This post is written by Dani Robbins, guest blogger and co-author of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives.
Many nonprofits operate on a model of scarcity. There’s often not enough money, staff or stuff and many decisions get made through the lens of cost. What if there was another way?
Maureen Metcalf, leadership expert and co-author of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and workbook series, which includes our book the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives, recently invited me to a Vibrancy Workshop facilitated by Jim Ritchie-Dunham from the Institute for Strategic Clarity. Maureen only invites me to transformational trainings so I was delighted to accept!
Jim started out talking about environments that are difficult, which the group defined as situations in which we don’t feel valued, in workplaces that don’t allow us to be our full selves, working for or with people that don’t allow us to thrive, or even think for ourselves. He contrasted (I just had a flash back to my HS English class) that with environments that do; workplaces where we’re excited to be, doing work that we find meaningful, surrounded by people who value our input.
How do you feel when thinking about those two environments?
Put your hands out. Using your hands as a scale, I want you to consider your left hand the difficult situations and your right hands to be the supportive environments. Raise the hand that reflects how you spend much of your time.
Is your left hand higher that your right? Jim would tell you that is because of agreements you, consciously or unconsciously, made. If you change the agreements, you change the experience, which changes the outcome.
I can hear you out there shaking your head and saying, “I didn’t agree to that.” Some of us agree with our feet, which stay firmly planted where they are, despite our unhappiness. Some of us agree with our words. Some of us with our work, that is disengaged and below what we could do, if we were only supported the way we should. And some of us take our marbles and find another, more vibrant place to be.
Jim said that places in which we can thrive and people with whom we do thrive are described in words of light: Vibrant. Brilliant. Sunny. Bright.
Lack of Vibrancy is the price of not bringing out the best in everyone. When we do that, everyone loses. Vibrant is a long way away from the situation you were thinking about when you raised your left hand. How do we get to vibrant from darkness?
First question: Is the situation you’re in what you believe is the best situation for you?
What does the next level look like?
First stop: find people and situations that are positive deviants. It means exactly what you think: people who are succeeding (positive) despite not following the rules (deviants).
None of us want to be average, right? We know someone in some organization somewhere who is breaking all the rules and, somehow, still excelling at everything they do.
Jim then said something that I loved. He said if you can see it – figuratively or actually – you can become it. You have to step into the potential.
Abundance is the idea that if: they can, you can, and we all can. It’s creative collaboration. Change the agreement; change the experience; change the outcome.
Life doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. I don’t have to lose for you to win. You’re not competing against me anyway. You’re competing against yourself, or you should be.
We are all responsible for our own work. If we agree to that, hold people to those agreements and set up our organizations accordingly, we would be vibrant and our organizations and our world would be abundant!
This description is just a taste of a comprehensive framework to help us evaluate our agreements and create more vibrant organizations for ourselves, our colleagues, teams and clients. Vibrant organizations have happier people who produce significantly better results.
I found this material fascinating and am using it regularly as I notice what agreements are driving my actions. I am also using it with my clients. Because I now understand that I can change the agreement; change the experience; change the outcome. And so can you.
It is simple, obvious even – and also very powerful.
If you are interested in learning more about what this can look like, take a look at this 20 minute video about Thorlo, a vibrant company. Who would guess that one of our positive deviants is a sock company that does all of its manufacturing in the US, pays its staff well above average for similar work in the same field and is also highly profitable? Thorlo deviates from the expectation that producing off shore is required. They have a work environment that is different than most people get to experience. They are an example of positive deviants and they are thriving!
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
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Photo credit: www.flickr.com – Bruce McKay