My Can Do Life Reinvention – Seriously!

Six weeks ago, if you told me about last Friday, I would never have believed you.  Six weeks ago, I had a great job that I intended to retire from in five years and my life pattern was pretty well set. The staff and I had worked hard for 9  months using an intentional Can Do approach and had created a strong team model; and, we were really having fun doing it! I had just finished a report for the Board that highlighted how the team and I were meeting and exceeding our goals for the year, and what my five year goals were for the organization. Our program was at capacity.  There was a leak in the roof, but that’s part of having an 86 year old building. Sure, there were challenges and differences in approach in some areas of my nonprofit leadership position, but challenges are inherent in any job – and, in my view, part of the cost of doing business in a model that is focused on change & growth.

Five weeks ago, my head was spinning. The President of the Board of Directors told me that the Board was seriously considering not renewing my contract at the end of June. Seriously?

Seriously?

The following Tuesday, I realized that the differences between us were much more fundamental than I had previously believed.  Two days later, we met and I learned that they would not renew the contract. I, sadly agreed with the decision. Seriously.

So, I began to actively explore what I would do next.  Since it was not my first time at this crossroad, I went to work immediately, reinventing myself as my hubby has since dubbed it.

Four weeks ago yesterday, I registered for the online 60 hour course that is required before taking the Virginia Real Estate Licensing Exam.  Friday, I passed that exam.  The testing company does not reveal the scores – I just know and am very grateful and relieved that I passed.  Real Estate as a career is something I have toyed with for several years, and it is in my blood: both my parents were Realtors, as are my brother and one of my cousins.  I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead – the people I will meet and the special opportunity I will have to support them through the major life transition of buying or selling their home.

My friends have been telling me how impressed they are with what I accomplished: reinventing myself and passing the exam and (most of the time) keeping my Can Do attitude in play.  I was blessed to be participating in a Lenten Retreat as these changes unfolded, and used that time and those spiritual resources to help me discern next steps. I was surrounded by a caring community of family and friends, and I am grateful beyond words for their strong support during this very difficult time.

As I recover from the stresses of preparing for and taking (and passing!!) the exam, I gotta tell you, I am VERY proud of myself and VERY impressed with my achievements in these four short weeks. Not only have I taken the course and passed the exam, but I have acquired and integrated the knowledge to begin an entirely new field of work.

Seriously.

And… and…. I am affiliating with an OUTSTANDING brokerage to launch my new career: Keller Williams in McLean. I chose KW because of the strong alignment with my Can Do Workplace model.  Their mission is: CAREERS WORTH HAVING. BUSINESSES WORTH OWNING.  LIVES WORTH LIVING.  Their belief system reads like a chapter of the Can Do Workplace!

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The people in the McLean office – from the Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader, to agents and brokers and the front desk staff – have been over the top supportive of me, welcoming and excited about not just what they can do for me, but also what strengths and potential I bring to their team.

Right now, my status is Coming Soon. In the two to three week lag while the application for my license is being processed in Richmond, I will work with them to get myself ready for a very different “next five years” than I had imagined just six weeks ago.

Seriously.

Imagine What You Can Do!

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Can Do Basics Blog 3: The Power of AND in the Ampersand

The The Can Do Model is built around the power of the AND in the ampersand.

AND is such a powerful word that connects things, concepts and ideas together. It is a very short word, but it can be so dynamic.

I love the ampersand because it has such hidden strengths in its graceful form. More than strengths, I actually think there are super powers hidden in that symbol that help individuals and organizations combine elements, which on some levels appear to be contradictory, messy, or disconnected, in order to achieve a positive outcome that is way above & beyond the norm.

Take for instance, the combination of Difficult & Great. I am not sure where the idea started that what is good has to be easy! With that mindset, people can become so discouraged when presented with a challenge, when it is really an invitation to grow! The Difficult & Great combination nudge – and then push – us to think harder… To try again… To see another perspective…To listen more attentively to our colleagues… and to find something new, different, stronger and better… To achieve our mission with more impact! That’s why we, the nonprofit peeps are here, isn’t it?

During my interview for the book with Sandy Nobles, Director of Education at Momentous Institute, she put it this way: “We know ‘great’ & ‘difficult’ work together to achieve more impact. We want to ring life out of every day that we have chance to help kids.”

Change & Growth – The juncture of change & growth is where the possibilities, power, and promise of greatness and excellence reside and come to life. When change is not directly connected to growth, it creates fear and anxiety for many, and keeps organizations, teams, and individuals stuck in patterns that ensure that poor outcomes are perpetuated. On the other side of the coin, change for the sake of change is foolish.

Growth in “Can Do” terms does not mean more or bigger, it means better, healthier, and stronger.

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When change is embraced and understood, people feel invited and empowered to join in and participate in shaping the growth. And they have a better understanding of how they benefit from the change & growth.

They start to view, measure, and respond to internal and external fluctuations as opportunities for growth, and use lessons learned to make adjustments and course-corrections to prevent unnecessary problems.

In short, these are people who want to be at work & make a Can Do kind of difference!

AND, who can argue with that?

CDW Cover.final - CopyClick here to check out The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits to learn so much more about creating that kind of workplace. The book is filled with practical solutions & hundreds of resources. Get yours today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

Who-Wants-Change

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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Can Do Basics Blog 1: Mission and Gratitude

Ever been in an organization that “gets it” and think, “WOW, I wish I worked here!”?  And then we have all been in organizations where we think, “O.M.G.! GET ME OUT OF HERE!” Sometimes, it’s hard to pin down what makes the difference between a Can Do Workplace and those that are Can’t Do, Won’t Do, surviving, toxic, and the many permutations and iterations of just getting by. The distinctions between the Can Do and the others can be instinctive, based on feeling rather than data. One thing for certain, you know when Can Do is there, and when it is not!

CDW Cover.final - CopyAs someone with many years of experience in nonprofit management and a background in behavioral health, the questions around what makes a “Can Do” workplace fascinate me and led me to write The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits. The book is focused on nonprofits because it has been my professional home for so many years, but also because so many nonprofits seem to be, unnecessarily, struggling in survival mode and missing the mark.

To celebrate the release of the new book, I am writing this series of Can Do Basics Blogs over the next four weeks, using the core concepts and practices of the Can Do Model. This first blog in the series starts at the beginning for me – with mission and gratitude.

“Can Do” can be an elusive quality or concept to wrap our heads around. It is about the organizational culture and the quality of the organization’s impact, yet there is more. Its framework is built upon a solid foundation consisting of two critical elements:

  1. A well-defined, meaningful mission that drives all of its activities, and
  2. An organizational culture that is grounded in gratitude.  (The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits)

MISSION: Can Do Workplaces keep a strong focus on their mission. Mission is a given in a nonprofit. Mission is what defines its purpose and motivates all of its goals and objectives – or should! When it does, everyone knows the “why” of their work and the alignment is stronger up and down the org chart – and side to side as well. Mission keeps motivation alive, for staff and clients, and promotes innovation that leads to positive change & growth.

Sometimes, the focus on mission can get lost in the day to day challenges of running an organization and the unending search for funding, which is quite dangerous. Each nonprofit hold a public trust that underlies and defines its role in the community and allows for its tax exemption. When mission gets fuzzy or forgotten, misplaced or left behind in search of funding, that trust is broken. Usually not all at once, but over time – hence the term “mission drift”. Remember, mission trumps money because a well-defined and meaningful mission, when kept front and center, attracts money.

GRATITUDE: Can Do Workplaces also focus on gratitude. Gratitude?  Where does that fit in the nonprofit world? Why, I think it fits there most naturally! Gratitude reminds us of what has gone well, not just what the problems are. Gratitude lets people – staff and clients – know that they and their efforts make a positive difference in the outcomes, even when goals are not fully reached. Gratitude inspires staff, volunteers and clients to try again and work a little harder to reach the next set of goals. Gratitude takes the “but” out of “yes, but…”  In short, gratitude generates its own “impact”, and we all know how valuable “impact” is in our world!

There is an emerging neuroscience behind the power and impact that gratitude can have for individuals and organizations. I recommend Robert Emmons’ Gratitude Works!: A 21 Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity (2013, Josey Bass).

MISSION & GRATITUDE. Basics. And, when combined, so very powerful! When they stay front and center in an organization, great things are more likely to happen, and happen more often. When they are forgotten… well, many of us have been there… and most often, we have left.

If you are interested in learning more about The Can Do Workplace, I invite you to visit the Can Do Workplace website and to order your own copy of the book, which contains a resource section on mission, gratitude and motivation and much more.

Check back here next Friday for the second in the Can Do Basics blog series: The Four Practices of a Can Do Workplace.  Til then, remember to Imagine What You Can Do!

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Introducing The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits

CDW Cover.final - CopyThe BIG day has finally arrived to release The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits. I invite you to click here to order the book from amazon.com or bn.com. It is available in both paperback and digital formats.

As I share my ideas and this new model with the wider world, I want to reflect on several core components of my own Can Do learning process.

When I started to write The Can Do Workplace, my goal was to expand my new found personal “can do” paradigm reflected in my first book, The Can Do Chronicles, and combine it with my nonprofit experience to create an organizational development resource that could help nonprofit execs and managers get past the “but” in “yes, but!” while dealing with their many “challenges, crises and issues du jour.” The book was intended to be motivational. To challenge and inspire. To be a thought-provoker that would help managers and leaders ask better questions to more consistently move the needle in nonprofit agencies and organizations.

That goal changed when I began explore the inner workings of the four exemplary nonprofits that are the center of the book: Momentous Institute, Warm Heart Worldwide, The Environmental Leadership Program and The National Head Start Association. I asked dozens of people hundreds of questions, and listened intently to their answers. Based on those conversations, I changed the goal to having the Can Do model be aspirational. To go beyond suggesting that leaders adopt some of the ideas and re-read some of the classics and new literature that are featured in its pages to pump things up for a while. Rather, I strongly encourage them to undertake the hard work to improve alignment, make better decisions, be strategic about change & growth and simmer their secret sauce to keep people – staff and clients – coming back. To motivate them to invest more fully in their mission and their people, and believe they can make a substantive, meaningful, Can Do kind of difference in their part of the world.

In the book, we are invited to peek behind the curtains to learn more about how the best do what they do – day after day – while so many of us continue to struggle with the tyranny of the urgent and the doable, and never quite get around to investing in excellence.

shutterstock_108972257For the people who work at these four high-functioning organizations, the Can Do process is not nirvana – it is hard, messy and often frustrating. But the work is real, empowering, meaningful and motivating. “We know ‘great’ & ‘difficult’ work together to achieve more impact,” is what they told me in different ways and words, over and over again.

I was very impressed with the ongoing hospitality and transparency of the leaders, volunteers and managers at those four organizations – to be open, to share their inner workings, struggles and victories. To a person, they were willing reflect on some hard questions and give refreshingly authentic answers. This was not done as an exercise or favor to me, but rather it reflects the way they interact every day with their employees, the people they serve and their wider communities.

One of the critical elements of a Can Do Workplace that was visited and revisited in the interviews with the staff at the four organizations was how thoughtfully and productively mistakes are handled compared to other places people have worked or volunteered. Mistakes become lessons learned upon which effective changes are based and made. Dealing with mistakes became such a recurring issue that I wrote a chapter on lessons-learned from my own “experience” (read: mistakes), reflecting, as candidly as I could, on what I would have done differently. It was painful, but insightful and very productive exercise, and is the basis for a new training module and workbook.

I want to close with a public thank you to all of the collaborators on the book, especially the staff from Momentous Institute, Warm Heart Worldwide, The Environmental Leadership Program and The National Head Start Association. You and your work are an inspiration for us all.

The Can Do Workplace does not have all the answers to the pressing issues we address. It reflects my perspective on our potential. I want to share that perspective with you, my fellow nonprofit colleagues, as a resource to help keep us the focus on the mission and the people… on the possibilities, not just the problems. I hope the book can be a catalyst to help us remember that we in the nonprofit world share a sacred, public trust that sometimes gets lost in the challenges, pressures and crises of the work we do each day.

I believe that the public trust of our sector to build community, through connected relationships, is the secret sauce of the nonprofit world. And, we owe it to the people we serve, the people who support our work, and to ourselves to make it the BEST secret sauce we can!

With gratitude,

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Plan C: See You in 2016

CDW Cover.final - Copy (433x640)There was an unexpected pause in the promotion and marketing for launch of The Can Do Workplace brought on by a Christmas crud virus that would not go away!  Being a solo shop, that meant that everything stopped. Not that I did not try to keep going, but it was just futile!

So, I quit trying so hard and am focused on getting, and staying healthy. It’s my new year’s resolution. I hope you make those same kind of good choices for 2016.

Happy New Year!

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Misteaks…. and lessons learned

Wish you could have a do-over? I sure do! Lots of them – and, one specifically that I will talk more about below.

During the interviews for my new book The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits, I was struck by the candor of all four CEOs of the featured nonprofits when talking about making mistakes and failing. A hallmark of a Can Do Workplace is the unusual, positive approach to how mistakes are handled – openly, honestly and as a learning opportunity. I believe that a great workplace is built on and made much stronger by the learning opportunities afforded from both the good and the bad times. Being open about mistakes and lessons learned in a Can Do workplace helps to foster and develop important personal and organizational values. The by-products of those learning opportunities are what I call critical nuggets of wisdom that help identify gaps and needs in an organization. And, they are vitally important in preventing mistakes from happening again – and again – and again!

Here is a quick excerpt from the book, with Michelle Kinder, Executive Director at Momentous Institute in Dallas discussing how mistakes are handled there.

Momentous LogoAt Momentous Institute, they “fail fast and fail better,” learning the lessons and moving to the next step. Michelle Kinder shares, “Problems are happening every single day – some little, some big. We can’t be derailed by setbacks and we have to be very careful what meaning we ascribe to it when we do fail. Careful to check how we are thinking about ourselves, our colleagues, and the families we exist to serve. It takes an enormous commitment to look honestly at situations that don’t go well, stay in the discomfort and then move through it to a better version of ourselves.” They think this transparent and candid approach is not just a good model for operating the organization, but provides a great example for their clients. “We do not want to appear to be perfect; we want to be honest and show the kids and families how messy and hard it is to grow and succeed – and also how very much it is worth it. The message from our Board is: They strongly encourage us to push the envelope and chase innovation. When things fail they never play ‘gotcha’ with us, but they have extremely high expectations that we learn a lot from our failures and move forward.”  (The Can Do Workplace, page 58).

My Lesson Learned: Here is my true confession about a recent painful mistake and embarrassing lesson learned. shutterstock_62610805I discovered last month that I had made an error while editing the book: I did not have someone do a final proof of the entire manuscript after I and others had completed our edits. I reviewed the places where I saw content changes were needed, and then I released it for publication.

The result is not a huge, horrible mistake, but rather a number of places in the book where words are missing. Some “the’s” and one “exceptional”, to name a few. Enough to be a distraction to the reader at times. And, as someone who secretly corrects other peoples’ grammar and edits other peoples’ writing in my head, this is a source of significant embarrassment to me.

I have given great thought, often at 4AM, about to how best to approach dealing with it since the proverbial horse is out of the barn now – the book has been published and there is no do-over. I decided to own up to it and tell you about it out loud – in articles, on the blog, on the website and in trainings as a personal and powerful teaching tool!

I want you to know how sorry I am that this wonderful book is missing some words that might distract you from the important work of building a Can Do Workplace. And, trust me, I promise you all and myself that I will never let a manuscript go to publication that has not had a cold read by a copy editor whom I personally pay to ensure that every sentence is complete and makes sense!  Worth.Every.Penny.And.More!

Whew!  As a committed Can Do leader, I really believe that transparency is the best policy, but that was very hard and pretty risky. This may be the first many of you have heard of me, and some of you may reject the book, its nuggets of wisdom and me, based on this information. That is a risk I am willing to take – and hope that more of you respect me for being candid and honest about it.
Time To Learn ConceptMy focus on lessons learned goes beyond my “true confession” here. I am a big believer in using lessons learned and the role they have not just in building a Can Do Workplace, but in living a Can Do Life!  I realized when writing the book that I needed to include the realities of how difficult and messy it is to build a quality organization, so in Chapter 5, I offer some guidelines on how to “make lemonade,” if you will. I present four case studies of “lessons learned” from across my years of nonprofit leadership that correspond to the four Can Do Workplace practices of Alignment, Decision-Making, Change & Growth and Simmering the BEST Secret Sauce. As a supplemental resource to the book, I am designing a framework for developing and using lessons learned to strengthen the work and people of a Can Do organization that will be used in trainings and posted on the Can Do Workplace website.

To help me create this framework that will include new and insightful strategies for “making lemonade”, I am launching The THAT will never happen again! Contest on the Can Do Workplace Facebook page and website and on the Can Do Blog. **

Everyone has a “lesson learned” or two to share – most of them learned the hard way.  By sharing them, we commit just a little bit more moving away from repeating them, and we help others to avoid them! I will give away a free copy of The Can Do Workplace (with its missing words!) to a total of four nonprofit execs, Board members and managers who submit the best and most useful answers to the following questions. I ask that you focus on one of the two questions per entry, and multiple submissions are permitted. The deadline is Thursday, December 31st.

The THAT will never happen again! Contest Questions:

shutterstock_123517816Question 1: What is your most important and meaningful lesson you have learned in your nonprofit career?  If you could write a policy memo to help prevent it from happening again, what would it say and why?

Question 2: What is the most important advice or lesson learned that you share with a ten year younger version of yourself that would have helped you move more quickly into a position of Can Do leadership?

Please limit your responses to 500 words as a Word Document with your contact information included at the bottom of the page. Submit entries via email to cathi@coridanconsulting.com.  Please put “lessons learned” as the subject line. Reminder, the deadline is 5PM Eastern Time, on Thursday, December 31.  If you have any questions, please submit them via the same email with Contest Questions as the subject line.

I look forward to reading your entries and learning Can Do lessons from you!

** Any content from the contest entries used in the development of the Lessons Learned Tool will only be used with the written approval of the person submitting the contest entry.