Creativity for creating impact

Balancing Rock

The changes that confront us require us to think in new ways. We need to think creatively about the development of our businesses, as if we are starting over.

Even if our business is a staple of every other business, we need to begin thinking differently. Regardless of what we do, the demand for us to be creative in approaching every aspect of our organizations is growing with greater urgency. 

How to be creative in a time of great change.

It will be helpful to have my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides as a reference.

The Circle of Impact -3D-SimpleThe image here is a simplified version of my Circle of Impact. The focus is on creating impact, which means making a difference or creating change. In order to understand the true results of your company, you must ask what is the impact of all three of these areas.

What is the Impact of our Ideas?

What is the Impact of our Relationships?

What is the Impact of our Organizational Structure?

These Three Dimensions of Leadership, shown here, are the three areas where leaders must take initiative in order to be effective in creating impact. The aim is to bring them into alignment.

Many people I know think their business primarily functions within the Organizational Structure dimension. This is where all their energy is focused. The Ideas and Relationships dimensions are ancillary ones, drawn upon when needed, but not as essential as the structure of the business.

I've found that organizations are not just the activities of a business. The Ideas and Relationships dimensions are important as centers of creative initiative.


Being creative within the Organizational Structure dimension? 

The following questions are a good starting point for discovering perspective.

Write down your thoughts as we go through this little exercise.

What is your purpose for creating impact?

Can you describe this purpose in one sentence? If not, then the Idea of what your purpose is needs clarification. If you can't state simply what the purpose of the impact of your business is - what difference it makes - how can you organize your business to achieve it?


Purpose Connection

Now ask this question,

What is our purpose as a business?

In what way does this purpose make a difference?

How is our business structured to fulfill this purpose? Are they compatible?

Write something down so you capture what you are thinking right now. There are no perfect answers, only the perception of your business as it exists at this moment.

How to distinguish between measuring results by numbers and by impact.

We make assumptions about what a business is based on past experience. We assume that a business is a set of activities that we repeat to produce results. And the easiest way to determine results is with numbers. It is much harder to measure our business' results by determining the impact of our business. Even with these simple guides that I've given you, it is hard. Being creative is hard work.

You go on vacation. When you return, you don't talk numbers, you talk about the experiences you had. You show your pictures of beautiful scenery and happy times with family and friends. You don't show your receipts from the hotel or gas card. You know how much your vacation cost. The numbers matter, but they don't tell what is most important. Your experiences are the measure of whether your vacation's purpose (mission) has achieved its impact.  A great vacation impacts you and the relationships you have with the people who went with you. That difference matters and is why you will go on vacation again.

The experiences you had on vacation were personal taking place in Relationships. The measure of impact is partially determined by the values that you share.

For example, if you all are rock climbers, then you share the values of physical challenge, and if your vacation doesn't include rock climbing, your experience is probably less than what it could have been. Values matter in determining the difference being achieved.

Values Connection - Simple

What are the values that matter to you and to the people connected to your business?

 How do those values impact how you have organized your business?

Write this down.

For example, if you want to put people first in your business, which many businesses say is a core value, then how do you organize to insure that this value is living in your business?

Let's take this to a deeper level of consideration.

The Organizational Structure dimension consists of four categories of activity.
Governance consists policy making, strategic development for the future and oversight of the chief executive. Products/Services/Programs includes what you are providing to clients and customers. Operations/Administration is the support function of the busienss. Resources are financial, human and organizational. 

What are the policies, procedures, practices and behaviors that demonstrate how each of these areas are putting people first?

What does it mean for the Board of your company to put people first? Would your employees agree? How about your customers?

How about the support function of product fulfillment? Do your customers think you put people first when they must return an item or get a corrected bill?

The experience that people have with the Organizational Structure of businesses is how they measure the impact of the company's values. If there is a discrepancy between the stated values, and their experience, then the company has a problem creating the difference that matters.  

Creating Impact isn't simply saying we value people, it is operationalizing those values into the structure of your business.

Being creative is hard work, but it is the work that elevates your business to a new level. The impact of this hard work is greater impact, better results, and change that matters for the long term. And if you are not presently involved in a developmental process that is creating these changes, then you are behind the curve, and harder times await.

There is more here that I haven't touched on. We really haven't looked at the Ideas dimension or the place of visioning in creating impact. We haven't looked at the Relationship dimension with any depth either. There is still much to explore.

What is the benefit of this kind of approach to business development?

1. The tangible impact of your business grows.
If you are willing to work hard at it, you could change your industry by following through on the questions raised by this approach.

2. You create an environment of continuity in the midst of change.
The continuity is found in your values, not in your structure. As a result, you are able to build strength for the future.

3. You gain a new level of situational awareness, so that you understand what is happening before others do.

4. You find hope, joy and satisfaction in going to work every day.
Your life is changed for the better, not just your employees or customers.

5. You create a legacy of impact that you can pass along to future generations.

I feel a tremendous urgency about the time we are living in. We need skills for creating impact in the midst of radical, disruptive change. We must learn how to create the conditions for growing sustainable businesses. If you are thinking that business is going to be the same when this recession is over, I'm sorry, it won't be, already isn't, and will only be more so five years from now.

If you want to take the next step, let me know. I'll work with you to begin the process of change that makes sense and creates the difference you identify. This is what I do every day, and I welcome the opportunity to work with you who read my blog.  Thank you.

Cc_logo2Flickr #2445428627_06c7b7d940

The Continuity of the Local

2010-12-09 19.24.40

The institutions of society that we trust to provide stability in a time of disruptive change are not providing it. These institutions of business and government, of religion, education and social welfare, seem to lack the capacity to both see what is happening and to adapt to these changes.  What is notable is their inherent lack of ability to see the bigger picture in contrast to their own self-preservation.

I introduced this idea in my previous post on the Three Communities.

Here is what is happening?

As a global community, we are moving out of a millennium long era of institutional stability, and into an era of transition where strength, progress and continuity is built around small entrepreneurial social movements.

These movements are of people who organize themselves around the opportunities and needs that they see at the local level around the globe. These movements are focused on meeting global needs at a local level. The birth of these movements comes from the personal initiative of people who are responding to what they see before them. They are utilizing their network of relationships formed in the virtual world to mobilize people to serve local communities on a local scale.

Here are examples.

People and their organizations raise money to provide heating oil assistance for cash strapped families.

A church opens its doors to provide a place for homeless people to get in off the street and have a hot drink and some food on cold, winter days.

Small loans are made to people who have no collateral yet have a compelling idea for meeting a market need in their community.

Citizens provide charitable leadership training to local business to help them find ways to manage a down economy.

Business leaders meet to discover how they can move beyond traditional institutional boundaries to address the need for job creation and social stability.

Marketing collaboratives form to promote products and services to local ethnic populations.

For-profit and non-profit health care organizations collaborate to serve the needs of their local community.

Children from across the United States conduct fund raising projects to build schools and implement water projects in underdeveloped communities around the world.

People leave their local community of residence and move to a local community that has experienced a natural disaster to help in recovery. Some stay for years, not just weeks or months.

These are a few examples of what is happening in local communities everywhere.They are not nice ideas waiting for someone to implement. These are ideas that people are acting on to make a difference.

Continuity between today and tomorrow is not found by waiting for better economic times to return. Instead it is found by developing new relationships between people and organizations that address issues as they exist right now.

Local communities are not at the edge of what matters globally. They are at the core.

Global communities are institutional communities. They aren't places where people live. They are highly integrated corporate structures whose influence upon life in local communities is huge.

People live in local communities. They interact with people there, as well as with those in virtual communities and global corporate ones.

As a result, for the average person and business owner, our focus needs to be local, where we can impact local people, families, schools, business and other organizations in ways that marshal the creativity that is inherent in every community. It is locally where we form relationships that enable our communities to weather the hard storms created at the global level.

Circle of Impact- simple

If you need help figuring out how to begin to care for your local community, take my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides and start talking with people. Here are some first steps.

First, become clear that you and your community is at a transition point.

The important insight here is:

You aren't looking for continuity to preserve the past.

You are looking for how you build upon the strengths and values of the past for the future.

Second, identify the issues that you most want to address.

Take the Circle of Impact and identify what kind of issue is it.

Is the issue an Idea, Relationship or Organizational Structure issue?

Whatever it is, the other two dimensions contribute to its resolution. In other words, all problems or opportunities are dynamically related to each of the three dimensions of leadership.

If you then cannot find clarity, then you have an Idea problem that is defined as both a lack of clarity of your situation and the inability to communicate an articulate way of describing to others. Because it is a lack of clarity of thought masked as a communication problem, actually begin by defining the Four Connecting Ideas.

What are the Values that are non-negotiable, that we can build upon for the future? How do these Values unify US for OUR work together?

What is our Purpose?

How can that Purpose be defined as the Impact we want to create? What difference does our purpose make?

Then define your Vision as what are we going to do through the organizational structure that we have to create Impact?

Third, ask the Five Questions.

It is important find clarity of perspective. These questions make have no answer at first. That tells you something. However, if you are persistent in seeking to find clear answers to these questions, the steps you'll need to take will reveal themselves.

What has Changed to create the situation that we must address? How are we in Transition as a Local community?

What is the Impact we want? What Change do we need to create? 

Who do you want to Impact? What difference will that make to them?

What Opportunities for the future do you gain through this Impact?

What Problems that are within your control, must you resolve in order to achieve your impact? What Obstacles do you face that you must remove?

Do all this in conversation with others. This is a way to begin to address the social and economic issues that impact your local community.

If you need additional help, contact me. Glad to help.

Beyond The Charts - The Circle of Impact Explained

Circle of Impact -5 QsI received a question that I want to answer here.

Read you about your tools for clarity and connection.

May I ask you a personal question?

The tools are sound yet...what is the next step for you personally? What is the part you play in this scenario. Give the tools and step aside? I read something about you clients?

The form did not require us to talk much about ourselves.

The tools for clarity and connection are the first three charts that I ever created. 

Leading Through Times of Transition
The Circle of Impact
Five Questions That Every Leader Must Ask

Since I first wrote this post, I've expanded the number and range of the diagrams that I've created. Their purpose is to provide a guide for group thought and interaction.

You can download the current set of guides here.

These diagrams grew out of conversations I was having with people. I'd have a notepad out, and I'd draw the situations they were describing on the page, and then make connections. At first, I didn't see the imagery that you find here. A pattern began to arise and that's when I decided to develop the diagrams as tools for helping make complex situations both more simple and dynamic.

Circle of Impact- simple

By simple, the Three Dimensions of Leadership refer to three main areas that affect us in organizations: Ideas, Relationships and Organizational Structure. The difficulty is thinking about them all at the same time, hence the need to think dynamically.

By dynamically, take any one of the three dimensions, and try to understand the impact of the other two on it. For example, what's the impact of relationships and ideas on organizational structures. If very little, then you need to elevate the role of conversation between people about ideas in the organization as one step toward resolution.

The tools are for conversational purposes. I use them in my work to help clients move more quickly through a process of discovery to a point of decision followed by action.

I've found that the charts have a great power to identify problem areas, and their solutions. If the problems are simple, then the charts identify how to move into action. The charts are intended to accelerate decision-to-action processes.

For example, let's say that is some undefined problem that exists but lacks some clarity about what it is. Using the Circle of Impact guide, we begin by asking,

"Is this an Idea problem, a Relationship one or something about how we are Structured as an organization?"

If you cannot answer the question with any certainty, then you take the dimension that seems most likely, and begin there. Do this because ultimately, all three dimensions must come into alignment for most problems to be resolved.

These disagrams have helped me considerably to be able to see what the problem of the moment is without referring to the charts at all. This dynamic of interaction about ideas, relationships and structures give those who learn to use it an advantage over those who simply think in less dynamic  ways.

The next step
Implied in the question, I'm assuming, is how do I use these in my work. If I'm giving these away for free, how does this come back to me as a benefit?

The more people use my charts, the more they will begin to see situations that need change that are highly complex. This is where I enter the picture. Whether it is with an individual or with an organization. I'm helping with these complex transitional processes.

Transition through Time

The Transitions chart simplifies something that is not simple at all. The initial question is:

How do I take my organization through a process of change? How do we make these transitions?

This is where my client projects come from. Because the path from one stage to the next is not always easy to identify and even more difficult to accomplish. People hire me to mentor them through these processes.

Think of it in terms of a team of explorers who have only the most rudimentary information about what the future holds. I work with leaders who must make transitions without a clear or comprehensive understanding all the time. They need perspective and tools for making decisions.

Let give you three current examples of how this is happening.

1. A rural non-profit healthcare group after twenty five years is in trouble. A long range plan is adopted that includes a new marketing place and a total reconfiguration of the board and organizational by-laws.

Problem: Two months into the transition the board determines that by the end of the year, they will be broke.

Solution: develop a partnership with an organization that can bring needed financial resources into the relationship.

End result: The non-profit sells its State license - Certificate of Need to a for-profit regional healthcare business. Non-profit organization reorganizes a foundation for raising money for indigent care in their county.  The transition means my client changes their perception of their mission. A dramatic change in their organizational structure from service provider to foundation follows.  A collaborative relationship between now two healthy healthcare organizations develops, where before there was only one that was struggling to survive.

My role was to mentor the leadership through the process and be a catalyst for the board to believe that they could make this transition.

2. A mid-size corporation goes through a C-level and board leadership change. New CEO wants values to become an important part of the company's assets. Initial project develops values statement. Statement written by diverse team including both management and union leadership. HR develops program to inform employees about the rationale and meaning of values statement.

After the statement project is complete, my role shifts to two projects. One is working with the corporate leadership team to develop how to implement the company's new values statement as a leadership / management development tool. The other project is focused on assisting one of the business units to discover how the values statement can be utilized to improve policies, procedures and internal communication. These projects are ongoing. The optimum word is "operationalize values." In other words,  what behaviors and business processes are required to live up to the values. Five Questions - Verticle

3. A 200 year old church with a strong history in its community recognizes that it must become more future focused. Utilizing the Five Questions Guide, we work for two years to shift the congregation's perception of its mission.

Churches are social environments that are either focused on the past or the future. If the past, they are like museums of memories, recalling the good days of the past, and finding security and comfort in theological perspectives developed in cultural contexts different than today. A focus on the future is a "missional" approach. This approach asks what is our impact or influence to be. The Five Questions help to identify that big picture, and the Three Dimensions help to organize how the church will act upon that insight.

Each of these client projects are dramatically different. The one constant in each is the need to find a pathway of transition from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. My primary role is as a mentor to the leadership through a discovery process so that they know what they need to do.

The Impact of Leadership
The last part of the question asks:

The form did not require us to talk much about ourselves.

When the charts are used in a conversational setting, we are talking about ourselves. We do so in a real world context, not in an abstract one. We are dealing with situations as they exist at the present moment. Brainstorming has its place, as a way to warm up the ideas dimension. But if the brainstorming is not done in a real context, then it will not lead to concrete action.

I brought to a stark awareness of this truth a decade ago. While on vacation with my family the mountains of Wyoming, while riding horseback one afternoon, I heard a voice speak to me:

It is time to stop talking about leadership, and lead.

I knew then that I had to change. I had to get out of my head into action.

If we are to lead, we need to take initiative.

Initiative is the first step in all leadership. There is no leadership without initiative.

Using these charts for just conversation purposes is insufficient. They should provide whomever uses them the confidence that they can take action.

Earlier this morning I came across a quote from Seth Godin that I used in a post a couple years ago. He wrote:

Most fast-growing organizations are looking for people who can get stuff done.
There is a fundamental shift in rules from manual-based work (where you follow instructions and an increase in productivity means doing the steps faster) to project-based work (where the instructions are unknown, and visualizing outcomes and then getting things done is what counts.)

And yet, we're still trying to hire people who have shown an ability to follow instructions.

Life and work can now be understood as a series of transitional projects. This requires not only personal initiative, but also creativity.  We need a totally different mindset than before in order to make a successful transition.

In the post I wrote two years ago, I made the following comment:

Personal initiative is a quality of character that looks for ways to make a difference. This is what I find is at the heart of true leadership. When we take initiative, we are taking responsibility for the outcome of a situation. Step forward, fill the gap, do the right thing, don't wait to be asked, take the lead.  ... Personal initiative is freedom. Freedom to excel in all aspects of your life.

These diagrammatic charts provide us tools for helping us to lead.

They enhance our ability to think conceptually.

They enhance our capacity for meaningful conversations with people that lead to making a difference.

They help to put the realities of organizational life in context.

If you have questions, ask them. Asking a question is the beginning of a conversation, and if you don't ask, you'll not discover what you need to know.

Quick Takes: Free

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, previews his up coming book, Free, in the latest issue of the magazine. At his blog, Chris posts on the preview . Make sure to read the wiki entry on free business models.  Advertising Age has an interesting interview with Chris, here.

The idea of giving away free content is why I give away my Three Dimensions of Leadership (Circle of Impact) and Four Questions that Every Leader Must Ask charts.  The charts are sufficient in themselves to have value. I am happy for people to use them. If you do, let me know. If they have value make a donation to RandomKid. It is just a tip jar, and RandomKid is the organization that will received the benefit.

I give away the charts to help people begin to think in a more integrated fashion about their organizations. However, the real value of the charts comes from my helping leaders think them through.  A day in conversation with the charts will clarify purpose and direction. And if done with a team can raise the level of their capacity for communication and decision-making.

Look again at at the wiki page on free business models, and you'll begin to get the idea behind Chris Anderson's idea about Free.

Quick Takes: Animated numbers may not be the whole story.

This TED presentation by Hans Rosling shows the power of visual images to present information.
Watch it. Its 20 minutes long.  You'll wish it were longer.

I have a question about what he is showing.  If you have read The Black Swan, you'll know that Nassim Taleb challenges the value of Gaussian bell curves as accurate representations of certain kinds of data. Based on what I understand of his critique, the problem is the assumption that averaging data is meaningful.  The problem with it, according to Taleb, is that bell curves don't account for radical difference. 

If you remember, about 6.5 minutes into the presentation, he begins to talk about the worlds wealth.  Interesting topic of discussion.  His bell curve is set up to visualize the population of the world ranging from income of $1 per day to  $100 per day.  It would appear that this is a classic bell curve decision.

Taleb writes about the value of Powerlaw curves that Chris Anderson popularized in The Long Tail. So, what I want to know is what if he extended his graph to include those individuals who make $1000 and $1,000,000 per day.  What I believe we would see is a tall head of those who earn between $1 and$100 per day, and a long tail of those whose annual income is between 7 and 9 or even 10 figures.

Rosling's point is that there is no longer a difference between the global have's and have nots.  However, I'd suggest that today, there is still a gap, and that gap is growing.  I don't have those numbers, so my assumption is mostly anecdotal.

Here is why I think Taleb is on to some very important insight.  This isn't about numbers but more a philosophical outlook that affects us personally and socially.

The Gaussian bell curve is about finding the average in a data set. Powerlaws are looking for extremes.  The extremes of large numbers and the extremes of small ones. If this makes any sense, it will lead us to understand that the underlying assumption of the bell curve is that society is governed by what is average.  Here's Taleb addressing this issue.

The traditional Guassian way of looking at the world begins by focusing on the ordinary , and then deals with exceptions or so-called outliers as ancillaries.  But there is a second way, which takes the exceptional as a starting point and treats the ordinary as subordinate.

Taleb's point concerns probabilities and those rare events that catch people unawares. He believes that bell curve thinking excludes the possibility of these rare events for the sake of making what we know more certain.

Note once again the following principle: the rarer the event, the higher the error in our estimation of its probability - even when using the Gaussian ... the Gaussian bell curve sucks randomness out of life - which is why it is popular.  We like it because it allows for certainties! How? Through averaging ...

I interpret this to mean that we are conditioned to look at life from the vantage point of the average.  We look at people as to how they fit into some average norm or convention, rather than looking at each person as one with unique gifts, talents, personality and experience.  The former way was a conventional way of treating people when the work they performed did not require creative thought or interaction with others. 

As the world has become more complex, the development of people to perform at a higher level has made it necessary to look at talent recruitment, training and retention as a key strategic endeavor of corporations in the 21st century.  As a result, people development takes on a much more significant role in modern organizations.

This is what I saw twenty years ago, but didn't have the perspective to understand what I saw. It goes to the notion that a company needs to be a "community of leaders" (hence the name of my business, Community of Leadership) which means that each person has a responsibility to take personal initiative to act to forward the work of the organization. It means that the structure of the organization be such that people are free to be creative and to take initiative.

So, what I find in Rosling's animation is a clever distraction. We think we have seen the way the world really is when it really is quite different. There are extremes on both ends of the bell curve that are not factored into Rosling's animation.  How many times during school were our grades averaged by taking out the lowest and highest?  In essence, squeeze out the variability and you have something that is easily quantified and, something safe and secure, predictable and certain.

I'm with Taleb that life is far more random that we give it credit. If we see its randomness, then we see the extremes, and see the potential impact that those extremes can have on us.

What are you to do with these rambling thoughts?

First, read Taleb.  I have been slowly reading him all summer.  His perspective is validating and clarifying ideas that I've had for thirty years. This is not some shallow 10 points to success book. It takes time to think through a perspective that is so at odds with conventional wisdom.  And if it helps, read him, take notes, and think about how you can speak about what you see there.  When you do, share it with someone. If you have no one, send it to me, I'll post it.

Second, identify those talents that are uniquely yours, and begin to development them.  My guess is that connected to that talent is a passion for something that will be the guide to the talent.

Third, take the people who work with and for you, and begin to talk with them about how their work and contributions are a form of leadership.  If you need a tool to help you discuss this, then download my Leading in Times of Transition diagrams, and use the Circle of Impact chart (page 3) as a guide.  Simply put, leaders initiate in the dimensions of Ideas, Relationships and Organizational Structures.

Bottom line. Question numbers. Because someone has made a decision to limit their scope. That decision is based on assumptions. Test assumptions. Think for yourself. Help your people do the same. Look for the extremes, for at the extreme are opportunities that those committed to mediocrity will never find.

The Circle of Impact as a Problem Solving Tool

The Circle of Impact (download here) was orginally conceived as just an illustration of the three areas that leaders needed to address.  It does show that, and much more.  It has developed into a simple diagnostic problem solving tool.  Let me show you.  Here's the chart.

Circle_of_impact_diagram_1 Just so we are clear before proceeding to a demonstration of this as a problem solving tool. 

Each aspect of the circle needs the other to two to meet its potential or solve its problem.  Ideas refer to any form of conceptualization that is used to communicate.  It could be a vision statement or a newsletter, a strategic plan or a values statement.  Each is a conceptual understanding of the organization intended to communicate certain ideas that frame people's understanding of the mission and work of an organization.

Organizational Structure is simple the structure of governance, resources, programs and operations that are required for Ideas to find a practical application.  It is this aspect where most leaders spend the majority of their time.

Relationships are the multiple connections with individuals and groups of individuals who have some stake or interaction with the organization.  Leaders related to constituents, clients, employees, directors, colleagues, competitors, regulators as well as friends, associates and acquaintances.  The sum total are those for whom the organization seeks to impact.

Now with that basic understanding, here's an example of how this tool can be used.



1. Identify a Problem


Example: Communication



2. What tells you it is a problem?

  1. People        aren’t reading our email or newsletters.
  2. Coordination        between groups is poor.
  3. People        ask questions about things we have already told them.



3. What do you think is the problem?

  1. People        are too busy.
  2. We        aren’t giving them the right information.
  3. Don’t        know what people expect.
  4. We        don’t have anything new to say.
  5. Our        communication is mostly about upcoming events and meetings.



4. What do you think is the impact of this   problem?

  1. Wasted        time repeating ourselves.
  2. Lower        participation levels.
  3. Confusion.
  4. Growing        indifference.
  5. Fewer        and fewer people are doing more and more of the work.



5. So the   problem is not just one problem, but many interconnected problems. What are they?

  1. Communication.
  2. Participation.
  3. Coordination.
  4. Clarity        about the problem.



6. Look   at the Circle of Impact (above) diagram. Would you say your original perception of the problem is a problem of   Ideas, Organizational Structure or Relationships? Why?

  1. Ideas        – We are not clear enough.
  2. Structure        – We are focused only on getting the job done.
  3. Relationships        – We don’t really know what people want to know.



7. Think   again about the problem. Ask not what   problem can be identified, but how do Ideas, Organizational Structure and   Relationships describe the Impact that this problem area is to have?

  1. Ideas        – People feel informed and know what their opportunities and        responsibilities are.
  2. Structure        – People not only read our newsletter but also want to contribute.
  3. Relationships        – People are participating and involving others in our programs.


Try out an issue or problem in your workplace. Remember, wherever you enter the Circle of Impact, you must also touch the other two dimensions in order to fully understand your problem.  Let me know what you learn.

Real Life Leadership - Place personal meaning behind an event and invitees will attend

This week's Real Life Leadership column is online - Place personal meaning behind an event and invitees will attend.

Participation is a major problem.  As people's lives become busier, filling the seats of an event becomes more difficult.  The participation challenge is not resolved until organizations deal with it as both a personal and a relationship issue.

If you just treat it as a problem of communication - say communicating the idea of participation as a good thing - then you don't understand why people participate.

If you just think it is a problem of organization - say if we just handle the meeting agenda and event logistics - then you don't understand why people participate.

People participate for two reasons.  Its personal and relational.

By personal, they find there is a personal stake in the outcome.  They find personal meaning in participating. It means something, and they believe their participation will make a difference.  If so, then they will get involved.

By relational, they find a social benefit to participation.  If isn't just doing something with other people.  It is havign a particular set of relationships that matter.  They matter because their is something personal that they share together. There is a social bond that bridges their individuality, and makes them want to be together for this event.

The element of the personal and the relational is missing from most organizations.  And it is one of the key competitive advantages.  You master this, and you create a community that is committed to your organization's purpose, program and events.

This is what I call Impact Leadership and The Circle of Impact can help you focus on this missing dimension of organizational planning.

Three Dimensional Problem Solving

Yesterday, I spent the day with a new client.  I met them for the first time.  Had five different meetings over the course of seven and a half hours.  It was exhilarating.

This group has a new strategic plan.  It was a plan done without facilitation, that took 15 months to complete, and was rushed to conclusion.  It has some good ideas, but it will additional work to find a way to implementation the recommendations.

They are also in a leadership transition as a beloved, long serving executive has retired.

I had planned to share The Circle of Impact chart as a tool for understanding outcomes and results.  What I found was that it is a better problem solving tool.

Let's say that your organization is not raising sufficient funds through its annual campaign.  The logical conclusion is that this is a problem with the execution of an organizational structure process.  Logical would dictate that this is where the problem is.

However, if you look at the Circle of Impact chart, what you'll see is that Impact is realized not just by organizational process, but also have a clear Idea or message and by connecting with people in relationships.  In fact, the problem may be that there is nothing particularly personal about the annual campaign.  It is simply an institutional request for funds.

We need to think in the three dimensions of Impact - Ideas, Relationships and Organizational Structure.

What this means is that you enter a circle of problem solving.

Let's say you have a communication problem.  You are not getting your message out.  Is this a execution problem?  Or is it a problem with the content of your message. Or is your communication problem a situation highlighting the weakness of your relationships to your constituents. In reality, it is a portion of each, and the solution is a portion of each.

The Circle of Impact is a simple way to be comprenhensive without becoming overwhelmed by what ordinarily constitutes comprehensiveness.

Real Life Leadership: Taking your business to the next level requires commitment and vision

My latest Real Life Leadership column - Taking your business to the next level requires commitment and vision - is now online.

Going to the next level is one of those cliched lines that people use to represent something.  Just what does going to the next level mean?

It means being flexible enough to change so that you maintain a high level of impact upon people as their situations and needs change.

Understanding how you impact people is key.  If that is a bit vague, then you need to consider what are the ideas that drive your business. How do you conceptualized your purpose and work?  Is this a mission statement?  Possibly.  But it may well be a values statement or a change statement.

When you reduce the discussion of impact down to its essence, we are talking about what changes as a result of what you do.  What are you trying to change?  Is it a problem or diffenciency in a specific context? Is it an opportunity that you see?  If you are working, and not focused on change, then you are not getting down to the bare escence of what your work is about.

Does talking about change in a proactive sense confuse the matter?  Possibly, because so much of our social condition is to resist change, rather than to create it.  The reality is that change is normal and healthy.  As a result, we need to look at change as having a positive, constructive, affirming impact upon people.

So reaching clarity about your impact upon people is a process of articulating a vision for change.

But it is insufficient  just to want to impact people through some ideas that are important to you. Too often I've seen well-meaning people stymied because they fail to understand that their good intentions mean nothing. Only action that leads to impact is what ultimately matters.  In other words, either you are the changer or you will be forced to change.

You have to create an organizational structure that provides focus and direct to the energies and resources that are needed to acheive impact.

If you are thinking about the impact of your organizational structure, you need to look at three areas.

1. Goverance -  This is where you establish policies and practices that guide the work, and goals that measure the outcome the business.

2.  Program -  Whatever you do, you have a program, it is how your goods and services are received by your clients.  The product you market is your program.  And if your program doesn't have the impact it should, then you have to look at changing it so it does.

3.  Operations - This is simply the system the supports the program.  It isn't the program.  It is the production system that produces a product.

Leaders need to be aware of how each of these broad areas impact their business.  They need to define it terms of how each impacts the marketplace.

I have come to call the interplay between - People, Ideas and Structure - The Circle of Impact.

Why a circle?

Let's say you identify a problem.  The problem maybe a relationship one.  Do you resolve the problem by just attending to the relationship? Possibly, but you don't really know at the out-set.

You also need to look at the Ideas and Structure of the business to determine whether they are contributing factors to the problem.

Let's say the problem is cash flow?   A logical response is to cut costs.  But to do that may make matters worse. For when you begin to dig deeper into the situation, the problem isn't cash flow, but customer service.  Your clients like the product. They don't like how they are treated.  As a result, just cutting costs will only make matters worse because you are not addressing the real issue.  In fact, you'll be starving the solution.

This is why it is important to ask the question of impact regarding each part of the The Circle of Impact.  I'll write more on this over the next few weeks.

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