When you start a new job or move to a new city, one of your goals should be to fit into the environment. That doesn’t mean changing who you are, rather being conscious about the symbols and signals you send about making a new place your home.
In the workplace, some of the strategies you should employ from the beginning are to learn (and utilize) the jargon and acronyms. Nothing will highlight your newness faster than pronouncing something wrong, calling a department by the wrong name (eg: business office vs. finance department), or by using the full name instead of the commonly used shorthand. It’s also important to be intentional about appearance, lunch and break norms and communication culture (eg: do people use email, drop by in person or schedule an appointment) and work ethics.
If you moved to a new location for your job, it’s important to assimilate into the out-of-office environment as well. Even though I was very active and consciously immersed myself in the new city, my efforts were offset by other signals I unconsciously sent that trumpeted that I wasn’t from here. I kept my cell phone number so had a different area code than most. I drive a car brand that doesn’t have a dealership here. I live in a new subdivision so my address isn’t familiar to long-time residents. As a result, my involvement made it feel like home to me, but to others, I am still often seen as an outsider.
Fitting in is a two-way process, whether that be at your job, as a tourist or in a new city. You may overtly choose to forge your own path and do things in ways that are different from the others or you may try to replicate behaviors. You may opt to pass on acclimating yourself to the town and instead learn things as you go or you may deeply immerse yourself in its culture. The key is to make your choice with intentionality, knowing that you can always do more or less to both feel like home and to be seen as being at home.
In addition to the excellent set of organizational assessment questions, Performance Practice (the resource I shared yesterday) is accompanied by a library of short videos to illustrate the premise of each of its seven modules.
One of my favorites is this four-minute video that provides an example of the leadership module in action. If your organization has ever had an event that is very popular – but perhaps not the best use of your resources to accomplish your mission – Pastor William Attaway’s message may resonate well. He describes a process that his board used to evaluate whether or not to continue an event – and the lessons they learned from the pushback they received when communicating that it would be discontinued.
It is never easy to make decisions that are in the long-term interest of an organization but have emotional implications in the short-term — which is why many continue programs without question. It takes fortitude and forethought to stop doing something, but often that is the only way to free up the resources (human and financial) necessary to do something better.
As Jim Collins wrote as the first line in his best-selling book*: “Good is the enemy of great.” What good event are you doing that should be stopped to make room for greatness?
We learn to share as toddlers but as we grow older sometimes we forget that lesson. Cooks decline to pass along their “secret recipe” to those who request it. Leaders hold ideas close to their vest and refuse to vet them with their staff. Facilitators hold back their PowerPoints or only share selected materials with participants. It’s as if sharing the information will diminish its value (or the credibility of the sharer) rather than increase it.
Fortunately for nonprofit organizations, not everyone ascribes to the paucity sentiment. A group of thought leaders and practitioners has developed a robust, actionable and highly credible organizational assessment: The Performance Practice – and made it fully available without charge. The assessment may be used by organizational leaders, boards and consultants with the goal of linking mission and performance to deliver societal impact through meaningful and lasting performance results.
Performance Practice consists of seven modules that may be used in any order depending upon the needs of the organization: leadership, management, programs and strategies, financial sustainability, learning culture, internal monitoring and external evaluation. Each module provides principles, proof points (to allow for measurement and tracking), worksheets and questions to stimulate discussion. It truly is a treasure of a resource – and all for free.
If you are in any way affiliated with a nonprofit institution, I encourage you to find ways to incorporate parts of this tool in your self-assessment, organizational assessment or reflection exercises. It’s not something that you can digest all at once, but it is a gift that can best be appreciated by putting it into practice one piece at a time.
Developed by the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community
Tip: You can download each module individually or download “Use All Modules” to download all seven sets of questions at once. See link here for where to download all proof points at once.
One of my new fall traditions to is to visit a historic barn as a way to experience the heritage of our state. The barn I saw this year was built in the 1860s, a time when any type of building was an arduous task, let alone the rigor of farming around it.
I was struck by the ingenuity used in its construction. The ceiling beams are sawed-in-half tree trunks, still covered in bark. The walls were cemented together stones. There were no finished, planed lumber planks or uniform pre-cast bricks but the farmer made do anyway – in a sturdy enough manner that it has remained for over 150 years.
It is easy to delay a project because you don’t have the proper tools or equipment. Sometimes you opt to wait until everything is “just right” before beginning. The next time you’re tempted to use this excuse, think of the historic barns and press on anyway. Achieving completion resourcefulness is better than perfection.
My sister came home to find an extensive gift basket filled with Halloween goodies on her porch – she had “been Boo-ed.” It’s a version of Secret Santa but for Halloween where neighbors anonymously deliver treats to other neighbors without getting caught. Those who have been visited post a ghost in the window so the next “phantom” knows to leave their basket at another house.
For me, it was one more sign that Halloween is taking on a life of its own. Not only is “getting Boo-ed” happening in many communities, but there are a plethora of themed items to fill the basket that is delivered. Everywhere you go, there are more and more Halloween decorations, candies, accessories and gift items. It is becoming a major holiday on its own.
So, if you have caught the orange and black spirit and want to start a fun tradition in your neighborhood, leave someone a Boo Basket this weekend. It’s like mystery trick-or-treat for grown-ups and a fun surprise to find on your doorstep.
One of the jobs of the leader is to think long-term to develop strategies to affect change in the future. The leader may discuss plans with a senior circle and have many, many meetings about the idea long before it is able to become public. Because the leader spends so much time thinking about the new, she becomes accustomed to the idea and it no longer feels new to her, and therein lies the potential trap.
Unless a conscious effort is made otherwise, leaders often forget that there is a lag between when they first started thinking about an idea and when their staff or wider audience learns of the plan. The change-makers at Alia Innovations have depicted this gap in the Leaders Lag chart, illustrating that the leader is always ahead of the staff in thinking about change.
The leader has the advantage of having an extended interval of time during which they have become comfortable with the new and, to be successful, the leader must allow that adjustment period for others. The next time you are trying to impact a change, take the time gap into account. You need to synchronize in order to swim.
I recently presented at a conference where I understood that I did not need to bring handouts. “Everyone will access them on their tablet or computer or print them from the information in advance,” they said. I had to submit the handouts far in advance and the organizer commented on how they would be helpful for promotion. I thought all was good.
As you probably have already guessed, all was not well. The handouts weren’t posted in advance and so no one in the session had them. I was able to make the session intelligible by referring to the material on the PowerPoint, but it would have been much more beneficial for the participants if they had the information on hand. I will never be without them again.
It reminded me of a story I heard about the touring company of Hamilton. Apparently, they brought everything they needed with them – right down to the paper clips. I suspect that this is because of a similar situation where they needed something that they were told would be provided and it wasn’t.
I’m surprised that I didn’t bring handouts anyway because I routinely follow the scouting motto to “Be Prepared.” I bring my own whiteboard markers and eraser when I teach a class. I always have cash in case the person I’m with forgets his wallet or the establishment doesn’t take credit cards. I bring my own pillow when overnighting and I’m usually the one who has the equivalent of Hamilton’s paper clips when traveling. I come prepared!
It is easy to remember the big things, but it is often the little things that make the experience run smoothly. Think about what items add to your comfort and efficiency when you are away and take them with you. If the session doesn’t go well or the papers aren’t organized, it reflects on you more than the person who was supposed to provide the item for you.