“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” ― Benjamin Franklin
Planning is a key part of every success. I meet startup leaders almost every day who are implementing tactics in the absence of an overall strategy. I continue to see leaders compromise their success and the success of the organizations they lead. I have identified 5 pillars for success. Without these 5 pillars, we greatly compromise our results and even set up our organizations for failure. Even leaving out one of these pillars will compromise your success by at least 50%.
Hugh Ballou’s Pillars for Success:
- Strategy: Leadership without a strategic framework for the organization will compromise the results, overwork the leadership and teams, and waste time and money. A strategy is a Solution Map defining where the organization wants to be and how to get there. The planners must be the doers…no exceptions. The top-level team, the board and the staff are key to implementation. The integration of strategy and performance happens with the planning.
- Leadership: Leadership, communications, and financial results are all grounded in effective relationships. Creating a culture of high performance starts with the first person (the leader) and is developed with intentionality with each addition to the board, the staff, the committees, the advisors, and the community advocates. Here are my 4 principles of leadership:
- Foundations: Know the Score – Having a written plan and being able to articulate that plan to stakeholders is essential. A part of the plan is the sequence of actions within phases. Another key part of the plan is a list of competencies for implementation. The first competency to work on is that of the leader.
- Relationships: Hire the Best – Using the list of competencies in the plan, build the teams. Here are my 4 steps on in-boarding new players, whether staff, volunteer, board member, advisor, or consultant:
- Competency – Check for skills and validate those skills. Check references.
- Role and Responsibility – Define the role and responsibility for the new team member. Be sure you are both clear on the scope and sequence of the work required. Write it down.
- Culture Fit – Check the core values and guiding principles in the Solution Map for a culture fit. A culture mismatch will be an unsolvable problem, without buy-in from both parties.
- Performance Expectations – Define the expected results for the position and create a document for accountability. By the way, expectations go both ways.
- Systems: Rehearse for Success – Create and constantly improve systems of engagement. We paralyze good people by putting them into bad systems where they can’t fully function, therefore setting up a problem causing the new person to fail. One really bad system is the boring, unproductive meeting. Get my tips here – An Agenda: The Enemy of Productivity in Meetings!
- Balance: Value the Rests – Balance is the element that makes the other three work. We must care for self, and balance work and personal life. We must balance multiple priorities. We must balance our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. Balance means getting perspective and caring for self to remain at the top of the game. Be in the mode of constant improvement.
- Finances: Create an operational budget in which each line item connects to a milestone in the strategy. Also, create a startup budget from concept to launch. The missing element is the cash flow projection. A big part of success is having a financial person on the team to approve and interpret the financial documents.
- Startup Budget: If you are in the concept stage of development, then create a “Now” budget from the present to launch. It’s basically what you will need to build your plan, your skills, your team, and your budget to raise operational capital.
- Operational Budget: This is defined in your strategic plan, or Solution Map as I call it. Every item should tie into a milestone on the plan.
- Cash Flow Projection: We sometimes create cash flow analysis to see where our money went (brake lights) and don’t create forecasts of how long current funds will last (headlights).
- Team: Teams are essential to the work of any organization. In tax-exempt organizations, moving from volunteer thinking to a cadre of community servant leaders will impact the results of the organization. Build the culture principles and the skills to lead the teams before inviting the first team member to join, and then create a culture of high performance in which the team is an active part of the assimilation process.
- Coaching: The best leaders, like the top sports figures, always have a coach. The leader’s job is to define and lead the work. Over 90% of the skills and systems are hidden from visionary leaders, especially startup leaders and early-stage organization leaders. Always having an experienced coach is the essential step for accountability, sequence, skills, discernment, clarity, and referrals. Even if we are coaches, consultants, business or nonprofit strategists, we can’t do for ourselves what we can do for others.
The effective Transformational Leader begins with self transformation.
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