Are You Successful?

How do you define success?

Do you consider yourself successful?

What does success look like for you?

What about your organization?

Let’s look at both the organization AND the leader (YOU).

Nonprofits typically define success in fairly conventional ways:

  • Successful fund-raising campaign
  • Successful meeting or event
  • Successful moving project
  • Successful grant writing

But what makes (or will make) your organization a success as a whole? Have you and your board actually defined that?

You might suggest that the answer lies in your strategic plan, or even just your mission or vision statement. But does it?

Perhaps it helps to think of it like this: What would make your organization worthy of a spotlight segment on 60 Minutes? Don’t just think “our cause is worthy.” Think about the actual success your organization enjoys (or aspires to enjoy). What would make it “news?” What would prompt someone to want to write a book about it, or refer to your work in their keynote addresses at major conferences, like a TED Talk?

I remember my first Nonprofit CEO role. It was a small United Way organization ($1 million annual revenue), but one with tons of potential for impact. I recall thinking that I wanted to hear my organization’s name referenced at a national United Way Conference from the main stage, as an example of what United Way was capable of.

This dream became a reality, because we positioned ourselves to be a leadership organization, and not just a funding organization. I had a vision for accomplishing certain things. The vision led to clarity, which led to a simple plan, which led to alignment of the work, which led to … SUCCESS!

Here’s what I mean by clarity, simplicity, and alignment:

Clarity is all about the vision. Can you actually imagine it? Can others? Is the aspiration crystal clear, unpolluted by distractions and complexity?

Once the vision is clear, simplicity is king. Great leaders create and advance (promote) simple plans (e.g., the 3-point path to financial self-sufficiency, or the 5 core strategies for ending homelessness). If your strategic plan is so complex that people cannot get inspired to engage, it is dead in the water.

Finally, great leaders align ALL the work around the clear, simple plan. This mean aligning talent, budget, stakeholder relationships, marketing messages — everything! It is this alignment that helps organizations avoid the temptations to take on every sexy new grant or best practice that comes along. Clarity and alignment foster focus.

The same applies for your personal success. But few people have written plans for their personal success. Why is that we feel like we don’t need to write it down? Or to set milestones, indicators, and targets?

  • Is your personal success journey crystal clear?
  • Is the path a simple one?
  • Are you aligning your life to achieve success?

Only you can answer these questions. I simply suggest that you get to work on them!

That’s The Jinks Perspective!

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