Wednesday, September 18

'Tis the Season

What’s your favorite season?  I’d love to conduct a survey of nonprofit leaders to discover their answer to that question.  I’d bet more would answer, “Autumn,” than any other season.  Just as bakeries and ballets are their busiest during the winter holiday season, nonprofit leaders seem to get into the spirit of strategic planning in the fall.  
Every autumn, I rejoice at the renewed attention nonprofits give to where they want to go and how they can best get there. I think the reason may be that nonprofit leaders still identify with and relate to the school year calendar.  We take time to reflect during the summer, while members of our staffs alternate time away for summer vacations.  We think about what worked and didn’t in the last year as well as what we want to do differently in the coming year. We think about our strong leaders and how we can use their strengths to advance the organization’s agenda. Of course, we also ruminate on those personnel problems we have left unaddressed, knowing in our guts that they never get better without attention.  Over the summer, we also notice trends and patterns in our external world that send signals about how we may have to adapt to how we serve our members or customers.  And we have experiences that cause us to look at our organizations, cultures, and leadership styles through fresh lenses.  If our organization was a boat, what kind would it be?  If we had to identify our culture as that of an animal in the zoo, which would it be?  If we treated our customers as we are being treated in this B+B, what would we do differently?
Children going back to school at the end of summer triggers an almost salmon-up-the-stream-to-spawn urge among nonprofit leaders to make improvements, start fresh, and tackle neglected issues—all through strategic planning initiatives.  Maybe this is why fall is my busiest and favorite season.  I love the energy nonprofit leaders invest in the interest of better serving their constituents, and am always grateful for the opportunity to be their guide, coach, and facilitator on that journey.  
If you are a nonprofit leader, give in to the spirit of the season and use these next few months to better align your culture, services, structures, and processes with your mission, vision, and core values.  You’ll find it’s like catching a wave and riding it to shore—exhilarating and satisfying.  When you begin the next calendar year, you will be doing so on a firmer foundation with clearer, measurable strategies to achieve the vision and goals to which you and your team have recommitted.

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