“Given how crazy the month of December can be, it can seem like an impossible task to think ahead and plan for 2014 now. If you’re anything like me, you might have dreamed up new and exciting projects for next year but have you ever impulsively started on of these dream projects only to have it go off the rails? I think most of us have at one point or another in our careers…”
I was grateful for the opportunity to be interviewed by “Philanthropy For All” Founder, Vanessa Chase, this week about how to set ourselves up for a great 2014. Below is a transcript of the interview…looking forward to your comments!
Vanessa: As we come to the end of the year and we start setting up for new projects, why do you think so many big ideas and projects fail to really thrive?
Natasha: For anyone who is excited about a new project, it is very easy to just jump in and hope that everything works out along the way; unfortunately, this approach often wastes a lot of time and money. When I get excited about a new idea, I walk myself through an eleven point checklist to make sure that I’ve thought through the practical component of something I want to do. Success in any endeavor is in finding the balance of passion with the practical management responsibilities required to lead the project to success.
“Do you think you could have the good without the evil? Did you think you could have the joy without the sorrow?” ~ David Grayson, professor and author
Most people are fully engaged in microwave thinking – a deep belief that compensation should immediately follow any effort. Champions are different. They believe every effort performed with good intention yields some form of compensation at some point. When professional performers set a big goal, they are expecting a fight – and their past experience has preconditioned their minds for battle. When amateurs expect compensation, pros are just settling in for the fight.” Mental Toughness Secret #26 – excerpted from 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World-Class by Steve Siebold.
I’m on a business trip with my husband’s business right now. Although part of the trip is a vacation, part of the time is spent in meetings learning the best practices of the other industry leaders. In my first few years attending these meetings, I would take copious notes and write pages and pages of action plans based on the new information I had received. After three days of this, I would review my notes and get thoroughly confused as everyone had a different take on what the “best practices” were.
Have you ever done this? Attended an event looking for the “secret” to success and found that you got 100 answers to the question of “how do I do xyz” and then were more discouraged than you were when you arrived at the event? Here is some of the things I’ve learned from attending hundreds of training meetings about taking advice about how to win:
In reading Force for Good this week I came across this amazing paragraph about balancing innovation with information that I’d like to share with you:
“Many nonprofits fail to find this delicate balance. They are either so freewheeling that their cultures are more chaotic than creative, or they are so structured that they become hidebound and paralyzed. But high-impact nonprofits are able to work with this tension. And they have learned one of the most important lessons of adaptation and of strategy: it’s as much about what not to do as it is about which ideas to pursue. For each new program they add, they often cut something else that is having less impact.
In reading an article by Paul Michelman in the Harvard Business Review titled Morning Advantage: How Leaders Get Their Strategic Groove Back I came across this amazing quote that I wanted to expand upon:
“Strategy has become more about formulation than implementation, and more about getting the analysis right at the outset than living with a strategy over time”…..The right way to lead strategy requires confronting four questions: What does my organization bring to the world? Does that difference matter? Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate? Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?
For leaders, becoming a strategist starts with getting clear on why, whether, and to whom your company matters. While that may sound obvious at face value, it’s something that regularly stymies executives.”
Although this post was written with for-profit businesses in mind, I think it offers a good challenge to the leaders of today’s NPOs:
Any leader would admit that the process of strategic planning is demanding and frustrating. When your schedule is already full of to-do items and there is an endless line-up of people demanding your attention, organizing the details of a plan and intentionally taking time to focus on the big picture usually falls to the bottom of the list (or off the list).
Time and time again I see leaders excitedly begin the process of purposeful planning and intentional leadership but then get caught up in the demands of today and the strategic planning process goes out the window. If you were to poll these leaders they would say that developing an effective plan is their top priority but under the circumstances of limited time and resources, it is just not realistic. When I see leaders caught up in the frenzy of putting out fires, I offer them 3 pieces of advice.
1. Delegate: Give some of your work away. You cannot and should not do it all.
2. Take back control of your time. Plan out your day the night before. Don’t arrive at work waiting to see what needs to be done, go in with a game plan and you’ll see that you get more real work done.
3. Dig deep. Strategic planning often feels like boring, thankless work but having a written plan in place will be one of the biggest reasons why your organization succeeds. The process will not be fun, it is hard work. Dig deep, use some self-discipline, mentally invest in the process and think long-term.
Have you been a part of the process of developing a strategic plan? What was your experience?
There is a fine line between having a big dream and being delusional about your goal. I connect with all types of people who have a huge vision but no realistic action plans in place. It makes me absolutely crazy when I hear someone stake a big claim at what they want to accomplish but then take a hap-hazard approach to figuring out the “how tos’.
I worked with someone recently who was passionate about a very specific goal he wanted to accomplish but refused to acknowledge that his goal was virtually impossible to accomplish (due to government regulations, immigration issues, legal matters etc). Despite listening to wise counsel he set about working as if really wanting to accomplish his goal would someone force the government to change all it’s laws regarding immigration and accommodate his cause. Being committed to a cause without considering the current threats/obstacles in between you and your goal is complete delusion. Circumstances are real – to not consider them makes you a fool with nothing else but a big dream.
As an entrepreneur, I’m all for stating a big goal without knowing exactly how it will be accomplished – that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a blatant disregard for the circumstances that can and will affect the fulfilment of your vision. By you ignoring the realities that influence your organization’s plans you are setting yourself up to fail and potentially hurting the people around you.
It’s great to have a big goal but you MUST stop and ask what is really possible. God can do anything you say? I agree but let’s give Him a good head start by picking a goal that has a fighting chance of being accomplished. Do not pick a goal you do not have any means of accomplishing. “Name it, Claim it” philosophy isn’t all you need. Dream big dreams but factor in reality and anticipate the challenges. Anything else is a fantasy.