Distractions are everywhere…especially in an office setting. From the sounds of phones ringing, speakerphone conversations and copy machines printing to the sun shining brightly through your office window…sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused at work.
So what can you do to remain on task and avoid distractions?
Seven Tips to Stay Focused at Work:
1. Clean your desk. If your desk is cluttered, take a few minutes to put things away and organize it. This will give you the space to focus on the task at hand.
2. Dress professionally. Dressing in professional attire may help you stick to business. Here’s an interesting article from Forbes that explains how alertness is affected by what you wear.
3. Plan ahead. Map out your next day before you leave work at the end of your shift. When you arrive at work the following day, you will know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.
5. Put your cell phone away. Move your cell phone to a place that is out of sight. This will prevent you from checking it every two minutes. Only check your phone during your breaks or lunch hour.
7. Reward yourself. After achieving an important goal, reward yourself with a cup of coffee or five minutes of browsing the Internet. Rewarding yourself may give you the motivation to get a jump start on your next project.
It’s no secret that workplace distractions can hinder your productivity. By using these tips, hopefully you can stay a little more focused and accomplish great achievements. Tell us what some of your methods are you use to remain focused at work?
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Decision making is the core role of a board of directors. So why do so many boards spend more time sharing information that could’ve been an emailed report instead of having high level, crucial conversations that lead to strong decisions?
You might be amazed at how many board meetings I have been a part of in the past at which zero decisions were reached. Or maybe you’ve experienced this also. Are your board meetings consumed with verbal reports on the status of this issue or that project or how this person performed during the last 30 days? Informing—while incredibly necessary—is not a good use of your short time together as a full board. Spending board hours giving verbal reports is, at best, barely beneficial and, at worst, a danger to your mission.
Instead,share data with board members before the meeting via the board packet. Provide those would-be verbal reports as written reports and give your board multiple days to read them and come to the meeting prepared..
Empowered board members assemble to make decisions. However, empowerment requires the members to come already informed. Prior access to data not only makes decisions easier to settle, but also more likely to stay made as well. Board decisions made without solid data have a tendency to make the deciders less confident that their conclusions are correct and will ultimately bring the issue back in front of the board to wrestle again in the not-so-distant future. Examining the issue once and reaching a solid decision that stays made is the best process to build momentum in the organization.
Board members are recruited from the community not for their ability to be updated, but rather so they can use their life skills to reach the best decisions that benefit the organization. It is a misuse of this valuable human resource to assemble simply to hear a report. The misuse is even more egregious if the entire meeting time is about reporting out data. Leaders view their roles differently when they associate board time with reaching solid decisions; one effect of transitioning to a decision-centric board agenda is better attendance.
Imagine a board meeting at which every member is in attendance and already fully informed as to the status of programs, finances, staff and committee efforts—they are empowered by the most relevant data and with full participation of all voices around the table. That is the scene where the mission of your organization is about to be moved forward. Conversely, assembling all these valuable human resources so that they are merely more informed than they had been 90 minutes ago does not advance the mission any further and sets the stage for people to see their board participation as less relevant, or maybe even optional.
Do you know where your board is on the Decision-Informing continuum? Here’s an exercise for you to conduct that will gather data to confirm your assumption:
Review the board minutes from your most recent three board meetings. Take note of time spent informing and time when decisions were discussed and conclusions reached.
Then, at your next board meeting, record how much of your time is spent informing members as to status of finances, staff efforts, program progress, or committee activities, and compare that number with how much time is spent discussing issues and data to reach decisions.
The closer your results are to mostly decision making, the more movement you will see towards mission fulfillment.
Continue this process each month, refining your agenda and practices until the majority of your regular board meetings is spent discussing and making decisions. Make the meeting entirely about decision making and that mission fulfillment will be even more observable.
The transition to conduct decision-centric meeting begins by deciding to change. Then you follow up that decision with new processes and a transition to a meeting agenda that reflects your new direction.
Want to discuss this transition in more detail?
Give Tom a call at 517-796-4750 or click the button below.
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Nonprofit leadership requires courage. Without a doubt, the decisions and actions necessary to successfully lead your organization are hard work. I say it requires courage because best practices are rarely achieved by going with the flow. In fact, taking the path of least resistance can sometimes reduce our impact and zap our passion for the work. The iconic actor, John Wayne, probably clarified it best for me, when he defined it this way: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
It takes courage to have the hard conversations with key people in our organization. It takes courage to hold ourselves accountable to the path we planned out and all agreed upon. And yes, courage is often the missing component of our funding goal shortfalls. One-on-one coaching is sometimes a means to uncover the courage needed. Other times, having an unbiased, third party come in to facilitate a group discussion about hard topics can be the way forward.
If this resonates with you, I strongly suggest attending our Executive Director Academy. If you'd like to talk through it and discuss it further. Feel free to contact our office at 517-796-4750 or email us at Info@Nonprofnetwork.org and we'll get right back to you!
It’ been over two years since I blogged on embezzlement and regrettably, I’m feeling compelled to revisit this dark topic. The recent situation that sparked this writing is my learning of a familiar organization experiencing a valued staffer that embezzled a six figure amount of the money donated to their mission. As I shared in my previously blog, this sickens me professionally and saddens me for the work of all the great people that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars now being for naught. Disgustingly this action succeeds when we drop our complete nonstop attention to safeguards.
While I certainly encourage you to dig through our Nonprofit Network blog library and read “3 Dangerous Myths About Nonprofit Embezzlement”, today I want to share a different insight that may generate conversations within your organization.
Did you know that 93% of people who embezzled funds NEVER had a criminal record before? This fact from Marquette Report on Embezzlement is one that deserves some sincere reflection. Ponder the implications of this data about the 3,000+ embezzlers the Michigan State Police see annually (for profit and nonprofit). This means that all our safeguards are not to stop criminals from taking our organization’s hard earned money. Our safeguards are actually intended to eliminate an opportunity for a “trusted” person to take advantage of our negligence and take their first step over to the dark side.
Embezzlement is legally categorized as “fraud” and many of you are familiar with the “fraud triangle”. This helpful triangular diagram helps us clarify that fraud happens when: 1) There is a perceived OPPORTUNITY to commit fraud, 2) This OPPORTUNITY is experienced by a person experiencing a perceived pressure in their lives and 3) That person rationalizes the action they are about to take.
This person who rationalizes their integrity away can’t fully complete their action of becoming a criminal if we make it extremely difficult for them. The element of reducing OPPORTUNITY is the key portion of the fraud triangle our organization has control over. However, having our antenna up to monitor the other two elements will also prove beneficial. In nonprofit terms, this is often called “oversight”.
I don’t want to naively suggest we can entirely eliminate the crime of embezzlement (or any crime really), but since we as leaders of nonprofits are expected to provide “oversight” and be solid stewards of other people’s resources, employing best practices to fulfill our responsibilities can truly be impact-full. While a phone call to me or one of my colleague consultants can assist you in this conversation, I also want to strongly encourage your organization to participate in our financial workshops that delve into internal controls and appropriate policies to establish solid safeguards against embezzlement. I do want to suggest that this small time and dollar commitment can safeguard your organization against one of the most gut wrenching experiences a nonprofit leader will ever experience.
If you promise to harden your financial safeguards, I promise my next blog will be more uplifting…deal?
Nonprofit Network Executive Director
Census 101: What You Need to Know
The 2020 Census is closer than you think. Here’s a quick refresher of what it is and why it’s essential that everyone is counted.
Nonprofits will play a crucial role in the 2020 Census to make sure the communities you serve are properly represented in the Census, especially in communities that are hard to count or traditionally under-counted like those experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ+, racial minorities and many more. Now is the time to get informed and make a plan.
The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place. If you don’t complete the census – you don’t get counted. And for the next ten years, you lose your opportunity to be seen when decisions are made about road funding, funding for programs like food assistance and schools, and when redistricting happens.
It’s about fair representation
Every 10 years the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets and where those lines are drawn. Historically, people of color, people who live in poverty and many other marginalized and disenfranchised populations don’t complete the census which means they get misrepresented in these conversations.
It’s in the constitution
The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The first census was in 1790. Census information is confidential. This is the first year that the census will be conducted primarily through the internet bringing the Census into the age of technology. This saves the taxpayer money and will decrease the cost of the Census.
It’s about $675 billion
The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on census data. That Money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs. It’s important for nonprofits because Census data is used for grant making, design of where programs should be created and where populations who might need additional services are located.
It’s about redistricting
After each decade’s census, state officials redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account for population shifts. An accurate count is essential for fair representation.
Taking part is your civic duty
Completing the census is mandatory: it’s a way to participate in our democracy and say “I COUNT!”
Learn more HERE
While recently attending Adaptive Schools Foundation training whose goal is to “develop the collective identity and capacity of organization members as collaborators and inquirers and leaders,” I experienced déjà vu.
Our facilitator, Carolyn McKanders, was excellent; thoughtful, interesting and chock full of facilitation strategies. The audience was mainly teachers and school administrators and then there was me, a part-time capacity building consultant whose role is to help nonprofit Executive Directors and Board Members be more effective.
Navigating four days of training, what came to my mind was that this was a variation, aimed at groups instead of individuals, of the empathy skills training I learned and later taught oh so many years ago (dare I say 40…) at Gryphon Place, a fabulous crisis intervention center in Kalamazoo Michigan. I say fabulous because I believe it saved my life and provided tools and skills which my husband and I called upon frequently while raising two beautiful children. But that’s another story…Suffice it to say that Gryphon Place will always have a special place in my heart.
The Adaptive Schools “Seven Norms of Collaborative Work” banner hangs in the Nonprofit Network conference room and lays out the steps to successful collaborative work: Pausing; Paraphrasing; Posing Questions; Putting Ideas on the Table; Providing Data; Paying Attention to Self and Others; Presuming Positive Intentions.
Our Executive Director, Regina Pinney, lauds McKanders and Adaptive Schools as being “life changing.” Travel back 40 years and Gryphon Place was my life changer…So, what powerful life changing skills training do the Adaptive Schools and Gryphon Place models have in common? Drum roll please…PARAPHRASING! McKanders’ explanation is that a significant role of the brain’s function is to keep us safe and a major part of safety is assuring our brain that we are being heard, validated and understood (my contribution). Pretty basic stuff but, WOW, life changing indeed.
In addition to a myriad of resources we, at Nonprofit Network, utilize these and other Adaptive Schools strategies when facilitating, coaching and teaching to assist our clients become better Executive Directors and Board Members.
So, what’s your takeaway and how can Gryphon Place and Adaptive Schools models help you in your professional and personal life? The answer is simple. Whether interacting with colleagues, volunteers, board members or your spouse or children, use this pattern: Listen, Paraphrase, Ask Questions, Discuss Ideas, Provide Information, Pay Attention to yourself and Others, and Assume Positive Intentions.
For more information check out volunteer opportunities, crisis intervention and other services at www.Gryphon.org or to learn more about Adaptive Schools training opportunities and other resources visit www.thinkingcollaborative.com.
We know that working together as a group to get better is time well spent. In the long run, it also saves time, resources and reduces disengagements and frustration. But getting people in the same room to devote the time might be the biggest challenge. Professional development is so important, but scheduling more time together is often difficult to coordinate as a group.
Nonprofit Network has developed a solution: Fundamental Conversations for Nonprofit Boards. Our team of experts have created this 7-part video course that prepares and frames your crucial conversations around board governance.
You can now offer your board professional development when it is most convenient for you. Each of the 7 videos is just 10 minutes or fewer and comes with a corresponding Discussion Guide.
Individuals can watch on their own before a meeting to discuss as a group during a meeting, or you can view each video as a group over the course of several months—or even all at once in a retreat setting.
This course frames and directs each conversation, allowing you to focus on whats most important for your organization.
The course is $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers.
Click here for more details: Online Store
“One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”
-Anne M. Mulcahy, Former CEO and Chairwoman, Xerox
As we enter a new year, it seems all but impossible to not think about ways in which we hope to improve over the past and establish good habits. The challenge, of course, is sticking to our resolutions and embedding them into our lives so a year from now we can look back with the pride of knowing at least one of our resolutions stuck.
Here’s a resolution challenge for 2018: succession planning.
Succession planning doesn’t just happen, but (and this is a big BUT) it doesn’t have to, and frankly, shouldn’t be a separate organizational activity. Upon realizing we are all dispensable and “things” happen, one habit I developed many years ago, was to always do my work so that anyone could take over at any time. Not only was a succession planning mindset great for the organization, but it also benefited me personally.
Think about the planning you have to do before going on vacation, taking maternity/paternity leave or caring for an ill child or parent. If you create succession habits regularly, anyone should be able to pick up the mantle of your job.
Throughout my career. folks who took over positions from which I moved on have gone out of their way to thank me for “leaving a trail that was easy to follow.” How did I do it? It was easy once I approached my job with a succession planning mindset. In this digital age, it is easier than ever to insure that our successors have every advantage at succeeding.
So, how do we embed succession planning in our daily work lives?
Need help getting started? We can assist you with establishing good succession planning habits in your day-to-day operations or with developing a succession plan.
Today, if nonprofits had all the money in the world, they still wouldn't be able to scale their missions to make true and lasting difference.
The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector (2017) found that four of five nonprofits struggle with leadership and management and only 11% are prepared to scale for optimal impact.
Most nonprofits are struggling with weak board governance, fundraising and impact evaluation and, as a result, are not ready or able to scale to increase their impact.
We can all do better.
Simple strategies, effective tools and sometimes even an “easy button” can transform your organization and help you scale for optimal impact.
Nonprofit Network’s mission is to help you address these issues without taking your eye off what matters most to you.
For 20 years, we have existed as a direct result of the expressed needs of the community. Nonprofits, funders and leaders know that organizations need technical assistance, expert advice and assistance so that investments are leveraged and missions are impactful.
And we are scaling up our impact.
Nonprofit Network provides professional development opportunities, a broad range of consulting services and on-demand tools, resources, advice and coaching.
Our expert facilitators, coaches and trainers provide trusted guidance and assessment for your specific needs. From strategic planning services to “quick questions,” we can help you be stronger.
We meet you where you are and provide you with a selection of affordable and relevant services, including:
We can help prepare you for optimal impact through strategic planning, leadership development and improved fundraising strategies.
Each organization is unique. Nonprofit Network customizes services that take your available resources into consideration—like time, money, energy—to create a process that will work for your specific needs.
Question: On a scale of 1 – 10, how important is a nonprofit board of directors?
If building a strong board is tantamount to running a healthy, vibrant and successful nonprofit organization, how do we build a dynamic board?
While the answer is complex, there are strategies you can use to enhance your success.
1) Identify your organization’s needs. Look for a tool or establish a method that will help in the evaluation of the board’s make-up as it relates to the Board structure and organizational needs. Some of the areas of focus will likely be finance, fundraising, marketing, human resources, program participants or folks who utilize your organization’s services.
2. Evaluate your current board to see if they fulfill these criteria and if not, identify the gaps.
Now that you’ve identified gaps where do you look for potential Board Members?
3. Review donor lists. Someone who is giving financial support to your organization clearly has a passion for the work you do and having a passion for the work is essential for Board members. If someone is a donor and has the skills you are looking for, you may have a great recruit.
4. Utilize the web. LinkedIn has a great tool you can use to “search for a skill” or “experience you need” for your nonprofit. You can also post your volunteer opportunity.
5. Don’t necessarily look at someone who serves on many boards. Do look to see who has been an effective leader on a board.
6. Develop job descriptions that identify clear expectations. No one likes surprises or wasting time. Does your board have a policies on board giving and board meeting attendance? Are Board members expected to serve on committees? Be up front with recruits. I would rather have someone say “no” to serving on the board then say “yes” and not have a clue about what they are getting into.
7. Consistently provide Board members with organizational information and choose a section to review at periodic Board meetings. Information should include your mission (I am always impressed – and not in a good way – when Board members don’t know an organization’s mission), copy of current budget, most recent strategic plan, annual Board and development calendars.
Now you’ve got them, how do you keep them engaged?
8. Adhere to the Board calendar. Remembering Board meetings should not just be comprised of a report from the E.D. Boards should be setting the organization’s vision, asking questions about the budget and other financial issues, and discussing how they are going to assist in garnering the financial resources to meet the mission.
9. Invite a donor to share why they support your organization or a recipient of services to share their experience to periodic board meetings. This would be the first item on the agenda and after the visitor leaves, engage in a conversation about why the donor gives and possibly, who might also like to give (prospecting) or how could your programs be better, friendlier or easier to access.
Take your time and don’t just fill vacancies; get the right people.
Ready to take your board engagement strategies to the next level? Enroll your board in the Foundational Conversations: Guided Video Discussion Course today.
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