Boys on step drinking smoothies

September is Back to School: We’ll go back to basics

The school bus just picked up my youngest child for his first day of middle school orientation. As we all gear up to go “back to school” I thought I’d do a quick sweep of the national “theme” weeks and the primary theme for September. What I found was a mishmash of days and weeks for different awareness efforts. It felt like the people in charge of this month where caught in the same swirl of activity as our household and threw something together.

I did find a commonality, however. The themes that spoke most loudly to me had the thread of getting back to basics; for example, September is National Courtesy Month. 

This month I’ll share a variety of topics that help us get back to basics when it comes to our businesses and our lives. I’ll share curated content on my Facebook page that support the themes of the month as well. If you’re interested, please “like” and you’ll share in the content too. I always appreciate comments and answers to questions I may pose.

Here’s a list of topics that got my attention:

  • National Courtesy Month
  • Patriot Day (Sept 11)
  • Step Family Day (Sept 16)
  • World Gratitude Day (Sept 21)
  • International Day of Peace (Sept 21)
  • Business Women’s Day (Sept 22)

Let’s all get back to basics and share what we learn this month.



Financing Philanthropy: Time, Talent, Treasures

money jar

Philanthropy is more than writing a check.


Excitedly I registered for a seminar on Strategic Philanthropy this week. I’m marshaling my entrepreneurship efforts and, I thought, I’d learn best practices for allocating a portion of my profits to a cause near to my heart. When I left the 2-hour session lead by Rick Swanson of Learning Meets Quality, I was the one that left with more riches than I imagined. Through Rick’s leadership the participants in the room, schools, businesses, and non-profits, learned an important lesson. Philanthropy is about more than writing a check. In fact, Rick’s lesson extends a common theme from my place of worship.

During each new budget year we have a stewardship campaign that funds the operations and mission of my religious community. We’re asked to dedicate not only our treasures (money), but our time (volunteerism), and talent (expertise) as well. With Rick’s permission I’d like to share these lessons with you. (Psst…if you’re interested Rick runs the Strategic Philanthropy sessions for free.)

The session started with a look at the goals we have for philanthropy from BOTH the non-profit and the business’ perspective.

Public Relations

  • Business: You desire a partner with a positive presence to leverage through media and/or public relations events.
  • Non-Profit: To attract a partner document your positive presence in the community.


  • Business: You seek a natural connection and comfortable working relationship with a partner who is well-connected in the community. In a tactful way you hope to leverage the partner’s connection with their community.
  • Non-Profit: Position yourself as well-connected in your community, show that you have positive working relationships with your donors/volunteers, and demonstrate your desire to connect the business to your community in a tactful manner.
  • For the relationship to work both business and non-profit need to be able to articulate their core values. If you are have not discovered your core values, drop me a line at SDJ Marketing Solutions for a consulting session.


  • Business: You are looking for a non-profit who is able to use your financial contributions, expertise, or volunteer hours.
  • Non-profit: Show that you have a well thought out plan to use your partner’s resources and a strong volunteer management program.


  • Business: You want an outlet for your members, volunteers, sponsors, and clients to smile and have fun.
  • Non-profit: Document through pictures, videos, and testimonials the fun factor of your facility or events.


  • Business: As an owner you want to work with a business that you know can “stand on its own two feet.”
  • Non-profit: Demonstrate your organization is mature enough to operate independently and ensure all your communications reflect your independence.


  • Business: You expect a reciprocal commitment of time between your organization and the non-profit organization for planning and relationship building. (Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly)
  • Non-profit: Fulfill your commitment to spend time with your partner and keep your partner accountable for his/her commitment as well.

You might notice the acronym in different ways an entrepreneur (even a solo-preneur like me) is able to contribute to philanthropic efforts. It’s more than PROFIT. In addition to financial support (treasures) I am working my time and talent (volunteerism, seminars, training, etc.) into my business plan.

How has this post changed the way you think about being involved in philanthropy? I’d love to hear from you.

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Giving and Receiving Feedback – A Process for Growth

Use Feedback as a Teaching and Development Tool

Frequent and specific feedback is critical to learning. It’s even more important than when you’re coaching an intern, new employee, or employee with performance issues. Depending on the length and intensity of the training needs, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly scheduled feedback is necessary for growth and development. Don’t underestimate the power of impromptu, positive feedback as you notice your intern/employee doing work or behaving in a way that meets or exceeds your expectations. Catching someone doing the right thing is far more effective than jumping on errors.

When corrective action is necessary, use this quick process to make sure your feedback is focused on the development of your intern’s/employee’s skills.

  1. Begin by describing the behavior you’d like to see. How should the report look? How does a professional employee act and dress?
  2. Follow up with the behavior you have observed. Try filling in the following sentence(s), “I’ve noticed ________ and it’s important to ____________ because it will help you _____________.”
  3. End by discussing (not prescribing) how to bridge the gap between what you’d like to happen and what you have observed. Make sure to include the intern/employee in the problem solving by asking for input.

It’s also important to open yourself to feedback. Coaching your intern/employee to learn to give feedback is as valuable as teaching them to receive it. Modeling the appropriate behavior is essential.

  • Listen without interrupting and without defensiveness. Take the opportunity to receive feedback as a growth opportunity for yourself and your business.
  • Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Guide the intern toward the example above. What did the intern expect to see and why? What did the intern observe?
  • Discuss what could account for the gap.
  • Thank the intern for providing feedback.

As managers and business owners we often develop tunnel vision. Using a clear process to coach an intern or employee is a great way to encourage an open flow of communication. Who knows what heights you’ll reach with a new set of eyes.

Helping Local Communities Strengthen Business Engagement Strategies (via Corporate Voices for Working Families)

Businesses and communities will always be interdependent. What are those on the front lines saying works between community leaders and business partners?

On Thursday, February 11, 2011, Corporate Voices for Working Families’ Ready by 21 team facilitated a “peer learning” call with the Ready by 21 Southeast Communities on business engagement.  Corporate Voices provided an overview of its series of business and community tools, and in particular the Supporting the Education Pipeline:  Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations, focused on helping private and public leaders in comm … Read More

via Corporate Voices for Working Families

Transforming and Reinventing Me – for business

There are two ideas that crossed my path this last week that gave me a kick in the pants and caused me to transform and reinvent the purpose of this blog.

The first was an essay by Amy Chua called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior written for the Wall Street Journal. I burned out a vehement post in response, without context, and certainly without the eloquence that subsequent writers have shown in the Journal. Although I should know better as a writer myself to compose something when my ire is up, the experience had an unusual side effect — I began to use my true voice in this blog. Angry, but authentic.

The second moment of inspiration came from an invitation by Cameron Tuck, a member of a leadership LinkedIn group. He writes a blog called the the Imperfect CEO. Imperfect – CEO. I’d never seen the two words together written by a CEO before. Mind you, I’d thought it many times. I looked at his posts, and they are truly imperfect…not bad, just not the perfection you get when the PR department writes it and you sign your name. His blog has his voice, for better or worse.

I looked over my posts again. When I first started my voice was there, however tentative. As I decided to reach out to the business community with my “wisdom” more actively the posts became more cerebral, more ordered, more perfect…and well…considerably more boring. Hell, I don’t even like to read them twice.  It’s troubling that the great information – well composed and properly cited – is lost among the sheer lack of voice. Hmmm.

So, it’s time to welcome the Authentic Me on this Bizlog. I will connect what I do in the classroom and in my family life to how I have, and will, lead. I will sometimes write while I’m angry. I will make mistakes and take accountability for them. I promise my readers, however, that I’ll not be boring.

I tell my students that if I’m bored while I’m teaching, they must be in a coma. Whoo, does that ever go for this blog. If I lapse into Not Me, call me on it. If I anger you; tell me. If I inspire you, tell me and others.

Welcome to the Authentic Me and my way of looking at business. Please, engage.

Solid to Liquid: Organizational Redesign

It’s not easy to move from a mechanistic business structure to the more fluid structures that are needed to compete in today’s global economy. What are the barriers and the techniques needed to get changes made?

Why do people resist?

  • Concerns over losing their jobs during restructuring
  • When you restructure, you may get a new boss or new responsibilities
  • Often the changes are not made transparently resulting and confusion and distrust
  • Contemporary structures lean toward flatter, more team based structures threaten employees’ hard earned authority
  • Incentive programs and individual performance evaluations would need to be redesigned to incorporate group goals

Don’t expect restructuring to be successful without the buy-in of your people. Structure exists only so far as it is recognized and reinforced by the people in it.

How to redesign the organization

  1. Streamline – flatten the organization and spread out decision making. One area can then be responsible for more than one strategy to increase efficiency.
  2. Start over – take a look at what is important to your customers and where your company is going in the future. From there, design a company that fits the direction from a blank slate. Of course, this will be the more costly solution, but your company will transform the organization rather than make only incremental changes. Take time planning this one as it would be smart HR planning to figure out where you can retrain employees for your new direction.
  3. Stray across boundaries—strategic alliances don’t have to be between two different companies. What about two different business units or functions? The same principle applies to bringing in strengths and innovation from another “partner.”
  4. Self –Managed Teams—become a collection of entrepreneurs by using self-management teams. All the functions of management are done within the team. Coordinating the teams becomes the role of a few executives, reducing the weight at the top.

Each of these techniques has different goals and intentions. Which is right for your organization?

Setting Goals Leads to Success

Have you ever said to yourself, “I need a new ______.” Let’s say in this case it’s a new computer that you need. “I need a new computer.” Three months later and you might still be making do with the one you have. Now, consider this statement, “I need a new laptop, that I can afford with at least 3-4 hours of battery life and a webcam before school starts in the fall.” Which statement will lead to you achieving the goal? If you said the second one, then you understand the benefits of Goal Setting Theory.

Persistence, Passion, Productivity

Setting and communicating a clear goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (remember SMART goals?) increases persistence, passion, and productivity. These characteristics are crucial for turning an idea into reality.


When specific goals are set, people will prioritize those actions and behaviors that allow them to succeed. In other words, “what gets measured gets done.” Employees will work longer toward goals that will get them clear rewards. Timely deadlines lead to a faster pace than loose deadlines. SMART goals make people strive for success. To increase persistence, try the following:

  1. Have employees make their goals public.
  2. Set SMART goals to show trust in the ability of your employees.
  3. Make the vision of the project, effort, and/or company clear to employees so they know how their goals impact the success of the organization.
  4. Provide feedback to employees throughout the process as it allows them to adjust their efforts and keep working toward their goals.


Where goals are absent, establishing SMART goals as a goal intervention can energize people. The American Pulpwood Association was trying to find ways to motivate independent logger. These loggers, although paid on piece rate, had considerable room to increase their productivity, measured by the number of cords per employee. The results were impressive. Crews who were given high, yet realistic goals and a tally to measure their progress bragged to other workers and their families about their effectiveness. Productivity for these crews far outpaced the crews that were instructed to “do their best.” Now that’s passion.

Keep in mind these loggers were unskilled and uneducated. The question arose whether applying Goal Setting Theory would work in more complex jobs where knowledge was the muscle needed to get things done. What’s the answer? Yes, it does, but with a few conditions.


There are some conditions for effective goal interventions that increase productivity.

  1. The person must have the ability and knowledge to reach the goal. If not, the leader’s job is to make sure he/she gets the needed training and resources.
  2. When people are learning a new job, industry, or skill, output goals should be replaced with learning goals. An example of this condition is to set a goal like, “discover five new ways to reach a new market with a current product.” This would be more effective than setting a goal of increasing market share for current products by 10%. The lesson here is that when learning is occurring, a learning goal prioritizes attention on problem-solving.
  3. If a stretch goal is quite a way in the distance, set sub-goals for quick successes to keep people committed. Especially in times of change, sub-goals allow people to gauge their efforts against what is required of them to attain their goals.

What’s the “bottom line?” Ensure your people have what they need to succeed, and if there are obstacles in the way of their success, work together to find a way around them.

Adapted from the article:

Latham, G. (2004). The motivational benefits of goal-setting. Academy of Management Executive , 18 (4), 126-129.