5 Tools for High Stakes Communication: Tool #2, Left Hand Column/Right Hand Column

Uncategorized Jun 01, 2022

You can learn a great deal by deconstructing problematic conversations after the fact, comparing what was actually said with your unspoken thoughts and feelings. That's what the Left Hand Column/Right Hand column tool is designed for.  

This tool was originally developed by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon in their 1974 book Theory in Practice, and popularized by Peter Senge of Harvard Business School in his 1990 bestseller, The Fifth Discipline, as well as Diana McLain Smith, a colleague of both Argyris and Senge.   The payoff from this field-building work over the past 50 years is a set of practical skills for communicating more effectively in high stakes situations. 


This post is the second in this series, reviewing 5 key tools for  communicating effectively in high stakes situations.




Left Hand Column/Right Hand Column: A Simple Technique To Learn and Practice

The technique is simple. Divide a sheet of paper into...

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5 Tools for High Stakes Communication: Tool #1, Fight or Flight Systems Check

Uncategorized May 25, 2022

Five Skill-Building Tools for Stepping Up Your Positive Presence in Difficult Conversations

  If you want to engage effectively with others to foster lasting systems change, communicating in a resourceful, positive way is hugely important. But understanding the importance of effective communication is not the same as being able to put these skills into practice, especially when the stakes are high.

Fortunately, we can draw on over fifty years of research and practice to upgrade our interpersonal communication skills. Much of this work centers on the foundational contributions of Harvard professor Chris Argyris, who developed the field of “action science” in the 1970s. His ongoing research over the next forty years deeply influenced a wide array of other theorists and practitioners from pioneers in systems thinking like Peter Senge and the founding faculty of the Harvard Negotiation Program, as well as Diana McLain Smith, Robert Putnam, and Philip McArthur of Action...

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Who Is Involved in Your Giving: Tips for Sourcing Your Team

Uncategorized May 18, 2022

Sourcing Your Team

 Even after you’ve figured out what kind of help you need to gear up your giving, finding the right people to fill those roles often feels like a significant barrier. This post is here to help you  source great people for these different levels of support.


Sourcing Hired Help

Finding hired help offers the lowest stakes. They are going to be operating under continuous supervision, whether under yours or that of a faithful steward. They might need to have certain technical expertise, but generally speaking, you don’t need any special sourcing to make these hires.   Even so, it can be helpful to have a system for sourcing talent at all levels--Geoffrey Smart's Who: The A-Method for Hiring is a great resource to draw on as you develop your "people process."


Sourcing Faithful Stewards

Faithful stewards are often sourced by starting out with someone you already trust, and you’ve asked them to help you with your giving....

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Who Is Involved In Your Giving: Mapping Your Decision Making Process

Uncategorized May 11, 2022

Mapping Your Philanthropic Decision-Making Process

One really useful way to get a handle on all the issues related to who is involved in your giving is to map out your decision-making process.   Whatever role others play in your giving right now, chances are this will evolve over time.  The chart below shows a key set of decision-making areas across the top row and a range of people who might be involved in these decisions. The chart is filled in using the following codes for the role that a given person plays in a particular decision-making arena. Download your own copy here


Propose: The person is responsible for bringing forward a proposed course of action.

Decide: This person makes decisions.  

  • D=formal authority as ultimate decision-maker
  • d=one vote among a larger group, majority rules  
  • D=informal authority as ultimate decision-maker whatever the rules formally say

Consult: This person is asked for input about a decision before it is made....

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Who Is Involved in Your Giving: Building A Team That Helps You Grow and Learn

Uncategorized May 04, 2022

Build Your Team to Complement Your Own Level of Passion, Proximity, and Perspective

A great team is greater than the sum of its parts.  If you've decided to get help as you gear up your giving this post will help you look more deeply at what it takes to put together a winning team.  How well does that team complement your strengths?  How well does it help you learn and grow in areas where you have are not as strong? 


Know Yourself: The Foundation for Building Your Team

If you are strongly drawn to focus your giving on our toughest challenges it's important to recognize that it takes certain personal qualities to engage effectively in complex systems change.  You don't need to possess all these in equal measure yourself, but if you want to maximize your impact you do need to make sure that you build a team that brings all these characteristics to bear:

  1. Sustained passion for social contribution 
  2. Practical proximity to the issue at hand
  3. ...
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Who Is Involved In Your Giving: Four Kinds of Paid Help

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2022

Staffing Up: Four Kinds of Help for Donors

If you've made the decision to get some help as you gear up your giving, this post will help you decide what kind of help might be the best fit for you. 

Hired Help: They follow your direct instructions to paint inside the lines under your ongoing supervision. These are people who show up as having an E for “execute” on your decision-making chart.    Think of administrative staff tasked to support the distribution of funds from your family foundation as part of their broader duties within your family office.

Faithful Steward: These people protect your interests while carrying out your decisions. They make sure the paint stays inside the lines while you are away. These are people who show up on your decision-making chart as having an E (execute) and also an I (inform). This means you need to inform your steward about decisions after the fact so they can effectively represent and advance your interests while you are...

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Who is Involved in Your Giving: Do You Need to Bring on Paid Staff?

Uncategorized Apr 20, 2022

Do You Need to Bring on Staff and Advisors?

If making decisions jointly with family members and other close associates is one potential barrier to gearing up giving, another is getting the kind of outside help that truly makes sense for you and the issues you care about. Adding advisors or other staff to your philanthropic decision-making is a big step. While it may solve and streamline some processes, this also introduces principal-agent dynamics that ultimately make your giving process more complex. So, let’s be sure that adding staff or advisors makes sense for you before you go down this road. 


6 Options for DIY Giving

Below are a series of options for how you could proceed with little to no help from paid staff or advisors.  As you go through this list, take note of how you react to each. Are any of these off the table for sure—if so, why? Do any of these options seem like appealing paths forward? Could some combination of these approaches be a good...

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Who is Involved in Your Giving? Tips for Sharing Authority With Family Members and Close Associates

Uncategorized Apr 13, 2022

Decision making friction is one of the biggest drags on donors looking to gear up their giving. 

That's why the 9th design principle for donors is all about figuring WHO is involved in your giving. 

All things being equal, the more people you share authority with the more energy it takes to make decisions.  But going it alone has major drawbacks too.  First, you may not have time to make all the decisions needed to keep things running smoothly.  Second, you may not have the passion, proximity or expertise to make the best possible decisions on any number of issues.  This is why it’s so important to carefully consider who else should be involved and what role others will play in the decision-making process. 

In this post we'll start by looking at sharing authority over your giving with family members, business partners and other close associates.   In an upcoming post we'll look at the questions around bringing on advisors and...

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Gearing Up Your Giving: Building the Field by Building Up Others

Uncategorized Apr 04, 2022

One of the greatest points of leverage you can have in your giving is to positively influence the people around you.

What might happen if you used your giving to encourage and support others who are engaged in the field, whether they are fellow funders, social entrepreneurs, leaders, and community members?

Getting behind others’ proximity and passion for the issues that matter most is one of the most meaningful things you can do with your money.  This post explores  four ways to make the most of this opportunity. 

4 Transformative Ways to Build the Field by Building Up Others


1. Engage your fellow philanthropists as a generous presence and a trusted advisor

This is all about showing up for others to help them have more impact and experience greater personal fulfillment. You can help them get more out of their giving journey by asking two questions. First, what would make for extraordinary impact and fulfillment in your giving? And second, what is...

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Gearing Up Your Giving: Leveraging the Power of Markets

Uncategorized Mar 29, 2022

Far too often donors approach their giving purely as charitable grant-making.

Why not harness the power of markets as part of your change-making strategy?  This post explores three ways to pursue outsize impact with your giving by leveraging the power of markets.

For example, let’s say you have a private foundation, and you distribute the required 5% of the corpus each year as grants to charitable entities. What about the other 95%? It doesn’t have to just sit there in traditional investments. Think about how much more leverage you can get from investing those charitable assets in ways that are aligned with your values and your change-making goals. These days, many donors are finding that mission-aligned investing is not concessionary. What this means is you don’t give up a market rate of return to align your charitable asset investment strategy with your vision for a better world. 

Three Key Pathways for Harnessing the Power of Markets to Increase the...

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