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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

The Craft: Affirmations for 2021

Through 2020 and coming into 2021, we collected many fundraising success stories from clients and friends who had to work very hard to stay focused while balancing many realities:

  • The pandemic (and there is not much to say about that).
  • The k-shaped recovery. Some sectors are roaring and as a result, the ‘asset class’ is doing better than ever.
  • Role reshuffling in organizations. So much of our coaching is trying to help leaders and fundraisers find focus amidst uncertainty (and often change).

That hard work often required repeated affirmation. This email compiles many of the affirmations I’ve used over the years, as well as many developed through coaching clients in recent months.

I’m hoping 1-2 lines speak to YOU.


The Craft: Affirmations for 2021

I am a sales professional.
My product knowledge is expressed in impact and vision.
My craft is the forging of the human connection.
There is not a day I cannot grow.

This craft is important.
Engaging is what creates connection. 
Asking is what unlocks generosity and meaning.
On any given day my work can offer the highest point of leverage for our team, organization, and cause. 

My craft is measured by productivity.
In ‘normal’ times I focus on effectiveness and efficiency.
During this time I give myself permission to focus on a different ‘e’ — energy.

Today my ability to connect, unlock meaning, and drive impact is a function of energy.
I will remind myself daily to not waste energy on things I can’t control. 
Instead, I will direct energy toward what I can control: process and perspective.

Connection, meaning, and impact can CREATE ENERGY, 
if I let them. 

I hear of Zoom fatigue but I choose to flip my story: 
It’s not about the medium, it’s about the meaning. 
Virtual visits and experiences can create more meaning and impact (in different ways),
if I let them. 

I don’t know whether a prospect will commit but this is my perspective:
I do not make decisions for my prospects. 
Now is the time to engage.
It’s my job to present the opportunity.
The opportunity has never been greater.

I embrace my craft. Today. In this unique time and place.
I appreciate that I can learn and grow in ways that will benefit me forever;
I choose to see this as an opportunity for more connection and meaning… unlocked by engaging and by asking; and
I will direct my energy toward this process knowing it will save, change, and impact lives.

Building Confidence.

This is a part 2 to yesterday’s nugget: On Confidence.

So how do we build confidence? Here are some ideas and observations based on our research and coaching: 

  • Be authentic. 

    It’s easier to be confident trying to figure out how to be you than to be someone else.

    If you are a junior fundraiser, this might mean learning how to develop your own voice, instead of trying to channel the CEO’s voice. 
  • Practice “self-talk anchored in something that’s real.”

    This is a profound insight offered from high-performance psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais. After helping Olympians and business MVP’s alike he summarizes the key to confidence and efficacy.

    He says that confidence is a psychological skill. It can be developed just like any other skill, through deliberate practice. In very simple terms, he says we need to write down the reasons why we should be confident about something and then practice reading and adopting those reasons so that they are strong enough to become part of our story. “Confidence comes from practicing self-talk anchored in something that’s real. You have to train to be confident!”
  • Do the preparation required to be confident.

    In our For Impact world this is about:
    • Building a strong funding rationale.
    • Doing the work and putting in the time to truly strategize what you’re going to say to prospects. 
    • Training around, or committing to, a sales process that you can trust again and again.
  • Take the focus off yourself. 

    This is a simple reminder to keep perspective. I don’t think this changes confidence levels, as much as it decreases the effects that can come from a lack of confidence. A few reminders in this regard.

    Psychologists estimate that 70% of us suffer from some form of imposter syndrome or another. (I have to imagine it’s more like 100% and 30% of those studied just aren’t honest.)

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor frequently talks about imposter syndrome in her memoir (but she is then quick to talk about how it fuels her to work hard and prove herself wrong.)

    Focus on the impact. You can transfer the focus on confidence (or lack thereof) to:
    • Confidence in solving the problem… 
    • Confidence in presenting the opportunity…  
    • Confidence in doing your best – today – to share the story and present the opportunity…

On Confidence

Confidence is something that’s not talked about enough in the world of fundraising. Thinking about the hundreds of leaders we’ve coached (and my own growth over 20 years), I would suppose half of the coaching focused on process. And, at least at the outset, half of the coaching focused on building confidence… in one’s self… in the process… in the pitch. 

Here is an important finding on the role of confidence in successful sales (and fundraising) from Alex (Sandy) Pentland at the MIT Human Dynamics Lab. In a study where participants were observed making pitches to potential investors Pentland observed that confidence (and commitment) to the idea by the leader were the greatest determining factor in the outcome of the pitch

“The executives [listening to the pitches] thought they were evaluating the plans based on rational measures, such as: How original is this idea? How does it fit the current market? How well developed is this plan?” Pentland wrote. “While listening to the pitches, though, another part of their brain was registering other crucial information, such as: How much does this person believe in this idea? How confident are they when speaking? How determined are they to make this work? And the second set of information—information that the business executives didn’t even know they were assessing—is what influenced their choice of business plans to the greatest degree.” 

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups (p. 14). Random House Publishing Group.

I would want an immediate takeaway to be that confidence is important! We need to talk about confidence. We need to coach our teams around their confidence. We need to create an environment where it’s okay for someone to say, “I need to work on my confidence.”

Rarely do I see a leader ask, “What is your confidence level?” Or a sales person say to a leader, “I need your help with confidence.”

Tomorrow I’m going to share three insights to further address finding confidence.

Do One Thing at a Time

When asked for a productivity tip, Warren Buffet once said something along the lines of, “It’s simple. I do one thing at a time and I don’t start something else until I’m finished with that one thing.”

In The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker writes about this notion:

If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time….

Concentration is dictated… by the fact that most of us find it hard enough to do well even one thing at a time, let alone two. Mankind is indeed capable of doing an amazingly wide diversity of things; humanity is a “multipurpose tool.” But the way to apply productively mankind’s great range is to bring to bear a large number of individual capabilities on one task…

This is the “secret” of those people who “do so many things” and apparently so many difficult things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less time in the end than the rest of us…

The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder… the typical executive tries to do several things at once.

Jim Rohn on Leadership (and Parenting)

I’ve been taking some time off from writing/posting these past two weeks. The Fellers family welcomed our fourth(!) child, baby Kathryn (“Kit”) last week.

I’ll be working my way back into posting Daily Nuggets, but I wanted to share this nugget from Jim Rohn. Rohn is one of the ‘success author’ pioneers. He’s credited with inspiring Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, and many others.

Somehow, it became a ritual for me to rock new babies and reread all of Jim Rohn’s stuff. I find it inspirational, directional and centering. Rohn’s concept of ‘success’ is not limited to financial, or corporate. He focuses on success in terms of fulfillment and family. For this fourth-time new dad, I always connect with Rohn’s passages on parenting, in particular.

Here are two nuggets on Leadership – and Parenting:

Leadership is the great challenge of today [Jim Rohn writes… in the 1970’s], in all fields: science, politics, industry, education, sales. And leadership will continue to be among our greatest challenges in the future.

But I want to begin by recognizing one of the most challenging roles in leadership—parenting. Yes, one of the greatest challenges of leadership is parenting. Unless we take our children by the hand and strengthen the family foundation, the nation is shaky. Parenting is where it all begins.

My father had a simple little rule. He said, “Son, if you get in trouble in school, when you get home, it’s double trouble.” Does that method sound familiar? Double trouble at home if you get in trouble at school. A lot of parents are hoping someone else will exercise the leadership role—teachers or the church or the school or the community—somebody will take up the task of being the example of leadership. But this is a challenge for parents to take up themselves, to become leaders.

The Challenge of Leadership

So now, here’s what leadership is: The challenge to be something more than mediocre. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that when his mother died he was at her bedside, and her last words to him were: “Be somebody, Abe.” And if that story’s true, he must have taken it to heart. Be somebody. That’s a good challenge. Be somebody. Be somebody wise. Be somebody strong. Strength is attractive. Be somebody kind. All of the attributes of leadership are a unique challenge.

Leadership is the challenge to step up to a new level, a new dimension. Here’s what this new dimension has: opportunity and responsibility. But who wouldn’t want the responsibility along with the opportunity if it builds an extraordinary life? You wouldn’t want it any other way.

There’s a whole new level of leadership, a new method. Here’s what it is called: Leadership by invitation. Not leadership by threat. Not leadership by aggravation. Not leadership by intimidation—that shows the weakness of the leader or shows ego at work instead of skills. Leadership by invitation. Invite somebody to a better way of doing things.

Here’s what else it’s called: Leadership by inspiration. Inspire somebody to make the necessary changes to move up or to get the job done. As leaders, we inspire. As leaders, we entice. As leaders, we invite. Invite, entice, inspire, but not threaten.

Rohn, Jim. The Jim Rohn Guides Complete Set (Kindle Locations 538-558). SUCCESS Partners. Kindle Edition.

Principles – Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio built Bridgewater into one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. He correctly predicted the 2008 financial crash, and he attributes much of his success to the life lessons he later encoded in the form of Bridgewater Principles. His new book on this subject was just published.

I’ll come back to his book in a minute. But first, I want to talk about the impact these principles have had on The Suddes Group.

After Dalio first published his principles for the public in 2010, I was one of the 3 million people (!!!) who downloaded and devoured them. Inspired by Dalio, I starting writing up Suddes Group’s Principles and first shared them with our team in 2011. TSG Principles have proven to be an effective way to encode and transmit lessons to our team.

Here are a few Suddes Group Principles:

#3. The best knowledge is built (and then owned) by the clients.

We can develop the coolest strategy… or the greatest message… but if it’s not ‘owned’ and internalized by the client, it will not have the full effect. Often, it will not even have a shelf-life!

Facilitating the learning for clients often takes more effort, but it is essential in order for us to have the intended impact.

#10. Do what you need to do for YOU to be able to sell the impact. (I Am Sold Myself)

We’ve developed a lot of systems and frameworks over the years. As much as a team member can and should rely on those ‘encoded lessons,’ each person must take personal responsibility for doing whatever it takes to be SOLD on the program impact (or vision).

We’ve had team members:

  • Sit in an ER for two days to observe the traffic.
  • Travel to rural outposts to see how health evaluation happens in those communities.
  • Dig through aisles of dusty archives to find the perfect ‘historical funding story.’

#19. Never assume a client ‘already knows what he/she is doing (with respect to the scope of work)’. NEVER. (Repeat, a 3rd time, NEVER.)

My greatest mistakes have been when I’ve tried to skip part of our process… when I’ve thought, “He or she knows that already. I’m going to skip over that.”

Don’t assume. Work the process like an airline pilot working a pre-flight checklist.

Back to Principles (the book)….

I’m only half-way into Dalio’s book, but like any book in this format, there are gems and nuggets for the taking; you can choose what resonates most for you. I find the real meat to be in the commentary Dalio provides behind each principle. For instance, he shares this explanation on the distinctions between first-order thinking and second-order thinking:

By recognizing the higher-level consequences nature optimizes for, I’ve come to see that people who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects of second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision-making. For example, the first-order consequences of exercise (pain and time spent) are commonly considered undesirable, while the second-order consequences (better health and more attractive appearance) are desirable. Similarly, food that tastes good is often bad for you and vice versa.

Quite often the first-order consequences are the temptations that cost us what we really want, and sometimes they are the barriers that stand in our way. It’s almost as though nature sorts us by throwing us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizing those who make their decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.

By contrast, people who choose what they really want, and avoid the temptations and get over the pains that drive them away from what they really want, are much more likely to have successful lives.

This makes me think of the fear that some people have around fundraising. They are stopped by the ‘first-order thinking,’ instead of continuing to consider the second-order consideration: the impact it will have… the lives saved or changed.

Energy, Not Time, Is Our Most Precious Resource

We’re spending the day working with leaders from a social justice movement. Each leader wears 19 hats (with fundraising being only one of them). Whereas we can ‘teach’ fundraising, we’ve found it’s just as important to put this in the context of working effectively.

To that end, I’m rereading some notes from The Power of Full Engagement. The fundamental message: MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME.

  • Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”
  • “Every one of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors has an energy consequence, for better or worse.” <--- Think about that! Our THOUGHTS drive our most precious resource! This insight is what leads to author Jim Loehr's next book: The Power of Story.
  • “Performance, health, and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.”
  • “The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not.”
  • “The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become. The more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative and compromised our energy is likely to be.”
  • “Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy–in companies, organizations and even in families.”
  • “To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”

Objectives Before Activity

Today’s nugget is simple. It’s simple to say, simple to comprehend… and not simple to PRACTICE.

The nugget (excerpt) comes from Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. (This is a ‘must read’ for every teacher or coach.

Many practices begin with the thought, “What am I going to do tomorrow?” (or even this afternoon!). When you ask this question, you are starting with an activity, not an objective—with the action, not the reason for it. In the end, you can’t decide if an activity is the right one to do until you know why you’re doing it. Instead, start by asking what you are going to accomplish, and then ask what the best route to that goal is. When an objective is made first, before the activity, it guides you in choosing or adapting your activities. When it comes second, after you decide what you’ll do, it is a justification.

Tied to this, is the management system of OKR. Management (and measurement) by Objectives and Key Results. The system is more simple than it is innovative (and that’s a good thing). Here is a good article with a video about how Google manages by Objectives and Key Results.

Conscious processing and non-conscious processing.

Conscious processing can only handle about 120 bits of information at once. This isn’t much. Listening to another person speak can take almost 60 bits. If two people are talking, that’s it — we’ve maxed our bandwidth.

But if we remember that our unconscious can process billions of bits at once then we can *simply* learn to tap into the unconscious to unlock power, insights, and speed. We just can’t tap into that in our normal state.

You don’t need to be on drugs to access that state (although, that’s one way to do it…). Elite athletes do this with regularity. In his prime, Tiger Woods was literally accessing a different part of his brain for the unconscious performance at major tournaments.

Here is a quick fundraising application: Use the For Impact Presentation Flow and Altitude Framework (for your presentation). This gives you a road map for each visit allowing you t be present and listen (using those 160 bits!) Most people are trying to build a road map on-the-fly. To do that, they often sacrifice too much of their conscious processing!

I believe each of us can harness and process the unconscious in our work and daily life. There is so much science coming out right now that explains the ‘how’. We need not be concerned about the rise of machines if we learn to use the full capacity of the head on our shoulders.

NB: ever had a creative insight in the shower? This is because you’ve showered thousands of times. It’s not a conscious activity. That insight was the freedom of your unconscious mind to process, think!

Identity and Work

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the intersections of meaning, value (creation), and work.

Today’s nugget is from Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

“When we define ourselves by our work, by our dedication and effectiveness and willingness to go the extra mile, then it’s easy to see rest as the negation of all those things. If your work is your self, when you cease to work, you cease to exist.”