7 Simple Ways to Triple Your Fundraising Goal This Year

Standard

Slide1
Let me ask you a quick question: do you like to ask for money? I bet you don’t. And that’s no surprise. Raising money is a major challenge not only for you but also for many charities’ boards of directors.

According to BoardSource, fundraising ranks #1 among board areas needing improvement, and has done so for many years.” Unless you are a fundraiser or insurance broker, this is the last thing you want to do in your life.

When asked how they feel about fundraising, board members and nonprofit staff usually respond that they feel anxiety, embarrassment and doubt.

Frankly, what I hear again and again privately is something along these lines: “Why should I beg for money? It’s too embarrassing to ask for money from my friends and colleagues.”

Does this sound familiar to you?

Before I go further, I want to ask you to consider the joy of fundraising. Yes, the joy of fundraising.

I really love this quote by Henry Rosso, a remarkably successful fundraiser: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the world the joy of giving.” 

The joy of giving – think about it. By fundraising, we connect the valuable mission of our nonprofit with people who are able to support it with their resources. In this way, we serve as catalysts of change in the world.

In her article “Four Steps to Take Board Members from Fear of Fundraising to Enthusiasm,” Gail Perry, a successful fundraiser and non-profit consultant, suggests changing one’s perspective from a “tin cup mentality” to a “changing the world” approach. 

She advises non-profits to ask board members, “How do you feel when you write a check to your favorite charity?” Perry shares that in her board retreats she often hears the following answers: “I feel very proud,” “it makes me feel fulfilled,” “what a joyful experience,” “it connected me with my community,” etc.

This is a powerful message. The act of giving actually makes you feel happier, more joyful and fulfilled. 

Now you probably see where I am leading you.

The disconnect between these two important roles, a fundraiser and a happy giver, can be bridged by simply changing the mindset. Fundraising is not begging — fundraising is fulfilling the mission of changing the world through your nonprofit.

Of course, to make it happen for you, you will need to have an effective strategy, and you’ll have to focus on consistent execution of the goals you set for your nonprofit this year.

Let me introduce you to 7 simple ways that will help you to triple your fundraising goal this year.

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System

Every nonprofit fundraiser has various systems and strategies to advance the goals of the nonprofit they serve in.

I personally like the AAA Way to Fundraising Success created by Kay Sprinkel Grace. It helps to find the right fundraising role for each of your board members. It works because when “people feel good about what they are doing, they do it.”

Here are the roles that each board member can choose from:

Ambassador – open doors, build new relationships for your nonprofit

Advocate – makes the case and is passionate about a particular project of the nonprofit.

Asker – someone who’s comfortable soliciting gifts from contacts you already have.

You help your board members select the right role by providing them with a simple questionnaire that they can fill out. Once you establish the roles, board members will surprise you. Because they’ll stay in their “comfort zone,” the fundraising process will be effortless. Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

The fact is that the AAA system helps you by making friends and building relationships. This in turn leads to giving, and long-term giving, at that.

2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers

Whatever system you choose, people are the key to the fundraising success. Without the right people in place, even if you had the perfect Money Ball algorithm, you’d still raise zero. 

What kind of volunteers do you need? Passionate, yes, but also well-connected and respected local volunteers.

These volunteers will lead you to the influencers and community leaders in your town. Just two or three well-connected supporters for your cause are enough to get moving, though more never hurts either.

Let me tell you a story about how it worked for me in the past. When I was given the task of raising a six-digit goal for a nonprofit in Richmond, VA, I didn’t know anyone in that city except for one person I’d met on LinkedIn.

Yet through active LinkedIn and real-time networking, I was fortunate to find three well-connected local volunteers willing to take on our cause. These three volunteers tapped into their networks of the movers and shakers in Richmond, who connected me further to their friends. This included major foundations, prominent philanthropists and high net worth individuals, whose lead gifts paved the way for others to donate as well.

So think of your networks, and those of your supporters. Have you discovered your true reach yet?

3. Hone Your Story

If it worked in ancient Greece, it will work for you today. Despite the digital revolution, human beings crave authentic stories.

So take your time, and write your own Legend or Myth (also called a Case Statement), which should be as inspirational as it information-rich. Oftentimes nonprofits try to put so much information into their case statements that they become unreadable. A mish-mash of stats, financials, and dull text doesn’t make for a powerful read.

As Joseph Barbato and Danielle Furlich noted in Writing For A Good Cause, “case statements are anthems…case statements tell stories, cite achievements, provide endorsements, and carry striking images.”



However, when you are all set to write your first Odyssey, keep in mind what Tom Ahern pointed out in his book How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: “fundraising communications are NOT about getting people to read. Fundraising communications are about getting people to ACT.”

To make your case stand out, suggests Ahern, answer three simple questions: Why us? Why now? Why you? 

Finally, throughout the message don’t be shy about asking for money. After all, isn’t that why you are writing?

4. Find Your Blue Ocean Niches

It still amazes me how many nonprofits don’t use their strategic advantage of having a unique product that makes them stand out from others. Instead, they are all following the same highly competitive funding streams, using the same templates and getting nowhere.

Why not look into a Blue Ocean Strategy? Authored by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, this book outlines a strategy to create uncontested market space. The authors believe that “cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” Instead, based on thorough research of 150 strategic moves, the authors advise readers to consider creating “blue oceans” – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

Does it work only in the for-profit world? It works perfectly for nonprofits as well.

A great example of this is the New York Public Library. Dr. Zunaira Munir, an internationally acclaimed expert and keynote speaker on Blue Ocean Strategy, and the founder and Managing Director of Strategize Blue, demonstrates in a case study how a shrewd strategy pivot helped the Library make its competition irrelevant. 

In short, back in 2002-04, the Library was struggling with deep funding cuts and intensifying competition from super-size bookstores and e-media players.

Instead of diving into a head-to-head battle with its rivals, its new Director of Public Programs Paul Holdengräber followed a blue ocean strategy and launched a totally new market space by creating a series of public program events. This triggered an increased demand, and attendance rose over 400 percent!

Now it’s your turn. Find new “blue oceans” in your fundraising strategy. Experiment with new approaches that have worked in a different industry. Create your own space.

5. Create Predictable Lead Generation

Every successful fundraiser will attest to this simple truth – if you are not prospecting every single day, you are not going to reach your long-term fundraising goals. Thanks to a hint from a friend, I discovered the Cold Calling 2.0 approach laid out in Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross.

I bought it in paperback and my $20+ investment has paid back big time.

Cold Calling 2.0 means “prospecting into cold accounts to generate new business without using any cold calls.”

The secret of Ross’ system lies in smart email campaign messaging. “Rather than sending hundreds of mass emails at a time in big bursts, the idea here is to send a regular smaller number (50-100) of emails per person each day.”

The beauty of the system is that when done correctly, it guarantees you 5 to 10 responses each day! Now that’s real prospecting, isn’t it?

The trick is in the email message itself. Instead of sending a bulk mail with bulk messaging describing every single accomplishment of your organization, you will need to send a very short email that basically asks for advice. This tiny laser focused bits of information do not overwhelm the receiver, but honestly ask for connection with the right decision maker.

When I tried this system in practice, it was simply fantastic! And I used my LinkedIn InMails for this outreach. Thanks to the system, every day I get a response from corporate and individual prospects. And if I can do it, you surely can do it as well.

6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations

Based on the Giving USA 2014 report, giving by foundations increased an estimated 5.7 percent in 2013 (4.2 percent adjusted for inflation). “Giving by foundations has increased for the last three years (adjusted for inflation), generally reflecting increases in assets and the increased confidence of grant makers concerning their financial recovery.”

Yet according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy research, 48% of charity leaders say foundations are oblivious to their needs.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of nonprofits seeking foundation grants, you must understand one simple truth. If you’d like to be considered, you need to spend time on research and active communication with your target foundation. Because if you think that hiring a professional grant writer and shooting dozens of proposals a year to various foundations will work, chances are it will lead you to disappointment. 

The harsh reality is that foundations are flooded with proposals, and even if you have a worthwhile project that is going to eradicate poverty, it may not even get to the right person to be considered.

Here is my advice to get results:

A) Spend money or time on thoroughly researching your target foundation. If you have no extra funding for acquiring access to foundation databases, go to the Foundation Center, and invest some quality time in selecting the right target group.

If your nonprofit is luckier than that, then you may want to think of buying foundation databases. There are plenty of good databases on the market. I personally found FoundationSearch quite useful.

B) Once you’ve done your research, forget about email, and instead, pick up the phone and make some calls. This is the best way to understand the foundation’s focus and needs, and have a productive conversation with someone who will give you the right answers, and on top of this, appreciate your outreach. You will be surprised how many small family foundations do not even have a website! Granted, you may run into some dry wells along the way, but trust me, you will find some oasis lands through this journey.

And as Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, one of the country’s leading fundraising consultants suggests, you need to make at least two more calls to make sure that you have established a strong connection. On your second call after you apply to the grant, “is a good time to ask when decisions will be made and when you might expect to hear. You may also invite the program officer to visit your organization and/or take them on a tour of your program or facility.”

C) Use strategic networking to connect with decision makers. Find out about major conferences or workshops in your area where top foundation officers will be present. Use LinkedIn and foundation websites to learn as much as you can about these foundations and participating staff. Then all you have to do is to prepare your thoughtful questions and have your elevator speech handy. Have you created and practiced your elevator pitch?

7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

While foundation outreach should be an important part of your long-term strategy, one area which is often overlooked and underappreciated is the individual donor. According to Giving USA 2014 report, the single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2013, over 2012, was an increase of $9.69 billion in giving by individuals. This is a powerful signal.

Who is this mighty individual donor?

Well, it could be your next door neighbor, or someone who is the best golf buddy of your Board member. But most probably, it’s the donor who is already on your list of supporters, who has not been approached for a major gift just yet.

According to Blackbaud’s research Best Practices for Fundraising Success, many nonprofit organizations expect to receive 80 percent of their funding from 20 percent of their donors.

Yet recently, “many organizations have seen this ratio shift to 95/5 or even 97/3. This dramatic change is due to a combination of shifting wealth, a weakening economy, and the changing priorities of funders.”

Moreover, in today’s volatile economic conditions, you may face an increasingly likely reality that your donor base has begun to shrink, while many of your usual suspects get overused.

What is the way out?

 What you need to do is smartly diversify your approach. The Spectrem Group study indicated that there were 8.6 million households in the U.S. with a net worth (excluding primary residence)
 of at least $1 million.
Tap into your Board’s network, exhaust all possible options by having a confidential prospecting conversation with your trustees. You’ll turn up a range of prospective donors.

Next, you’ll need to figure out the giving patterns and history for each prospect. Once you’ve done your homework, you will have to decide who will be the best asker. Remember your AAA system? Now is the time for the asker to shine.

Finally, let’s summarize our 7 ways to make it to your big and hefty fundraising goal in 2015:

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System
2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers
3. Hone Your Story
4. Find Your “Blue Ocean” Niches
5. Create Predictable Lead Generation
6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations
7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

Now it’s your turn. What fundraising systems have worked for you? Do you have any other ideas on reaching your fundraising goals? If so, share them with me and my followers in the comment section below.


###

Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

Love Is An Action: 3 Steps to Show Your Love to Your Non-Profit Partners

Standard

before_sunset_movie_image_ethan_hawke_julie_deply_02He looks in her eyes. She smiles. Nothing is outwardly amiss, but her world has suddenly changed. Her heart feels the power of this new connection. 

And then there are words. Simple words of appreciation, admiration and care. This glance and these words create myriad touch points and open up new ways for mutual trust and sharing. 

Can this chemistry work in other relationships? 

How can we use the human capacity to love to build trust with our volunteers, donors or non-profit partners? How can we inspire them to move mountains?

In her now viral NYT article, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, Mandy Catron described the famous experiment created by the psychologist Arthur Aron who successfully applied a simple set of 36 questions and made two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. 



Hard to believe? Well, Catron actually followed his advice and the same thing happened to her.

In the experiment, two strangers who have never met each other are seated face to face and respond to a series of personal questions, ranging from simple to more intimate. (They never cross the line, though.) 

Just questions. 

According to Dr. Aron’s research, these questions trigger “self-expansion” and allow access into our securely guarded world.

Is this all, you wonder? 

Well, there’s one more trick that seals the connection: eye contact. After answering these questions, the couple needs to stare silently into each other’s eyes. 



How long?

Just four minutes. That’s right, just four minutes. In this invisible emotional exchange, we drop our usual masks and become vulnerable.

For Cotren, the experiment helped her realize that “love is an action.” As she notes from her own falling-in-love experience, “it’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.”



And why don’t we? Why don’t we ask more thoughtful questions of each other? Why don’t we show appreciation or express our gratitude for what others give us so generously?

The point is that Dr. Aron’s principles may also be applied in our daily interactions with our customers, volunteers, and donors. Imagine how much more meaningful your conversations with your partners will be.

To create strong and lasting connections with our counterparts, we just need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Listen to understand, and not to hear what you want to hear. Every word has deep meaning. Find the key to your listener’s heart in silence.

  2. Appreciate your counterpart as a unique human being who brings special meaning to the world around us and to your life.

  3. Be grateful for this opportunity to discover new qualities and talents in this person. Your life is enriched by this connection.

The next time you meet with your non-profit partner, think about the ways that you could compliment his or her work. Remember, no one is obliged to do anything for your organization. Your desire to better understand your counterparts will pay back richly, but only if you listen to understand.

Appreciate your donors not only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Why not call them on Valentine’s Day and tell them how much their love for your organization matters? On any day, surprise them with an unexpected call, stop by and visit them if you are in the neighborhood. Show your appreciation for them. That will go a long way.

Casually meet with your volunteers. Ask about their challenges, and listen. What is happening in their busy lives? How can YOU help them? Be gracious by giving yourself to them. Now that makes for a powerful bond.

And what about that eye-to-eye contact, you ask?

 My advice is to keep it slightly less than 4 minutes. Why?

Well, you never know what might happen next…


###

Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

Jumping into the Unknown: Risky Business

Standard

Fine-Tune Your Way To LinkedIn Success In Less Than 20 Minutes a Day

Standard

Slide1
I spent just one hour on LinkedIn today actively searching for new prospects through LinkedIn Advanced Search. Once I selected my target group of contacts, I sent short and targeted InMail messages to decision makers in these companies. And voilà, by the end of the day I’ve got three solid leads for our new geoscience project, and some great engagement with my new contacts.

Simple? Yes. Doable? Yes. Yet so many business and non-profit professionals are missing these opportunities that LinkedIn provides every single day.

As I mentioned in my last article, one targeted InMail to a decision maker is worth thousand cold calls. Plus if you share great content with your followers and follow up on your leads, then you have created a powerful and effective business development, marketing and sales machine.

Yet I hear again and again from people all over the map – “I can’t afford one hour on LinkedIn, I just can’t! I have so much to do.”

Well, if you are serious about your business development or fundraising, you must be on LinkedIn. And if time is your main concern, here is a great tip for you.

Salesforce Canada just published a perfect recipe for LinkedIn success in its Minimalist’s Guide to Sales Prospecting on LinkedIn. All you have to do is invest less than 20 minutes a day on your LinkedIn activities.  Just follow 10 simple steps provided in the infographic below.  I know it works. Now it’s your turn.

P.S. Don’t forget to share this infographic with your followers and business contacts – they’ll surely appreciate it.

Click To Enlarge

How to Increase Productivity

Via Salesforce

My Little LinkedIn Miracles and How You Can Create Your Own in 2015

Standard

Slide1

This year I learned a simple truth – LinkedIn can change your professional life. It did change mine. Its little miracles created unbelievable opportunities beyond my immediate online universe in 2014: from working through with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to meeting influential social entrepreneurs and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy non-profit causes – LinkedIn did it all. In my last article for this year, I selected some of the most powerful stories that happened to me because of LinkedIn. With tips on how you can replicate them, I hope that these stories will inspire you to use this platform more broadly in 2015.

Take LinkedIn offline, meet people and live life!

1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference

This is my 21st post in 2014. I started publishing on LinkedIn on May 28 with an article on connecting my passion for cooking with the creative process. Surprise, surprise, my article did not receive much traction (after all, who’d want to learn how to cook fish soup?!)

This experience taught me that I need to focus on my audience’s interests more directly. I interviewed prominent bloggers and experts on how to create great blogs, and in about a month I came up with the article: Writing the Blog Article of Your LifeIt was published in June and it got over 9,000 hits. The secret of its success was simple – people were interested in learning how to write a great blog post, and it also had a personal focus on Max Skibinsky, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Another article, which went above and beyond was related to a bright and talented startuper and entrepreneur, Igor Shoifot. His enthusiastic advice to startupers in myIgnore Skeptics: 4 Tips on How to Make Your First Startup a Million Dollar Success went even higher than Skibinsky’s interview to over 10,000 views! I loved Igor’s line – “ignore skeptics but listen to experts.”

Why did these articles work so well?

These were short interviews, perfect for busy LinkedIn people, had catchy headlines, and useful content. What if you don’t interview someone famous? It doesn’t have to be Oprah or Alex Ovechkin. A local or regional celebrity would be perfect, as long as you have enough connections to spread it around.

If it’s not an interview, a personal touchpoint in the introduction is powerful. For example, my most viewed article The Power of Asking (12,000+ views) started with a homeless man whom I saw standing on the road intersection in Richmond. The article connected my passion for learning with passion for fundraising. I completed it just in a few hours. (And yes, you can call this being in “the Flow.”)

2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content

For my LinkedIn status updates, this year wasn’t any different. In terms of the number of views and comments, quotes beat anything. Even your best content. Why? Because people want to be cheered up – there is so much chaos in the world, there is so much pain in everyday life, that people want to feel encouraged. Help them by sharing some great quotes. You can even come up with your own!

When I do my LinkedIn status updates, I always start and end my day with a good motivational quote. The next comes some relevant article links. Again, my favorites remain Inc., Forbes, Fast Company and HBR.

Advice: Share, share, and share – you can’t overshare helpful content. People will appreciate it. Be a good curator.

3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers

I can’t emphasize it enough – to get your project supported, raise funds for your non-profit, sell your product or service, or find a reliable business partner, you must reach out to decision makers. Shoot for the top, even if you need to write a letter to the Dalai Lama, President Obama or Bill Gates.

I’ve always admired Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and the author of Delivering Happiness, a bestselling book. He is a visionary, creative leader and plain down-to-earth man.

So what do you do when you want to meet this kind of person who might have no time for someone outside of his business circle? Of course, unless you know someone who works for Zappos, you hit LinkedIn.

In my case, it was helpful that I worked at a great non-profit with a similar mission, and that we also were considering a project in Las Vegas.

I sat down at my computer, and got to InMail and penned a short message to Tony, just three short paragraphs (intro, why we need to meet and how this will help both sides).

Tony connected me with his Las Vegas staff and arranged for a tour of Zappos, and a meeting with his team, which resulted in a joint community engagement project.

Apart from that, Tony also helped with my article on connecting the dots. It’s amazing what InMail and your attitude can do. You should have that can-do attitude!

Again, Tony is just one example. I was able to meet so many remarkable people through LinkedIn this year – from CEOs of large corporations to famous speakers, philanthropists and visionaries.

Advice: To maximize your InMail outreach capacity, make sure that you aim for the top.

4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!

You say you don’t have time to meet up with your friends in your own city. Well, my story is slightly different – wherever I travel, I try to connect with people from my LinkedIn network. People do the same when they’re in my town too.

I just had a coffee with my LinkedIn contact from Tasmania! Yes, that’s right – that exotic island none of us will probably visit in our lifetime! I met Susanne a couple of years ago via LinkedIn when I really needed a top animation expert for our U.S.-Japan educational project. Susanne and her business partner lead Small Island Studio, a creative digital marketing agency that uses images and words to bring business stories to life. The agency employs top artists, script writers and software engineers and pulls together some remarkable animations for an ever-growing list of international clients.

Opportunity comes to those who seek: it turns out that Susanne is from the DC area and comes to visit her family once a year. And since I was in the city, I couldn’t miss this chance to meet someone who did such a marvelous job and also comes from such a remote distance!

Advice: Make sure that you meet at least one LinkedIn contact each month offline. It will be magical, I promise. You’ll find so much to talk about, share your perspective and cement your connection.

5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special

When I faced an enormous professional challenge to raise a significant amount in a short timeframe in Richmond, a city where I had never been before and had no prior connections except for one LinkedIn contact (!), I knew I needed time to get to know local people, appreciate the city, and volunteer for some good causes.

Well, thanks to my only LinkedIn contact in Richmond, I met with an incredible couple who decided to transform the world one community at a time. Richard Luck and Sarah Mullens created a social venture, UnBoundRVA, a non-profit that helps talented individuals from low-income families in Richmond become entrepreneurs.

When I met the UnBoundRVA group, I immediately wanted to help them because they were so inspirational. I asked Richard and Sarah if I could interview them all and write a LinkedIn article, and if it would help? Indeed it did. The article was widely shared through Facebook and other social media and helped build grassroots awareness for this worthy cause.

During my interaction with John, Carolyn, Miles and other UnBoundRVA entrepreneurs, I was reminded that nothing can beat the power of the human spirit. LinkedIn helped me meet these incredible people, and I am so thankful for that.

Advice: Don’t be selfish, use your LinkedIn network to help someone in need.

6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

The sad reality is that a good percentage of LinkedIn users are passive in whatever groups they choose to join. It really makes me wonder – why would you want to waste your LinkedIn real estate (you are limited to 50 groups) to keep your lonely avatar in those groups?

If you are a group member, take part in discussions at least once a week, actively “like” your peer content, make sure that you share your articles and links to great resources with group members. It does create a compound effect. In just a few months with the right strategy you will be seen as an expert in your field, and also a good connector. And believe me, both skills add to your social capital.

For example, I thoroughly enjoy one of my groups – LinkedIn Publishers and Bloggers. In particular, its founder John White and managers, Elizabeth Jeanne Dehn, and Dr. Alex Iniguez have done a tremendous job in creating a truly engaging group, in which people help each other with writing tips and strategies for using the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. Active bloggers who provide constructive feedback on your articles serve as a great sounding board. Kudos to Arnie McKinnis and Milos Djukic, and many others! The good news – you can benefit from this group as well! Join the group, and you’ll see results very soon.

My latest success story with the group happened through John White, who recently joined CareerToolBox, an online career development portal, and invited me to feature my blog articles as a guest writer. I shared my article on how you can use your visual thinking skills to get a job on the spot, and it was a great hit. Lovely, isn’t it? You can be successful with your group when you truly engage, connect and share. Try it today. It works.

Here is My LinkedIn 2014 Summary for You:

  1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference
  2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content
  3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers
  4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!
  5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special
  6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

Happy New Year 2015! Let it be a Happy LinkedIn Year For You!

Commit, Strategize and Execute

Standard

strategy-chess

Imagine that you want to implement a really great idea that nobody wants to believe. Plus this is your only chance to prove yourself. What do you do?

How do you launch it into the world of skeptics and pragmatists in your organization? 

To successfully accomplish your feat, you will need to master just three consecutive steps:

1. Commit to deliver

2. Refine Your Strategy

3. Own Your Execution Process 

That’s all.

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Winston Churchill

Make it Happen for Yourself First

First of all, you will need to prepare yourself to be resilient. No one is going to love you for your ideas. Nobody will sing your praises. No one even has time for that stuff. As Igor Shoifot, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of dozens of startups says, to become successful, you need to find a balance between ignoring skeptics and listening to experts.

So scribble down these words right in your heart – I will not give in. I will never give up. I will make it happen. In other words, you need to make yourself ready first. Fully committed to move mountains. Nothing is going to stop you. The ultimate truth is, and you know it well, if you are not convinced, no one will even listen to you.

Ready?

The next thing you do is…go to Staples. Why in the world, you say? To buy your flip chart. You are going to do some doodling and scheming. Because you will need to distill your best strategy to the core before you can move those mountains of challenges. How do you make your idea happen?

Take a good look at your chart, and give yourself 15-20 minutes to do nothing but think. Yes, we need to apply this beautiful skill, which makes us Homo Sapiens. After this thinking process, pour all that you have in a perfect stream of conscience on that board. Spend some time making connections between your ideas, thinking about your product’s unique selling proposition, competitors, and “blue oceans.” Have the materials and research about your focused market available.

In my experience, the best strategy comes into place when you follow your strategic intuition. Professor William Duggan, the author of the bestselling book Strategic Intuition, defines strategic intuition as a wide combination of factors, including deep knowledge of the subject matter, understanding of the historical context, and the ability to place disparate facts together and assemble them into a whole.
 Strategic intuition solves a mystery through masterfully connecting unrelated pieces of information into one single answer.
 You may refer to my earlier article on mastering your strategy and connecting the dots to practice your strategy finding skills.

Of course, there have been numerous debates on why someone needs to spend so much time on a strategy. True, you may never have a perfect plan, but having no plans won’t buy you happiness. Can you afford to have a mediocre strategy and perfect execution?

Not according to Ken Favaro, a bestselling author and Senior Partner at Strategy &, who states in his article, “Yes, having a good strategy alone isn’t enough to win, but your ability to execute well depends on how good your strategy is and how well it’s understood by everyone who makes major decisions for your business.” 

Here Comes the Action

“Seventy percent of strategic failures are due to poor execution… it’s rarely for lack of smarts or vision.”
Ram Charan,
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Execution is when you roll up your sleeves and clench your teeth. It’s when you shout “Action!” and go ahead to make history. Like Bruce Lee ready to pounce, David squinting his eyes to shoot Goliath. And yet your challenge is not the big guy in armor, your challenges are your time and uncertainty.

Just how exactly can you make your strategy shine through perfect execution?

As you know, there are plenty of guides to help with this process, however the book which stood out for me recently was Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling’s The 4 Disciplines of Execution.

The authors’ advice helped business leaders like Marriott and The Ritz Carlton, among dozens and dozens of others to reach some incredible results through increased importance of execution throughout the organization.

Let’s look at these four disciplines more closely.

Focus on the Wildly Important – Focus on the one big target, which the authors call WIG, a wildly important goal, and make sure that you dedicate all your energy to achieving this goal. 

Act on the Lead Measures – Regardless of your strategic course, McChesney, Covey and Huling identified just two kinds of measures: lag and lead. While lags are “the tracking measurements of the WIG” and they are extremely important for success, your lead measures are “the measures of the most high-impact things your team must do to reach the goal.”

Keep a Compelling Scoreboard – When I recently visited our Acura dealership in Alexandria, VA, I was impressed with large transparent boards on which sales teams were tracking the paths of their prospects through the robust sales funnel. The teams were highly engaged and excited to track their results on the score board. Help your employees get excited by keeping the score. McChesney, Covey and Huling advise that an internal friendly competition is better than dozens of bland staff meetings.

Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability – Accountability is the super key here. How many times have you witnessed your excellent ideas fading away just because there were no team members accountable to them? The authors argue that each member of your team ‘owns’ their part of the WIG, or in the case that you are working alone, it you who are accountable to make it happen. In this case, at every team or staff meeting you have, you will know exactly where your process is, thus making sure that you are on target.

As McChesney, Covey and Huling believe, “executing on strategies that require a change in human behavior is a leader’s greatest challenge.” With the 4 disciplines, your execution becomes much more focused and successful. Whether you try this system, follow the infamous Checklist Manifesto, or other models, you need to deliver.

Now that you’ve made your internal commitment to deliver, refined your strategy and have your effective execution model ready, it’s time to make it happen.

Touch The Sky: Share The Gift of Being Present This Thanksgiving

Standard

Imagine complete tranquility. I watch how the silky sun rays are spreading out over our little forest, touching the lake and floating over the grass. Like curious kittens, they’re playfully crawling closer and closer.

One of them touches me. I smile as it tickles me with the tip of its little tail. It’s like the sun is sending me a personal gift of warmth.

I am silent. I am present.

I feel alive.

The air is transparent. I begin to notice curves of tree branches, sharp fall colors of the leaves. A blue jay suddenly looks me directly in the eye, then turns and flies off.

I stand on my toes and stretch my arms as high as I can.

I touch the sky.

Have you ever tried to just be with yourself, if only for a brief moment? Leaving work, personal challenges and digital distractions aside?

How many times do you enjoy the beauty of the morning? How many of us have the strength to pull ourselves out of the abyss of the handheld universe?

Just being in the moment helps us re-connect with our core. Human beings need that connection with nature. It energizes us, it gives us strength. Once in a while, we need to breathe in this air of self-reflection. It opens up new worlds. It makes us hear our real thoughts. It makes us alive. And when we are alive, everyone will feel our presence better.

As Leo Babauta, a bestselling author of The Power of Less, and a popular blog,Zenhabits, shares: “If you are completely present, the external forces are no longer a problem, because there is only you and that external force, in this moment, and not a million other things you need to worry about.”

Need more proof?

If you are a data-driven person, look at the results of The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being, by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan. The authors conducted numerous lab tests and clinical studies, and concluded that “being in the present” or being mindful brings humans enhanced self-awareness. Even more, the authors point out that this presence can actually help heal you. A clinical intervention study with cancer patients provided sufficient evidence that “increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress.”

Granted, it’s not easy to do. But it’s necessary to survive the informational tsunami. So how do you learn this vital skill?

Babauta suggests that you need to practice being present. “Here’s how to do it: whatever you’re doing, right now, learn to focus completely on doing that one thing. Pay attention: to every aspect of what you’re doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts.”

Practice being present as soon and as much as you can. And there is nothing better than doing it in nature. Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best in his workNature:

“But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches…One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime.”

Look at the stars. Share the treasures of your soul with someone you care about. Surprise them with something special.

And then, perhaps, you’d feel something similar to what I felt that day:

This morning
When I touched the sky,
It poured the joy
Of glowing sun rays
All over me:

They flew like snowflakes,
Each graceful,
Falling hand in hand,
Until they gave their light away,
To me.

I felt alive,
I craved to see
A glimpse of silence
Within me.

And every moment,
Every drop of time,
Between each heartbeat –
I just felt alive.

A bird,
A cloud in the sky,
A touch of wind,
A butterfly…

This morning
When I touched the sky,
I found my core,
I felt alive.

* * *
And now it’s your turn. Thanksgiving is the best time to fully appreciate this sense of being present. Be present for your family or someone you care about. Cherish these moments of love. They are precious. These moments will never return, but will stay in your memory forever.

So touch your sky. See your star. Write your poem. Sing your song. Share your dream.

Always be present for someone who needs you.

Because you will never regret this feeling.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: