Who I Am

I see now that “healer” is the organizing factor in my life adventure. This makes me smile. It’s been a challenge to try to make sense out of a resume that includes a wide variety of work and doesn’t begin to describe who I am.

I see now that all the work I’ve done is around healing. It’s been about empowering people to do great work. And to find joy in it. It’s been about restructuring organizations to do great work. And to profit from it.This is healing.

What’s shifting for me is that I am no longer focused on seeing the trouble. Or the trouble beneath the trouble. My seeing is aimed at healing the trouble. And I’m using all the tricks in the book to teach organizations and people to be whole.

I’m excited about work again. For awhile I was overwhelmed by the trouble. Now I see a way to bring my full self in service to creating a better world.

Service

For me, service is core. One 85-year-old volunteer I worked with said it this way: When you’ve been around as long as I have, you finally figure out the only thing that has any meaning is service.

I don’t think service means doing. For me, it’s about being.

That means being in fit spiritual condition and showing up open to whatever unfolds. It means shining my light for whoever appears in the next situation. It begins with making eye contact and smiling consciously as I walk down the grocery store aisle or in a business group.

I often find what happens next is that eye contact and a smile are returned to me. And that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t end there.

People I’ve never met ask me how I’m doing. They break the ice – which is great for me because I’m up for meaningful conversation. It’s amazing how fast and deep these conversation can go when we’re both present.

When we part, we are both changed. There’s a glow or a buzz. That’s the feeling I want to spread. That’s my service.

Focus on Volunteers

In today’s nonprofit world, volunteers are the wildcard. In a fully-functioning volunteer program – volunteers are easily the most powerful cards in the organization’s deck because they are absolutely flexible – volunteers can be recruited and trained to perform any task.

Volunteering can remove money from the social contract. Let’s put that in very simple terms: if volunteers and organizations trade an experience in which the volunteer receives an opportunity to make a difference, the opportunity to make a friend, and the opportunity to have fun, then the organization can ask the volunteer to contribute work.

That’s it. No money in the exchange. Yet the volunteer receives an experience quite precious and the organization receives much-needed work.

Volunteers don’t get these kinds of opportunities generally – may find it difficult to locate them anywhere. Organizations do not have money to hire work out – must get work done in order to serve clients. For volunteers and organizations, this is a GREAT DEAL!

…especially in this day when people feel separated and struggle to find meaning.

…especially in this day when organizations struggle to survive as their missions and client bases expand.

Organizations, please devote your energy, your heart, and your soul to your volunteers. Volunteers, do great work. Many years ago I attended the national volunteer conference along with leaders of volunteers across the country. There I came to believe that volunteers not only provide hope for solving our human problems – volunteers are the ONLY HOPE.

A great volunteer program holds the space for volunteers to step into their greatness through service to your organization.

I believe that in each volunteer experience, volunteers should feel that they have made a difference, made a friend, and had fun. I have found that when we hold ourselves to this standard, volunteers leave each experience asking to be called when the next opportunity to serve presents itself.

In this environment, access to volunteers and their skills blossoms. Their joy infects your entire organization. That’s a solid foundation you can sustain.

Basic Building Blocks of Business

Are you treating symptoms?  Or addressing root causes?  After years of looking deeper and deeper into business problems in an attempt to get leverage on root causes, I’ve come to believe these four building blocks form the basis for business – at least it’s one way of looking at it – one that provides access for change.

When you’ve reached the point when you say “There has to be a better way,” look here for answers.

Conversation

Every idea begins as an internal conversation and moves outward toward manifestation through the medium of conversation.  Most of our working day is spent in conversation, translating desires into words we communicate, clarify, challenge, develop, choose, commit to, and act upon.

Most conversation just happens.  Principles, rules, and rituals of conversation clearly exist but seldom surface as subjects for design or improvement.  Business learns little from the social sciences about conversation, and applies even less.

Have you listened to the conversations going on around you?  Are they working?

Exchange

It may seem a little silly to say that business is about exchange.  After all, we pay a lot of attention to the dollars coming in and the goods and services going out.  Or do we?

Most of our interactions with people and organizations involve exchanges, and most are never documented or fully discussed.  Even though we learn early in life never to give anything away unless we’re getting something in return, we’re often surprised to discover what we’re really giving and receiving.

What trades are you involved in today?  Are you happy with the way your trades are going?

Deciding

The study of how decisions get made is called Political Science.  We’re well aware that politics in the office and at home affect our ability to achieve desired results.

Deciding involves getting all options on the table and understanding the consequences of each option.  That’s a tall order for most decisions and decision-makers.

How are decisions made in your business?  Are you happy with your results?

Prediction

Every decision you make is based on your prediction of what’s going to happen in the future.  You might say that your business day is made or lost based on how well you guessed about what came across your path.

We like to pretend we make predictions based on data, although we’ve all read that past results do not guarantee future ones.  Besides, we try not to look too closely at the data, because it just isn’t that good at helping us predict.  We tend to go with our gut.

How do you make decisions?  What kind of data do you trust?  What is your gut saying about your predictions?

Leverage for change

Conversations to Improve Business Results

Every idea begins as an internal conversation and moves outward toward manifestation through the medium of conversation.  Most of our working day is spent in conversation, translating desires into words we communicate, clarify, challenge, develop, choose, commit to, and act upon.

Most conversation just happens.  Are you listening to the conversations going on around you?  Are they working?

Knowing how to effectively address the way you manage these five conversations can provide immediate leverage to improve business results.

Choosing Joy at Work

Happy workers produce more.  Joy doesn’t take a lot of time or cost much money.  Such a deal!

Choosing Joy at Work changes the way we think about work.  Unfortunately, early in life we learn to associate work with pain, suffering, and a loss of power. It’s time for a change. Based on the book Choosing Joy at Work, we help you guide workers in any box on the org chart to take their next step towards freedom and joy by exercising their personal power on Monday.

Conversation Marketing that WORKS

Marketing is a giant ongoing conversation with your customers, with concrete steps to be managed and tools you probably use.

Customers are hungry for meaningful conversation and struggle to find the information they need to make informed decisions.  Although most businesses struggle with marketing, business leaders speak passionately about their work.  These facts provide the key to a huge marketing opportunity.

Every conversation begins with an interruption.  Learn how to interrupt in ways consistent with your product or service, and your personality.  From there, we’ll guide you to provide value quickly, ask for permission, and maintain, grow, and repair the conversation.

Employee Appraisals that WORK

Learn ways to foster ongoing conversations about work that lead to improved organizational performance.

Studies repeatedly demonstrate employee appraisals are ineffective and cause undesirable results.  Why do we do keep doing them?  What assumptions about people and work underlie employee appraisals?  What is the real goal of employee appraisals?  How do we accomplish that?

We’ll guide you to use simple tools to manage employee improvement, coaching and guidance, feedback and communication, the compensation conversation, staffing decisions and professional development, and termination and legal issues.

In the process, you’ll help your people understand and access the knowledge and information that influences decisions about their pay, promotion, status, and future.  Your employees will act as healthy adults, responsible for their own morale, performance, and development, with and without support from the organization.

Customer Surveys that WORK

Set up employees to own the conversation with customers, discover their real expectations, monitor results, and recover from breakdowns.

“I’m not calling our customers!  I wouldn’t know what to say.  What if there are problems with our service?!”

When it comes to customer surveys, too often business leaders hide behind a lack of formal knowledge about statistics.  Worse yet, we’re afraid of what we’ll find – and overwhelmed by the thought of following up on what we uncover.  We’ll guide you unravel these fears and take positive steps toward improving your relationships with your customers and your employees.

We’ll help you adapt simple models and tools to involve employees in initiating and managing conversations with customers, including ways to identify critical customer expectations, measure how you’re doing in these areas, and generate and manage specific follow-up actions.

Process Documentation that WORKS

Simple ways for employees to document and own business processes that improves work results, fosters better communication, and increases the value of your business.

Seeing work as a series of processes lets us use powerful tools to help in these areas:

  • Standardize work so it gets done the same way every time
  • Make work predictable so we can make commitments to our customers
  • Measure how well work is being done
  • Test ideas about ways to do work better
  • Train and retrain workers
  • Keep work from falling in the cracks

Once we’re in action to improve our business, these tools help us understand what’s working and what’s not working, and what to do next.

For this reason, the opening move in the process game is process documentation.  Using simple models for process documentation, we’ll help you involve your team in setting up continuous improvement.

Waste, waste, waste.

Quality guru W. Edwards Deming said 40% of most companies is waste.

You obtain full value from the investment you’re already making in your business by reducing waste on four levels:

Level One

  • Stop Stupid Spending – unnecessary and foolish purchases
  • Show Me the Money – collection prevention – working upstream to address issues that lead inevitably to unnecessary receivables

Level Two

  • Process documentation and improvement – efficient, effective work processes require regular monitoring and maintenance – at least

Level Three

  • Reduce employee turnover – average cost to replace a laborer: $3000+  –- average cost for middle managers: 2-4x annual salary – do the math
  • Reduce customer churn – calculate cost of a lost customer x number lost per period – frightening

Level Four

  • Maximize return on employee investment – employees probably represent your biggest investment – what if 40% of that investment is waste?

Our consulting

  • Focuses on key business processes to provide immediate leverage for improvement.
  • Seeks out low-hanging fruit where waste usually accumulates.
  • Involves workers and leaders in owning work.
  • Incorporates research in a way that’s simple and immediately applicable.
  • Targets improvements that ripple through the entire company, multiplying and aligning effects.

Volunteer Programs – a short course

Your first target is sustainability. Otherwise, you’re on a never-ending uphill climb.

A sustainable system cares for and feeds itself, and lives within its means. For our purposes, sustainability applies both to your organization and your volunteer program.

Your volunteer program cares for and feeds itself primarily by being a healthy system in and of itself. Although it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it does the work of recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers itself.

And your volunteer program lives within its means. That is, whatever resources it needs, it generates.

What is capacity? A volunteer program with sufficient capacity has the ability to access  resources for the task at hand.

That sets the stage. Now lets talk about the big three: recruit, train, and retain.

 

Recruiting Volunteers

If you’re fishing in the puddle outside our back door, you may not be happy with the catch no matter how hard you work at it. On the other hand, it may not be appropriate to launch a national search for the right volunteer. Find the sweet spot in between.

This means you have to believe your organization deserves top-flight volunteers and you have to be ready, willing, and able to treat them that way. You have to have faith that the perfect volunteer is out there looking for your opportunity. And you have to be clear about that opportunity.

Then you can apply proven methods pioneered in the Human Resources field to find and reel in that recruit.

Training Volunteers

Training begins with recruiting – they’re not separate activities. The way you recruit has everything to do not only with catching your target, but with the training you’ll need to do.

Volunteers love great training. Please do not leave training to an emailed PowerPoint presentation. Your organization’s every word and action shows up to a new recruit as training. You may be inspiring your recruit about the work and your organization, but the person staffing the front desk is sending an entirely different message.

And by the way, training doesn’t end when someone signs off on the training sheet. Training never ends.

Retaining Volunteers

Besides recruiting great volunteers and setting them up to succeed, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure your volunteers grow along with your organization.

When it comes to recognition, some volunteers shine up to hats and pins, other prefer to celebrate. Mostly, volunteers appreciate appreciation.

The keys to volunteer retention are love, honor, and respect.

In our universe, there are a few resources which are not subject to the law of decay. One of these is love. Love given multiplies.

Love is an energy that fuels your organization’s mission. When love is added to work, no task seems beyond accomplishing. When love is present in work, volunteers come early and stay late. Love is the ultimate gift you bestow on your volunteers, and the gift you would like your volunteers to bestow on your clients.

To honor is to acknowledge – to notice and to express gratitude. You may not be used to acknowledging others, and you may find yourself uncomfortable receiving acknowledgments from others. Start practicing today.

The most effective form of volunteer retention is thanks. And it’s free.

Respect begins with listening. When you listen deeply you connect and learn. This enables you to inspire and lead.

Respect is earned, and as a volunteer leader, you must create opportunities for it to be earned.

Making Employment Agreements Work

The Problem

As workers, we may feel we’re victims of the company.

Every day we trade our life energy to the company in exchange for stuff.  Workers often feel short-changed.  We’re not paid enough.  Our benefits keep shrinking. Training promises aren’t fulfilled.  Opportunities for advancement never materialize.

Worse, we feel we have no say at all in the decisions our employer makes about the stuff they deliver.

As employers, we feel like victims of our employees.  We trade precious, hard-earned resources for life energy from our workers.  We’re not getting a fair share of our workers’ life energy.  They come five minutes late and leave five minutes early.  They’re playing video games and talking on their cell phones.  They aren’t doing their jobs or giving it all they’ve got.  They’re not vested in the company’s success.

Worse, we can’t get them to do anything.  We ask, we order, we train, we write memos.  We don’t have any say at in the decisions they make about the life energy they deliver.

Our Answers

Make agreements transparent

Empower workers and owners to…

  • negotiate the agreement publicly, all the time
  • hold everyone accountable for honoring the agreement
  • manage conversations about work

Change the basic nature of the agreement by

  • Add joy to the exchange
  • Adding exchange elements such as trading waste reduction for employee benefits
  • Forming teams to address processes
  • Engaging in volunteer work together
  • Changing the evaluation method – ie, performance evaluations

Quality guru W. Edwards Deming said 40% of most companies is waste.  Workers represent your biggest expense.  What if 40% of your labor investment is waste?

Process teams that work

“I never knew that’s why you needed the goldenrod copy!” “When did we start doing it that way?” “Why are you doing THAT?!” Many business problems live and breed in the cracks between departments.

“Process” is a way of seeing work. Seeing work as process let’s us use powerful tools to help us:

  • Standardize work so it gets done the same way every time
  • Make work predictable so we can make commitments to our customers
  • Measure how well work is being done
  • Test ideas about ways to do work better
  • Train and retrain workers
  • Keep work from falling in the cracks

Seeing business as a series of processes and using process tools helps us understand work in ways that get us into action to improve results. More important, once we’re in action to improve work, these tools help us understand what’s working and what’s not working, and what to do next. Seeing work as process creates a never-ending game of improvement.

A team is a group of people committed to a common goal and to each other. When people come together to improve a business process and support each other, we’re creating an environment that supports great work.

  • Everyone may join in uncovering root causes – the ones hidden deeply in the-way–we-do-things-around-here – the ones that always lead to problems.
  • Everyone begins to accept responsibility for setting and sustaining the pace of improvement.
  • Everyone begins to own their piece of the conversation, which leads to owning their piece of the work.
  • Everyone may exercise their personal power in the context of agreements about the work.

Improving Productivity of Workers and Volunteers

Although many problems plague business owners and leaders, if workers and volunteers own their work and show up committed to pulling in the same direction, there’s a feeling of hope.

When workers and volunteers aren’t committed to their work, each other, or the mission, it’s always an uphill struggle. It’s that simple.

For me, there’s no greater frustration than the waste of human potential. As I see it, the natural pull is towards personal pride in good work. People love to serve, and worship leaders who create opportunities for them to shine.

So what’s the problem? Customers love great service; workers love great work; owners reap benefits when all the pieces line up. Somehow, the pieces are way out of line: customers aren’t happy, workers aren’t working, owners aren’t prospering.

After years of watching this silliness, and experimenting with ways to work the pieces into alignment, we’ve developed simple, straightforward tools to bring sense to business.

If you’ve got a single employee or volunteer who is not pulling their weight, or worse, who is sabotaging your organization, I can help. If it’s a group or team that’s causing trouble, I can help. If it’s everyone, I can help!

Contact me for a free initial consultation – you buy the coffee. Fees are negotiable for this special service. The idea is to get things turned around and moving in the right direction as quickly and as painlessly as possible, and in a way that keeps them moving forward.