January 2016 | Volume 1, Issue #2 (new series)    
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Gifts to Provoke Your Conversations
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I love this graphic for pain. It overflows with dysfunctional intensity.  And we all know how it feels.

As I began 2016, I wrote to several respected colleagues and friends to find out what they thought the three most pressing pain points were for the not-for-profits they worked for or consulted with. Here's the list that I've gathered so far:
  • board engagement
  • staff retention
  • purpose clarity
  • process effectiveness
  • innovation generation
  • customer service
  • donor loyalty
  • talent recruitment
  • revenue stability & growth
If each of these is a pain point in the body of your not-for-profit, then you clearly want improved health and wellbeing at each of those points, so the whole body can flow in sync for the benefit of those you serve. And since that body is an integrated whole, a symbiotic system, then finding health at one pain point will improve them all.
But there is a pain that is not mentioned above. It touches on them all. The most commonly used phrase to describe it was "overwhelm." This is what prevents you from finding more health more consistently more quickly.
Here are the key symptoms of overwhelm most frequently identified by not-for-profit leaders: 
  • demands for attention from customers, staff, board members, and stakeholders
  • decline in the revenues, reach, and impacts of the organization
  • drained energy, patience, and creativity
At the beginning of this year, my 'chord chart' for moving from 'overwhelm' to 'resilience' in organizational leadership is made up of these elements:
  1. Develop simple, robust rituals to connect quickly with the benefits you want to contribute to your organization
  2. Develop a concise, strong statement of the purpose being served by your organization
  3. Develop a realistic, systemic assessment of the problems that hinder the effectiveness of your organization
  4. Develop specific steps with clear accountabilities and support to move your organization forward
I have developed a new Jazzthink acronym - VIBE. It is the 'chord chart' for the process of both personal and organizational flourishing that I have found works well for me and for the organizations I have led and advised. It's a way of dealing with pain points without being defined by them. It refocuses your attention and energy on your potential for ever-increasing wellbeing and keeps it there.
Values - what are the core values that the organization offers and that you can align with? - decide on three and name them with words that move you
Intentions - what do those values lead you to want to do for the organization and for the communities that it serves? - choose three activities that will best deliver your values in your current context and name the strengths that you bring to those activities
Barriers - what will get in the way of you doing what you have chosen to do? - put names to the interferences, perhaps even sketch caricatures of them (you will never have to show them to anyone!)
Execute - what will you actually do in the next three months to implement your aspirations? - name three strategic imperatives, who you want to work with on doing them, what resources you will need to get started, and how you are going to assess and adapt as you move forward
You should review this whole process every three months, at very least. Personally, I find it a wonderfully powerful weekly discipline.

This month we remember the VIBE that Martin Luther King Jr brought into the world. In a CBC interview, Harry Bellefonte remembered being invited into King's inner circle in the early days of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The ups and downs that he described reminded me of what I have been hearing from those respected colleagues and friends I mentioned at the beginning of this article. King had his values clear, his intentions firm, the barriers understood, and his execution planned. At the same time, he and his community of support were constantly analyzing and adapting as the situation changed - finding a creative tension vibe between firmness and flexibility.

Jazzthink is ready to facilitate a VIBE process for your not-for-profit organization to help you deal with your sense of 'overwhelm.'  I'd love to explore with you the best ways to revive your VIBE and enhance it. Email me at fraser@jazzthink.com to set up a call to find out the ways we can collaborate to address the pain points you are experiencing. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
You can download a one-pager on our VIBE process to share with your colleagues by clicking here.   

Richest blessings,

Gifts to Provoke Your Conversations
Over the past couple of months, I've been writing new Jazzthink Thought Provokers for not-for-profit staffs and boards to use to generate constructive conversations about how best to develop and align their talents. Take a look here and use them to your heart's content.