Not every business practice translates to the nonprofit world, but here are some that do. I hope you’ll find them helpful.  —Jim Morgan

Focus on the Long Haul 
Most leaders are smart, knowledgeable about their business, and committed to their goals. What sets real leaders apart is their ability to maintain the pace. Social transformation, like running a Fortune 500 business, is a marathon—not a 50-yard dash. Keep an eye on important things like taking care of your health and family. Take time to carefully plan your business and personal calendars, and make sure that you’re including time for physical exercise.  This keeps you competitive and available for the next challenge.

Own the Monkey  
Some organizations are particularly susceptible to paralysis by analysis. Take responsibility for your decisions—as we say, “Own the Monkey.” You can always change or adjust your decision later if you have built in concrete review points ahead of time. Remember that decisions build momentum. Look for the “driving forces”—only one or at the most two items are the primary reasons for making a decision a certain way.

Even a well-analyzed decision is often not the most critical part of a decision process. It’s how you manage the consequences of the decision that matters. Practice determining what is the right thing to do for the organization, for your group, for your key stakeholders, and then for yourself.

Plan for 5%
Devote at least 5% of each week to planning. If you can focus your thinking out 3 to 12 months, you reduce the lack of control that builds up from being in a constant reactive mode. You begin to find patterns and to see possibilities and develop contingency plans. Then, review your best ideas at least weekly, prioritize them, and think about when they can be actionable: in a week, a month, 6 months, 12 months or 18 months. Determining when they will be actionable helps you evaluate the quality of the idea, the caliber of the talent, and the resources you have available (and provides a stimulation to get the missing capabilities in place). Then…

“Book It and Ship It”  
Success comes from the implementation of ideas. Time should be spent on organizing, strategizing and planning, but you need to complete the project, hire the person, get the donation, etc. Think about the “top three” priorities. You will have a long list of important things but try to make sure to get your focus on the top three. Think, “10% Strategy/90% Implementation.”

Collaborate Successfully
Leverage each other’s strengths. Enable others to build the capability required. The best management is simplified management by committed people willing to share the credit and be accountable.

Remember the “Six C’s”: 

  • Contact – Network for points of contact
  • Compromise – Make intelligent compromises
  • Contract – Agree to work together
  • Concrete – Ensure that objectives are measurable and concrete
  • Check – Streamline collaborative processes to avoid duplication
  • Close – Meet your commitments

To your success!

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Have you learned lessons at your nonprofit that you think have a much broader application?

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