We here at Mission Drift feel it is our duty to recognize and investigate when something has gone adrift, and Valentine’s Day certainly fits the bill.
Coming to symbolize unbridled commercialism and waves of high expectations and disappointment, Valentine’s Day regularly inspires protests and fiery editorials along with fabulous taglines such as my personal favorite, a “magnificently overhyped lovefest.”
Indeed, Valentine’s day has lost its way, according to the founders of Generosity Day. Since 2008, they have been repurposing February 14 into a day that calls for “radical generosity” and, new in 2013, a challenge to perform a million acts of simple kindness around the world. Their website is definitely worth exploring.
To inspire you to go forth and get generous this Thursday, and to extend its relevance to Mission Drift even further, I got an interesting idea to spin this in a professional, career and leadership-oriented light: here are 2 ways to be generous and up your career karma all at once. After all, career development and networking are all about generosity and paying it forward.
Try on one of these this Thursday, or inspire us and try both of them, and live to tell us all about it in the comments.
- Thank your career crush, you know, the one who intimidates you. Think of one person who you secretly, or not so secretly, wish was your mentor. This is the person whose talks you wouldn’t miss for anything in the world, whose tweets you follow religiously, and whose career you wish were yours. If you would never dream of contacting them because they are too famous, too busy, too smart… you’ve found precisely the person I am talking about. Ride the delirious wave of Generosity Day and tell this person why you think they are wonderful and what you have learned from them, whether it is by email, commenting on their blog, tweeting at them, or even calling. You are being generous with your compliments and gratitude, and you are also bravely identifying yourself as a fan and potential mentee. For bonus points, provide a teaser of how your own professional interests overlap, then see what happens. One time when I did this, and admittedly wrote a slightly naive and overly adulatory note, our brief exchange was actually disappointing – our personalities just didn’t sync up. But, it gave me the confidence to contact her a few months later to speak at an event I organized, and to my surprise, she accepted the invitation. Another time I did it indirectly by calling out and linking to their work on this here blog, and to my delight, they left a comment on my post! You never know what will come out of this connection, but you have planted a seed that can always grow into something more.
- Thank everyone today who impacts your job, whether they are “below” or “above” you in the organizational hierarchy. Everyone who works at your organization will likely fall under this description, and that is the point. In many organizations, the managers are the only ones who publicly thank others, and I have never quite understood this phenomenon. When you take a moment to thank everyone who does something that makes your job possible, or just a little easier or a little more enjoyable, you will feel more connected to your colleagues, more fulfilled by your work, and you will start to feel more like a leader, whether you have an official leadership title or not. Increased productivity and positivity follow closely behind expressions of genuine gratitude, and you want that good stuff associated with your reputation. In times like these, when 65% of Americans received zero workplace recognition in the prior year in a recent study, we must start enacting the practices of mutual appreciation and encouragement that we want to see in our workplaces. As HR and work-life balance savant Angenella Fleming recently tweeted, if it’s been over 24 hours since your last compliment, you are probably overdue. Bonus points for accepting the compliment graciously and sincerely, instead of brushing it off.
Special thanks to Good Food Jobs for spreading the message about Generosity Day in their newsletter, which in turn inspired this post. And thanks to Trista Harris, Rosetta Thurman, and the other good folks behind today’s Nonprofit Rockstar seminar (only #2 in a free monthly series that will continue throughout 2013!) that also inspired this post.
Communication is essential to organizational life like proteins are essential to our bodies. Often called the “building blocks” of our bodies, proteins hold a central role in most cell functions. Rather similarly, we credit communication as the essential vehicle for smooth collaboration and coordination in most organizational functions.
Back to the protein: animal meat still has a reputation as the best protein source, but it is also widely accepted that humans get high-quality protein, and meet their recommended intake amount, after reducing or eliminating meat altogether. Protein is still essential, but we know that there is more than one way to get it.
Communication is still essential to getting things done, and well done, in organizations. But, are meetings the only way to get high-quality communication? Or, can we supplement with something else?
Will the routine meeting ever become an outmoded communication tool of the past?
No, according to the authors of The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office during a recent NPR Talk of the Nation interview.
As inefficient as it may seem to have these meetings where we get together… to exchange soft information…[it is] the only way critical scraps get uncovered. They cannot be replaced.
Do you agree?
This notion of efficiency came up again and again during the NPR interview, and it really made me think about the most efficient and inefficient meetings I have experienced, and how I could measure that.
I know my favorite moments in meetings are when I learn that someone already found a solution to an obstacle I was struggling with all on my own, or when I see that a well-intentioned colleague now realizes their work has unintended consequences on my work. I actually find myself grateful, not resentful, for the meeting, because these incredibly valuable moments would not have otherwise happened. Or would they?
I know of an organization that reserved the last twenty minutes of every staff meeting for a rotating employee spotlight where someone got to share something personal. Would this practice take hold just anywhere? What led management to conclude that this was an efficient way to spend meeting time?
I can recall several close-knit teams I have worked with for whom this practice would be a joke: they simply do not need an employee spotlight, a time-consuming practice that would have introduced unnecessary formality and duplication of something that already occurred quite organically. Twenty minutes of each meeting sounds like an awful lot of time, but is it more “expensive” than the intentional time it takes to selectively hire for, nurture, and maintain an organizational DNA where this happens organically?
I sure am curious what the rest of you think. What is the best meeting substitute you have seen? If you instituted/designed it yourself, or even if you didn’t, how did you know it was working?
Will the routine meeting remain the sacred cow of organizational life?
Special thanks to Lauren Richter for pointing me to this recent Talk of the Nation episode, and for sharing thoughtful resources as always!
Director Dana: Good morning, Matt. How is your team doing? What do I need to know from this week?
Manager Matt: Well, let’s see… Jerry doesn’t meet his deadlines, ever. I know that Jennifer is on Facebook all the time behind my back. As for Joshua, I.. I.. I can’t tell what he does. Sure, everyone likes him, and he’s always fixing the photocopier, but besides that, what does he even do here anyway?
Stop. Rewind. Let’s try that again:
Director Dana: Good morning, Matt. What are you grateful for about your team?
Manager Matt: Well, let’s see… Jerry works so slowly and methodically, I suppose I’m grateful for how thorough he is. Come to think of it, he is the only one who catches my typos or gives me any useful feedback on my emails. Heck, maybe he is the only one who cares enough to actually check an inbox around here.
And Jennifer, well, she’s social, that’s for sure. I guess I’m grateful for those 6 million Facebook friends of hers, since she does promote our events that way. I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that Facebook is our #1 source for new event attendees. Hmm, I never thought of it that way before.
And Joshua, well, I still don’t know why he’s here, but he did save us money when he fixed the photocopier yesterday, and I sure appreciate that.
See the difference?
The reframed question inspires (forces?) Manager Matt to not only find but also reflect on the “so what” of the positive side. Meanwhile, Director Dana gets valuable information that Manager Matt may have otherwise omitted, plus she sends the message that the good stuff belongs on her radar, too.
The benefits of a gratitude practice among adults (and even children) are well-documented.* Who here takes offense to organizations filled with individuals who experience such anticipated benefits of a gratitude practice as happier days, higher productivity, and more generous behavior?
This is not a radical call to ignore performance problems in favor of positive thinking and blissful ignorance. I care way too much about the importance of feedback and the potential of performance-linked compensation to do that.
This is a call to design the organizational cultures we most want.
Experiment with new ideas in 2013, like incorporating a brief gratitude practice into your staff meetings, team-building activities, or performance reviews.
I cannot find research on the above at the organizational level, so we will have to start doing it ourselves. Let me know how it goes.
*Thanks to Being Daring Coaching for originally discussing and sharing links to this research on gratitude. I try to keep up with a gratitude practice online over at the Three Thanks Facebook group, also created by Being Daring Coaching. Join us and consider how you could inject more gratitude into your organization’s day-to-day!
Assignment #2 from the blog course: Believe it or not, this post was going to be my 100-word post, but then I couldn’t help myself and had to include the dialogue. Then it was going to be a more visual, image-filled post, since that is another assignment of ours. But I was really moved to say something on this topic today, and the topic simply felt like a mismatch for a visual post. Instead, I think I will create a new assignment which this post now fulfills: Write about something that you can’t wait to write about. Done and done!
I’ve taken the plunge to revive my blogging life! I’m in week one of this fun blog course by Britt Bravo. Mission Drift will become my lab experiment for the 4-week class. If you had given up on following Mission Drift, and who can really blame you after a summer months-turned-6 month hiatus, stay tuned for new posts later this week! — my status update on Facebook earlier this week.
While two of the original three Instigators have wrapped up their time at Mission Drift, I have chosen to explore the next phase of Mission Drift on my own, and to keep the blog live during this exploratory time.
Some posts will feature the same old themes, but some will test out new ones, and the blog may very well drift from its initial mission by the end of all this. Pun intended. At least it’s an intentional drift.
Enjoy the ride!
Assignment #1 from the course: Write a very short blog post, ideally 100 words or less.
At about 150 words, this is my shortest blog post ever, and frankly I’m thrilled that it got me back into blogging at all. Done!
At the Oakland Indie Awards last week, a representative from a local nonprofit was pitching someone and I overheard,”We aren’t in it to make money…” I’ve heard this sentiment, and similar strains of it, so frequently in certain corners of the grassroots nonprofit world and I can’t help thinking it points to a perspective that helps keep this subsector in financial scarcity.
What would be lost if the pitch were instead “we’re in it to make money to support this mission and this organization to have an even bigger impact next month”?
Here’s the rub: if you’re in business at all, you’re in business to make money. After all, you need to make at least enough to cover your expenses and pay to keep the lights on one more month. Clearly, most nonprofits have an overwhelming focus on delivering on their mission. And yes, this is a good thing. But you’ll never deliver on that mission if the dollars don’t come in.
I’m guessing we all know too many nonprofits who are so “not in it for the money” that they are themselves not sustainable, relying instead on overcommitment or overwork by employees while leaving those employees in personally unsustainably financial situations.
Why does it seem dirty or wrong to some to be working to bring in money to an organization that does good work? Why the assumption that making money is a bad thing? Indeed, if none of your supporters made money you would never receive any donations.
The money phobia — or the appearance-of-seeking-money phobia — is not serving nonprofits or the people who work in them. What will it take for the fear of appearing to be “in it for the money” to fall by the wayside? What will allow nonprofits to be more financially sustainable, even at the grassroots level?
I want to see more nonprofit organizations offering pay-for-performance compensation. I think this is a taboo subject in the nonprofit sector, so I am especially curious to know where you stand, where we disagree with each other, and what best practices you can share with the rest of us. I understand that bonuses for net earnings are prohibited, but bonuses for gross revenue or performance are allowed by the IRS. So, what do you think?
What I advocate for is not a replacement for fair and competitive pay, but rather, in addition to a base salary or pay rate that is, again, fair and competitive. And I do understand how organizations would feel discouraged or disgusted by the outrageous bonuses we have heard about in mega-corporations like AIG. But I see the gray area when it comes to bonus structures, and I don’t think they are all bad. In fact, I think the social sector has the potential to become a model for thoughtful bonus structures that reflect our social justice values. How courageous and powerful would it be if the social sector earned a reputation for paying well and satisfying your appetite for activism and making the world a better place?
Pay-for-performance acknowledges the power of financial incentives: a nonprofit professional wants and needs to get paid well just as much as the next guy. It’s time for us to make it socially acceptable for nonprofit employees to acknowledge that they can possess a drive to support themselves, support their families, and save for their future. These desires need not conflict with their desires to make the world a better place. Motivation comes from many directions, and it’s time to recognize that in our sector.
When done well, a bonus structure exists within a larger, thoughtful performance review and measurement system. I think a pay-for-performance system requires the organization to reflect and invest more than it might otherwise into a conversation about what success looks like for individual employees, departments or teams, and the entire organization.
My quick online searches only produced opinions and legal advice about pay-for-performance for nonprofit CEO’s, but I was disappointed to find very little about nonprofit employees in general. I think junior-level employees have the most to benefit from a bonus structure that rewards them for individual effectiveness despite their lower status.
A poorly planned pay-for-performance structure can be harmful, so I don’t think it’s a magic wand by any means. I certainly understand how a decision-maker could view an unplanned raise or bonus as a direct competitor to carrying out the needed services. Yet this is true for any haphazardly executed system. For all the flack that nonprofits get for low compensation, I think we owe it to ourselves to try out pay-for-performance and design compensation plans that reward effectiveness, recognize the financial commitments of employees, and achieve even higher levels of service delivery and social mission accomplishment than ever before.
If you work in the nonprofit sector, consider how a fair bonus structure would impact your sense of work-life fulfillment. What would change?
P.S. Looking for more information on this topic? Respond to the Social Justice Salary and Benefits Survey by May 31 to dive a little deeper into compensation and personnel topics in the social sector.