This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32). The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance. The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action. The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’
As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’ To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization. A GREAT STORY…
Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY. “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”
———————– Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005
The absence of strong Funding Rationales (a.k.a. your reason for needing funds) likely means your organization is not maximizing relationships.
At a major-gifts level* there needs to be some specificity in terms of funding a specific program, outcome, or priority initiative. (See 10 Types of Funding Rationales). If you don’t have a specific Funding Rationale then one of two things usually happens:
The commitment is not maximized. People give to support a mission or a cause, and they invest more to support specific impact (or outcome). Our experience has been that a portfolio gives 3x more when you’re able to clearly define a strong funding rationale!!! This is the difference between asking,”Will you invest $10K in our vision?” And, “Will you invest $10K to help with this priority and these outcomes that will help us deliver on the vision?”
Funders (over) restrict the funding. When we see this, it’s an indication that the funder is creating a rationale because yours is not clear enough! Note: While restricted funding is not bad in and of itself, gifts committed with restrictions crafted by the funder hinder an organization’s efficiency or focus. Said another way, if you don’t define your priorities/rationales then someone will do it for you.
*For most organizations this is $10K+ and could come from an individual, corporation, or foundation.
We help social entrepreneurs and really cool organizations implement a true sales model for philanthropy. The word SALES is supposed to grab your attention!
“You’re in sales, get over it.” – Tom Suddes
Most of us got into this work for the IMPACT, not the fundraising… and certainly not ‘SALES’!!! But ‘SALES’ holds the key to resourcing the impact we want to have. Pat Williams and Jim Denney are co-authors of some the world’s great leadership biographies – from Bear Bryant and Coach Wooden to Mother Theresa. Here’s how Pat Williams writes about Walt Disney as a salesperson. Note: I’ve pulled dozens of nuggets out of the book and threaded them together. As always, just read the book – How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life
Virginia Davis (Walt’s original Alice) told Pat that Walt Disney was a great salesman: “The more I examined Walt’s life, the more I saw what a profound insight this was. From the very beginning of his career, Walt was a salesman— one of the greatest salesmen the world has ever known.”
Many people look down on selling as somehow beneath them. I hope you don’t make that mistake. All the wealth in America can be traced to the fact that somebody somewhere sold something to somebody else. Selling is one of the most honorable professions around— and one of the most rewarding. It is also one of the toughest. What does it take to be a great salesperson? I would suggest five qualities that every great salesperson must have. Build these qualities into your life and you can sell like Walt. Those five qualities are honesty, enthusiasm, confidence, courage and persistence.
Honesty.All great salespeople are honest. Does that surprise you? That’s probably because you have been raised on the stereotype of the fast-talking used-car salesman in the plaid jacket. Sure, shysters abound, and they give a bad name to the honest salespeople who make their living by trading value for value. But the best salespeople are people of integrity. A great salesperson lives on repeat business. The key to repeat business is trust, and the key to trust is integrity. Anybody can sell to one customer one time. A great salesperson builds relationships of trust on a foundation of truth.
All great salespeople are fired up about their product. Enthusiasm is contagious; it affects everyone around you. How did a twenty-year-old cartoonist convince a group of Kansas City businessmen to part with $15,000 so he could open his studio? Enthusiasm! Voice actor Corey Burton told me, “
Walt was excited about his projects, his movies, his theme park. When he was excited about something, his excitement fired up everyone around him. That’s how he sold his dreams.” Disney film editor Norman “Stormy” Palmer recalls Walt’s power to motivate. “Walt’s enthusiasm made over-achievers out of all of us,” he told me. “You got caught up with his energy, you believed in his ideas, and you wanted to please him. He transmitted his excitement to all of us. If it hadn’t been for Walt, there would have been a lot of times we would have settled for less than our best.”
Confidence. Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can still adopt an attitude of confidence. You may not be comfortable selling yourself or your product, but so what? Nobody is comfortable selling. Nobody ever became successful by staying within their comfort zone. If you want to succeed, you have to do what Walt did: take a big, confident step outside your comfort zone, and start selling your dreams.
Courage. Psychological studies show that high-achieving, successful people are not overly concerned about what others think. This was true of Walt Disney. He never catered to his critics. He never worried about rejection. He kept selling his dreams. 5. Persistence. Walt absorbed the blows and soldiered on, fueled by a total and utter belief that his vision was right. Walt was successful because of one rock-solid Midwestern value. It’s called perseverance.
It’s worth bottom-lining these three gems:
The best salespeople are people of integrity.
Enthusiasm is contagious.
Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice. (Write this one on your MIRROR!)
Prior to his post at Manchester United, he managed Aberdeen, a Scottish Football Club. He learned about the importance of ZOOMING OUT to lead. My emphasis in bold…
Watching is (an) underrated (leadership) activity…it costs nothing. For me there are two forms of observation: the first is on the detail and the second is on the big picture. Until I was managing Aberdeen and hired Archie Knox as my assistant manager, I had not appreciated the difference between watching for the tiny particulars while also trying to understand the broader landscape. Shortly after he arrived at Aberdeen, Archie sat me down and asked me why I had hired him. The question perplexed me, until he explained that he had nothing to do since I insisted on doing everything. He was very insistent… Archie told me that I shouldn’t be conducting the training sessions but, instead, should be on the sidelines watching and supervising. I wasn’t sure that I should follow this advice because I thought it would hamper my control of the sessions. But when I told Archie I wanted to mull over his advice, he was insistent. So, somewhat reluctantly, I bowed to his wishes and, though it took me a bit of time to understand you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, it was the most important decision I ever made about the way I managed and led. When you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises– and it is important to allow yourself to be surprised. If you are in the middle of a training session with a whistle in your mouth, your entire focus is on the ball. When I stepped back and watched from the sidelines, my field of view was widened and I could absorb the whole session, as well as pick up on players’ moods, energy and habits. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my career and I’m glad that I received it more than 30 years ago. Archie’s observation was the making of me. As a player I had tried to do both– paying attention to the ball at my feet whilst being aware of what was happening elsewhere on the field. But until Archie gave me a finger wagging, I had not really understood that, as a manager, I was in danger of losing myself to the details. It only took me a handful of days to understand the merit of Archie’s point, and from that moment I was always in a position to be able to zoom in to see the detail and zoom out to see the whole picture.
Stepping back to watch from the sidelines is not natural (at least not to me!) This story has powerful leadership insights and implications for all of us.
Ferguson, Alex; Moritz, Michael (2015-10-06). Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United (p. 18). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.
In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:
30,000’ WHY? VISION
Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
How does it relate to our Vision?
Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
Have we explored Partnerships? Multi-Use Facilities? 24/7?
14,000’ WHAT? STRATEGY
Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support
3’ HOW? EXECUTION
Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?
In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!
The vision for your organization must live in one person’s head.
The vision can’t sit with a committee. Many can contribute to the building of a clear vision but, there must be one person that holds that vision. This ultimate vision keeper could be the CEO or it could be the Board Chair.
We use this nugget often as the first step toward strategic clarity – many leaders don’t realize they’re trying to juggle or navigate 3-4 visions.
The ultimate vision keeper is often trying to make room for others – inviting them to contribute to the vision. This can be great, so long as it’s clear that there will be one person that ultimately owns the vision.
As a leader the vision makes the most sense to you because it lives in your head. You probably have the most complete view of the operation, you spend the most time thinking about the vision, and feel like you’re constantly communicating that vision.
And yet, that vision is likely under communicated! Here is a great excerpt from Adam Grant’s Originals about how change agents under communicate their vision:
“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically under communicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of the change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it. In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let alone internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision.”
The vision for you is a full-length motion picture in which you’re the writer, producer, director — surely worth millions of words. But likely, for the rest of your team, the vision is a word-cloud they heard on Tuesday.
In a nutshell: The vision can’t be over-communicated!
A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done! This week’s theme is SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.
I came across a brilliant thinker, Simon Sinek, who has a great book, Start With Why, a powerful Ted Video, and an amazing story around the power of ‘WHY.’
The 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), and 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!
Starting with Why has many implications in our For Impact world; here’s a few:
A vocabulary challenge to the sector. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY, but what your prospects want to do is save, change and impact lives.
Selling happens at 30,000’. The number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” If the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. Conversely, if your WHY is his number one priority, you can ask on the proverbial ‘first date.’
There are 1.5M nonprofits in the U.S. You must be able to talk about your raison d’etre (reason for existence); otherwise, you just ‘exist to exist.’
Our most used frameworks is the Altitude Framework – Used to order thinking, communications, and storylines; to develop Engagement Tools; and, to think through the Flow of a Visit.
This framework is used for everything from visits to strategy sessions to dealing with objections. However, it’s best use is COMMUNICATION and SIMPLIFICATION of your message.
30,000′ is an airplane’s cruising altitude – plenty of blue sky, a great view, etc. At 30,000′, our brain even seems to work better!
At this altitude, it’s all about your vision, your aspirations, your raison d’etre. It’s a place to think and talk about your mission, your meaning, your values.
At 30,000’ leaders and visionaries have the ability to see the horizon. Obviously, you can’t do that from 3’. At 30,000’ you can see the curve of the earth, the rising and setting of the sun. The perspective at 30,000’ is unmatched. This is where you can think about making a “dent in the universe” and communicate how you are CHANGING THE WORLD!
Use this framing device to think and answer some questions at 30,000’:
Why do you what you do – To what end?
What is your raison d’etre (or reason for existence?)
What are you best in the world at?
What would you do with $1M or $10M (or X times your current operating budget?)
What makes you unique or how are you collaborating to solve a big social problem?
What gets you really fired up in the morning? (About your impact!)
Use the answers to these questions to develop your Message at 30,000’ – Your big picture purpose statement, the meaning of your work – Something we call the Blue Box Message.
“The Blue Box”:
Represents the starting point for everything
Frames a conversation at the highest level
Is simple (not full of fancy prose)
Is articulated clearly, concisely and compellingly
Here are some examples of great Blue Box Messages:
Changing the lives of the visually impaired worldwide.
Transforming the aging experience.
To provide the finest liberal arts education in the country.
Breaking the circle of poverty by changing the system.
Transforming Columbus: Inspiring the entrepreneurs of the future.