Sunday, January 6, 2019

One Resolution That Is Easier Than Ever to Keep

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................"

NFL Playoff games, the Golden Globes, Government Shutdown - we are now in the the New Year --  full throttle.

Most of those who make New Year's Resolutions have already done so.  A few are still in the "thinking about it" stage.  The number One and Two most common resolutions are:  To lose weight and to exercise more.  Those who regularly go to the gym, will note the spike in newbies in January.  They also know that half, or more, of those who have just started their workout program will be gone by the end of the month, principally because they push themselves unreasonably, and so they make it almost impossible to stay the course.  They simply don't understand that the single most important exercise you can do at the gym is to walk through the front door on a regular basis.  They don't appreciate that going slow and building on a foundation is the only way to keep at it, and reap the benefits of that commitment.  People new to the gym make another mistake:  they feel intimidated by others and rush to compete on a level they are ill-prepared for.  The truth is, at the gym, you are only competing against yourself.  No matter what gym you are in - anywhere in the world - there will always be people who can outperform you.  Irrelevant.  The gym is about you, not them.

That's actually true for any resolution.

The next most common New Year's Resolution is to improve our skills level; to get better at doing what we do, both by learning new things and improving on old ones.  The biggest obstacles to pursuing this worthy goal is convenience and cost.  Not time, because we can probably easily enough make the time if we really want to, but the inconvenience of doing so.  That, and the cost.  Too often, availing ourself of learning new things is inconvenient.  The offerings are on somebody's else time schedule, not ours.  The offerings are often nowhere near where we work or live.  And the options of personalizing the learning is usually prohibitively expensive.  Courses and trainings, coaches and trainers, cost money - money neither we, nor our organizations really have.  And so we mean to improve ourselves, but find it difficult to do so.  And we make the mistake of waiting for the opportunity to come to us.

Technology has made those excuses invalid.  Today there are literally thousands of courses offered by hundreds of organizations - including top tier universities - available online; a huge number of which are free, and can be accessed on your schedule.

These courses include teachings, tutorials and coaching for both soft and hard skills.  According to an article on CNBC, The 10 most in-demand skills of 2019, according to LinkedIn, include:

Here are the 5 most in-demand soft skills in 2019:

5. Time Management

4. Adaptability

3. Collaboration

2. Persuasion

1. Creativity

Hard skills, include, among others:

People Management:  Motivating and Engaging Employees, Managing Team Conflict, Leading with Purpose, and

Analytical Reasoning:  Making Decisions, Decision Making Strategies, Executive Decision Making

It's not hard to find free, conveniently accessible online courses to bolster your skills level in virtually any area.

Here's a link to 400 free courses offered by Harvard, Columbia and other top universities in various areas, including areas germane to working in the nonprofit arts, including:

Business:  Introduction to marketing; Introduction to Operations Management; Customer Analytics; Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content; Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators; Arts and Culture Strategy [highly recommended]; Managing the Value of Customer Relationships; Selling Ideas: How to Influence Others, and Get Your Message to Catch On; Decision-Making and Scenarios; Crowdfunding; Management Fundamentals; The Power of Team Culture; Developing Breakthrough Innovations with the Three Box Solution.

Social Sciences:  Networks, Crowds and Markets; CitiesX: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life.

Data Science:  People Analytics; Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models.

And that's just a small sampling from this one list.  If you want to improve your professional skills, or even personal growth, a little time spent Googling a search for what you are looking for will doubtless produce myriad lists of offerings - all at your level, accessible at your convenience on your schedule, and free.

If professional or personal development is one of your resolutions, take a course in something that interests you.  If you don't like it, drop it and try another.  And if you do find one that you think was of real benefit, share it with your coworkers and colleagues.

Happy Learning.

Don't Quit

Monday, December 31, 2018

Books I'd Like to Read, But No One's Written Yet

Good morning.
And the beat goes on................

As 2018 mercifully fades into the rearview mirror, this is the time of year when everyone sends out their lists. Lists of what's been accomplished, lists of upcoming plans, lists of needs, lists of New Year's resolutions, lists of predictions.  In the last couple of years, we have lists of books people have read. or mean to read: Books that help us to improve our skills; to trigger our imaginations and creative juices; books to make you a better manager; books to guide your professional development; books to help you cope.

Many of these books contain good advice - sometimes pragmatic and even inspiring.  Most of them are in the "self-help" genre.  While well intentioned, most of them also often don't really help us very much.  They may address the exact major challenges we face, and they may offer valid prescriptions for action and behavior, but they often miss the point of telling us what we need to know to actually change things.  

I suppose it's a lot to expect to ask for blueprints to success that will unfailingly work.  After all, the author's - though experienced experts and perhaps even wiser than we are - primary motive in writing the book in the first place is to make money.  Nothing wrong with that, and often times we are, at the least, entertained and given some ideas that we might try out - some of which might even be of real benefit to us.  But infallible answers that categorically are the answers we seek - well, those works are hard to find.  

So here's my - tongue in cheek, sort of  - list of a few books that I would like to read next year:

  1. Magic Words - a straightforward compendium of exactly what to say to donors and funders to get them to finally loosen their purse strings and give you money.  The book might be subtitled just that:  Oh For Pete's Sake - Give Us the Damn Money Already.  I use the title MAGIC WORDS, because it so often seems that only magic will help as you try to close the deal with potential supporters.
  2. You Want Me To Do What?  Seriously?  What to say when people make inane, ridiculous, stupid, insipid and totally impossible requests.
  3. The Five Habits of People Who Know When to Tune Someone Out.  Self-explanatory, I think.
  4. OMG - One More Grant - Sympathy and advice for when you have to write just one more freakin' grant.  
  5. Dead Ends - An explanation - in plain English - as to why you won't get the job or the promotion that simply doesn't exist.
  6. Playing to Empty Seats - a dystopian novel as to the future wrought by technology and the internet. 
  7. Why You Say Yes, When You Should Say No, and No, When You Should Say Yes - an attempt to explain why our brains seem to be hardwired to screw ourselves on a regular basis.
  8. We're Working On That - an explanation of why real progress on equity seems to move at a snail's pace.
  9. Everyone's A Leader Doesn't Mean No One's A Follower - why the notion that everyone is a leader only makes sense, if, at times, we're all followers too.  
  10. I'm Ok, You're Ok - the Rest of Them Are Nuts - The truth about everybody you know.
  11. The Corporatization of the NonProfit Arts - the truth about the similarity of some of our organizations and the wider corporate world, including the non-essentiality of the staff rank and file.  
  12. Relentless and Endless Storytelling - an examination of decades of fighting just to protect the status quo of the NEA.

Next year is very likely to be as crazy and turbulent, if not more so, than this year.  Still, there is always hope, and, for some inexplicable reason, I remain optimistic -- although I often feel like this line from the Paul Simon song, America:

"'Kathy, I'm lost' I said, though i knew she was sleeping.                                                    
          'I'm empty and aching, and I don't know why'"

Wishing you all a very Happy, healthy, safe and sane New Year.

Don't Quit

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What Is The Number One Reason People Leave Their Jobs?

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on........................"

Attracting, recruiting and retaining management and leadership talent to our ranks is generally recognized as critical not only to our success, but to our survival.

We benefit from a large pool of arts administration graduates and others who passionately want to work in our field.  But, like every organization in every sector, we face the prospect of losing our people.  It is one of the challenges to any organization.  What is the number one reason people leave?

It's not because of money - not because we don't necessarily pay a competitive - or even living wage, although that is an issue.  It's not because we don't offer enough opportunities for promotion and advancement - despite the fact that a lot of senior baby boomer leaders are not retiring on a previously predictable timeline and making way for the next generations.  And it's not because of too few opportunities to share decision making authority and feel as though one is having an impact - though that too is a complaint.

None of the above challenges are the principal threat against keeping good people in the fold.  According to Gallup's latest report, State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, a study of over seven thousand adults, the number one reason people leave their jobs is toxic managers - in other words, bad mangers and bosses.  According to the study, fifty percent of employees left their jobs "to get away from their manager to improve their overall life, at some point in their career."   

Hiring qualified people isn't enough.  Giving them responsibility isn't necessarily enough.  And paying them well isn't always enough either.  You have to create a working environment that, more than anything, demonstrates to them that they are valued and respected; that their contributions make a difference; that they are crucially part of a team.  That takes constant reinforcement.

Smart leaders, managers and administrators know the following are key to grooming and keeping talent - both leadership and rank and file:

1)  Employees should always be counted on the "asset" side of the ledger, and not considered as merely "expenses".  In other words, you've got to treat the organization's people as human beings, each one an individual with differing needs and situations.  Be empathetic and concerned, not just with the job they are suppose to do, but with their careers, and to a reasonable extent their lives.  Caring about your people must be genuine; it can't be faked.  If the organization doesn't seem to really care about them, why should they really care about the organization?

2)   Always accentuate the positive - focus on what your people are doing right and what they are accomplishing, rather than their shortcomings and mistakes.  Set a tone within the workplace ecosystem that values your people, not one of constant criticism.

3)  Giving credit and making sure everyone knows the contributions of your people is important and appreciated.  Acknowledging and honoring people is an easy and simple thing to do, and reaps huge rewards in terms of job satisfaction and motivation.  Don't skimp on touting the contributions of your people.  If saying thank you is too much to ask, then your organization is in trouble.

4)  Act like the leader your people want you to be.

Often times there is so much on our plates as leaders, so many challenges and demands, so much to get done each day, that we take for granted our number one asset - our people.  And our people include our boards, supporters, and volunteers too, and the same logic applies to treating them in ways that make them want to continue to work hard for the organization.

Make it a point today to complement the people of your organization and listen to them so as to more readily identify their genuine needs.  It should be a big part of your job.  Every day.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit