Saturday, December 19, 2009

Are You Passionate About Your Work?

This may seem a strange question to ask of people working in the non-profit sector where common mythology would have us believe people work in this sector due to their passion. There is a difference between being passionate about a cause and having passion for your work.

If you have no passion for your work you are simply working for wages. This can lead to disillusion and you may eventually become negative about your work. You can eventually become trapped in a vicious cycle of dislike and negative thinking; unable to be fully effective yet unable to find a way to do something different.

Check out your values. What are the things that excite you? What turns you on each morning and drives you out of bed with a spring in your step, raring to go?

Everyone has the option of choosing the work they do. In today's environment the opportunities to create your own work are limitless. By that I don't mean you must run out and start your own business, though that is an option. You might consider looking at areas of need in your organisation that you have an interest in. You might combine paid work with study and volunteer work or with part time self employment.

How can you become passionate about your work? Firstly, follow your heart. What excites you? What dominates your thoughts and conversations? Ask yourself, if you had a choice what would you love to do? Well you do have a choice and you can do what you love. Think outside the square. Today there are countless opportunities for employment. Avoid being corralled by past experience or by qualifications. Instead look to your strengths and ask yourself what you would bring to this new experience?

Shivani Gupta, author, Passion @ Work refer to this as flying like a butterfly; learning to grow beyond your own boundaries and being in charge of your own destiny. This journey begins when you do something different to what you are currently doing and you realise the world hasn't collapsed around you. You create an environment where you can learn and live and be excited.

Change isn't easy. Taking a risk is scary. So don't go it alone. Seek ideas from others. Note I said ideas rather than advice. The majority of people will advise you to stay where you are. Change is just as fearful to those that don't want to change as it is to those making the change. This means you should surround yourself with people who will be positive, will be mentors and will encourage you. People who will feed you with ideas.

Write down your goals. Establish an action plan and time frame. Face your fears and accept that you will always be fearful. Convert negative thoughts to positive alternatives. Remember you will make mistakes. These are not a sign of failure, rather they are a sign that you are experimenting and learning.

Put a little bit of 'me' into your thinking and ask yourself will what I am about to do make me happy. If not then don't do it or change something. Being wealthy is a bonus; it is not the reason for living. You and the people you help are the reason for living.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

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Monday, December 14, 2009

It's time for non-profits to bounce back

A recent report into not for profit remuneration in Australia ( that in 2009 executive remuneration fell almost 2% on that of 2008. Anecdotally, well not really anecdotally, as we have emails from clients that confirm this, not for profits, over the past twelve months have battened down their hatches in other areas including professional development, bonuses and hiring of staff.

It's time to bounce back. Let's acknowledge that we have emerged from a global financial crisis in better shape than some other nations but not without cost! Let's acknowledge that there remains still some downside risk, in particular uncertainty of ongoing funding from the Commonwealth as it moves to reduce stimulus spending debt in coming years. Let's also acknowledge that continuing to operate with the battens firmly in place could allow the ship to drift onto dangerous rocks.

There comes a time when Boards of Governance, Chief Executive Officers and management teams need to stand up and be counted. That time is now. Yes you are trustees of community organisations however continuing to duck for cover will serve noone in the long term, not the community, not staff and not Government funding bodies. Every management team needs to be able to manage its way through turbulent times and it also needs to be able to identify creative ways of moving out of turbulence and into calmer waters. It is time for the Captain of the ship and the entire team of ships officers to emerge from below, take a place on the bridge and look out over the bow of the ship into the future rather than out over the stern at the past.

Many not for profits will emerge from the current financial crisis seeking a different and better way of doing business. They will seek a model that is more sustainable and less at risk of funding issues. I am prepared to project that over the next 5-8 years many will be forced to reexamine their business model and to look at alternatives forms of revenue. As the movement towards social enterprises continues to grow Government funders will also reexamine how they distribute funds. Any shortfall in Government funding in the foreseeable future will increase the demand for greater accountability by the sector. This in turn will place pressure on management teams to perform to higher standards and become more creative.

The for-profit sector will emerge from the current crisis at full tilt. The demand for employees in the for-profit sector will be insatiable over the next two decades. Not for profits will have difficulties retaining and recruiting staff. Many, many key staff will be enticed away from the sector.

How do non profits minimise the impact of these emerging events? For a start give your current management team something to get their teeth into, something that stretches and develops their potential. In other words give them a reason to stay in the sector, with your organisation. Encourage them to reinvent the future of non profit service delivery rather than asking them to maintain the past.

Encourage your managers to join the Boards of Governance of other non-profits. The sector needs collaborative alliances to move forward into the future. Your organsiation needs managers with a broad perspective of the emerging environment. Every Board of Governance needs a shake up. Too many Boards are sitting on an age old belief that they are there to be trustees of some ideal or a pot-full of old money. Communities need to learn that not for profit organsations must be operated in a business-like manner and that this requires people on the Boards able to look to the future while being mindful off, but not beholden to the past. Even centuries-old, bluestone charities will need a tsunami every couple of years if they are to maintain their level of donations.

Finally, bring your Board members, management team and staff together, frequently to talk about the future. Don't leave this discussion to the board only. The future will not be dependent upon one person, it will happen because of such collaborative activities.

Well that's my opinion. This is my final blog for 2009 for the not for profit sector. I have a parting request. If you disagree with me, or take issue then say something, respond to the blog, send me an email. Let's have some healthy and robust debate about the future.

For those that have followed this blog throughout the year, I thank you, I wish you well for the festive season, however you celebrate, and you should know that I will return in 2010. May each of you mention the word 'peace' at least once in your New Year wishes.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager To CEO
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