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The Need for Action Orientation in Nonprofit Leadership

Peter Sheahan, author of Flip! Peter Sheahan, author of Flip!

In my last blog I considered the word “adaptability” and “resilience” and how they apply to running a high-performing nonprofit organization.

Today I want to share some of the things I learned from a book called Flip! By Peter Sheahan, who I got to know about at the recent ASAE conference where I led a workshop with Eileen Johnson, Esq., Partner, Whiteford,
Taylor & Preston LLP, and George Constantine, Esq., partner, Venable LLP. Sheahan basic premise is that today’s world “requires new perspectives on strategy, operations, customers and staff. Most of all it requires a level of flexibility that has previously been considered a weakness in some organizations.”

Sheahan urges us to take an action orientation because “your best work does not happen when you are planning. Your best work happens when you are in the flow.”

It sounds a lot like Agile software development, doesn’t it? Remember plan/adapt/plan/adapt.

So, how do we make sure we’re not off on some wild goose chase?

Sheahan says it’s time “we let go of our obsession with detailed strategy” and instead have a broad view, or trajectory, that compels us forward. “It should be flexible enough to absorb changes in market conditions and completely new technologies and products. The key is to map out how you are going to get there only in the broadest strokes… Be flexible in your approach, prepared to unlearn and let go of what no longer supports your ability to move toward your vision, and learn new skills and behaviors quickly that will take you to your goal.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. It fits the “adaptability” concept we’ve been exploring these last few weeks. But using big picture thinking to set a trajectory still means we are heading in a certain direction.

And then there is this final thought from Sheahan: “allow the ambiguity that comes with it to excite you rather than scare you.” Good words to live by.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice