The 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.
For 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!