30 Apr Do This 52 Weeks A Year, And Watch It Change Your Life
It’s rare for me to speak or write about vague or general topics. Today I’m tackling a topic that keeps coming up lately. It’s a word you likely hear a lot, which is “success”. In this article, I’m creating a larger context for it. The question I’m tackling today is – why is it that some people repeatedly experience success, while others experience little to none? How is it that a person who feels they try hard and work hard every day rarely experiences success?
Let’s define success. To begin, success is not a feeling. How you know this is that when you see what you would call a “successful” person, it’s tangible. If they are successful financially, you can see it in where they live, what they drive, and what they wear. If they are successful in their career, there is tangible evidence of that – awards, praise, acknowledgment, bonuses, etc. If they are engaged in successful relationships, you can see proof of that in their interactions, and likely in the number of relationships they maintain. You can also see it in how others speak of them. You’ve likely heard the phrase “success leaves clues”. These are all clues. Success is tangible, and it is represented by what one has.
Success in a nonprofit looks like consistent growth. A growing budget. More donors. More inquiries from clients. More programs. More staff and volunteers. Successful fundraising campaigns. More impact in the community. A bigger presence. Local, regional, and/or national recognition. These are all clues that a nonprofit is successful.
So how can YOU have success both personally in your life, and professionally in your nonprofit? The answer is so simple that most people discard it upon hearing or reading it. The reason you don’t have the success you’ve always wanted is because you don’t BE IT. The way you are behaving and the way you are showing up is not a place where success can tangibly show up. And the most interesting part about it is that I’m talking about the small things.
There’s a gal I know who has a light fixture over her dining room table. It’s a candelabra with six bulbs. Several months ago I visited her, and one of the six bulbs had burned out. More recently I visited her, and three of the bulbs are now out. It’s a simple fix. Go to the store and get new bulbs, or order them online. If she was thinking ahead, she could order extra bulbs for the other three which will eventually need to be replaced. But none of this has happened. Why? I can’t help but mention that she’s struggling in multiple areas of her life right now. The candelabra isn’t the source of the struggle, but it is very clearly a symptom of it.
It’s so easy to think – who cares if a bulb is out? There are five more bulbs. In an entire house, one bulb is a small thing, right? You’ll get to it later. You don’t have time right now. There are bigger things in the house that are more pressing. The garage is a mess, and it needs to be organized and cleaned. The home office is cluttered. These are outwardly bigger, more important things. It’s interesting how those things also sit undone. Indefinitely.
The fact is, every unsuccessful nonprofit I walk into is a candelabra. How many bulbs are out depends on how far the leader let things slide, and for how long. It’s a slippery slope, I tell you. Because the truth is, the bulbs aren’t just going out at work. They’re going out at home, too. It doesn’t take long before who you are is someone who lets the bulbs go out, one by one.
One bulb. Two bulbs. Three bulbs. You’ll deal with it later. Every day, it gets dimmer. To a point where you no longer notice it. Because dim becomes normal. And it slips into everywhere you go, everything you do…and then it simply becomes who you are. That’s why you don’t have success.
As a leader, it’s on you to be engaged in two things – improving the humans who work for you, and improving your leadership. If you truly want what people call success, “Do Better” should be the slogan of 2022 in your nonprofit. There is no doubt in my mind that every Executive Director sets the expectation of doing great work. Unfortunately what I see is they follow it up with accepting “good enough”. The people who work for you see that you’re willing to accept minimal effort, and that’s what they do. That’s why you don’t have success.
One of your staff leaves the building to run an errand and doesn’t tell anyone. Suddenly there’s an emergency and she’s nowhere to be found. Do you address this when she gets back to the office, or do you let it go?
One of your admin staff prints off a “thank you” card in black and white instead of color, and hands it to a visitor who just donated $200. There’s plenty of printer ink. Do you explain to her why printing it in color matters, or do you let it go?
A caller asks for a return phone call about an unusual charge on her credit card. The front desk staff didn’t give the note to the finance clerk. You happen to be there when the caller dials in a second time, and she is very upset. The staff member gets irritated, and you hear it. Do you intervene, or do you let it go?
Scenarios like this happen daily in a nonprofit. Who are you in the matter of it? What is your action (or inaction) communicating to the staff, the volunteers, the customers, and the community?
I’m here to tell you – the only example of having success without BEING success is winning the lottery. Everywhere else in life, you must BE success before you can HAVE success. You can have it when you ARE it. It’s how you show up in your home, in your work, with your money, and in your relationships. Success requires that you BE it before you HAVE it. There is no other way. And the best part about it is none of this requires time. You can start today. Right now. The success you want so badly is one light bulb way. So what are you waiting for? Light it up!
Want help? I offer individualized coaching and consulting specifically tailored to meet you where you are, with the people and resources you have available to you, and with your goals in mind.
Reply to this message directly to set up a conversation. Even if we don’t end up doing work together, I promise our conversation will highlight a direction and solutions you haven’t yet considered.
Let’s start there.