I want to be wiser this year than last year. Wisdom is something I suspect we all are probably seeking. Something happened recently that made me think about how I develop wisdom.
While walking though the Redwood National Park in California this past week, I couldn’t stop looking up. Staring in wonder, I saw massive trunks rising over 300 feet into the sky, with green leaves and branches stretching toward the clouds. The redwood trees are massive, old, and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Some of the trees in this National Park are over 2,000 years old, and even the most common, relative youngsters are over 500-600 years old. That’s a time frame I find it hard to wrap my brain around. And I submit, we can learn from these ancient trees.
I was shocked to discover that these massive, ancient trees have a very shallow root system of only 10 to 12 feet. How can this be? How can such an apparently tiny foundation support something taller than the Statue of Liberty? I learned that these trees create an interconnected web of roots with other trees that extends for hundreds of feet. You see, not one redwood tree stands by itself. Each towering tree depends on other trees around it. These trees – that have survived earthquakes, fires, droughts, floods, good seasons and bad seasons – live in a family of trees supporting one another.
I believe we all can take a lesson from the redwood tree and spend less time growing vertical roots (on our own) and invest our energies in nurturing our horizontal roots. We need a family of partners, organizations, and friends to survive and thrive in both good and bad times. Let’s focus on strengthening our horizontal roots to be hundreds of feet long. It won’t happen overnight, and we must be intentional about developing those strong connections. That can be a challenge because we are living in a time of disconnectedness. But you and your organization will be breathtaking when you’re linking hands, time, and energies with one another. Beauty comes in our connectedness. So be like the towering redwoods and send out those roots. Because we are wiser, together.
A number of transitions have happened this year and it’s only the beginning of 2023. This past week Tom Brady announced he is retiring (for real) and Dr. Phil McGraw is saying goodbye to the “Dr. Phil” show. A good friend of mine is considering some big questions and decisions about moving. And, whether they wanted to or not, over 46,000 tech workers are saying goodbye to their jobs this year. Some of these may have been planned transitions and some may have been emergency transitions. But regardless, transitions happen.
Organizations that continue to do well will pay attention to leadership transitions. And a crucial part of that is a well-defined job description for the leader. You’d be surprised how many founders of organizations do not even have a job description. Don’t join them.
I want all of you to revisit your job description and really look at it. Update your current responsibilities. Some may not have changed at all. Other responsibilities may not make sense any longer. You may not even recognize what was written…where did that come from?? More important, you probably have responsibilities now that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. (Leading Zoom conferences, anyone?)
Carve out some time to think deeply about your job description. What exactly do you do? What do you do that no one else does? What are you responsible for that someone else could handle? What technical and social skills are essential to your success? These are all vital details to the health and longevity of your organization. No one can help with leadership transitions without a clear understanding of exactly what you are responsible for and bring to the table. And because we all know that change is inevitable, revisit and update your job description every two years. Make this a habit.
Next,have a conversation with other leaders on your team or your Board of Directors and talk about the future and what certain scenarios could hold. After all, no leader stays forever. What is the vision for the organization moving forward in the next three to five years? What kind of leader is needed for where the organization is headed? Difficult question…are you that leader? If not, do you know what that new leader will need to look like? It’s highly probably the skills needed to lead the organization 15 years ago are not the skills needed in 2023 and beyond. I know that it’s hard to swallow – but just as your business has evolved, the type of leader and team members that are essential have likely evolved as well. It’s so much better to deal with these questions proactively than to face a crisis of leadership later on.
Don’t kick these two steps down the road. They’re that important.
I took a GQ quiz this week and failed. No, it wasn’t in GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) magazine =). It’s the Generational Quotient Assessment. It’s a simple quiz that helps you identify how much you know about the different generations we all encounter. It’s free, and this link takes you directly to it! Can you score higher than my 63? I did score the highest for my own generation, but that means I have a LOT to learn about the other four generations. Do you know that in 2023, five generations are working together and often colliding with one another? Below is a table with information from Tim Elmore that I’ve found very helpful (I’ve modified it slightly). In summary, context explains conduct. Each generation embraces different values and customs and we as leaders need to recognize this and adapt accordingly.
The largest generation in the workforce right now are Millennials (born between 1983-2000). They’re confident, love choice and change, and choose which leaders they’re going to follow. But they’re not the only group you’ll need to work with. Organizations that are going to thrive and leaders who are going to excel recognize the differences in each of the generations and use it to their advantage. Veterans and rookies can work together and excel – it is possible. We just have to recognize that the same techniques won’t work with everyone.
As you move forward in your organization, seek to learn and grow with someone from a different generation. How can you build relationships and drop the walls? What can they teach you? What can you show them? Let’s build connections among all generations. Inter-generational diversity will add strength to your organization. Let’s all commit to learn and grow.
Living in San Antonio for six years, I flew Southwest Airlines a lot. I loved that no seats were assigned and enjoyed their service. But that was over twelve years ago. Today, I’m concerned that Southwest Airlines hasn’t kept up with the times and predict that if they do not make some significant changes, Southwest won’t be around five years from now. Mark my words – they may be the next Kodak or Blockbuster.
Although weather played a part, the recent meltdown of Southwest didn’t come out of the blue. It was largely due to management’s failure to modernize IT software, crew scheduling systems, and their phone system. A failure to grow their technology as the airline grew. And as we all know, technology changes rapidly. Using a ten year-old system is like writing on papyrus with a quill pen. It may work, but it’s incredibly slow. The systems Southwest was employing were the equivalent of using a 2nd or 3rd generation smartphone instead of the 12th generation. It was a disaster waiting to happen, storm or no storm.
I know lots of you have invested in new technologies over the past decade. New purchasing systems, new financial systems, new electronic medical records, new project management system…..and the list goes on and on. Good for you! Don’t fall into the trap of not doing these things because it will slow you down or cost money or looks like a lot of work. Yes, new systems probably will slow you down for a few weeks or months, but they won’t cause you to come to a screeching halt. The alternative is a meltdown similar to Southwest’s. We all need to invest and grow and learn new technologies and systems, even when it makes us want to cuss and scream and pull out our hair.
Technology is there to help us. Don’t be like Southwest. Ever since the pandemic, they’ve realized the need to rework and update their systems. As their CEO noted, Southwest execs “talked a little over the last year about the need to modernize.” But they didn’t. And that decision led to more than 13,000 cancelled flights, tons of customer frustration, and a likely federal investigation.
I hope that moving forward, this rebel airline will overhaul their outdated systems. But a one-time fix will not be the cure. They’ll need to continue to make investments every year to keep up with the times and their competitors. Just like you.
Which of your technologies and systems need to be revisited? Where are you embarrassed at some of your back-end operations? Are you still using Excel or Access databases when something better is out there? Or some outdated donor software system? How can technology assist you in making some tasks go quicker and with more accuracy? If you don’t know, call Mike (he’s my guy) or find a technology guru who can guide you in software, technology, and advancements that will help your organization.
Well, it’s almost time to turn the calendar to a new year. My family and I have just been to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the lyrics of Dolly Parton’s “Comin’ Home for Christmas” are still rolling in my head.
Snow is gently fallin’ as I make my way toward home I hear sweet memories callin’, I’ve been a long time gone. Nothin’ like the family and friends to celebrate The fun, the food, the music, of this special holiday.
There are so many memories that I can list from 2022. In some ways I’m happy that the year is ending and in other ways, I’m a little sad. I pray that you are able to spend time with family and friends this holiday season. Work will still be waiting for you in 2023. Leave it – and spend time with your loved ones. You won’t regret it.
Thank you all for your incredible hard work this year. You have reached goals and milestones. You have grown in new areas and most of all, you have not stopped. Despite whatever challenges arose, you have stayed the course. That’s a significant accomplishment in itself.
On behalf of ISI Consulting and the Hayes family…Merry Christmas. May your holiday season be filled with happiness and fond memories and maybe a little Dolly Parton sing-along. (‘Cause you know I love me some Dolly!)
“Don’t show up to prove. Show up to improve.” I wish this quote was by yours truly, but it’s by Simon Sinek. You know, the guy who wrote, “Start with Why.” (BTW, if it’s not on your “to read” list, add it now.) And you know what? These nine words are incredibly powerful.
It’s the end of the year and I’m in reflection season. At times, it’s easy to compare yourself to someone else or your organization to someone else’s. You may feel the need to make sure everyone knows about your latest accomplishment or feel your competitive radar go off when a particular person walks in the room. Perhaps you’re not even showing up, because you don’t think you belong at the table. But, you know what? Each of these is exhausting and non-productive. You don’t have to prove anything. But you should want to improve all the time.
None of us are perfect and we all have lots of room for improvement. So, keep showing up. Keep learning. Polish those skills you already have. Develop better habits. Above all, don’t be complacent. Keep improving as you go, my friend. I guarantee you will be happier showing up with the mindset of improving rather than proving anything. Another bonus…you’ll be a better team member and a better leader.
“Don’t show up to prove. Show up to improve.” Take these nine words to heart – they’re pretty deep.
I’ve cried some this week – which is a little not like me. I got emotional reflecting on this year and the growth of ISI Consulting. Thank you all! I started this business, seriously, with just $3,000 and a fire in my belly to help groups get results from their meetings. It was scary. But here we are today, doing just that. Creating meetings that matter. Day after day, week after week. Client after client.
Thank you for being part of the ISI Consulting’s journey! When I look back at all of the photos from retreats, trainings – and yes, even virtual meetings – this year, I smile. It’s a smile of quiet satisfaction and great gratitude. Thank you for taking time to reflect on your organization.Thank you for engaging in difficult conversations.Thank you for setting goals and success metrics (even if you’re not a data person).Thank you for slowing down to spend time training team members.Thank you for all you’ve done!
We just completed our business audit for the year 2022 (based off our strategic plan, of course) and we’ve grown our client base, retained existing clients with evolving needs, are growing in financial sustainability, and expanding our trainer and facilitation team. We didn’t reach all our goals – but we certainly made lots of progress. Remember, it’s about results, relationships, and process!
Did everything go as planned? Heck no! Breast cancer, the international move of a team member, hybrid meetings, Quick Books conversion…and the list goes on. But, you know what? I’m THANKFUL for all of the bumps in the road and those bruises we accumulated along the way. Just like you, we are bouncing along, staying true to our purpose and why, and just moving forward. Always. Just like you.
ISI Consulting wishes you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving. We have truly enjoyed serving you this year, and we’re grateful to call you friends as well as clients.
If you’re like me, the holidays hit waaayyy too quickly after the last Halloween candy is gobbled up. But before you get completely caught up in holiday mode I would love for you to carve out one hour for you and your team to conduct a strategy audit for the year 2022.
Yes, I know…you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for one more thing this time of year!” But don’t you worry. I have the questions for you to ask. It’s simple, and it won’t really take that much time. When you’re done, I guarantee you’ll be both surprised and encouraged by what you and your team have found.
Start by walking your team a through a guided visualization where they think back to January 2022. Then progress though all of the months. Give each team member two minutes of silence to scribble down whatever things come to mind. It can be a team member’s support, a milestone reached, that challenging grant submission, or whatever. Anything goes.
Just like in life, you want to record the TA-DA moments (the positives) and the “not there yet” moments. They all count.
Then, guide your team to complete this worksheet together. It will help you sort out all those things the members scribbled down. You’ll examine three dimensions for the year 2022 – results, process, and relationships. What were some of our results? (Did we meet our goals for the year?) Where did we make some process changes this year? (How did they work out?) What was the quality of our relationships, both internal and external? (Do we need to work on these?)
Get it all out on paper, and then when you finish looking at all three areas…ask two final questions:
What insights are emerging from our conversation today?
What do you see as a next step for YOU in 2023?
That’s it…you’ve just completed a strategy audit that is going to set you up for great success in 2023. I want you to commit to carving out an hour to do this SOON. If you wait until January, you’ll have forgotten some of those critical moments and memories. Collect them when they’re fresh!
ISI Consulting is cheering for you all the way!
Holly Hayes, President & Founder
P.S. This can be used as a personal audit form as well. I recently did one and realized I need to be a little nicer to my husband. Note to self.
I left a message for my mother today on her answering machine. Yes, her old-fashioned answering machine. No text message, no email. My mother has never owned a cell phone and refuses to do so. You will also not find a laptop, desktop, tablet, or noise-canceling headphones at her house. Cable and internet? Nope. None of it.
Now, the life of my 75-year-old mother may not be that practical for you. I understand that. My life, like yours, is filled with a host of electronic wizardry. However, in spite of her apparent disconnect, my mother is active, well-read, and engaged with friends and neighbors. And I believe she can teach us all something about our always-on world. Especially after two years in which the boundaries between work, home, school, our public lives, and our private lives largely dissolved.
Mama gives me the best present every single year. She gives me the gift of her undivided attention. The minute my feet step onto the peach carpet in her living room, she is focused on me. Just me. And that’s an incredible feeling. I have her complete and absolute attention. No distractions. No interruptions. She shares with me her current exercise routine at the YMCA (she left the Silver Sneakers because they were too slow). We discuss the latest book we read together, and then we often work together on a project. Sometimes, there is silence on our car rides to the local thrift store (she doesn’t listen to the radio). I can only describe it as peaceful. Thoughtful. Intentional. It is a rare and precious gift in our hyper-connected world.
Undivided attention means no distractions. I know it’s a challenge, but it can be done. It means we’ll have to ruthlessly eliminate the notifications, the to-do lists, and the right-nows from our day…if only for a few minutes. But our undivided attention is an incredibly precious gift for our co-workers, for our friends, for our families, and for ourselves. It’s a gift well worth the effort.
I’ve done it, and I know you have, too. Do you ever get back from a conference or full-day meeting and are so full of ideas that you want to implement right away in your organization? Like, right NOW! You have pages and pages of notes, photos of slides from your phone, and maybe even some clever tweets? Not to mention a thousand great ideas spinning in your brain. Yeah, me too.
The problem is we have a desire to improve, and we even have lots of great ideas about what to do. Unfortunately, we all too often fail to ever implement any of it. It’s called the “knowing-doing gap.”
In order to improve, at anything, we need to cross this “knowing-doing gap.” But how? One way is to actually create a gap after you consume lots of information or material. STOP. Yes, just stop. Make a commitment to not consume anything else until you create something with what you have already heard or read. But don’t just sit there. Think about what you’ve learned. How can I apply this material to myself or my organization? Is this relevant to where we currently are? Could someone else in my organization use this information or find it helpful? Once you’ve done some thinking, write down your thoughts. And then save what’s pertinent in a folder on your computer that you can access later to use yourself or share with others.
This one simple step can go a long way toward closing the knowing-doing gap and making sure we implement what we’ve learned. Let’s make a commitment to CREATE and DO more than we consume and know.