Any fool can make something complicated, it takes a genius to make it simple.
Recently I spent time on the receiving end of two great nonprofits, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Ronald McDonald House (RMH). Both organizations do amazing work to serve families.
I’ve spent over 18 years as a leader in nonprofits, so whenever I have a chance to be the customer/patient I pay attention. I’m watching for the insights that can only be mine through the eyes of a recipient.
It is impossible to see all the assumptions you make about your own organization as a provider, but as a recipient you clearly see the assumptions other’s are making in their organization. Often the best way to evaluate what you do is to be on the receiving end of what others do.
The impetus for every nonprofit is a cause, and effective nonprofits clarify a compelling mission around that cause.
RMH keeps families together to help kids heal faster and cope better. My family interacted with dozens of employees and volunteers at RMH who embodied that mission. We also encountered a few who had forgotten the mission and where just keeping the rules.
This past week my recipient eyes noticed that nonprofits attract two kinds of people: mission pursers and rule keepers. Here is the difference:
I’m not young enough to know it all anymore.
I recently heard Dustin Hoffman interviewed about his 50 year film career. In the interview Hoffman described himself as a peripheral person.
He noted how his 5’6″ boyish look never made him the automatic choice for a leading role. In 1967 Life Magazine said, “If Dustin Hoffman’s face were his fortune, he’d be committed to a life of poverty.”
The amazing thing about Hoffman is that he changed the idea of a leading male actor. The screenplay for one of Hoffman’s early films was written with a 6′ blonde-haired, blue-eyed leading role in mind (Robert Redford auditioned for the part.) Hoffman not only got the part he got an oscar nomination for his performance.
I’m not one to take sage-wisdom from Hollywood actors but something Hoffman said in his interview grabbed me: “Many times in life a peripheral person is the leading role.” (tweet that)
While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.
One of the best teachers I ever had began the first class of each semester with a confession of how he had been fired from his last job.
There was something about that opening confession that set the whole class up to succeed. In fact a majority of his students did very well.
One time his students’ success brought him into question before the academic dean. The dean felt sure he was making exams too easy for his students. My prof brought a copy of his final exam and challenged the dean to pass it. The dean declined and dropped his concerns.
A few months ago I came across a post entitled “The 13 Biggest Failures from Successful Entrepreneurs and What They’ve Learned from Them”. These are not light-hearted confessions about failing to show up to work on time or missing project deadlines. I was struck by some of the “black-eye” confessions of wasting money and letting growth exceed the ability to lead.
I have worked in churches for over 18 years and I’ve rarely heard a pastor confess a leadership failure unless it was attached to moral failure. I certainly haven’t heard confessions from 13 prominent pastors.
He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW.
My kids love Food Network shows like Chopped, Iron Chef and Good Eats. Several times my wife and I have been roped into being judges for an at-home episode of Chopped. We have four kids (ages 16 to 9) and Chopped starts with four chefs, so it works.
It gets quite comical since we don’t have four kitchens. The flour is flying, wisks are turning and I usually narrate like Alton Brown on the side. A bit of warning, do not try this at home unless you are ready to do some serious clean-up.
If you’re thinking how hard it would be to “chop” one of your own kids, well it’s not after eating some of their culinary creations. Plus you get to compliment them before putting them on the “chopping block” with phrases like, “Your peanut butter pickles were robust in flavor, but I just felt they needed more cayenne pepper.”
From judging my kids “Good Eats” I’ve discovered 5 ways blogging is like a cooking show: