giving is what is the best vehicle? Do I need a private foundation?  An LLC? A donor advised fund? The what, when, where, and who of your giving are all important design considerations when it comes to structuring your approach from a legal and organizational standpoint.  

If at all possible, get started with your giving before you finalize the design structures for carrying it out.

Trying out your MVP (minimally viable philanthropy) has lots of advantages before you lock in legal and organizational decisions--but no matter what stage you are at in your giving, this post is here to help you by  by reviewing the most common structures through which you can carry out your giving. In an upcoming post we’ll go on to look at key functional questions that will help inform your choices between these options.

Seven Structural Forms for Your Giving

Broadly...

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5 Tools for High Stakes Communication: #5 Advocacy and Inquiry

Uncategorized Jun 22, 2022
 

Advocacy and Inquiry: Balancing Energy and Empathy 

How well are you balancing advocacy and inquiry in your high stakes conversations? 

Effective interactions require a balance between sharing your views clearly and listening empathetically to others. If this balance gets skewed one way or the other, it’s that much harder to land in the green zone for collaborative problem solving.  

This is the premise behind the 5th key tool for high stakes communications.  Like a number of the other tools featured in this series of posts, this one was pioneered by Harvard professor Chris Argyris, beginning in the 1970s . 

Becoming familiar with this tool and practicing it is important because in a real, high stakes conversation, we often find it very hard to achieve this balance between inquiry and advocacy. A great way to build your skills here is to reconstruct conversations that went awry  using the Left Hand Column/Right Hand Column tool. Not only...

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5 Tools for High Stakes Communications: Tool #4, The Ladder of Understanding

Uncategorized Jun 15, 2022
 

Tool #4: Ladder of Understanding 

This is a tool to use when you can’t understand how someone else could see something so differently. What could they possibly be thinking!? Perhaps not surprisingly, the way to get insight about someone else’s conclusions is to start by more closely examining your own!

Originally developed as the “Ladder of Inference” by Chris Argyris, and also labeled the “Ladder of Reflection” by Diana McLain Smith in her book Elephant in the Room, I prefer to call this tool the “Ladder of Understanding.” Whatever name you choose, it provides a framework for making clear the chain of reasoning that leads us from objective, observable facts all the way to value judgments about what is good and bad, right and wrong. The key insight here is that our brains work very quickly, and it’s common to jump immediately from our observation of a situation all the way to a value judgment without even being conscious of...

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5 Tools for High Stakes Communication: Tool #3, I Messages

Uncategorized Jun 08, 2022
 

Communicating constructively when the stakes are high takes skill and an ability to override your own instinctive reactions. 

That's why we're doing this series on five specific tools for stepping up your skills for high stakes communication.   This post introduces the third tool: I-Messages. 

I-Messages are a specific way to communicate what might otherwise be left unsaid. The purpose is to maximize the likelihood that you will get the other person to respond from a place of resourcefulness, rather than defensiveness.   

 I-Messages can be particularly useful when you know in advance that you need to communicate something challenging to another person—something that could trigger one or both of you into a “fight or flight” emotional reaction. 

I-Message Step by Step

An I-message is a sentence that follows a specific, three-part formula.The idea is that you prepare your I-message in advance, before either of you gets into a...

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