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YOU are the expert of your organization.

We won’t tell you where to go or how to get there. But we understand change. And we can help you prepare for it – especially the parts that seem intimidating or confusing.

At ENTERCHANGE, we help you navigate changes in your organization, particularly those that impact your people. Sometimes that means helping you determine where to go. More often, it involves coaching as you prepare for change (or recover from it). We help you use on-ramps and off-ramps so these transitions are smooth and help you pick up speed efficiently.

ENTERCHANGE is a pioneer in leadership and organizational consulting. We believe in visionary leaders. Using a Collaborative Leadership Model™, we engage complementary talents to build the robust team their vision demands.

Contact us to see how easily you can harness decades of leadership experience and a diverse network of partners to maximize your organization’s unique strengths.

3 October 2013 0 Comments

Spittin’ in the Wind

Ever sailed a boat? There’s nothing like the feeling of catching the wind just right. Some days, the wind is perfect – enabling you to get where you want to go with little effort. Other times, it’s blowing in the wrong direction or is weak and erratic.

Fundraising is a lot like sailing. As a nonprofit leader, you know where you want to take the organization, but potential funders are rarely aligned in the ideal direction.

But an experienced sailor knows how to trim the sail just right to get where she wants to go in any wind condition. Sometimes the wind requires that you “tack” from left to right in order to move forward. Other times, it provides an exhilarating ride in a slightly different direction, and a slower, steady trek to return to the intended destination. It might take a little longer than expected, but the skilled sailor can still reach his goal and have some fun along the way.

When faced with adverse wind conditions, a sailor has at least three choices:

  1. Quit and come back when conditions are better.
  2. Ignore the conditions and hold rigidly to methods that worked when the wind was perfect.
  3. Use ingenuity, skill and experience to adapt the strategy and use the wind most advantageously.

Here are some ways I’ve seen leaders adapt:

  • An organization focused on youth development initially thinks about a tutoring program, but finds they can also qualify for arts funding if they incorporate elements of Hip Hop dance and Spoken Word poetry.
  • A church wants to reach neighborhood children and learns that parents can’t get their kids on a soccer team, so they build a field and convert “Sunday School” into an evening soccer league.
  • An economic development organization expands in the area of clean energy to align with trends in the funding communities.

A word of caution: Some take this concept too far, and manipulate their programs to “follow the money.” Like the sailor, the leaders above knew where they wanted to take the organization, and did not compromise their mission or vision. Strategic planning must always precede fundraising.

So what’s it gonna be? Quit and come back when the funding opportunities are more to your liking? Continue using methods that worked well in better conditions? Or use your ingenuity, skill and experience to capture the resources needed to propel your organization forward. You can’t control the flow of resources, but you can trim your sail to best use the prevailing conditions. Oh…and be careful where you spit!

What About You?

  1. Do you know of other examples of leaders who have achieved goals by adapting their strategy to capture funding?
  2. What are some alternative sources of funding that you could harness by adapting your strategy while staying true to your mission?
  3. Are there non-traditional collaborations you could pursue to expand your support base?

At ENTERCHANGE, we know how to navigate in all conditions. Contact Us to explore how we can help you anticipate the changing forecast, and capture the resources necessary to propel your organization forward.

© ENTERCHANGE 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Image credit: iStockphoto.com File #214732

6 August 2013 0 Comments

Your Link in the Value Chain

Part 2 of 2 in a Series on Good Value

Since Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter first used the concept of Value Chain* it served as a framework to help business leaders understand how specific activities can combine in unique ways to create value. Organizations that can maximize and sustain that differentiation can maintain a competitive advantage.

The previous post explored how value is created. Even when the perceived value of a resource is exhausted (such as with scrap metal), the resource can actually gain value when placed in the hands of another who understands its potential value and connects it with the next member of the Value Chain.

The person who creates value is often innovative, enterprising and resourceful. They view the world from a different perspective than most. Sometimes we call these people odd; sometimes we call them entrepreneurs.

But understanding the potential value of a resource is useless if the person does not have the means to connect with the next member in the value chain. Barriers that prevent potential value from being realized can exist at any level: team, division, organization, society. Sometimes these barriers can be so frustrating that they turn potential entrepreneurs into saboteurs.

Such was the case when an overly zealous scrapper “collected” the cover to my barbeque grill.  This was not a fancy grill, but the cover was worth more to me than the few cents the collector received for it from a recycler. 

The initial value destroyed was the replacement cost of the cover (although I have not yet replaced it). But there is also an ongoing destruction of value: the additional time and gas used each time I cook without the cover (and the associated increase in pollution).

Although less tangible, another negative result could be a less beneficent attitude toward my community – which could intensify if I gripe about it to my neighbors.

Every day, each of us has the opportunity to create or destroy value. How we treat others and how we use the resources available to us determine our link in the Value Chain — whether our net impact is positive or negative. 

What About You?

  1. Have you been frustrated and tempted to destroy value because your idea or perspective was not recognized?
  2. As a leader, do you consciously foster an environment where creative thinking is encouraged, and people who are different from the norm are afforded dignity and respect?
  3. Can you identify ways that potential value is not being realized and take steps to capture that added value?

Leave a Reply and share your experience.

At ENTERCHANGE we help leaders maximize their value and create new value through their organizations.  Contact Us so we can help maximize yours.

Porter, Michael. E. (1985) Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. New York, NY: The Free Press

© ENTERCHANGE 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

26 June 2013 0 Comments

One Man’s Trash…

Part 1 of 2 in a Series on Good Value

The median income in my neighborhood is about $33,000;

Unemployment is at least double that of the rest of Minneapolis;

Roughly one child out of every eight lives in poverty.

So it is not surprising to see my neighbors seeking every opportunity to “make a buck.” One common activity is trolling through the alleys looking for scrap metal that can be sold and recycled. In fact, many residents separate usable metal from the regular trash to help make the job easier.

Setting aside for a moment the issues of injustice that contribute to this economic disparity, the activity of “scrapping” provides an interesting study of how value is created.

• Once a metal part has exhausted its useful life, the owner discards it. By placing it in the alley, the owner makes it available to another person who might see additional value in it. There is no disposal charge to the owner, nor does the item incur the ecological cost of taking space in a land fill.

 

• The person trolling the alley only picks up items that are known to produce income.  Some metals are not accepted below a minimum weight.  Therefore, while some items would have no value to the original owner, they might for the collector when combined with similar items.

 

• The metal recycler accepts only the metal that has known value. The value varies depending upon the type of metal and its purity. The recycler pays the collector an amount that enables a profit after operational expenses are paid.  The metal is redeemed, sold and used to make a new product which, in turn, creates additional value.

In each step above, value is created, and the end result is a net increase in value.  Although each party extracts some economic value along the way, the resource itself actually gains value. This happens when a resource is made available to another who understands the resource’s potential and has the means to connect with the next member in the value chain. 

There is also the possibility to destroy value along the way. We’ll take a look at that in the next post (Part 2).

What About You?

  1. Have you “created value” simply by making available to someone a thing that he or she valued more than you?
  2. Has the value you placed on something increased once you learned something new about it or saw it presented differently?
  3. Are there skills or assets held by you or your organization that would be more highly valued in another context?
Leave a Reply and share your experience.
 
At ENTERCHANGE we help leaders maximize their value and create new value through their organizations.  Contact Us so we can help maximize yours.
  
© ENTERCHANGE 2013 All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: © All rights reserved by mmmmarshall
24 October 2011 0 Comments

Secure Your Own Mask

You hear the words every time you board a commercial airplane:

   If there is loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will appear…

        …secure your own mask before assisting others.

When I started travelling with my young children, those words became more relevant – and alarming! My overpowering instinct is to protect my kids first. Does the airline really expect me to leave my children gasping for breath while I save my own skin?

Yet, when I take time to think about it, the worst scenario would be my children gasping for breath while I lie there unconscious because I didn’t get my mask on. By securing my mask first, I help ensure that I am able to help my kids.

Leaders, sometimes revel in self-sacrifice.

Our instincts tell us that long hours, full calendars,

and few personal boundaries are signs of a great leader.

But when we take time to think about it,

A “passed out” leader is useless.

Caring for oneself can be difficult, especially for leaders committed to serving others.  It seems counterintuitive. It appears selfish.

But think about it: Leaders who nurture themselves are equipped to give their best. They are less likely to burn out.  And if their objective is to serve others (not to use them for self gain) they can have a sustained legacy of effective leadership.

Do you want to be the best leader you can be?  Make time in your schedule for “self care.” Secure your own mask before assisting others.

What About You?

  • Have you ever been so busy caring for others that you found yourself “short of breath?”  
  • What are some concrete ways that you practice “self care” while caring for those you lead?

Leave a Reply and share your experience.

 At ENTERCHANGE we challenge leaders to build upon their personal strengths.  Contact Us so we can help custom fit your mask.

Copyright © 2011 ENTERCHANGE

20 April 2011 0 Comments

Running on Empty?

My friend was distraught, growing more anxious with every turn. He was grateful for the ride from the airport, but concerned about the gas gauge indicator, which looked as if it had passed “E” sometime last week.  It didn’t help that the surroundings were unfamiliar and that the driver appeared unconcerned (or unaware) of their predicament.

When the driver pulled off the freeway and started taking side streets in the opposite direction, my friend reached his limit.  Armed with the finest GPS system, he identified the most direct route to their destination and located several gas stations along the way. Still, he was unable to persuade the driver to follow his lead.

Only after allowing my friend to stew awhile longer did the driver admit to the prank: The gas gauge was broken!  Instead of fixing it, the driver would simply note the mileage each time he filled the tank, and knew he could drive 350 miles before needing to refuel. It was a practical, inexpensive solution that also provided some good laughs (at the expense of my friend!).

What Do We See?

As leaders, we often can be so sure of ourselves. From where we sit, we see the situation clearly and know exactly how to address the problem.

  • Sometimes we think the leaders above us don’t understand reality or are headed in the wrong direction.
  • Perhaps we think the leaders who report to us are concerned about too many details and can’t see the big picture.

Funny how things are not always as they seem!

 Unless we know all the facts with full transparency, our judgment is skewed.

What Indicators Do We Use?

Even the best indicators are useless if they are broken or measure the wrong thing. My friend was certain the tank was nearly empty because his experience taught him when the gas gauge approached “E” it was time to fill up.  But in this new environment, the odometer, not the fuel gauge, provided that information.  The GPS didn’t help either.  Despite being precise and accurate, the information wasn’t relevant and so gathering it was a waste of time.

  • Churches and nonprofit organizations often measure their success by financial results or by the number of people served. 
  • Nonprofits, however, are mission-based.  Sure, it’s important to be fiscally responsible and to track the number of people served.  But if an organization is not accomplishing its mission, those indicators are meaningless.

 The best indicators of success measure how well the mission is being accomplished.

Usually, these are less about budgets and more about changed hearts and lives.

What About You?

  • Have you found yourself certain to have the right solution, only later to discover additional information or perspectives that changed your mind?
  • What are the key performance indicators of your organization? Do they align with your mission? If not, what indicators would better signal success?

Leave a Reply and share your experience.

At ENTERCHANGE we help creative leaders develop the healthy organizations needed to accomplish their vision.  Contact Us to see how we might work together.

Copyright © 2011 ENTERCHANGE 

31 March 2011 0 Comments

Per’s Principle

Per Principle Photo

The modest yard of my childhood home had one crown: the Rose Garden. Although none of us were great gardeners, 25 healthy rose bushes produced a steady supply of flowers.  Credit goes to Per (pronounced “Pare”), the top gardener at my father’s workplace.  He selected and planted the roses, taught us how to water and fertilize them, and emphasized the key to sustainable blooms year after year: Per’s Principle.

The long-term success of the garden

depends on how one cuts the rose.

Cut in the right place, at the best angle, with a sharp tool, and the site will heal quickly and produce even more blossoms.

 But hack away at the plant indiscriminately, and you might ruin it forever.

Per’s Principle is not limited to roses.  Most organizations find the need to reduce staff at some time.  Many have done so recently (or should now).  But few leaders understand Per’s Principle, either related to roses or their followers.

Cut in the right place.

It might be easiest to reduce staff through attrition or to get rid of the person who is most difficult to manage.  But consider the organization as an organism, like a body.  All systems work together.  Cut out half your lungs and you will still survive, but your potential will be noticeably reduced.  Visualize the future organization, consider who you need to retain and focus on keeping them.

Cut at the best angle.

Treat the people you are letting go with respect, and help them transition well.  This might mean keeping them on payroll a little longer than you would like or extending their benefits.  Remember – she is a trusted partner in your organization.  If you help him land on his feet, he is more likely to find employment faster and be complementary about you and your organization.  Try to find a way to give advance notice.  Honor the contributions she has made and avoid humiliating her in front of her peers.

Use the correct tool.

Any cut is painful.  Manage that pain by using proper change management tools before, during and after the reduction.  Consider the feelings and motivations of the remaining staff – if it looks to them like the ship is sinking, your best performers will head for the lifeboats.  Explain your reasons to the remaining staff and help them understand how this change is a well-planned, strategic decision.  Be transparent. Let them see your vision for the future and how they play a critical role going forward.

It still might get ugly.  But these actions will help protect your reputation inside and outside the organization.  These are real people with real lives.  How you handle this important transition could bring quick healing and greater production or irreparable damage.  If you are going to wield the clippers, please remember Per’s Principle.

What About You?

  • Have you ever felt awkward being asked to cut someone’s position in a cold and detached manner?   How could you introduce an alternate approach?
  • Were you one of the survivors following a layoff?  Having observed how it was handled, how did you feel toward your employer afterward?

Comment on this post and share your story.

At ENTERCHANGE we help organizations grow healthy, collaborative teams.  Contact Us for a free assessment of your “garden.”
Copyright © 2011 ENTERCHANGE
10 January 2011 0 Comments

Forget New Year’s Resolutions; Beware the Baobabs!

Picture and all quotes from The Little Prince (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Originally published: New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Translated from the French by Katherine Woods.).

If good things come in small packages, then I understand why the French story The Little Prince is so good. This brief classic is rich with deep truths spoken by an innocent youngster.

The book and its protagonist are both very small. This childlike ruler is the only inhabitant of an equally small planet.  The little prince sets off on a journey to other planets and ultimately encounters the narrator on Earth. Through their brief dialog, the narrator rediscovers some of the childhood wisdom he lost while growing up – and learns some new insights from this young sage.

The lesson of the baobabs is particularly poignant.

The narrator knows baobabs only as monster trees 50-100 feet tall with cork-like trunks 25-35 feet in diameter found in the savannahs of Africa and India. But as the little prince observes, “Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.”

You see, the prince’s planet is about the size of a house. Each morning he would carefully search the whole surface of his planet for newly sprouted baobab seedlings. The narrator understood the seriousness of this daily chore:

“A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet.

It bores clear through with its roots.

And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces.”

How true this can be in our own organizations; if we allow the small evils to persist – soon we find it impossible to get rid of them. They bore their roots deeply into the organization, and eventually split it into pieces.

There is a personal application too, of course. New Year’s resolutions are fine, but as the narrator warns, “Watch out for the baobabs!”

What About You?

  • Are there “baobabs” in your organization? What are they and how can you get rid of them?
  • How can you introduce a regular discipline to identify and attend to the “baobabs” in your life or your organization?

Leave a Reply below to share your response.

At ENTERCHANGE we help leaders understand themselves and their organizations. We foster healthy cultures that help the leader and the organization thrive.  

Contact Us to see how we can help you build a stronger organization.

Copyright © 2010 ENTERCHANGE

Picture and all quotes from The Little Prince (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Originally published: New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Translated from the French by Katherine Woods.).
19 October 2010 0 Comments

Worshiping Temple

Photo by Steve Jurvetson http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

This year’s Emmy Awards had some surprises. Among them was recognition given to the HBO film Temple Grandin. HBO: Temple Grandin: Home

Once considered a socially awkward outcast with no useful skills, Dr. Grandin is now credited with revolutionizing our understanding of autism and changing the way half the U.S. cattle industry does business. She still may be a little socially awkward (witness her behavior at the Emmys), but she has found a way to use her unique abilities and make invaluable contributions.

Temple Grandin lives with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurological condition affecting a growing number of Americans (now one in every 150 children). ASD can manifest itself in a broad range of conditions usually affecting the brain areas responsible for communication, emotions and senses. This can create some social challenges, even for those considered “high functioning.” For example, many with ASD have difficulty reading facial expressions or other emotional signals; for most, language is understood literally, so idioms and metaphors seem ridiculous; and some are extremely sensitive to touch, sound or light.

Grandin was one of the first people with ASD to communicate what was going on inside her head, providing parents and medical professionals with a greater understanding of how to build relationships and care for them. She endured ridicule, sexism and prejudice from a world that did not understand her. Thankfully she persevered.

Temple’s unique ability to “see and think in pictures” enabled her to design more humane equipment for handling cattle. Her perspective was so different, it was initially rejected. Now half of the cattle in the U.S. are impacted by her designs – and business is better, too.

At age four, Temple was told she would never speak and medical professionals recommended that she be committed to an asylum. Just think, we almost missed out on her amazing lifetime contributions. Don’t miss the chance to see this film.

What About You?

1. Have you been surprised by a perspective you initially rejected but later saw as valuable?

2. What can be done to create an environment where different perspectives are encouraged?

3. What roadblocks have you overcome to get your perspective heard?

Leave a Comment below and share your story.

At ENTERCHANGE we are passionate about environments where creative people fully engage their strengths.  Contact Us to see how we might work together.

19 September 2010 0 Comments

Creating Wall Street

Wall Street“Stop going for the easy buck and produce something with your life.

Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.”

So ends the 1987 Oliver Stone film “Wall Street.”  The sequel, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (also directed by Stone), opens on Friday.

This quote captures an important but often overlooked theme in the original film. Carl Fox (played by Martin Sheen) is mentoring his son Buddy Fox (played by real-life son Charlie Sheen) even as he drives his son to the trial where he will likely be convicted of a series of white-collar crimes (insider trading, money laundering, etc.).

Carl Fox knows there are basically two ways to make money:

Create value

or take it from others.

How is value created?

Usually it occurs when things of lesser independent value are combined in such a way that they create something worth more.

  • An IPod is worth much more than the metal and plastic of its component parts;
  • A chef combines ingredients to create a more valuable meal;
  • The artist makes something of beauty from canvass and paint or clay;
  • Retail merchandise is purchased in bulk and distributed to the consumer in a more usable manner;
How is value destroyed?

Things of greater value can be dismantled or ruined, sometimes intentionally, but more often through ignorance or neglect.

  • Produce rots before it is sold;
  • Political capital earned through years of public service disappears overnight due to unethical behavior;
  • An experienced team loses a crucial player with critical skills or knowledge;
  • Relationships with customers, suppliers or strategic partners die when not nurtured;

In the original movie, Buddy Fox works for his idol, Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), who teaches him the fine art of taking value from others. Buddy doesn’t realize how destructive this is until he discovers that Gekko plans to dismantle Blue Star Airlines, where his father built his career. Buddy has a change of heart and turns his teacher’s tactics against him, enlisting the help of Gekko’s nemesis to scrub the deal and ultimately land Gekko in prison. The new film picks up when Gekko is released from prison 25 years later.

Real-life examples of this win-lose approach to gaining wealth are easy to find. It seems like a zero sum game, but when greed is in charge, more often total value is destroyed.

In this period of economic recovery, people are making a buck any way they can. Some appear to foster economic growth but are actually destroying value even as they line their pockets. The difference is a matter of perspective. As individuals (or individual organizations), we can choose to be indifferent about how our actions impact others. Yet, in the end, we all swim in the same economic pond.

I don’t know what themes will emerge in the latest Wall Street film. I trust that Oliver Stone heeded the advice of his character Carl Fox and created something of great value.

 What About You?

  • How has your business or organization created value?
  • Does the broader perspective of the whole economy influence your decisions?
  • Are you leading in a way that creates value or destroys it?

 Leave a Reply below to share your story.

 Copyright © 2010 ENTERCHANGE

At ENTERCHANGE we help organizations find win-win solutions and partnerships that benefit everyone. Contact Us to see how we can help you created a more valuable future.

13 September 2010 1 Comment

Lost Leader

LOST 3ABC’s hit television series LOST completed its 6-year run last season, but the buzz continues. Some people are even watching the entire series a second time. And for good reason. This well-crafted epic contains several intertwined plot lines, and is worthy of multiple viewings and discussions.

(For those rolling your eyes, hang with me. You can enjoy some leadership insights without watching a single show.)

SPOILER ALERT: This post draws on some of the big surprises, especially in Season 6.

Some natural leaders emerge from among the LOST characters, but shortcomings limit their impact:

  1. Jack is an expert spinal surgeon and thinks therefore he is expert in all things. His pathological addiction to fix things interferes with his ability to delegate and to see his own limitations.
  2. Sawyer’s “every man for himself” style uses power and intimidation to extract what he wants from others.
  3. Then there’s Ben, whose deeply rooted need for affirmation drives his manipulation of others.

 My leadership hero is Hurley.

Surprised? Consider some of his unique qualities:

  • Initiative – It is Hurley who comes up with the census idea which ultimately reveals Ethan as an intruder. Just the first of many times he makes a valuable contribution by inserting himself into a situation.
  • Persistence – Despite repeatedly being told that he is of no use and will just get in the way, Hurley continues to find a way to contribute.
  • Ingenuity – Who would think that a fat guy in a VW bus could save his five unarmed friends on the beach. And the golf course idea was a brilliant breakthrough!
  • Strong Moral Convictions – I lost count of the times I heard the line, “Dude, that’s not right.”
  • Humility – His unassuming manner (almost a reluctance to lead) is one of Hurley’s best leadership qualities – perhaps the reason Jacob ultimately entrusts the island to him. Hurley leads with pure motives.

Does your leadership selection process take into consideration such important qualities?  Or does it highlight only the attractive “natural” leaders like Jack, Sawyer and Ben.  

I believe the most valuable leaders with staying power have character qualities like Hurley.

 What About You?

  • Have you ever been surprised when an “unlikely leader” has turned out to make a significant leadership contribution?
  • Have you ever been recognized (or stepped over) because your leadership qualities didn’t match the typical leadership model?

Leave a Reply below and tell us your story.

Copyright © 2010 ENTERCHANGE

Developing the leadership potential in every person creates the strongest, most robust organizations. Want some fresh ideas? Contact Us