8 Habits For Success

How many of these are part of your regular routine?

  1. Read every day: Keep yourself up-to-date on both your area of expertise as well as popular culture.
  2. Focus on high-level tasks: Keep the "big picture" top of mind.
  3. Make your health a priority: Do something every day to be your best self, physically and emotionally.
  4. Learn from people you admire: Someone in your field, a community leader, your father- anyone who has helped you become who you are.
  5. Plan your day the night before: get organized! Know what you're facing and have your strategy ready.
  6. Keep your goals in front of you: Literally. Write them down and keep them where you can see them.
  7. Take action, even when it's scary: Jump into that deep end and start swimming!
  8. Have a powerful and inspiring "why": Be able to tell your story to create action and change in others.


I have a #9 to add: Have fun! It doesn't seem as difficult or as much like work if you're having fun.


The 5 Types of Leadership Transitions

My last blog about succession planning got a great response, and I'm following it up with more on leadership transitions. During the organizational lifecycle, there are 5 types of leadership transition times- when it's more likely or inevitable that change will be discussed or occur.

In young, emerging organizations that are initially volunteer-run, the first major leadership transition is the first hire.  Often it's the Board who has been running things, and they inevitably get to the point where they don't have the time or expertise to move the organization forward. The challenges are then to clarify the leadership position, manage expectations, and recruit the right person.

Once an organization is more well-established, there are other types of transitions in leadership. When a CEO or ED decides to leave a well-performing organization, the challenge is to decide whether the incoming person should be replaced with a leader who is the same or different than the outgoing. A leader who helps an organization grow from infancy is not necessarily someone who has the skills (or desire) to manage a sustainable one.

For organizations that are not performing well, the transition may be at the request of the Board. Often, changing leadership when an organization is underperforming is not the best solution- it may only serve to postpone a hard look at the underlying issues that are causing the problem.

When an organization is in more dire circumstances and is in need of a turnaround, the transition may be to an interim leader who is experienced in managing a crisis and creating stability. An interim leader can help assess how to "stop the bleeding" and identify the right kind of person to become the next permanent leader.

Finally, "founder's syndrome" is not a myth! There are times when CEOs overstay their welcome and become more of a liability than an asset to their organizations. When they finally do leave, not only is it necessary to replace a long-tenured leader, but the culture of the organization is often in need of deep change as well. Even in successful organizations, replacing a leader who has had great impact can be very difficult, and may require the Board to work hard to identify the new direction for the organization.

Regardless of the age or stage of an organization, the Board's responsibility is to assess and address the specific needs of the situation, and to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

If you need advice or help with leadership transitions or other organizational issues, please be in touch!

Control Freaks

I came across this list of things you have control over that can have tremendous effect on your effectiveness out there in the real world:

  1.  Be on time
  2.  Be aware of your body language
  3.  Be prepared
  4.  Be passionate
  5.  Be coachable
  6.  Be energetic
  7.  Have a good attitude
  8.  Have a good work ethic
  9.  Make an effort
  10.  Do more than asked


Take control of your life- Good luck!


Creating a Circle of Safety

Joan Garry wrote a great blog a few weeks ago, "The Top 10 Books Every Nonprofit Leader Should Read." I was pleased to see that I'd read several of them, and I added a few to my to-read list.  One of the books, Simon Sinek's newest, Leaders Eat Last, will likely be on Joan's next Top 10 list. Sinek writes that true leaders create an organization that makes all of its members feel safe, so that they work together with trust and cooperation and are better able to face external threats and seize the opportunities before them. This "circle of safety" enables people to achieve together things that none of them could achieve alone. It also allows people to feel inspired and fulfilled by their work, rather than threatened or useless. Sinek says that organizations built around this conceptual framework are more stable and perform better across the board.

One of the more important points for me was that the circle only works if it is all-inclusive. That is, leaders don't just protect their managers and leave other people out. It's about protecting everyone, creating the environment that fosters trust and cooperation. And that, my friends, leads to organizations accomplishing great things-  together.

For more, watch Sinek's TED talk. And get in touch with me at


Generosity Transformed

Early on in my career, when I described what I did in my various jobs, people would often say, “Oh, so you’re a fundraiser.”  I would vehemently deny this (not that there’s anything wrong with fundraising!) because it just wasn’t the way I saw myself.  I didn’t actually ASK people for money- oh, no- but it was my responsibility to plan and execute a program, and it was necessary to have the funding for the program as well….so I went out and “found” the money.  How did I do this without asking? The answer is: I created relationships.  I went out and met with people.  I schmoozed.  I drank a lot of coffee.  I spent time getting to know them and together we figured out how they could best participate in supporting the organizations and programs I was working with.  Many of these relationships have lasted 20 years or more, and have traveled with me through my career, sustaining me and my work.

In their new book, The Generosity Network, Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey Walker showcase this perspective in transformational fundraising.  By operating with the assumption that people want to make a difference, you can tap into their lives, listen to their stories, and channel them towards the worthwhile causes that they want to support, by creating connections.

What’s the best way to facilitate these kinds of connections?  How can you open up the process and allow the generosity inherent in people to flow?  A few suggestions from McCrea and Walker:

  • Ask the right questions: Get into a deeper, more meaningful conversation by asking questions that enable the other person to tell you about who they are, how they think, and what their values are.  Ask a lot of “why” questions to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Leave your ego behind: The conversation should not be about you and your organization.  And if you are meeting with a BIG NAME or celebrity, know that you can hold your own with them and that your story is as important as theirs in developing a relationship.
  • Be awake and aware:  I hesitate to use the term “mindfulness” but that is indeed what McCrea and Walker use in the book.  What this means is be open to all of the possibilities and new experiences that meeting new people presents to you.  Don’t have any preconceived notions or set yourself up for failure (or success).  Just let it happen and allow the relationship to take hold and grow.

This can have far-reaching effects on your organization, helping you to access the right board members, reach your target audience and, yes, improve your bottom line.

Good luck on your journey!