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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

On Altitude: For Boards

Here’s how you can use this Framework to create dialogue with your Board around their relationship with your organization.

  • Your COLLECTIVE BOARD should be engaged at the 30,000’ level (WHY… we exist) around VISION and PURPOSE and MISSION.
  • INDIVIDUAL Board Members (CHAMPIONS) can be engaged with you at the 14,000’ level around STRATEGY (WHAT…needs to be done.) They should be specifically asked to help within their own areas of expertise and experience.
  • No Board/Board Member should be engaged with you or your organization at 3’!!! (the HOW).
“Our Board is AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!!!”
– Irish Social Entrepreneur

We can’t tell you how many times organizational leaders and staff have come up and said, “My Board is at 3” (inches)! They even tell us what kind of soda should go in the machine!”

*While we primarily use this for Boards, there’s a case to be made that no one should be dealing with issues at 3’… Micro-micro-managing… sweating the really, really small stuff, etc.

Action: Review this ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK with your Board. Encourage them to get and stay ‘HIGH’.

On Altitude: Visits/Presentations

Here is a deeper explanation of the power of ‘ALTITUDE‘ on a visit/presentation:

  • Always go (back) up. Nick Fellers has a really great way to use ‘altitude’/level on the presentation. When training or coaching, Nick makes this very clear: When in doubt… when challenged… when questioned… ALWAYS GO BACK UP TO 30,000’! (The Vision, The Message, The Purpose.)
  • Get ‘buy-in’ at the highest level. As you make the Case for Support, the prospect/ potential investor needs to understand and acknowledge their acceptance of the ‘blue’ VISION and ‘red’ PRIORITIES. Sometimes this is “You had me at hello.” (Renee to Tom Cruise) Other times, it may take the entire first visit to get them to understand and agree that this is an important CAUSE and CASE. Regardless, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about PRIORITIES or the PLAN or ‘HOW THEY CAN HELP’ if they don’t ‘get it’ at the highest level!
  • Dissent on Descent. To put this another way, there should be no ‘dissent’ on the descent!
    Think of this as kind of the opposite of getting the ‘bends’. If a diver ascends too quickly, they get a case of the ‘bends’. It’s painful and many times life-threatening.
    During a presentation, the prospect can get the ‘reverse-bends’ if you descend too rapidly. “Hello. Thanks for seeing me. Here’s our campaign. Can you give $100,000?”
  • ‘Permission to Proceed’. We have actually incorporated this specific terminology into the presentation. (It’s the words used to complete a ‘transfer’ on a high ropes challenge course!) “It seems like you’re fully engaged with both our Mission and our Message. Would it be okay (permission to proceed) to go deeper and talk about our Strategic Priorities and our Plan to make all this happen???”
  • Altitude is not always top-down or hierarchical. You can ‘enter’ at any level. You can focus on any level. You can travel up and down… and even side to side, especially when you’re using an Engagement Tool.

On Altitude: Engagement Tools

While there have been many different uses and permutations of this ‘thinking’ at altitude… one of our favorites is for a visit and presentation.

All of our Engagement Tools are designed at altitude.

30,000′ Why Purpose Blue
14,000′ What Priorities Red
3′ How Plan Green

We have used this with hundreds of organizations on thousands of visits, as an integral, critical part of our Presentation FLOW. IT WORKS.

The Why (Purpose) Start here. Once they are ON BOARD…move to…
The What (Priorities) Once they understand…it’s on to…
The How (Plan) How you are going to execute. HOW you will Scale and Grow. HOW you will FUND.


On Altitude: Entrepreneurial Application

ALTITUDE is a great way for an entrepreneur to answer these 3 critical questions:

  • WHY… are you in business?
  • WHAT… business are you in?
  • HOW… do you make money?

Social Entrepreneurs can use this Framework to talk with angel investors, recruit talent and even organize the Business Model and Plan.

Note: Latitude. A small shift in the first two letters of ‘ALTITUDE’ opens up an entirely different way of looking at this: LATITUDE. Many of our Frameworks are laid out horizontally, still using our blue, red, green color code.


On Altitude: Perspective

At 30,000’:

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/level, 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. It’s a place for Guiding Principles, Big Hairy Audacious Goals And Definite Chief Aims (as Napoleon Hill calls them).

My good friend Christopher Celeste pointed out that leaders and visionaries have the ability to see the horizon. Obviously, you can’t do that from 3’. There’s a good view at 14,000’… but an absolute gorgeous view 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 Steve Jobs’ “dent in the universe”… and dream about CHANGING THE WORLD!

At 14,000’:

It’s the view and perspective from the ‘top of the mountain’. (In the Rockies, they’re called ‘fourteeners’). The air is thinner, raptors soar. If 30,000’ is about vision… then 14,000’ is about focus. A place to talk about Strategic Plans and Business Models and Funding Models, and finding clarity around Priorities.

At 14,000’, Everything’s A Project (EAP)! Every project has goals, time lines, a team leader, a team, a budget, constraints, etc.

At 3’:

Literally, it’s ‘boots on the ground’, ‘feet on the street’. It’s tactical. It’s execution. It’s ACTION!

On Altitude: Framework

The For Impact ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK is one of our most referenced and utilized tools by our team, our coaches and our clients… TO RAISE THE LEVEL OF THEIR GAME!


The Altitude Framework works great for Presentations, Engagement Tools, Agendas/Meetings, Speaking, Strategic Plans and Action Plans.

It’s also a great Framework to respond to questions. (“At what altitude/level is the best or most appropriate response?”)

And, it’s a powerful coaching model. (“Let’s talk about this issue/topic at this particular altitude/level”)

At For Impact, we use this for everything from keynote speeches to our website. It’s a part of our mind mapping as we lay out our content, our guides and our books. We have color-coded it as Blue… Red… Green. And, it allows us to talk ‘shorthand’ and reach decisions ten times faster than a normal process.

One of the reasons that this framing device has been so popular is its obvious simplicity. Everyone can understand the hierarchy of WHY, WHAT and HOW… and they intuitively get the connection between VISION, STRATEGY and EXECUTION.

Following are some ways to help you understand and apply… ALTITUDE.

30,000′ View From Airplane A Green Blur Telescope
14,000′ Top of Mountain A Forest Binoculars
3′ Nap of the Earth A Tree Glasses
“He who knows the ‘WHY’ of his existence… can bear almost any ‘HOW’.”
– Viktor Frankl