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I'm reaching out to you as part of a small group of nonprofit executives with whom I would love to work in bringing a new spark to your team.  

Team development has been the most rewarding work I've done as a consultant over the last five years because it truly produces great results within an organization.  

And I am looking for 6 good teams to work with in 2019.

Not every named "team" is really a team, and of course not every real team is a good team.
Besides common goals and shared rewards and responsibilities, a good team is self-conscious in a way that brings some focus internally so that a desire for greatness is sparked.  When there is that spark, a team is willing to invest considerable time and emotional energy in the process of becoming cohesive and high functioning.

The favorite tool in my toolbox that I have seen bring great results is The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.  When I work with a team through The Five Behaviors we begin with a formal team self-assessment and then progress to action plans through a pyramid of growth. 

Building trust within your team allows you to move to mastering productive conflict. The result of productive conflict is true commitment, and on up the pyramid you grow toward increasing the focus on results.  This is not "team-building" in the ropes-course-one-day-blast way – this is a thoughtful process, without shortcuts but with real changes, real growth. 

A Personal Confession

I have a confession to make: 
I led teams for many years as an executive director and when the team was performing well I was more likely to feel lucky than smart.  The truth I now know is that a high functioning team takes more than luck or smarts - it is an intentional, strategic choice.

When we reflect on success in anything we can view it through four factors:
- intention 
- smarts 
- hard work
  and luck. 

Any of these might rise up and take charge and we rarely have all four.  Hard work is the one we can control so we sometimes over-work something that lacks the other elements.

How are these success factors working for you in your executive team?  
Building a cohesive, high-functioning executive team can benefit from luck, when personalities fall together in a beautiful group of like-minded people.  Talent and smarts certainly help when you're constructing the group and running the mechanics, but how is the intention factor within your group? 

Best selling author and management consultant Patrick Lencioni calls a cohesive leadership team "an intentional, strategic choice,"  a choice that takes a lot of work. 

That work can be tackled through five fundamental behaviors practiced by cohesive teams-
building trust, productive conflict, clear commitment, team accountability, and a focus on results.

So keeping in mind all the success factors, you can declare your intention something like:  
We'll lead with a behaviorally unified executive team committed to collective results.

I bet you didn't know there is an "I" in Team.

We’ve been drilled on it, there’s no “I” in the word “team.”  But when we look around the table at our teams we most certainly see the "i's", the individuals – bright, beaming, motivated and marching in one direction or several directions. 
When the best discussions happen, when productive conflict is stirred, we see eight (or six or ten) individual spotlights on the issue at hand.

A cohesive team doesn’t change those spotlights into one or shut down some in favor or others, but it does get them pointed in the same direction.  

We need every strong and skilled individual spotlight. 

A cohesive team is behaviorally unified,after maybe starting off as not-so-much.   
It’s important to know and understand the “I’s” on the team because it leads to the trust that is required for full debate and conflict, which then leads to unified commitment.

Thefive behaviors of a cohesive teammodel gives us a program for moving a group of individuals to higher results. In addition to gathering everyone’s assessment of the team’s performance we useEverything DiSC ®, a tool that helps build effective team communication and relationships.  Individual DiSC profiles allow participants to learn about their own DiSC style —

D: Dominance, i: Influence, S: Steadiness, and C: Conscientiousness

and discover how each style brings value to the team.

There are “I’s” in a team and they need to understand each other to build the trust that is the foundation for results. 

The Evolution of Urgency

“There’s more sense of urgency in the for-profit segment than in the nonprofit segment, and it should actually be the reverse.  There is more to lose in the nonprofit segment.”  

This succinct understatement comes from Paula Schneider, CEO of Susan G. Komen and former fashion and apparel CEO.  Ms. Schneider certainly has the experience to back her comment - in both sectors. 

Urgency in the fashion industry is about making money.  At Susan G. Komen we see one of the best models for raising money and urgency around a cancer that will kill 41,000 women in the U.S. this year.

With urgency comes money for both of these two very different endeavors.  Where's the urgency in nonprofit organizations?  I've watched this question now for years and know it's evolving.

Nonprofit services, especially human services, are grassroots by nature. 
The urgency is for the next person through the door.  Real people, real needs, in real time.

The evolution is showing up as a new understanding of true costs, including the importance of high quality management and leadership.  The urgency evolution includes the need for better compensation, for entrepreneurial approaches such as building capital for taking new risks instead of waiting for public funding.

For the people running nonprofit companies, a shared urgency between the people in need and the drive to build the business is the mark of the evolution of urgency.  Don't give up on either, give them both more steam and see it grow.

You Are the Best HOPE

The best hope for reducing division and tribalism in our country right now lies in the nonprofit sector.  

You -  the people who are dedicated to the ARTS, to HEALTH, to CHILDREN and to DAILYDIGNITY - hold a  common belief that separation from one another is an illusion - we are all connected.  

Identity politics and economic class separation delivers tribalism.  We have our tribes and our common enemies.  How many people do you know well who voted for “the other side” in 2016?  The rift between tribes is very real right now.  Most of us can say that we have not seen our country more divided in our lifetimes.

But people working in nonprofit causes hold two seemingly contradictory beliefs in the same hand:
- “nobody’s perfect,” we all have challenges, and

- “we’re all perfect,”  beautiful sparkling crystals inside a rough exterior. 

And these beliefs grow stronger through action.   As behavior change precedes changes in attitude, behavior patterns build and fortify attitudes and beliefs. 

Whether you’re a volunteer, a long term professional, or just starting out –

Keep doing what you do and re-commit to it at a human-to-human level. 


John Lennon sang “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  

And of course what’s true for life is true for the life of an organization in spite of our wish that goals and structure and execution make it different.  What happens to the big ideas, the big goals?

The bestselling book The 4 Disciplines of Execution teaches that the “whirlwind” (otherwise known as the real-work or the day-job) is the enemy of big ideas and new activities. 

What percentage of your energy is consumed by the daily momentum, the stuff coming at you from outside, the urgent but not always important? 
Maybe 95%? 

Failing to attend to urgent things bites you quickly, not attending to important things – the big goals – has a slower corrosive impact. 
When urgency and importance clash, urgency wins every time.

We spent some time reviewing the 4 disciplines of execution in an Executive Roundtable this year and one point became quickly apparent to the group: 
Slowing down or pausing the whirlwind isn’t possible – or desirable. 
Good things and important things happen in the whirlwind, it’s the life force of the organization.  And like a river, it flows even when you’re not watching it!

But we need to understand and critically observe the whirlwind in order to know what’s actually happening – then we can become the expert in seeing the difference between urgent and important, and giving time to the important.

The goal is 20%:  spend 20% of your time, consciously and consistently, on the important-not-urgent bigger goals and you will make them happen.
Leaders know the difference between urgent and important, and pay attention to both.  Watch the whirlwind from both inside it and outside it and carefully cultivate the 20%.

Restoration is good for the soul

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...and my soul is what I have to give! 

 “Any travel plans this summer?” I asked my friend at a networking event.  He’s a nonprofit exec for a neighborhood service agency on the east side. 

“Yes, trying to schedule two weeks together – I haven’t done that in years, it’s hard.”  It can be hard, and I remember the point in my career that I learned that it is far too valuable to give up. 

Two weeks to prepare to get away and the last 3 days of that is frantic.  Three days at the beginning of the trip recovering from the preparation days, and another three days on the end traveling home and getting mentally ready to go back.  On a true two-calendar-week trip of 16 days that leaves me ten sweet days in the middle – detached, distracted, unplugged, untethered.

"By surviving passages of doubt and depression on the vocational journey, I have become clear about at least one thing:  self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. "                       

 Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Parker Palmer calls self-care “good stewardship.”  We are each a unique gift to the world and must care for that gift.  I’m doing it this month and I’m happy about it!   if my photo-sharing helps trigger some stewardship for your gift I’ll be even more happy.

Follow me on my journey on Instagram @buzz_scott_55 if you want to get a glimpse.  

Can't See the Board for the Trees?

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If you're running an organization with a volunteer board you probably often feel confident that you "get it" 

and other times you leave a meeting feeling completely mystified. 

There are a lot of trees in the forest of nonprofit governance and typically 2 or 3 of those trees will dominate our view at any point in time.  

Maybe the tree you're staring at is a group of wonderful people who love your mission, or a personality that dominates meetings, or maybe it's a bylaw deal like term limits that just can't get resolved.  

Do yourself and your board a favor by taking a look at BoardSource's biennial report, "Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices."

This study uniquely collated feedback from both CEO's and board chairs with over 1,750 responses.  It's compiled with easy to read charts and narrative divided into "what we found" and "why it matters."  You'll find many things of interest. 

Here's a small sample, what the report calls "Opportunities for Reflection" (the note with each item is mine):

  1.  Help your board cultivate a deeper understanding of your organization’s work – Understanding programs leads to mission-based decision making – and enthusiasm, commitment, and reward for board members too.
  2. Create opportunities to build your board’s comfort with and engagement in providing leadership outside the boardroom – We can creatively increase the fundraising, advocacy, and community outreach that is the heart of the purpose of boards.
  3.  Explore and define your organization’s values as it relates to diversity, inclusion, and equity – Expand the conversation about your board’s composition, what does diversity mean for us?
  4. Check in regularly on how well your board understands – and is fulfilling – its roles and responsibilities – You can’t live up to a role (or stay out of someone else’s role) if you don’t get them clear.  So many good things flow from attention here.
  5. Invest in the board’s culture – You have a culture, but it may be fully accidental and partially working against you.  When you read about this you’ll get reinvested.

There are many fascinating findings in this report.  It’s like a drone-view of the forest so you can get your eyes off the trees for a minute!

Locking Up the Phone

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Jack White was in town last week and treated (or cramped, depending on your perspective) his fans with a phone-free performance using locking pouches made by the tech startup Yondr.  With this technology people drop their phones in a soft locking pouch, keep it with them, and get the pouch unlocked only in zones outside the performance area.  The show is not shared with and by thousands of hovering screens.  This has been growing in the entertainment arenas since 2015, Chris Rock used it on his big tour last year, and now courtrooms and schools are picking it up in some areas.  People can’t be expected to control their personal technology (we all know that), so this is a new and fairly low-tech solution.

Of Americans 18 and over, 95% own a cell phone.  Multiple studies in 2017 found that we use those phones around 5 hours a day, obviously for things besides phone calls.  This is a weird time that won’t last (although I don’t know the next iteration of instant communication and connection).  You know those decade-theme parties, dress like the 60’s or 80’s?  When we have twenty-tens parties in years to come everyone will walk around recalling these years with text-neck postures staring at little flat rectangles.

My phone is a distraction, and a powerful tool.  I tried on the newest Apple watch recently and asked “what does it do?’ to which the sales guy replied “Everything your phone does except take photos – but you can release the phone shutter remotely from the watch.”  I realize that when I reach for my phone for one purpose I’m pulled into all the other things it delivers and I don’t want all of those things closer to me (like strapped to my wrist).  Distractions don’t serve my daily or life goals, focus does.   I’m going to spend the next 30 days reducing this distraction – stopping mid-reach, leaving the phone at home, using a watch to check the time, and keeping the thing off the table.  If you’re like me, this is a conversation to join, a habit to break, or an inquiry to ponder. 

Finding the Doorway

image from a visit to Black Canyon National Park   (sabrina staires )

image from a visit to Black Canyon National Park  (sabrina staires)

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver's   "Praying"


This is indeed a crazy time of the year! 

This poem by Mary Oliver (one of my favorite poets)  has spoken to me many times, about how it doesn't have to be hard or complicated but is about simply pausing.  Paying attention can be all that it takes. Just being outside does this for me. I immediately feel the relief, a release of exiting the daily contest to "try too hard".  

Finding the space to focus takes on new meaning now.  Where is that space, the space that is the doorway into thanks and inspiration?  I have faith that we all can find it. 

Happy Holidays!