Say No to Say Yes

P40B-man-with-board-saying-noWe all want to GET THINGS DONE. There is nothing as frustrating as seeing things stagnate, fall through the cracks or going south.

If you want to get things done you need to know what those things are.

In order for us to do that, we need to stop and decide what our priorities are and stick with it…and to say “no” to everything else.

Here are 4 reasons why saying “no” is a blessing

  • Getting others to step up

Someone once told me that I should not “rob” my team from opportunities to grow and take risks. At first I did not know what this meant, later I realised that it was all about smart and intentional delegation. If we say no it will give others the opportunity to step up. This is not saying no to tasks that we want to avoid, but to the things that are not important for ME to do. The results will be amazing – the development of the others around you. A warning: If others step up it will probably look a bit different that when you do it – but isn’t that what we want? Creativity, Growth, New Ideas?

  • Say yes to what is more important

It is crazy how much of our time can easily be consumed with issues that are not important or not our core business. When last have you taken time to pray about, evaluate and list the things that you believe God wants you to focus on? The other day a man cancelled on an speaking engagement he committed to a long time ago and his answer was simply this: “I am so sorry, I’ve realized that I had to come back to my main calling”. I was not upset, in fact, I had so much respect for him.

  • It kills the people pleaser in me

If we have to be honest, many of us struggle to say no because we do not want to “let others down”. This, friends, in the deepest form, is pride. Therefore, even if it is only for this reason – to kill the people-pleaser in me, it is reason enough to say no. We cannot please everyone. Even our Lord Jesus said no to a lot of people, He was only set on pleasing his Father in Heaven through doing what He was called to do.

  • To be healthy/balanced

A result of not saying no is that it brings health and balance in our lives. The tendency is for people to always expect a lot from leaders and the sad result is unhealthy, overworked and tired leaders. The sad reality is that the ones that really suffer under this are the closest people and most important people – our families. It is possible to live a healthy, balanced life where you have margin in your day, intentional time with family and energy.

We need to say no to the unimportant things so that we can say yes to the things that really matter.


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Learn to Focus

imagesToday is a perfect example of an issue I deal with on a regular basis. I wonder if you fall into the same trap.

I started the day by doing all of the RIGHT things:

  • I made my list
  • I determined my priorities
  • I allocated time in my schedule to get things done
  • I told the people around me my plan for productivity today

Then, I sat down and spent an hour trying to figure out where to start:

  • I cleaned my desk off
  • I emptied my trash can
  • I made a second cup of coffee
  • I watched a short video clip that showed up on Facebook that had nothing to do with anything
  • I thought about some other things I need to add to the list
  • I had another cup of coffee

I’m already over 60 minutes into the “Getting Things Done” zone, and I have no idea how to start.

Some days, it’s like this. Other days, I can just dive in and move straight into productivity

Nadia Goodman shares on that there are 3 things any of us can do that will increase our ability to focus.

I’ll share her 3 points, and I’ll comment personally on them. To read her full article, CLICK HERE.

#1) Do Creative Work First

Goodman shares, “Typically, we do mindless work first and build up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus.”

How many times do we begin our day by responding to unimportant emails and social media, by using energy that doesn’t require us to think, by doing repetitive tasks.  We are at our best when we’re fresh, when we are beginning the day and when we have the most energy.

FOCUS on the things that require the most thought, energy and creativity first.

#2) Allocate Your Time Deliberately

“Notice where and when your focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.”

Just because we have a desk in our office, this doesn’t mean that this is where we’ll be able to be the most focused. For me, getting out of my office and walking around the block enables me to think clearly and to look at a situation from a different perspective.

FOCUS comes when you learn where you work best and when you work best.

#3) Train Your Mind Like a Muscle

“We’ve trained our brains to be unfocused”

Multitasking is a really bad habit. We often praise it, but we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by too many things at the same time, which limits our ability to focus and give something our full attention.

FOCUS requires us to use discipline to look at the task at hand and nothing else.

So, now I get back to the task at hand. Tomorrow I’ll try these three things and determine if I can avoid the distractions that face me every day.

What about you?


A Two-Minute Training on MAKING YOUR LIST

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Getting Things Done

imagesI was at a conference on Emotionally Healthy Leaders with Peter and Geri Scazzero. Pete said to me, “I can tell – you are a high capacity producing leader.” I was surprised by his comment. What did he mean? It is true that I get a little frustrated with my life if I am not producing. I get bored easily if there is not enough to do. There are two concepts that have helped me become a high capacity producing leader.

The book by Stephen Covey on Highly Effective Leaders helped me prioritize. The book called The 80 20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less By John Koch helped me focus.

  1.  Covey taught me amazing things from the Urgent VS Important quadrants. This gave me a perspective and permission to say no to things that were not important. Learning to live in the Important and Urgent quadrants help us get more things done. We still have to do some quadrant II things – Not Urgent but Important things as well. But I have tried to minimize the quadrant III and IV as much as possible.



  1. John Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less taught me the importance of focusing on the most productive time of the day. John Koch explains this 80/20 principle:


“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example, 80 per cent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 per cent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort—a dominant part of it—is largely irrelevant” (pg 4).

This speaks to something really important – 80% of the work you and I produce every day is completed in 20% of our time. Let´s discover when that time is. When do I produce the most in my day? I have discovered that I produce the most between 9am and 11am. Sometimes I can stretch it until 12 noon. So, applying the Covey quadrant of important things to the Koch principle of production we can produce more – get more done.

I want to do the most important things of my day in the time when I am most productive. Therefore, I make a list of the most important things in my day and I focus on completing them during my productive time of the day – for me that is 9am till 11am.

So, I challenge you to do two things:

  1. Make your own Urgent vs Important Quadrant. What are the things that are most important to get done in your day? In your week? In your life?
  2. Discover when your most productive time of the day is. When is it that you produce 80% in 20% of your time?

Once you have both of these figured out – put them together and watch how you get a lot more done each day.

To purchase The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, CLICK HERE

To purchase The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, CLICK HERE

Both of these books are must haves!


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Learning to Work SMARTER

imagesI remember when I was assigned to read the book entitled, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” by Stephen R. Covey.  I was a student in grad school and was struggling with balancing my graduate studies, a full-time job, and a growing family. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and unproductive. When I read the title on that book, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to read a book about being more effective! I just need more time!”

Looking back, it’s easy to see the struggle I was dealing with, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of everything, it’s really difficult to see.

I did read the book, eventually, and I had to write a paper on how the book impacted my life. I don’t have the paper anymore, and I don’t remember what I wrote, but I would love to re-write that paper today.

Reading this book began a process in me that continues today. The book caused me to look at myself first, and to figure out how to work SMARTER. Up to that time, I had focused on how to work HARDER.

I’m not afraid of hard work, but I’ve learned a lot about myself: what motivates me, what I’m good at, what challenges me and what things I like to avoid. I’ve learned my habits, my weaknesses and my rhythms.

There are some simple lessons from this book that I wish I would have understood back in 1989. It took me a while to really understand things and then to apply them to my life.

Let me share three things with you. Maybe you can learn them quicker then I did:

#1) Figure Out What’s Most Important

In Covey’s book, he talks about “Putting First Things First”. The challenge is to figure out what is most important to you, and prioritize your time doing that. We all waste so much time and energy doing things that aren’t important, or doing things that others can do, and sometimes do better. Figure out what your most important role or task is, and do that first. Eliminate the distractions that keep you from doing that important thing.

#2) Figure Out How To Listen

Covey calls it, “Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”. I used to think that if I talked louder and pushed harder, others would follow. I’ve learned the value of listening first, hearing people’s hearts. If you don’t start listening, often you’ll never get a chance to. I ask a lot of questions and I listen.

#3) Figure Out How To Keep Growing

Covey calls this, “Sharpening The Saw”. I need to be continually growing, being stretched and renewed, always learning and developing in all areas of my life. When I become stagnant, my effective leadership ends. How do I stay in places where I am forced to grow, learn and develop? How do I avoid the feeling that “I know it all”?

There are so many other lessons that have taken me decades to learn and apply to different areas of my life.

If you want to be more productive, don’t start doing more. Learn to work SMARTER. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

To purchase Covey’s book, CLICK HERE It’s still a timeless book that will challenge you and teach you to work smarter.


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How to END a Partnership

Pfizer-reveals-PPD-as-third-strategic-CRO-partnerWe never really talk about this because we don’t want to consider that the partnership might now work out, however there are many reasons for partnerships to not continue forward. Here are a couple:

  • There’s no NEED for the Partnership

Sometimes partnerships come together for a specific purpose, and when that purpose is met or finished, we continue on without knowing why we’re working together. Find out if there’s a need to continue and celebrate if you accomplished what you set out to do.

  • The KEY PLAYERS are no longer involved

Often, partnerships are drawn together because a couple of people want to collaborate and work together. Many times, these people move on, and one day people are looking around trying to figure out why you’re in this partnership. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s the reality of change.

Sometimes partnership just doesn’t work. The idea is good, but as it rolls out it’s not working. Identify this and get out! It’s better to figure this out early than to continue to invest time and energy into something that isn’t going anyway.

  • You’d rather work with SOMEONE ELSE

As you dive into an opportunity, sometimes better partners emerge along the way and we feel trapped. We’re working with someone in a partnership, but we’d rather be working with someone else.

How do we respond to these 4 scenarios?


#1) Define the goals of the partnership before you begin. This gives you something to evaluate along the way. Be sure to determine who’s responsible for doing what and talk about a given time period that you’ll work together. Set a date to evaluate how things are going, and give both sides an opportunity to “get out” if things aren’t working. Talk about this before you even begin!

#2) Be honest! Don’t be afraid to say something isn’t working. Real partnerships want the best for each other, so that means we’re honest when we need to be.

#3) Don’t bail out because you’re afraid to put the work into it. There’s a difference between “ditching a partnership” and “ending a partnership”. Do your best to make it work. Do the work it takes for both sides to be successful. If after that, things aren’t moving forward, have the conversation about ending it, but don’t quit before you try your hardest.

#4) Be gracious in the process. There are many reasons why partnerships don’t work. You can spend a lot of energy blaming others, or you can exit graciously. Be generous and end well. You may have another opportunity in the future for partnership and it might be a completely different scenario. Keep the door open to continued relationship by being gracious.

Sometimes PARTNERSHIPS end.  They will either end WELL or they’ll end BADLY.

Do all you can to end WELL.


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Rushing Into Partnership

imagesWe all believe that having a healthy strategic partnership is a great thing but many times we rush into partnership without asking some really important questions first.

I had an early experience in “partnership building” while in college. I remember clearly the excitement I felt when I met an organization that was just as eager as our organization to impact people living in Mexico. I went to meet with them face to face, because I knew the value of due diligence! After seeing their work, hearing their vision and dreaming about what we could do together, we forged a partnership and agreed to work together on a couple of initiatives. I soon learned that the word “partner” can be defined in many different ways. The partnership didn’t work. They wanted me to do some things for them that I just couldn’t do. They assumed that I would bring resources and other partners to the table. I soon learned that what they expected and what I had hoped for were completely different. The partnership never really moved forward, and I felt like a failure.

I believe we had the right intentions, but we didn’t communicate clearly because we were so excited to find someone else with similar passion that we rushed into partnership without really defining it.

Here are some questions to ask before you RUSH into partnership?

• How do we define success?  What does success or impact look like?

We all define success differently. It’s not just a measurement of people, resources or impact. There are lot’s of ways to measure this. Be sure that you’re speaking the same language.

• Who is the point person assigned to the partnership?

Every successful partnership has 2 clearly defined point people. Who are they? What are their parameters when it comes to making decisions? Are they the people that initiated the partnership or where they handed the partnership?

• How long will we be in partnership?

Every partnership needs to have a goal. Open ended partnerships tend to fizzle out. Clarify and evaluate by creating some timely markers in your relationship, especially at the beginning as you get to know each other.

• How do we celebrate our partnership and end our partnership?

Celebrate the things you learn together along the way, and determine an exit strategy when it’s time. Clarify what it looks like to end a partnership and communicate that to both organizations and the public.

Healthy partnerships take time.

– Time to build the relationship

– Time to rally around trust and vision

– Time to learn about each other and from each other

– Time to make some mistakes and recover from them

– Time to confirm that the partnership is really a strategic alliance that will produce impacting results.

Don’t rush into partnership. When you take you time, you build something that will last.


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Be Thankful In Your Fundraising

imagesWe celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States tomorrow, and it’s a day that’s set aside for us to stop and be thankful for all that God has done for us and provided for us. Of course, we celebrate this day by gathering together with family and friends, and we eat a traditional meal and enjoy the day together.

We’ve been talking about fundraising this month, and I thought this would be a perfect way to end this stream of conversation, and today as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I was reminded of how being thankful is an important aspect of fundraising.

Years ago, I met with a man to invite him to contribute to a project I was working on. After listening to my presentation, he simply said something like, “Thanks Russ for sharing this opportunity. I’m sorry, but I’m not able to be a part of this right now.”

When he told me that, my heart sank. I had spent time and money to get to this meeting with him, and my hopes were that he would jump in with me. I tried my best to hide my disappointment, and I simply said, “Thank you for the opportunity to present this need to you. I appreciate the time and I know that you need to get involved where God is directing you to give. Thank you for your generosity to the Kingdom, even if you can’t give to my project.”

Honestly, I didn’t say that to change his mind or to guilt him. I said that because I was genuinely grateful for him and his willingness to be involved in hundred’s of great projects all over the world.

Two weeks later, he sent me a check. The check wasn’t for the amount I had asked him, but it was a gift that would help me eventually reach my goal. With the check was a simple note. It said this: “Thank you for ‘thanking me’. I don’t get thanked often.”

Of course, I called him and thanked him again, but what he said stuck with me. Why don’t we thank people more often? Why don’t we take the time to simply communicate our heartfelt gratitude, not just for their investment, but for their trust, for their partnership, for their interest, for their impact, for their lives?

Sometimes I get so busy that I don’t do a good job of thanking people, but today, I’m really thankful to those that regularly contribute to my life, my ministry and the vision God has given me.

What about you?

Here are a couple of practical things you can do that will create a habit of thanksgiving:

#1) Thank your current donors, partners, churches, organizations. Figure out a way to simply communicate how grateful you are. This can be a visit, a hand-written note, a short e-mail or call. Whatever! There’s no excuse for not thanking the people who are regularly involved with you.  Make this a habit.

#2) When you receive a large gift or a special gift, stop what you’re doing and thank them immediately. Don’t wait or put it off. A 5-minute call will mean a lot.

#3) Don’t just thank people when they give. Thank them for listening to you, for making time for you, for other things they are involved in. Thank them for ongoing prayer, for input, for networking. Let thanks flow from you regularly!

#4) Thank them again. Sometimes, just saying thanks once isn’t enough. Let’s “thanks” be the foundation of many conversations and connections. Thank them continuously.

Sometimes people don’t like to be thanked. Sometimes people don’t want any public recognition. Be aware of this! You don’t want to challenge a donor’s desire for anonymity. Ask them if you can share about their gift or get permission before ever publishing something publicly.

Really, the lesson here is to simply thank people.  Stop what you’re doing and say THANK YOU. If it helps, cook up some turkey and some pumpkin pie to get you in the mood.

Be thankful.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Leadership Community, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

5 Fundraising Questions You Might Be Asking

imgresRecently, I wrote to a number of non-profit leaders asking them a couple of questions about fundraising issues they have experienced, and out of the responses of about 25 global leaders, I want to answer 5 questions on fundraising for you. Hopefully this will create some conversation around the theme, but let’s engage in the topic. This post will be a little longer than normal, but we’ll try to answer each of the questions.

First, before addressing these 5 questions I want to remind you that fundraising is only successful when you have a clear vision, a clear purpose and a compelling story that produces impact. We talked about this in a RECENT BLOG on “messaging”.  Start with this first!

Now, let’s address these questions that came from real leaders:

Question #1) How can I raise funds when I have this incredible fear of rejection?

This question comes directly to our personal confidence and it’s tied to our vision and call. There is rejection in everything. Often we take things personally that we can’t control. In fundraising, our job is to share clearly the opportunity, and “invite” people to come with you. We invite people all the time to parties, events, meals & coffee. Sometimes people say yes, sometimes they can’t. It’s the same in fundraising. Invite them, and realize that when they say no, it’s not because they don’t believe in what we believe in. It just means that they may be doing something else right now that is really important to them.  I remember presenting a huge project one time to a foundation, and after my great pitch they said, “No. What else do you have?”  I was crushed. They didn’t buy into my vision. The reality is that they eventually got involved in something I was doing that was right in line with their vision, and we partnered together for over 10 years with them making a huge investment in my vision.

Invite people and realize that everyone needs to follow what it is they feel God is leading them to.

Question #2) How can I dedicate the time needed to do fundraising?

We often say that fundraising is important, but it’s the thing we procrastinate with, the thing we ignore, the thing we put off. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t like the pressure or not, but it’s always easy to find other things to do. The reality is this: If we don’t do the work of fundraising, we won’t be able to do the things that we really need to accomplish. This comes to priorities. Figure out what’s most important. We need to make time for the most important because it drives everything else we do. If you are struggling with this issue, look at your areas of time management and priorities. Fundraising will never happen “when you have time”. You have to make the time and take the time to put into it. Quit putting it off!

Question #3) How can I raise funds when I’m out of new contacts to present to?

In fundraising, you start with those closest to you: family, friends, work, church.  Start there because these are the people who love you, that believe in you, and they will want to be a part of encouraging you in what you’re doing. Don’t force them or try to manipulate them. “Invite them”.  When you run through these contacts, look at “Networking Groups” that rally around some of the things you’re connecting to. These might be community service organizations or businessmen’s/women’s networks. Get out in the community and find out what’s going on and connect. Don’t come in with an ask. Come in and join the community, and as you build relationships, you’ll be able to share your vision.  Using technology, look at family or corporate foundations that serve the demographic you’re working towards or look at ways to build strategic partnerships that will help with costs by bringing other organizations alongside you. We’ve always found that the more people we can expose to opportunities, the better. We invest heavily in vision trips, short-term trips and internships which bring new people to see projects regularly. These take time, but it’s great time because it’s building long-term relationships.

Question #4) How can I raise funds when I live so far away?

Distance does create challenges, but with technology today the world is much smaller. Here are a couple of ideas: 1) Build a list of people who want to know what you’re doing. Write to them regularly, not just when you need something. Share the story, share the pictures, keep them updated. Ask people if they’d like to be on your list. 2) Use technology creatively from Facebook to Skype to Twitter and Instagram to Websites and YouTube. Don’t think that everyone will use all of them. People have preferences. You need to figure out what works best for you and use it. Don’t overpower people with too much information. They’ll tune you out. 3) Be consistent. Share the story and impact regularly and then invite people to get involved, then keep telling them how their investment is helping. 4) Sometimes the cost of a plane ticket is worth it. There are some conversations that need to take place in person. Learn to identify these and plan for them.

Question #5) What’s the best way to build relationships that lead to fundraising success?

This is simple: You’re building relationships, you’re not selling a product. Invest in the relationship and the conversation. Share what you’re doing and invite people to get involved, but if they choose not to, continue with the relationship. People are wary of relationships that are based on money or involvement. Be a true friend. Don’t determine your relationship based on the outcome of your proposal. It takes time to build a solid relationship, so you need to take the time and make the time for this to happen. These relationships over time will become very important to you, not just for what they might bring to your vision, but for what they will bring to your life. Make people a priority!

We could answer these questions much deeper, but let’s leave it at this.

Please comment on any of these and add your suggestions and ideas.

For more in Fundraising, check out the tip sheets HERE.

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Leadership Community, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Fundraising Begins With The Message

imagesThis past week, I had the privilege to provide some training to a group of leaders in the Philippines. I was presenting a couple of workshops on how to recruit team members and how to keep team members. In both workshops, I began with the simple thought that one of most powerful ways to build and keep a team is to have a vision worth working towards.

I’m going to say the same thing today as we talk about fundraising.

Sometimes we spend a lot of time talking about the mechanics of fundraising, and we don’t spend enough time talking about vision.

Learning the mechanics of fundraising is really important, but if we don’t have a compelling vision, a message that’s worth sharing, than the mechanics don’t really matter.

In one of my favorite books on marketing,  “The Seven Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing” (©1998 Berkey Brendel Sheline)Doug Brendel talks about the message:

“THE MESSAGE is more important than the mechanics of communicating it.

THE MESSAGE must compete with thousands of other matters intruding on the donor’s attention.

THE MESSAGE therefore, must be repeated constantly, in terms that the donors understand, and in ways that make it count for them.”

We have to work on the MESSAGE!

Here are some tips to help you develop and communicate your Message, your Vision:


Be sure that your message isn’t too general or too broad.  You want to focus in on what you are best positioned to address. Often this is the thing your organization was created to do.


Don’t over-communicate the message. Keep it simple and short. Cast the vision, tell what it is that you’re going to address and accomplish.


Don’t use vague or ambiguous words. These just confuse people. Be crystal clear in what it is that you are going to do.


Communicate your desired outcomes. What will happen as a result of what it is you’re going to do? What will the impact be? What will the results be?

I want to encourage you to first address your MESSAGE. Does it fit these 4 suggestions? Practice it. Learn it. Have your staff and team learn to communicate it. Live it for a while. Try it on.

Once you’ve got some traction, you’re ready to share this MESSAGE with people who might be able to help you accomplish it.

You will find people who connect and identify with exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish. These are the best people to come alongside of you with financial gifts, with prayer, and with their time.  These people will help your vision to become a reality.

Bring your vision into focus before you try to communicate it to the world.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Leadership Community, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , ,

Boards that Rock!

images-1Most of us have served on a committee or a board that has functioned extremely bad. You know, the ones that start super late, once they start, the one in charge did not really plan that well and is unorganized, people interrupt and before long you realized another Tuesday was wasted. Your time was wasted. Your ideas were wasted. If only someone would have taken control of this meeting so that your ideas would have been heard and progress would have been measured.

Having a strong board that listens, gets people up to speed, casts vision, allows for people to express their opinions yet keeps the flow of the meeting happening and holds the CEO accountable is what we are supposed to do. What is the role of the board? What should we be accomplishing?

There is a great book called “The imperfect board member – discovering the seven disciplines of governance excellence.” by Jim Brown. ORDER THE BOOK HERE

Jim explains the role of the board with this graph or diamond rock:

He explains the 7 disciplines of what we need to do as a board. A board that leads is a board that understands these disciplines. He goes on to explain each one of these 7 disciplines that can transform your board. They include: Owner Expectation – Respect; Organizational Results – Reflect; Prominent Leadership – Select; Board Relations – Connect; Organizational Performance – Direct and Protect; and Board Management Interaction – Expect.


Boards though have to be true to who they are. They are there to hold the CEO accountable for the results that the organization pursues. Jim Brown uses another graph to show how this all flows:

If we understand our role as a board, we will be able to complete the requirements that God gives us. We have to represent the owners well, we must give authority and accountability to the CEO so that the she can in turn hold the staff accountable to serve the customers well.

I had a board one time that was dysfunctional. No one really understood what our roles were. Someone was able to come in and show us that we had the wrong people in the wrong roles. Then he taught us the importance of governance – the importance of leadership in the board and the importance of why we do what we do as a board.

Once I understood this better, and once our board understood it better we made the necessary adjustments so that today our board is flourishing, calling the CEO to accountability, and keeping us all on track. One of the greatest adjustments we made was having people on the board who believed in what we were all about. People who had a passion for the vision of the organization but who loved the CEO so that their directives were understood in the context of love and friendship. This transformed the board and the organization as a whole.

For more information on this subject – Go to STRIVE

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