Without Passion, Organizations Perish
You come to work lifeless. Everyone around you has that look in their eyes: a glaze that signals boredom, purposelessness, fatalism.
“What am I doing here?” you ask. Good question. What are you doing? If you’re a leader or manager and you see this zombie-like state among your organization’s employees, there is something you can and should do about it.
What are the key indicators that an organization has lost its passion, and how do you counteract it?
Key signs that your organization lacks passion:
* The leader is really not excited about what the organization does. In fact, many employees aren’t either. They are there more for the paycheck than the cause.
* There is no clear mission or purpose.
* No one talks or cares about who ultimately benefits from what the organization does.
* Managers and leaders are more focused on process than they are on doing good work.
* There is no overarching vision for the organization. (There is a noticeable absence of flexibility. Everything is very regimented and very predictable. Outside-the-box thinking is discouraged.)
* There is a lack of culture and personality; fun is not promoted.
* There is a lot of turf protection and lack of cooperation between individuals and departments.
Steps for re-infusing passion into your organization
Take steps to fall back in love with those who are helped by your organization. Who are they? How is your organization helping to change their lives? How can you help more? Here are some ways to inspire the people in your organization to move the focus from themselves back to the people you are organized to serve:
1. Once a week, share a story with your staff about a dilemma faced by a person served by your organization. This will most likely be a dilemma that has not yet been resolved. The purpose of this exercise is to keep employees focused on why your organization exists.
2. Once a week, share a success story about someone who has been helped by your organization. This will cement in your employees’ minds that what you are doing is really working.
3. In your monthly company meeting, have an employee speak about the vision and mission of your organization and what it means on a personal level to him or her. This will remind your employees that what you are doing is important.
4. Do everything possible to give the people helped by your organization prominence. Hang pictures of them in the halls. Talk about them. Ask, “How does my job serve the people we are helping?” Remember, it is about them. Nothing else matters very much.
5. Celebrate outside-the-box thinking. Organize brainstorming meetings. Encourage employees to think outside the box to come up with unconventional solutions to problems or opportunities. Sometimes it’s best to eliminate authority figures from these meetings to allow a free flow of thoughts and a process that gives birth to fresh ideas.
6. Have fun. Everyone knows what this means and what it looks like. In our company, it’s practical jokes; it’s strange sounds on the intercom; it’s games and competitions; it’s going out to eat together or just sitting around shooting the breeze. You can see fun when you see laughter and the celebration of work.
7. Publish your vision and mission. Do employees actually know what your vision and mission is? If not, it’s either because you don’t have them or you haven’t published them. Get them out there. Talk about them. Explain how you came up with them. Remember, THIS is why you are together.
8. Create and publish your list of values. You have a set of values that you run the organization by. If it is not written down, then it’s informal. Write down the list. Include a focus on the people served, your donors and fun. Publish it. Talk about it. Ask employees to hold you and others accountable to live by it.
9. Bring a person your organization regularly serves into your environment. There is nothing like looking into the eyes of one of the people that has been helped by your organization. Bring them in, if possible, and sit them right down in the middle of the sacred halls. Have them interrupt the process of running the organization. Place them in a place (meeting) where everyone needs to focus on the real thing that is going on here. Talk to them about their journey. What was their life like before your organization helped them? How is it now? How do they feel? Get in touch with all of these things. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it.
10. Keep talking always about people served and donors. Remember, everything you do is about the people you serve and your donors. It is important to keep that focus.
11. Get away from your desk and regularly talk to others about how excited you are about the people you serve and your donors. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the work and be stuck to your desk all day or in meetings. Plan to be absent from your desk. Put it on your calendar. Get out of your office and be with your staff for no reason but just to talk. Spread your joy. Share a story of how a person the organization helped really touched you. Talk about a donor and how encouraged you are about their help.
12. Get emotional about things. This isn’t just about plans, charts, grids, logic and the mind. It is about people. Allow your heart to be broken by the tragedies of life. Celebrate the victories. Get excited. Jump up and down. Be human. When your employees sense that you do have blood running through those veins, that you can cry and laugh, that you are real … when they sense that, you will be on your way to getting passion back into the workplace.
You also should take steps to fall back in love with donors. They are the true stakeholders in your organization. The board isn’t. The president isn’t. Even you aren’t. It is the donor who truly owns the charity. Why not start behaving that way? Here are some things you can do to remind yourself (and everyone else) that, after the person who is helped by your charity, the next most important person is the donor:
* Regularly (once a week) read donor letters to employees or pass excerpts along via e-mail. Focus especially on donor letters that express gratitude for being able to serve.
* Have a donor come in and address employees in a company or department meeting. Ask them why they are involved and why they stay involved.
* Encourage employees to call or visit with donors to talk about their motivations for being involved.
Richard Perry is the co-founder of Merkle. This article originally appeared as whitepaper on Merkle’s Web site.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.