Posts from the ‘Shared Leadership’ Category

All Aboard!: A Tool for Changemakers to Create Impact

by: Marcelo Pinell

Setting sail on the sea of social impact can be a daunting and overwhelming feat. Some, out of fear, have yet to leave shore while others have been tossed and turned by the challenging waves of the social sector. As the newest member to step on board Blue Garnet, I have been privileged to navigate these vast waters with a team of skilled and experienced social impact geeks who have steered through the rough seas, withstood the storms and driven the high winds of strategy to help leaders and their teams chart their ultimate impact.

Recently, I had the opportunity to witness these social impact geeks in action as I provided support for our Impact Formula Strategy Lab series. We had three eager organizations initially commit to investing in the development of their strategic thinking for three sessions spread across May through July. I was able to join the second session in June and watched the teams progress all the way up to a fourth session this November, which was later added due to popular demand. As it turns out, the work done during this Lab series was not what I expected. The following are some key insights that I walked away with after the Lab. I hope my reflections serve as a fresh perspective on the value of this Lab series in helping leaders create impact.

 

The right dosage can help leaders and their teams address their outcomes

Truth be told, not every nonprofit can afford consultants who can extensively work with them one-on-one for months on end. Plus, some nonprofits may not even need the full services of a consulting firm. Strategy Lab Session 4 PhotoThe Strategy Lab proved this point for me. Providing the correct dosage of support can help leaders and their teams address their outcomes. From May through July (and then once more in November), we trained and educated teams from three organizations. Once a month, they attended a half-day session in which they actively learned, participated, and worked through their Impact Formula. These teams would then go back to their organizations to work on assignments from the session and would return for another session the following month to gain more clarity and continue to build on their work. It was an iterative process that demanded hard work, but after the Lab series, these teams left with the tools and confidence they needed to head back as change agents for their organizations.

 

Consultants are not the changemakers, leaders are!

I’m sure you’ve heard this proverbial saying before: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” I began to see this proverb unfold before my eyes as I watched the Lab participants wrestle with strategic questions. More than giving them a business model, the Lab gave participants the time and space to work as a team with other people in their organization, which is typically difficult to do due to competing priorities and schedules. Additionally, the Lab allowed participants to gain awareness of a holistic view on achieving their “ends,” ask key learning questions and acquire strategic tools so they could think critically about their organization’s impact.

The assumption so often is that the professional consultant creates the impact. Though there is a place for consultants, no one can replace the passion and hours that these leaders give to the people they serve. If you can help equip a leader and deputize them as a change agent, then he or she can build a culture of change.

 

Reaching your intended impact is an intense, iterative and invaluable process

During the Lab, all of the teams got on board and steered through some serious strategic questions. As they sought to gain clarity, though, I noticed that their comfort articulating their theory of change interestingly and surprisingly took a slight dip during the second session. Strategy Lab Session 2 photoOn a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), the teams rated their comfort articulating their theory of change a 3.6 after the first session, which then dropped down to a 3.3 after session 2. By the third session, however, the rating jumped back up to a 3.8. The data seems to point to the reality of the intense and iterative nature in building discernment. From my perspective, the teams were initially shocked by some big waves regarding their theory of change, but they gained more confidence and clarity over time to create a vision for impact.

The teams were able to create a vision for impact not only because they iterated on their own work, but also because they learned from each organization’s different approach to tackling its Impact Statement. The value of peer learning was so great that the teams asked for a fourth session, which we completed last week. This additional session allowed the teams to check-in and hold each other accountable to their work.

Navigating the waters of social impact can be overwhelming, but the opportunity to help these organizations map out their impact was an invaluable journey for both them and me. I jumped on board the Lab and saw that it provides the right dosage to help these changemakers “zero in on impact.” Great job, teams! I look forward to the impact that comes forth as a result of your labor. Keep on sailing!

What do you get when you mix international development, problem solving, and a love of dance?

Blue Garnet is proud to introduce our newest pragmatic idealist, Leah Haynesworth! Leah is joining us as an Analyst, which means she’ll be rolling up her sleeves on the research and analysis that fuels our client work and on building our firm culture. Giselle Timmerman, a BG team member for almost nine years, sat down recently to welcome Leah and help you all get to know her. Here are some highlights from their conversation…

Giselle: Let’s start with your “why” – Why did you choose Blue Garnet?

Leah: For two reasons. One: I love solving complex problems and I’m very analytical, which draws me to consulting. Two: I’m passionate about social impact – I’ve worked in international development in both Uganda and New York and interned in corporate social responsibility (CSR) at NBCUniversal and The Walt Disney Company. So I feel that Blue Garnet offers me the perfect opportunity to apply my skills and experiences to help organizations better achieve social impact.

Giselle: Perfect combo indeed! What kinds of projects are you hoping to dig into?

Leah: Well, I’ve just started working with one of our corporate clients on Board leadership, so I’m eager to expand what I know about CSR. Blue Garnet also works with quite a few arts organizatinos, and I am also a trained ballet, modern, and jazz dancer, so it would be great to work with them. And I really am analytical by nature; it’s my default state. So I’m excited to apply that strength.

Giselle: The BG team takes developing our strengths seriously and we help clients do the same. You’ve taken a few strengths assessment surveys—apart from being analytical, what other strengths do you frequently rely on?

Leah: I loved taking these strength assessments and found them really interesting. Perseverance is one of my top strengths and I definitely am very goal-oriented. When I get involved in something, I have every intention of completing it.

It was a bit surprising to see that humor was my top VIA strength. I definitely like to be goofy and I tend to get along with different types of people, but it’s not always something I share right away. Fairness and judgment are also big ones for me. When I initially meet someone, I usually give them the benefit of the doubt.

Giselle: Where do you think your fairness comes from? Does your upbringing play a part?

Leah: I hadn’t really thought about it, but yes! My siblings are twins, so I had a front-row seat to an emphasis on sharing and fairness. 

Giselle: I’m curious to know more about your experience in Uganda. What was that like?

Leah: It’s a difficult experience to put into words. I really loved learning about international development in the field. And I learned something everyday, personal or professional—ranging from how to communicate in Luganda, the local language, to the sensitive issues surrounding working with commercial sex workers.

Giselle: So how did you shift from being an English major at Princeton University to being passionate about social impact?

Leah: While in undergrad, I studied in South Africa and volunteered as a teacher in a township that was in a poorer area of the city. I was deeply impacted by the dichotomy between rich and poor, blacks and whites. So then I was inspired to go back to Africa after I graduated and my passion for working in the social sector snowballed from there. That’s why I pursued work in Uganda and it’s also what eventually led me to USC’s Master of Public Administration program.

Giselle: I know that you collaborated on consulting projects with several local organizations while pursuing your MPA. A large part of Blue Garnet’s work is helping organizations make the shift to an impact thinking and doing mindset. In your own words, what does it mean for an organization to have a longer-term focus on impact?

Leah: I think it means that an organization is always looking to make its desired vision and strategy real. In other words, instead of only concentrating on social impact for specific projects, programs, and initiatives, an organization with a long-term focus on impact attempts to incorporate social impact into its organization overall and searches for ways to push the limits of its organizational capacity for social change.

Giselle: Finally, I have to ask, what’s your honest first impression of BG’s culture?

Leah: My third interview was with the entire team, which cemented my feeling that BG was the right place for me. I feel welcomed and part of a community of people who are smart and work hard, but don’t take themselves too seriously – that can be hard to find!

Click here to learn more about Leah and the rest of our team.

 

 

Setting (and achieving) goals take guts!

by: Giselle Timmerman and Taylor Chamberlin

Over the last several months, we’ve explored two of the three key components to setting and achieving individual goals (see developing a vision and establishing a plan). Today, let’s finish by tackling the final component: commitment and guts.

achieving goalsWhen you have developed a vision and established a plan to achieve it, the third step to effective goal-setting is to make these behavioral changes stick.

Much like a muscle, you can exhaust your willpower when you use too much of it. Plan ahead to conserve willpower and prevent yourself from slipping into situations that deter you from your goal. For instance, dieters can preempt future desires by knowing before entering a restaurant exactly what they will do and say when the dessert menu comes. To stay on track and accomplish your goal, identify a handful of obstacles that could block progress and decide exactly what you will do if these hurdles arise.

Another way to ensure perseverance towards your goal is to develop courage in small ways. To activate a “growth mindset,” you’ll need to manage fear of failure by courageously embracing mistakes as a necessary part of learning. Find creative ways to push yourself by exercising courage, and as an added benefit you will build your sense of self-efficacy, thus improving your ability to stick to your goal. I find Eleanor Roosevelt’s adage useful: Do something that scares you everyday.

Lastly, ensure that the activities you must do to achieve your become habits, which require far less willpower to maintain. To build new habits:

  1. Use cues that trigger your unconscious mind, such as a framed photo of mom next to the phone.
  2. Be honest with yourself every day on what you did to make progress. Ask yourself: How much effort did I put in today? How much progress did that create?
  3. Hook a new habit to an old one. This can be as simple as remembering to floss after you brush.
  4. Reduce the level of “activation energy” it takes to start your new habit. For example, put your running shoes right by the door, or keep your to do list visible on your desktop to easily tackle when you are waiting on hold.
  5. Enlist an accountability partner or coach (every great performer, from athletes to surgeons to managers now use them) and include them in the process of achieving your goals and building your habits.

There you have it – a researched and empirically tested way to dramatically improve your ability to achieve your goals. Blue Garnet works with clients to define and achieve success at the organizational level, but it’s a treat to share with you some tips for planning at the individual level.

Please let us know how you put your goals into practice, and what your experience has been with learning to achieve them. And of course if you have any questions, email us at hello@bluegarnet.net!

You’ve got a goal–what comes next?

by: Giselle Timmerman and Taylor Chamberlin

There are three key components to setting and achieving individual goals: developing a vision (see our post on this topic here), establishing a plan, and committing to the journey. Last month, we shared how you can develop a clear vision; today, let’s tackle planning for success.

Planning

You know your goal and why it matters to you. Most people stop here, and that is why so many goals fall to the wayside (over half of Americans don’t make it to June on their New Years Resolutions[1]). Consider the reality of where you are today, and what actions or improvements are necessary to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. To focus your energy on activities that matter to successfully achieving your goal, ask yourself: What areas do I need to develop to realize this goal?

Think of the 3-4 activities that matter most to achieving your goal—the “how” to achieve your “what” (i.e. your goal)—as your “big rock” activities. Here is a quick clip from Franklin Covey explaining why we must prioritize the big rocks in our life to accomplish our goals. Write down your 3-4 activities in priority order, to translate your goal into real behaviors that get rid of any wiggle room.

For example, say I want to learn a new language. First, I would do some visioning and define the exact proficiency level I am aiming for, and then I would define the major activities needed to be successful, such as signing up for a class and finding a language partner. After you write down the major activities (big rocks) to achieve your goal, jot down any resources or tools related to those activities that you would need.

Stay tuned for part 3 of our goal-focused series, coming next month!

 


 

[1] Mona Cholabi, data journalist at FiveThirtyEight, on NPR, January 4, 2015 

Set a vision, then make your individual goals “SMART-EST”

by: Giselle Timmerman and Taylor Chamberlin

business08It’s hard to believe, but we are already more than halfway through 2015. Are you coasting along with your New Year’s resolutions? Or, like over a third of all Americans, did you give up before the making it through January[1] (no judgment, we promise)? Regardless, we believe the principles of effective organizational goals apply to you as an individual, so we’d like to share some surefire strategies for setting and following through on your goals.

The research is clear: those who set effective goals are happier and more successful in their personal and professional lives. There are three key components to setting and achieving individual goals: developing a vision, establishing a plan, and committing to the journey. We’ll explore each of these components over the course of this summer but today, let’s tackle part one: developing a vision.

Visioning

Select a goal you want to accomplish. To make sure it is right for you right now, test it using the following three filters:

  1. Are you excited and motived to accomplish it? If your motivation is below a 7 on a 10-point scale, consider revising or selecting a different goal.
  2. Does this goal help you to be who you really want to be?
  3. Do you have the skills and resources to start making progress tomorrow? If your answer is not a solid “Yes!” then this is where the help of a coach can be extremely useful.

You may have heard of “SMART” goals, but to be exceptional, we recommend you make your goal the SMARTEST it can be:

Specific – Clear and detailed (e.g., call my sister weekly vs. have a better relationship with my sister).
Measurable –Criteria and tools to monitor progress (e.g., run a 5k by May vs. get more exercise).
Attainable – Achievable, but still challenging. Otherwise, this goal is nothing more than a wish or dream.
Realistic – Logical, given your time, money, resources, and skills.
Time-bound – Limited by a deadline, otherwise you may sow the seeds of procrastination.
Emotional – Triggers intrinsic motivation. Does the goal give you goose bumps when you think of achieving it?
Significant – Should contain words of special meaning. What is your “why”? Why would you regret not accomplishing your goal?
Toward – Invokes a growth mindset by focusing on how you can learn. A growth mindset means effort matters, making challenges or setbacks easier to deal with.

After running your goal through the three filters and making it “SMARTEST,” you should have something that is ready to polish. Goals that are vivid are more compelling and thus more likely to be achieved, so take ten minutes to detail what you are striving for. What does accomplishing this goal look like? Feel like? How would your life be different if you were doing this thing all of the time?

For example, if you’re excited, motivated, and ready to train for a triathlon, close your eyes and imagine crossing the finish line at the end of the race. Envision the crowds, imagine your tired muscles, and picture displaying your medal prominently at your house. Then write down your vivid and compelling vision, along with your succinct goal statement.

Once you have polished your goal into a meaningful statement (worthy of showcasing as a new your desktop background), you’ve completed part one! Let us know how you decided what your goals for 2015 are in the comments below.

[1] Franklin Covey Survey, 2008, n=15,031

How to Be Exceptional in 4 Easy Steps

You work hard to create social change in your communities, for those most in need and those who have fallen through traditional safety nets in our society. But at some point, you need more than the passion and commitment that drive your work.

Challenges emerge. You plateau. It happens to all of us.

So what does it take to achieve great impact over good enough?

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“It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… a Charter School Leader!” (Yet, even heroes need a plan)

The CCSA Annual Conference is upon us! CNCA's Ana Ponce and Atyani Howard will be highlighting the success from their recent Strategic Business Planning with Blue Garnet, and offer practical takeaways to help organizations traverse the same critical issues. But who cares about Strategic Business Planning anyways? Well, according to this post, everyone should...

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An Eye for the Exceptional

Blue Garnet is 3 for 3! If this were Major league baseball we’d be batting a thousand, earning millions and millions of dollars, and Angelinos would have a team to get behind this season (sorry Dodger fans, this year is really less than stellar…).

Unfortunately for our bank accounts, I’m not talking about baseball, but an equally honorable past time – The Los Angeles Business Journal Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards. For the last three years, the organizations that we have nominated for awards have won and we couldn’t be prouder of them.

A quick history...

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A Cotillion for Social Enterprises…What???

What do social enterprises in Los Angeles have in common with Southern debutantes?... Well, they’ve both reached a “coming of age” – except social enterprises did it without the white gowns, satin gloves, and big hair. If you missed the social enterprise “cotillion” (in the form of REDF’s Social Enterprise Expo on May 9th), you missed out. Lucky for you – I’ll tell you about it – because it’s a pretty big deal and...

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Candid Reflections from the CNM 501(c)onference

“Fail fast and often. When is the last time we’ve failed? And what came of it?” These are the provocative words of Aaron Hurst, Taproot Foundation, who kicked off the Center for Nonprofit Management’s 501(c)onference last Friday. Blue Garnet was fortunate to be a part of this annual gathering of 300 leaders who are working to imagine, design and build our sector into a new era, focused on creating a lasting impact in Southern California and in our world. We were present as volunteers, attendees and speakers, with Jenni partnering...

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