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Creating A Strategic Vocabulary

I’ve mentioned this book before, MAVERICKS AT WORK. Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre have super strong Fast Company roots. One of my 3 favorite magazines.

They have a wonderful segment in the book about:

What you think shapes how you talk – creating a strategic vocabulary.

If you’ve been exposed to more than 30 seconds to the For Impact thinking, you know how much this resonates with Nick, Kerry, our coaches and me. CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY has always been one of our most powerful Guiding Principles.

Here is some great reinforcement to why that is so important, via nuggets from Mavericks at Work.

  • Maverick entrepreneurs don’t sound like traditional executives. They almost always describe their strategies and practices – the ideas that animate their companies – in ways that sound unique, authentic and even a bit strange.
  • One sign that a company (organization) is pursuing a truly original, competitive strategy is that it has created its own vocabulary. Not buzz words, acronyms and other verbal detritus of business-as-usual… but an authentically homegrown language that captures how a company (organization) competes, how its people work, why it expects to succeed, and what it means to win. (WOW.)
  • Finally, because they think about their business differently, maverick organizations almost always talk about their business differently.

The next 10 pages go on to talk about “disruptive business strategies”, “disruptive ideas”, “distinctive cultures” and “purpose-based strategy” (I love that).

It also highlights some really cool companies that believe firmly in the power of language and symbols.

I thought I’d close with this great quote from a senior advertising executive in a remarkably innovative and successful company.

When asked this question: Why invest so much energy in building a vocabulary, as opposed to just, say, building factories and laboratories for clients? “Because the heart of every great company is a clear sense of purpose.”

Nuff said.

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Your Hospice Question

We’ve done a lot of work with Hospice organizations. Pretty emotional/moving stuff.

As you know, our approach starts with the IMPACT… the MESSAGE. Every Hospice asks, “How do we possibly communicate everything we do in one message? People get confused when we talk about palliative care… we want people to know it’s about more than dying… etc. etc. etc.”

Every Hospice organization needs a message… but here’s where it gets interesting. Remember – the best message… the best story… is the one that comes FROM the prospect. In the case of Hospice we should never be out convincing people that Hospice is a worthy cause. We should ONLY focus on those that have had a ‘hospice experience’. Then, instead of trying to jam a message down their throat we need to: engage, listen and ask.

Example:

  • “Would you mind sharing with me a little bit about your experience with Hospice?”
  • Be quiet… listen… probably exchange and share a few tears.
  • Keep listening.
  • Keep listening.
  • Ask: “I’m out listening to people. That’s our job…. to connect the stories and let people know that generous support is what makes that extra TLC you described possible. Would you be willing to help other patients and families benefit from that same experience?”

Is there is a ‘Hospice Question’ for your organization? The Hospice Question is about engaging someone that already gets it…. letting their experience or frame speak for the purpose and funding rationale. It’s about getting out of the way. It’s about saying in the SIMPLEST WAY, “That’s what we do… can you help?”

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Vision 2020

Here’s an exciting, interesting, simple way to look at your VISION and PLANVISION 2020.

  • VISION 2020 is about where you and your organization will be 9+ years from today!
  • Pretty obvious symbolism of ’20/20 VISION’ (the best!).
  • This is approximately 3 1,000-DAY INCREMENTS.
  • Allows you to then talk about the first 1,000-DAY PLAN.
    *This 1,000-Day Plan, by the way, is 33 MONTHS. 11 3-Month (A Quarter) Blocks.

Just wanted to share this interesting frame with our For Impact world.

Special Note: What is your personal VISION 2020?! Where do you want to be in the next 3,000 days? 1,000 days? 100 days?

Everything I have ever read or done around Personal Development (Goals, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Write It Down It Will Happen, Symbolism, Math, etc.) can actually be used for both Personal Development and Organizational Development.

For what it’s worth.

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Omidyar’s ‘Hybrid Model’ For Impact

I just read a great article in HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW this morning by eBay’s Founder, Pierre Omidyar on “Innovating the Business Model of Social Change”.

It HBR’s words:

The Idea: Omidyar was inspired by eBay’s social impact (!) to create a hybrid model for his philanthropic Omidyar Network: a combination of nonprofit and for-profit.”

WOW. Take a moment and read the article. Filled with all kinds of great nuggets including:

    “Many people don’t distinguish between charity and philanthropy, but to me there’s a significant difference.”
    *Omidyar says that “Philanthropy is much more. It comes from the Latin for ‘love of humanity’.” I think the Greek meaning for philanthropy is ‘friend of mankind’. Same thing. He goes on to say that “Philanthropy is a desire to improve the state of humanity and the world. It requires thinking about the root causes of issues.”
    “I began looking for ways to harness the incredible power of business in order to make the world better.”
    • He talks a lot about the challenge to structure his organization properly since it was funding both nonprofits and for-profits.
    “Today there’s a name for people who make investments that can produce
    both impact (!) and profit: IMPACT INVESTORS (my bold caps).”
    • He talks a lot about their focus on microfinance and allowing the “poorest of the poor to start enterprises and take advantage of educational opportunities”. (He acknowledges that microfinance has come under a lot of scrutiny but also talks about all the ‘good’ that microfinance has accomplished.)
    “In the past few years we’ve learned that to have the biggest impact (!), you need the right capital structure and the right leaders.”
    • Finally, here’s his ‘close’: “One of the biggest things I’ve learned in more than a decade of this work is that you really can make the world better in any sector—in nonprofits, in business, or in government.
    It’s not a question of one sector’s struggling against another, or of ‘giving back’ versus ‘taking away.’ That’s old thinking.
    A true philanthropist will use every tool he can to make an IMPACT (again my bold caps). Today business is a key part of the equation, and the sectors are learning to work together.”

AMEN.

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The Big Idea: Hope Is Not A Strategy

*(Nor is it ‘stratergy’) Take the time necessary to do the required DISCOVERY (aka, research, knowledge base, etc.) Do a high-level STRATEGY of the RELATIONSHIP and the PRESENTATION (VISIT) itself.

We’ve broken down this STRATEGY component into three areas:

    1. DISCOVERY
    2. RELATIONSHIP
    3. PRESENTATION

As my mentor Frank Sullivan reminded me so many times… even very, very experienced airline pilots, with thousands and thousands of hours of flight time, ALWAYS go through their ‘PRE-FIGHT CHECKLIST’!!! This even includes walking around the airplane just to make sure nothing is falling off!

Here are the templates (frameworks) for each of these 3 areas…

Feel free to adjust, edit, improve or customize. However, I would urge you to utilize these 3 CHECKLISTS for every one of your top prospects!!!

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Visit Prep: Plan YOUR Questions More than the Prospect’s

We recently started working with a national education reform organization. We’re structuring a sales system and process on the national level. We’re also providing coaching/training to regional executive directors. Over time, we’ll have a simplified sales system, a cohesive funding culture and a developed team that generates more revenue, more effectively (greater return-on-energy).

I had a first call with John one of the regional ED’s. He was prepping for a site visit from a major foundation as part of the foundation’s grant making process.

John asked, “What questions do you think she [program officer] will ask that I could prepare for?”

My response: “In terms of strategy, I’m much more concerned about what questions YOU will ask.”

We came up with these power questions to engage and learn from the program manager:

    1. “Obviously, I’m familiar with your guidelines but would you mind bringing me up to speed on the foundations key priorities?”

    There’s alignment already or the program manager wouldn’t be making a visit. Let’s get a sense of the foundation’s vocabulary and priorities.

    2. “We’ve submitted grant applications in the past. This was the first one to make it to the site visit stage. What caught your eye this time?”

    The grant narrative was 15 pages in length!!! No way to know what the heck foundation was interested in. Theory of change? Education reform? The schools in which we worked? The programming officer’s answer is pretty important on this one.

    3. The grant was a one-time grant for $75K. Foundations (like any of us) want relationships, partnerships and a return-on-investment. Advised John that if things were going well to ask, “Would it be possible to look at this as a three-year partnership? In other words, how do we talk about helping us with this impact for this year and the two years after?” I guarantee the foundation’s already thinking bigger picture anyway – let’s ASK the question! Let’s have the dialogue.

    Also gave John a really authentic line, “Of course, we would love to explore that but forget I even asked if it makes this request muddy.”

    4. And a get out of jail card: If for some reason the program manager starts to go down the well-we-don’t-fund-that-route, bring the conversation back up to 30,000′. “At the highest level we see to be in strong alignment around what we’re doing. How do we structure a request in a way that makes sense for XYZ foundation?” Then just be quiet; you will get the roadmap you need.

I think John’s first inclination – to focus on HER questions – should be resolved using the Messaging Framework. It addresses 95% of the questions ever asked by any funder. You should then engage with questions to tailor that message to the prospect.

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Best Practices vs. Next Practices

I was re-reading a great book for entrepreneurs called MAVERICKS AT WORK by Bill Taylor and Polly Labarre. (Bill was Co-Founder and Founding Editor of Fast Company, one of my favorite, favorite magazines; and Polly was eight years as Senior Editor there.)

I came across a powerful line about ‘Best Practices’ vs. ‘Next Practices’. My own interpretation of this thinking fits our For Impact Point of View and Methodology.

In many cases, ‘Best Practices‘ are ‘Old Practices‘ that have worked in the past… and people are able to point to them as a reason for results.

As stated in ‘MAVERICKS‘, ‘Next Practices‘ become more about “insights and a business plan for the 21st Century… a new way to lead, compete and succeed”.

Just last week, we were asked, again, “We just want to know what are the ‘Best Practices’ used in Development and Fundraising.”

In my old Tom Peters’ style, I would respond, “There aren’t any.” In my new, mellower, coaching style, I would respond, “There are certainly SOME Best Practices. However, it’s all about the NEXT PRACTICES that are going to make the difference.”

Impact Driving Income. Strong Message and Purpose and Vision. The Today | Tomorrow | Forever Holistic Model. A Great Sales Process. Ridiculously Simple Engagement Tools. Talent That Can Sell. And on and on.

If what you are about is scaling and growing your IMPACT. If you are about your Vision. If you are about the future. If you are about Funding that Vision.

Then, you should be looking at NEXT PRACTICES.

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Running Contrary with Speed and Simplicity

I received a call from Kevin, a past client with 20+ years of funding experience. Kevin completely changed his organization’s approach to fundraising after working with For Impact three years ago. He streamlined its approach and message. The organization cut down on all the events, it started making a lot more asks, and it started generating a lot more revenue.

His words:

I still tell everyone I meet about For Impact… that’s it’s the real deal. For whatever reason, I think most people [in the funding biz] can’t comprehend what I’m saying.

I think the entire industry and all the trainings perpetuate this idea that our job is to be friends with everyone. Instead of focusing on selling, fundraisers try to think up more and more ways to be friends.

I’m always telling everyone about For Impact… about how it changed our outlook… focused us on results… all the while making STRONGER relationships.

People can’t comprehend a lot of the things you teach:

  • That it’s okay to ask without a board member.
  • That it’s okay to ask on a first visit.
  • That you can actually share everything you need to share from one piece of paper.
  • That it can be this simple.

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O3 and O3 Culture

I’m working with a bright, talented (interim) VP of Advancement at a great college.

She and I were talking about a new culture… and she defined it as an Out Of Office!

If you’re in SALES (which we are)… and you want to raise as much INCOME as you can (which we do)… and you want the greatest RETURN on your ENERGY and TIME (which, of course, we do)… then you need to build an OUT OF OFFICE culture.

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Results or Reasons?

“In life there are only 2 things, results and reasons. Successful people have lots of results and unsuccessful people have lots of reasons.”

This is from Keith J. Cunningham, mentor to Robert Kiyosaki, RICH DAD POOR DAD author.

Via For Impact Coach, Mike Gemm.

Are you about RESULTS or REASONS (excuses)?

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Start With Why

I came across a brilliant thinker, Simon Sinek, who has a great book, Start With Why, a powerful Ted Video (18 minutes), and an amazing story around the power of ‘WHY’.

Essence of his message:

People don’t buy what you do… they buy why you do it.

He calls it the ‘GOLDEN CIRCLE’.

Mediocre organizations and leaders always sell ‘outside-in‘… talking about WHAT, then HOW (features, benefits).. never even getting to the WHY.

Great leaders sell ‘inside-out‘… leading with the WHY.

Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ is our ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK… with research!

And, it’s a perfect reinforcement of the FOCUS of our ENGAGEMENT TOOL.

I urge you to take 18 minutes out of your day/life and watch the video. I believe it will influence the entire way you sell, Share your Story and Present the Opportunity.

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