This simple little graphic from a June 2009 Mckinsey Global Survey is one that every employer in America should have posted. And the tighter your budget, the more important this one becomes.

Why?  Because this chart shows a result that has been demonstrated time and again - money is not best incentive for motivating people (see Dan Pink's Drive for this argument in book-length form).  What did McKinsey find more important?
  • Praise from managers
  • Attention from supervisors
  • Opportunity to lead projects

In other words, people want to know they matter!  They want recognition and opportunities.  Much cheaper than pay raises and bonuses, right?  

The singular contribution of this book is to question the common wisdom that “follow your passion” is the only career advice that any of us need.    But Cal Newport’s answer is one that neither makes sense nor is logically consistent — “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” (a line he picked up from comedian Steve Martin).  In other words, pick a career and then become so good at it that you ensure your own success.

But how do you pick the career path?  Are all paths equally good?  Or do you pick the one that holds the most promise financially?  Certainly Steve Martin’s choice of stand-up comedy would not meet that criteria.  Seems to me that we are back at the passion question.  Or as the Oracle of Delphi put it over 2000 years ago – “Know Thyself.”  And here Mr. Newport fingers an important point.  This self-knowledge is often not immediately clear, nor does it come from a weekend career counseling workshop.  Rather it often emerges from getting on a path, working at a craft, and paying attention.

This morning I heard a presentation by Tim Sanders, a former Yahoo exec who now speaks and writes on the topic of corporate social responsibility.  Tim was really impressive because he presents CSR as more than just a “good thing to do.”  He backs up his arguments with lots of data and makes several really impressive points

  • Companies that commit to CSR also have great retention.  Turns out people are very loyal to workplaces where they can find meaning and participate in creating a good greater than just their own self-interest
  • CSR helps shift the culture of a company from me-focused to helping others
  • Markets are recognizing that companies that practice CSR are also more likely to be ethical and therefore a good investment
So you see, you can have your cake and eat it too.  You can do good in the world and take care of the bottom line.  Its not rocket-science.  Its good business sense.

I highly encourage you to follow Tim on his blog.


Got a Muse?


Creativity is everything in today’s world.  For centuries writers and artists have known that they need a muse who can inspire their creative juices. I think many of us who are asked to be creative have overlooked having a muse.  What would a 21rst century muse look like?  I suggest taking a very simple approach – who are the people and what are situations that get your creativity going?  Here are some that work well for me – talking with friends and colleagues who inspire me, reading (and visiting the few remaining bookstores) and going for long walks.  Sound simple? It is!  Where do you find your muses?
I attended the always excellent Axelson Symposium in Chicago, one of the premier gatherings of the nonprofit community.  The keynote speaker was Robert Egger, Founder and President of the DC Central Kitchen.  He is a powerful example of a person who is totally mission-driven and very entrepeneurial.   The kitchen doesn’t provide free meals to the hungry, ittrains men and women in skills in food service so they can go out and seek employment.   Robert’s vision is about believing that everyone has a skill to offer and a voice that needs to be heard.  The result has been hundreds of jobs that take people off the streets.

Is your organization committed to empowering its people and transforming their lives?

If you look at the  many books and articles on leadership, you begin to see certain trends.  Current thinking says that leaders have to have a vision, be disciplined, and communicate effectively.  I don’t disagree with any of this.  But I also think there are some elements of leadership that are often overlooked

  • Listening: Listening is a powerful and very under-valued skill.  Especially in the world of leadership.  The expectation is that leaders are supposed to be the ones talking,  not listening.    But there is much recent research that suggests that great leaders are ones who can listen deeply.  Not just to a single conversation, but to the deeper currents both within their organization and external to their organization, through clients and their industry space.
  • Conflict: Leaders should not seek it – but they also should not avoid it.  Many leaders stumble because they back away from tough decisions to avoid conflict.  Avoiding necessary conflict almost always backfires.  In fact, in one recent organization where I worked, a leader complained about losing one of his top people.  When I talked to the departing staff member, he told me that he was leaving firm because the leader wouldn’t make tough decisions the organization needed to grow.  Avoiding tough decisions is an almost surefire way to frustrate top talent who know what the real issues are and want to see them engaged.
  • Resilience: Every leader knows that very little goes according to plan.  Leaders who succeed are the ones who can reframe their initiatives to adjust to the new challenges and persevere through the tough times.
These three qualities might seem simple, but they are often overlooked.  The leaders who attend to them greatly increase their chances of success.

Pope Benedict XVI istweeting each day of the Lenten Season.  According to the Vatican ‘Starting on Ash Wednesday, themes from that papal message will be posted on Twitter each day during Lent and over the coming months other papal speeches and documents are likely to be tweeted in a similar way, hoping to attract the media-savvy generation and entice them to find out more.’”

Not only is he tweeting, but he is using it effectively.  He has a target audience (media-savvy younger generation) and is using his tweets to focus on a larger message (the Catholic season of Lent).  In my work with many non-profit and faith-based groups there is a tendency to dismiss Twitter as a fad.  But what if you were to use Twitter and other social media tools  to communicate an important message to a group that you have a hard time reaching?  What group and what message would you choose?  Are you ready to get started?  Pope Benedict is.


There are books that help tie everything together and this is one of them.  This is an easy-to-read history of the idea of corporate strategy, which, in fact, turns out to be a relatively new idea, going back only a few decades.  Author Walter Kiechel chronicles the impact of strategy titans such as Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Michael Porter (who the Harvard Business School faculty voted to deny promotion to assistant professor).

What is missing is a description of the strategy in the non-profit space.  While certainly not as developed as in the corporate space it has grown over the past few decades.

In reading this book I was struck that ideas that we consider obvious today were radical only a few decades ago.  And it makes me wonder — what are the “obvious” concepts of the future that we are currently resisting?

So many leaders that I coach just can’t say no.  They cant say no to …

  • Reviewing the work they delegated so they would not have to worry about it
  • Sitting in meetings they don’t need to be at but were requested to “put in an appearance”
  • Micromanaging a slew of unimportant details
  • Trying to make sure everyone is happy all the time
  • Listening to proposals they know can never work
These leaders are making a bigger mistake than simply wasting time and wearing themselves out.  They are missing huge opportunities to positively impact their organizations.  They make the mistake of thinking that being busy (over-busy) must mean they are being productive.  But this busyness often causes them to miss huge opportunities. They can’t slow down enough to get perspective on where their organization is.  They don’t have time to launch and lead creative new initiatives, to identify new sources of revenue/funding or build alliances with key partners.

The only way to get that kind of time is to say No to the trivial and unimportant.  And that is not easy, but you can do it if you remember what you are saying Yes to!

Yesterday I was working on a proposal for a client.  I completed nearly all of it very quickly.  But the last little – the spell check, formatting, and other little items to get it ready to send out took much more time than I anticipated.  This always happens and it always frustrates me.  And then I realized “This is the Pareto Principle!”  You are probably thinking – what is the Pareto Principle?

As the image above* shows, the Pareto Principle basically says that 20 percent of your effort results in 80 percent of your output.  That has huge implications for individuals and organizations.  What is it that you are doing in the “productive 20 percent?”  Can you increase it?  And can you decrease the “unproductive 80 percent?”  What are the time-wasters and policies that you can eliminate?

It all starts, as is the case with so many things, with close observation of what you and your organization are doing…

* Image Source:  http://www.exponentialprograms.com/professional/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Pareto-Principle.gif