Bonus # 2 – Questions

3 Questions:

  1. Did I clearly describe our goals and vision?
  2. Did I provide enough resources for my team to accomplish their role?
  3. Did I provide enough training to help them, including soft skills?

Bonus #1 – 8 Step Process for Change

8 Step Process for Making Change Happen

  1. Wonder
    I wonder if? What would happen if?
  2. Notice
    Notice talent, similar groups, competitors
  3. Connect
    People are lonely and disaffected, give them a chance to something greater than themselves
  4. Understand
    Why organizations succeed.  What works and doesn’t work.  How the underlying related mechanics work
  5. Leap
    There is no bridge; leap into “I care,” “This is possible.”
  6. Challenge
    Challenge what is possible
  7. Transform
    Transform the world around you
  8. Contribute
    You can add value as others have added value for you.

Notebook #9 – When you fail…

“When you fail, and you will…”

Pick a moment when you’ve led, when the project didn’t work, when there was a failure. Tell us what happened and why it’s personal and why it’s not.

Over the last 9 months my team has shrunk from 4 FTE’s plus various intern staff to 2 FTE’s (including me!).  Further, my #2 just left the organization after four plus years and his successor came aboard after his departure with no opportunity to cross train.  My #2 had been a top performer in many ways.  Confident, articulate and a self starter.  He was able to work very independently in effectively managing the various aspects of his job.  Too independently, as it was.  His upward communication skills were one of his most pronounced weaknesses.

I was very much caught off guard by the sloppiness of his files and record keeping when he left.  As a federally-regulated nonprofit lending organization these records are critical to the effective performance of our organization.  When we began to downsize he did the absolute minimum possible to maintain and track this data both online and in our files.

I’m now going through a large scale effort to remedy this while at even a more restricted capacity due to the need for my to manage the hands on training of my new #2.

This failure was personal because I did not sufficiently monitor the situation and was too remote.  Based on his past track record I had misplaced confidence in his ability and reliability to manage this task.  I should have been more engaged to be able to identify the issue and intervene earlier.  That was the personal part.  The impersonal part was that it was also primarily his failure.  He knew the job.  He knew the importance.  He failed to do it and failed to communicate any issues he had in completing the task.  First and foremost it was his responsibility to communicate this.

Leadership Notebook #8 – Nothing Succeeds with Everyone

Identify at least 10 popular items that at least one person you know can’t stand:

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. Pokemon Go
  3. Dogs
  4. Donald Trump
  5. Hillary Clinton
  6. The iPhone
  7. Uber
  8. Pop up restaurants
  9. Craft cocktails
  10. Smart phones
  • When someone criticizes a true success, that doesn’t automatically mean the thing is bad.  It means the person criticizing it is keeping score of something different, has a different worldview, wants different things.
  • The purpose of this exercise is to help understand that even GREAT stuff isn’t universally liked.  Realize that leadership is about being important to some people; no liked by all people.

Leadership Notebook #7 – Responsibility

How can I take more responsibility?

(Borrowed liberally from other students; feel free to borrow liberally from me if you see anything you like)

  1. Promote a more flexible, results-driven culture
  2. Identify processes for which to establish checklists
  3. Build out small building property acquisition program
  4. Organize optional social events with co-workers
  5. Remember Rule #6:  Don’t take myself so seriously
  6. When stuck, ask “What am I resisting?”
  7. Forget permission
  8. Ask questions and then truly listen before speaking
  9. Identify and seek out people with a common cause
  10. Let go of needing to be right
  11. Keep challenge log to document deliberate actions outside my comfort zone
  12. Say no
  13. Live in integrity
  14. Create recognition event for staff
  15. Train others
  16. Discover other’s aspirations
  17. Remember:  How you do one thing is how you do everything
  18. Focus on living healthy life; spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally
  19. Move away from negative people
  20. Encourage transparency and permission to acknowledge failures as part of the growth process
  21. Let go of others’ opinions and focus on personal integrity and congruence
  22. Help create vivid pictures and visions of our work and aims
  23. Seek feedback and listen non-judgmentally
  24. Cultivate mindfulness
  25. Model healthy employee activities (standing desks, walks, etc.)

Leadership Notebook #6 – Rule 6

Don’t take yourself so seriously.

When I bring mindfulness to my projects, I become more deliberate and focused.  I feel less anxious.  I am more aware of possibilities, options, and choices.  I find greater enjoyment in my work.

The project is not the same as me.  I don’t fully understand this point.  I know panicking and getting upset are counter productive but I don’t understand how this specifically relates to not taking myself so seriously.

I forget this rule all the time.  As a consequence I become stressed out and myopic.


Leadership Notebook #5 – Enrollment

Who are you following?  Who do you enroll?

I am following the vision originally developed by John Hamilton of creating a city-wide affordable housing trust in the District of Columbia.  Being enrolled in this journey means to constantly stay true to this mission and to push to bring it to scale in a way that involves community stakeholders.  I commit to investing my whole and true self into this effort.  I will not compromise my integrity and will be a constant advocate for remaining focused on creating true impact in this sector.

In order for someone to want to follow me, they must care and be passionate about making DC a more inclusive and economically diverse city.  I want them to feel satisfaction as we win our share of battles in this war.  They should be seeking the same.

An example of a poor fit has been our CFO. We have employed part time consultants who do not share passion around our objective.  Their focus has been on compliance and we have not had the benefit of an engaged CFO to help us think strategically about our financial position.

Leadership Notebook #4

Are you telling a story that resonates with the people who are ready to hear it?

The story I am telling is the importance of fostering equitable development as the District of Columbia gentrifies.  If current trends continue, only the very wealthy will be able to live in the city.  Long term residents, primarily African American, will be disempowered and displaced.  A more inclusionary and diverse city promotes a more sustainable and equitable future for the City’s citizens.

Last week, our organization made a pitch to funders on the need to support the formation of a community land trust in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC.  This neighborhood is already seeing appreciation rates soar due to speculators moving further East across the City.  The pending Bridge Park development is expected to further spur this trend.  At the meeting were two prominent members of the community.  The were outspoken in their support of the CLT model as a means to ensure long term affordability for the neighborhood’s residents.

Tell your story in four ways, all true, based on different world views.

  1.  Long term resident – the accelerating and development are for the newcomers and not us.  We helped create this city’s culture and every day it seems like we are being excluded more and more.  We need an investment in the city’s resources that recognizes the importance of our continued presence.  This means to develop a way that residents continue to live in their neighborhoods as they gentrify.  The community land trust model does just this and should be more widely explored and supported by City leaders.
  2. New resident – part of why I find DC attractive is its rich culture and history.  DC plays a unique and significant role in the history of African Americans in the United States.  From Frederick Douglass’s stirring writings to the U Street corridor, known as the Black Broadway back in the day, there are numerous examples.  I don’t want to live in a homogenized un-diverse city.  I want to preserve this rich authentic heritage.  Ensuring that the city’s longer term residents have a place is critical to this vision.  The community land trust model is a concrete example of a durable solution to this challenge.
  3. City elected officials – new development increases the tax base of the city and enhances its economic viability.  We don’t want to limit or prevent this.  But neither do we want to ignore the needs of our longer term residents; we want to make sure that they continue to have a place to live and a political voice in shaping the future of the city.The community land trust model does just this and should be more widely explored and supported by City leaders.
  4. Real estate developers – the city needs to grow and expand.  It’s long term health is hurt by maintaining large areas of poverty concentrated east of the Anacostia River.  That area needs to be more economically diverse in order to bring the resources needed for better schools, more highly functioning political organizations, etc.  At the same time, the city will lose out if it ignores the needs of it’s less affluent, longer term residents.  The community land trust model is a concrete example of a durable solution to this challenge.


Notebook Entry #3 Doing the Right Thing

What does it mean to do the right thing?

What does it mean to do the right thing even when there’s a popular shortcut?

It means affirming the organizational culture and defining boundaries for acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors.  This positively reinforces the organization’s integrity and identity.  It builds respect, credibility, and trust; both externally and internally.  When shortcuts are taken these valuable traits are compromised and eroded.

Consider the journey that you and your team ore on.  Do the ends justify the means?  What’s right and where do you draw the line?  Does everyone in your culture draw the line in the same place?

The ends do not justify the means.  In order to justify funding and support, our organization needs to produce significant impact at scale.  What’s right is communicating honestly with stakeholders and being transparent.  Acknowledge reality and don’t pretend the “sausage making” doesn’t exist.  Credibility and integrity are too valuable to compromise.  Not everyone draws the line in the same place.  Ego-based concerns such as fears and desire for glory and admiration can lead to poor choices.

What sort of control are you willing to give up to get closer to your goal?

Giving up control means not being able to fully determine whether or not a goal is reached, how it is reached, and if it will be maintained or changed.  This can be frightening.

Notebook Entry #2

What about my leadership might not be successful?

My vision is to help mitigate the effects of DC’s housing affordability crisis by preserving affordable housing at scale.   My thesis is that the majority of DC’s  “market” affordable housing is rapidly disappearing as smaller buildings (less than 50 units) are being purchased by speculators who then reposition the properties as luxury condos or rentals rendering them unaffordable the previous residents.  This is particularly important because it’s estimated that more than 80% of DC’s low and moderate income renters reside in these smaller buildings that contain no affordability restrictions except rent control laws.

I’m afraid that my leadership may fail for a number of reasons:

  • I may not have properly understood the feasibility.  It may not be economically feasible to renovate these buildings
    • The required subsidy per unit may exceed other approaches for providing affordable housing
  • I may not have the skills to effectively assemble and lead a project team to take on this project
  • I may not be able to persuade of the need for adequate reserves for operating and investing capital for the project
  • I may not be able to determine what the “minimum viable product” is for this activity

Does describing this chasm in front of me make it more likely that I’ll fall into it?

No.  Being able to identify the pitfalls is empowering.  It is much more insidious to have these threats and fears lurking below the surface.  Naming them is liberating.