After years of working with leaders in the social sector, I’ve created a list of wounds the sector inflicts on itself. These are attitudes that make our work more difficult and reduce our effectiveness:
- We step on our own toes – Board/staff relations can be rocky; the players often don’t understand their roles and how to best achieve their shared purpose. Healthy organizations talk about this regularly and embrace strategies to sort through it.
- We are too nice – Lack of accountability in our structures lets people be unproductive for years. We must ensure that the right people are in the right seats on the bus and that they are working to their potential; anything less robs our donors, our clients and our community.
- We undervalue ourselves – We must get rid of the second-class attitude we have especially as we deal with stakeholders/funders/etc. We can’t be afraid, ashamed or timid about our expertise and/or position no matter who we’re talking with.
- We are stuck in the past – We do things the way we’ve always done them and achieve the same results. From big things like programs that are years past their best-before date to processes – methods of governance, meeting protocols, performance management, succession planning, etc. We must join the 21st century.
- We hold on too tightly – We are masters at the scarcity thinking that stops agencies from working together and results in too many internal rules. We must learn to focus on client and society needs first and foremost.
- We are easily distracted – We let our missions drift – we often follow the money and outside influences and lose sight of our purpose. We must understand the difference we’re here to make and do it with excellence.
- We forget why we’re here – So often we focus on activities not results and thus our impact decreases. We must concentrate on the outcomes our agencies achieve for our end users, period.
- We think too small, we act even smaller – We are pathologically incapable of taking risks. We confuse character with courage. We need to recommit to difference-making not problem-management.