I help the helpers. When a major disaster happens or tragedy in the news, a video from Mr. Rogers often makes the rounds on social media. His mom told him to look for the helpers. I will be way further off to the side than what he describes--not even on camera. Instead I will be in conference and project rooms of
nonprofits and associations that either serve the helpers or directly serve marginalized people. I will be working with those helpers to make their organizations healthier, to be more strategic, and innovative.
Why do people do it that way?
I have worked in the nonprofit sector almost my entire career. Over time I learned that while the mission always motivated me, I was more interested in how people did what they did – how they worked together. And what got in their way. They were all trying to have a positive impact in the world. Why did it seem like such a struggle much of the time? I read lots of books and ultimately went back to graduate school to try and get some insight into that question. I learned about how groups and teams work, how to design organizations, how to create strategy, how to cultivate innovation and the importance of organizational culture. And much more.
Making the values real
I believe nonprofits are more likely to have a greater mission impact if their ‘inside’ matches their outside --when the values they espouse for the change they want to see in the world match how they treat each other and go about their work. I believe that these organizations can be great places to work AND have a great impact. They don’t have to choose between those two.
Turning down the static
By being internally healthy, the organization turns down the static in their system. If the people investing their life to achieve these important missions are freed up from expending energy on internal inefficiency or supporting a poorly performing team, they are then able to apply that critical energy on achieving their goals.
Tapping the group's brilliance
One way to turn down the static is to get clear on the organization’s strategy. Being clear and focused on where you want to go, what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it taps into the brilliance and energy of the group. The challenges these organizations are facing require innovation. Yesterday’s solutions are not sufficient. And for innovation to work the organization’s culture needs to be open to it and create space for creativity, experimentation and even failure.
This type of work plays on my strengths. I am good at seeing connections and simplifying a lot of detail into a few big goals. I love working with people to help them figure out new and better ways of doing things. To offer people structures and processes to make manageable what otherwise might feel very overwhelming and impossible to tackle. I love helping groups imagine new futures and then helping people realize those.
By investing in women and children, communities improve. Families' health improve. Women invest in those around them and they contribute to a virtuous circle. By serving those who work to support thriving families, communities and a sustainable economy, I can also contribute to this virtuous circle.
I am here to be a catalyst, like a river current that propels people along in their good work so that they can do it with more ease. People want to be happy and engaged at work and do work that matters. Yet not lose themselves in the pursuit of that work – no more martyrs to the cause. I want to help that come alive in the world.
Want to talk about how you might apply this at your organization? Book a coaching session.
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