Can Do Basics Blog 2: Practice Makes Excellence Easier!

In the Can Do Basics Blog 1, I talked about the foundation of the Can Do Workplace Model – Mission & Gratitude.  Blog 2 is all about practice.

Remember the old question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Answer: Practice!

Here’s the new question: How do you build, nurture and sustain a Can Do Workplace? With four key practices:

  1. Full Alignment
  2. Making Quality Decisions
  3. Using Change to Achieve Growth
  4. Crafting & Simmering the BEST Secret Sauce

practice-mdPractices implies a forward movement based on repetition. And that is why I called them practices and not elements or components. Yo-Yo Ma practices every day. So do Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney. As do Katie Ladecky and Michael Phelps. They have grown to superstar status and achieved excellence in their fields because they have committed to practicing. Why should it be different for a workplace? Especially in a nonprofit, with its mission to make the world a better place?

The first practice is Full Alignment, which means that all areas of the organization are well-connected and communicating.

Well-connected is to ensure that everyone is headed in the same direction. This happens best when the people who are accountable for outcomes are aware of their expectations and are able, equipped and supported to deliver on them. And then, they do deliver on them.

Communicating is to ensure that the messages – inside, outside and across the organization – are consistent, strategic, timely and true. It also means that everyone in all departments and at all levels of an organization can give similar answers to the questions: “what we are doing? …and why?”

Strong alignment fosters mission and promotes gratitude. Lack of alignment is often discovered when things start going wrong!  HINT: That is not the best time to make corrections!!  So, it’s good to know: how well is your organization aligned?  How many silos are there? What are the biggest barriers to communication? How is accountability understood? How different are the “missions” as stated in each of your organization’s departments or areas?

pyramidThe second practice is Making Quality Decisions. Not just at the Board meeting or by the department heads, but all the way through the organization. The best quality decisions are the ones made according to the pyramid model: only the most critical policy decisions are made at the top, and the rest are made as close to the customer or client or product as possible. The trick to having that succeed as a model is to share information and provide support and training for people to make great decisions at every level of the organization – every day.

Making quality decisions also requires being able to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers. At the time I wrote my first book, The Can Do Chronicles, I defined what I call the Three Can Do Questions, which I find very valuable in all areas of my decision making:

CDQ 1) What can I do?  Keeps the focus on possibilities first, and barriers second.

CDQ 2) WHAT ELSE can I do? Keeps new options and fresh ideas perking all the time!

CDQ 3) Just because I can do it, should I?  Again, keeps options open until I know for sure: Is it the right thing to do? Is it the right time? What else do I need to learn or who else needs to be involved before I make and act on this decision?

The third practice is Using Change to Achieve Growth.  This cartoon says it all:

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The message is clear – we all want it as long as we don’t have to do it!

Can Do Workplaces have what Carol Dweck calls Growth Mindsets. We can’t grow if we don’t want to change – ask the butterfly or the frog. The key is to link change with growth. More people understand and accept the value and benefits of growth than they do of change. As leaders of Can Do Workplaces, it is on us to understand, predict and promote change & growth – all of the time – one step at a time.

The fourth practice is Crafting & Simmering the BEST Secret Sauce.  Aaahhhhh… the secret sauce – with its uniquely combined ingredients, its spices and aroma – is the signature quality of an organization. The best secret sauce is what keeps people – employees, clients, volunteers, funders and donors – coming back, wanting more and willing to work hard to get there. Many nonprofit leaders take great pains to develop a stellar strategic plan, but don’t include the recipe for the secret sauce – that is, what will make the organization unique and the people in it want to excel. Not just when the times are good!

Want to know a SECRET? It’s the secret sauce that keeps employees, funders and others pitching in and giving support when times are tough.

CDW Cover.final - CopyThe Can Do Workplace has much more information about and applications of these Four Practices, along with practical suggestions to infuse the practices into all areas of an organization. Plus, there is an entire resource section with information, including Carol Dweck’s Mindset: the Psychology of Success along with many other helpful publications and links to help create and support a Can Do Workplace.  Check it out!

Come back next time for the Can Do Basics Blog 3: The Power Of AND In The Ampersand.

Until then…
Imagine What You Can Do!

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Let’s Hold on to Summer Just a Little Longer…

It’s not like I have slacked off all that much this summer. After all, I finished writing The Can Do Workplace in July, and have been popping grant proposals out all through August. It is more about my summer state of mind. And, yes, my flipflops!

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Friends are posting about pumpkin spice and sweaters.  Inside I cry, “NOOOOooo” Somehow, once you start wearing sweaters, it’s almost Halloween – then it’s almost Thanksmas or Christmasgiving season. Then it’s SNOWING. Sigh! No flipflops in the snow.

To the sweater and cider lovers out there, I reply: “Take time out and celebrate today, just where we are.” I know I can’t hold on to summer… or keep my bare toes out for much longer without great discomfort and looking pretty strange! But I can today, since it is going to be in the 90s!  And, I can take long walks in my sandals, with toes hanging out there.

The future is filled with potential and discovery. I want this fall to be an adventure, but not until it gets here. Life goes fast enough without getting so far ahead of ourselves. Today, I am happy summer warmth remains. My pace is not as hectic. My flipflops remind me to pause and be grateful for these last, fleeting days of summer.

Won’t you join me?

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Puppy Love!

IMG_20150819_064045174On Monday morning, we welcomed Gracie, a 10 week old Westie, into our home, our hearts and our lives! She is full of light, love and unending energy. For the next several months, our lives – hers and ours! –  will be filled with “training”. First there is the usual “housebreaking” routine. So far, it is going pretty well. Then comes learning to NOT chew on electrical cords, the fringe on the good rugs and the leg of my side table. We are also trying to get her to understand what the words “no”, “down”, “come” and “stop” mean.

Watching her discover her world in such a free form way with a pure zest for life gives me pause and invites me to reflect on the careful balance that this “training” needs to keep to allow the most and best “Gracie” to emerge while she learns some of the important rules of the road. Remembering that it’s about all of us learning what she Can Do, not just teaching her to understand and respond to “NO!”

As I watch her entertain herself with toys and scraps of paper and run and jump like a bunny in the yard, I also reflect on my own need to let go a bit and rediscover some of the creative, goofy, carefree puppy energy in myself. Not full time – I still have lots to do and deadlines to meet. But during these special, formative weeks ahead, I want to be intentional, take the time and join in some of Gracie’s puppy moments with her. Including taking great naps!

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I want her to train me, too!

 

When You Win You Lose, and When You Lose You Win!!

Just after Valentine’s Day in the second semester of my freshman year in college, my boyfriend and I broke up and leaving me feeling a bit down. It just so happened that one of his fraternity brothers, Chico (AKA Michael Cherkesian) had just broken up with his girlfriend. So, Chico and I decided to meet once a week for a coffee at the Rathskeller in the Indiana University Student Union and there we formed the “Lovers and Losers Club.” Our motto was “when you win you lose, and when you lose you win!”  We drank coffee, shared a fattening snack and became good friends – we are still in touch on Linked In! It was also the beginning of my learning a great life lesson about winning and losing.

IMG_20150303_171836127It’s been a tough couple of weeks here in Can Do world!  First, my sweet dog Chippy, my one and only office colleague, is no longer here, making my office a mighty lonely place. I also received word that I did not get either of the two jobs I had been a finalist for. One was a tougher blow than the other. I really wanted that job!

Three hits – Pow! Pow! Pow!

The result is that I have been more than a bit down the rabbit hole for the last few days. And, more than a bit at a loss for direction because I have been working with clients on a short-term project-based status for the last few months as my interviewing for these two positions played itself out. Then, this week it felt like, OOPS, now what?  What is the Can Do Diva to do?

And, I felt SO sad. Dog grief is very real and really painful. When we lost Zoe, two and a half years ago, we still had Chippy. Now there are no furry family members here. It is a shock and a BIG adjustment after over 13 years. We will get a new doggie next February, after our vacation!  In the meantime, I need to find a way to fill the huge lonely hole that used to be Chippy, sleeping on my ottoman, snuggled against my bare feet.

In the 2009 acclaimed movie, Up In The Air, George Clooney as lay-off expert Ryan Bingham, tells the man he is giving the pink slip to, “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s *because* they sat there that they were able to do it.” …that in dealing with change and adversity, one is actually preparing for greatness. Cold comfort, yet filled with wisdom!

Before I could get around to changing the world, I needed to get out of the hole!  So, I took today off – just played HOOKY!

This morning I watched the final episode of the Jon Stewart Show that I had DVR’d last night. Then I went to the library and just wandered around for a while. When I left there, I drove 11866425_10206965038785361_2225825666540501309_ndown to Belle Haven Park by the Potomac River. Today is a cloudy and cool day – a delightful break from the 90s and horrible humidity of the last few weeks. I sat at a picnic table with my notebook and started to think about, and organize my ideas about, “Now What?”

I was not ready to do anything today. I just sat and wrote and brainstormed. Then I sorted and organized my ideas so I can remember them (!) and find them later. My plan is to leave them alone, in the notebook, to simmer until Monday.

I left the river and I drove up to the mall and wandered through a couple of stores, grateful for the stimulation of colors and the collection of “stuff” that is Home Goods. Slowly, the rainbow of colors and textures brought some creative juices back into my tired brain and it started to wake up. My final hooky event was to get a big bowl of triple chocolate and salted caramel frozen yogurt and smother it in chocolate sauce! YUMMY!  That is when I remembered, with a big smile, Chico’s and my afternoon snacks at our meetings of the Lovers and Losers Club so very many years ago.

I felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle, emerging from a deep sleep, pulling myself back into my skin – my world – my reality. The situation has not changed: the dog is still gone and those jobs will not be mine!  But I was able to regain my perspective. And, I realize that being me, here, today it is pretty wonderful. I have many awesome friends, colleagues and family members, and so very much to be grateful for.

As I end this mellow day, I know that even without Chippy, or either of those jobs, I can still change the world. And I will, starting Monday!

Care to join me?!

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FACT: Writing a Book is HARD Work!

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What was I thinking?

shutterstock_123128329That it would be an easy write?  I have been working in nonprofits a long time.  I have developed the core concepts and have the four organizations that I am featuring as the case stories.

I guess I thought that with that great framework that the “book would write itself.” Not literally, but you know what I mean!

That is NOT happening.
Thinking Woman Making Decision And Have An Idea. She Looking Up

I had the ideas conceptualized in ways that felt really clearly defined in my head.  I am not sure what happens between my brain and my fingers on the keyboard, but what comes out the first time is not clearly anything..

I thought that I wanted to maybe “go somewhere” to do all the writing at once. A “writer’s retreat” kind of place to help me focus, you know!  O.M.G. am I glad that it did not work out that way!  I would have gone stir-crazy with only the book.  It has layers and levels and chapters and connected ideas that are unfolding before me       v      e      r      y         s     l      o    w        l             y.  I would have to live there for months!

But, all of that said,

shutterstock_120103930I AM WRITING MY BOOK!

One thought, one page, one chapter at a time.

I am making great progress.

And, I am very impressed with the results so far! (Sometimes I hate the results, but those moments are fleeting!)

Sometimes so impressed, that I give in and do my happy dance!

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So, now you know why I have not been writing my weekly blog.  Forgive my absence, please! There are only so many words inside me.

I will be back… not sure when….

but I will be back!

 

 

Gratitude Is a Choice!

The quote this morning in the gratefulness.org email was from Henri Nouwen, and it really hit home with me.

GratitudeGratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

 

Life has been a little bumpy of late – that kind of bumpy that comes with change & growth!

The words Bumpy Road on a barrier or blockade as a warning sign

 

For example, last week, I had a MAJOR let down in my search for new work. The kicker was that very disappointing news was delivered in a wholly unprofessional and dismissive way. It took me a while to find my breath, let alone my attitude of gratitude. I asked my friends for support and prayers and took long walks, and said more than a few prayers for everyone I had met in the search process, including the one who had been so rude. Then, I took that great advice from Joe Walsh and the Eagles – GET OVER IT!

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Now, it is all history: THIS TOO SHALL PASS was true once again!

Then there is WORK, which is not bad, but JUST PLAIN HARD & TEDIOUS!  My current Interim Executive Director position is with an agency that, sadly, is shutting its doors. Closing down an organization is not an easy task. My days have been filled with creating comprehensive, detailed reports, both programmatic and financial, for contracts and programs I did not even know about until they were long over! The deadline to have them all delivered is tomorrow. My eyesblack-mold-allergy-problems-itchy-eyes are about to bleed from compiling spreadsheets and reviewing bank statements and receipts!  I have had help from one remaining manager whose last day was today. The rest is up to me – to tie up loose ends and get the invoices in to get the money in, then to close and pay off vendor accounts and begin the dissolution process. Details, details, details and then new details. They are unending, and I keep finding out there is more that needs to be done than I first believed on almost every front! During this ongoing challenge, and I am grateful for many of the people I have just come to know (and won’t get to know for long!!), who have been extremely supportive of me as I have tried to make sense out of it all!

So, even though I am tired and my eyes are going to fall out…

Even though the journey is taking me in directions that are quite different from what I was led to believe week before last…

Even though the future is very uncertain as I write…

I am grateful:

For my health.  I can’t say that one often enough.

facebookFor the over 200 responses on my Facebook page last week when life knocked me down for a few minutes and I asked for quick prayers and some extra support!

For the special home I share here with my awesome and supportive hubby and partner, Ned and our “wonder dog Chippy”!

For the beautiful azaleas and dogwoods in bloom.

For friends and family around the world. My collection of peeps is so diverse that I am never bored!

For this blog, where I can use my writing to learn a little bit more about living a Can Do Life!

And for my faith – and the ever growing opportunities I have to deepen and explore its reaches.

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Tough couple of weeks?  Yup!

Grateful?  More than ever before in my life!

What are you grateful for today?  I bet you can list at least five things!  And, to make it better, I urge you to share those things you are grateful for with those you love!  You never know when that little bit of sharing will make an important difference for them, too!

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It’s Complicated…

There sure is a lot going on in the world, and we know so much more about it because of technology. There have been earthquakes, avalanches and community violence for millenia. We are just the first to have it in our faces 24/7 on Instagram and Twitter. The style and pace of the coverage makes it easy to gloss over as so many images draw the attention of the TV and Internet and Selfie cameras.

pray for baltimore

#prayforbaltimore can easily become a cliche instead of intention.

Our prayers get lost in the noise, and the good intentions get lost in the crowded computer screens. “Broken backs and broken windows.” The insightful commentary can become lost in the sound bites.

In Baltimore, it is hard to move forward when the “sides” that get drawn focus on blaming and continuing the polarizing actions that contributed to the violence.

My perspective is different than most “white chicks from the suburbs” because of my work with kids in criminal and juvenile justice systems for so much of my career.  I was the CEO of a residential program for young men much like the ones that over-ran the streets in Baltimore this week. My goal was to prevent exactly what just happened.

In early 2006, the kids had a fight in our school that led to a confrontation with the State Police, and we were “breaking news at 11” for two very long nights. Neither side was fully in the right then, either. I still pray for the kids who ended up in jail that week and wonder what I could have done to prevent it. And, I pray for the police who thought they needed to “take control” of a situation that had been contained for quite some time before they arrived with mace and threats and force, and wondered why the kids reacted poorly.

And, so today and for months to come I will #prayforbaltimore. Pray for the kids and for the parents – black, white, brown and mixed. And, pray for the police – for healing and wisdom. And, I pray that the messages being delivered via mass media, social media and kitchen table conversations about how we treat each other be thoughtful and based on our shared humanity, and not on our fears and differences.

I hope that you will join me in that prayer. It’s what we Can Do.

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