Getting Unstuck

The problem?

The team has heavy lifting in front of them.  As senior leaders of a small non-profit, they are all impassioned about their organization’s mission, as well as committed to performing heroic acts in order to keep serving their clientele.

The years have taken a toll.  Engaging the board is challenging, particularly in the work of ensuring financial strength for the future, and day-to-day business at times pre-occupies their focus, limiting their ability to “get on the balcony” and consider their future. In addition, their diverse styles of working at times interfere with communication, nerves get frayed, and they find themselves avoiding the hard conversations that need to happen.

They need a plan for the future, and the process itself has overwhelmed them.

A friend of a friend suggests they call us.

It is such a privilege to be invited into the inner workings of a group like this at a time when it really matters.  After a quick assessment with the Executive Director, we craft a plan of attack:

  • A team meeting with the four of us to discuss what trust means to each of them, and how it plays out in their partnerships
  • Review of tools for empathy and communication, and suggestions about practice for them to do together and apart
  • A series of strategy planning sessions to address three questions:

o   What do we dream of for the future of our organization in 3-5 years?

o   What barriers or obstacles might interfere with reaching our aspirations?

o   What actions must we take to mitigate or prevent the obstacles?

  • A summary document that identifies four strategic objectives and a host of tactics for the future organization.
  • We meet to discuss staffing, facilities and other impacts the changes may require.
  • Future needs are named, including working with the Board, evaluating timing of activities, and growing team partnerships.

The result?

“Thank you so much for helping us move through this heavy lifting…”

“It feels like we are really aligned on where we want to go and what it will take.”

“We literally could not have done this alone.”

From my perspective, this team was poised to move. They knew what was needed, but were fatigued, frustrated and stymied at how to get across the void of looking at the future and making concrete plans to get there.  The challenges of talking directly to one another, even when they disagreed, and of finding time to distance themselves from the minutia of the day-to-day, presented a barrier that seemed insurmountable to the longer term strategy setting they sought. They were, in fact, demoralized and stuck.

The privilege of being a consultant to this group, like many of our clients, is to be able to come in at just the right time to turn the tide in a new direction. As outsiders, we can often enter without the history, baggage, and investment, to speak truthfully about what is happening and name approaches for alignment with both speed and accuracy. In establishing trust at the beginning, we are given the sanctified information necessary to see things as they really are for bright, talented people, who hit a problem in their work together and get “stuck.”

In hosting the conversation, providing a structure and space for the right engagement, facilitating healthy dialogue through thoughtful and provocative questions, and helping carry the water in summarizing outputs in written format for future use, we are able to add tangible, practical value with efficiency, and expediency.

A plan emerges. Senior leaders find hope again. Alignment feeds energy and optimism.

The side benefit?

In this case, the senior leaders found common ground that reminded them once again why they love working together. By understanding what the organization requires to be sustainable tomorrow, these leaders were able to separate themselves as individuals from the organization and thereby make a plan that includes a designed organization not dependent on heroism as the primary leadership lever.

This group is not atypical of senior leadership groups we meet over and over again, whether non-profit, for-profit, government, or agency. While their specific business is unique, the things that get in their way are as common as can be. It is our sweet spot, and we can help.

How wonderful it feels to add value to teams like this via the work we provide.

Jim Morris