Posts Tagged ‘mission’

It’s a Simpler Balancing Act if You Know the Mission

October 2, 2012

I “run” our neighborhood. I am the HOA president – have been for almost a decade. I manage a non-profit company as a volunteer with an army of volunteers behind me who have my back. Our priorities and initiatives are all a balancing act. Money vs. Impact; Support vs. Opposition. Someone asked me one day,

“Brian, how do you make decisions for the HOA? What are your criterion?”

I replied, “It’s all the mission. Does it add or detract from the mission? It’s all a balancing act.”

“What’s the mission?” he asked.

“Maximizing your home’s resale value – and mine, too,” I replied.

In our HOA, every decision I make adds to my neighbor’s home’s resale value – and mine. Is the neighborhood pretty? Yes. Are we addressing crime in some tangible way? Yes. Do we promote good relationships between neighbors? Yes. Do we promote attractive homes and responsible home ownership? Yes. Do we want children to be able to play safely in our streets? Yes. Do we seek some visual harmony in the neighborhood? And some visual interest in the neighborhood, too? Yes. Do we want wildlife nearby to be visible, but still at arm’s length (we have bobcats and coyotes)? Yes. We wave at our neighbors walking or driving through our neighborhood, and they wave back – this is a genuinely nice neighborhood to live in.

It’s all a balancing act. For precisely $30 per month per homeowner – essentially a dollar per day, I balance all these things with the consensus of our Board, help from homeowner volunteers,  and the services of a small number of companies we contract with. We don’t have a glitzy fountain, a swimming pool, or a clubhouse. Instead, we have more than 6.8 acres of wilderness land that we oversee in the middle of a small metroplex neighborhood with two creeks, canopies of trees, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, beavers, hawks and eagles, rock outcroppings, redbud trees, pecan trees, dogwood trees, tall oaks and elms – this is the eye candy that I appreciate. It’s all a balancing act…

When a realtor friend drove into the neighborhood with me one afternoon, she remarked, “This is beautiful – nice entrances, nice landscaping – it is peaceful.” Walking along one of our streams with a glass of wine in hand, she remarked, “I can sell homes here!” “See the bobcats over there?” I asked. “Oh.” and she turned to leave rather quickly. It’s all a balancing act – I would have sat across the stream from the bobcats…

With elections looming, it is ever more apparent that we are seeing a difficult balancing act unfold before us. And I have to ask, and ask again, because I don’t hear the answer in the Presidential campaign, “What is the mission?” To my mind, it should be “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But that doesn’t  appear to be the mission at all…

If you don’t have a mission, you don’t have any defendable criterion for balancing priorities…

Recovery from a Looming “Implosion”

June 3, 2011

What? What is Brian talking about today? Implosion? My story relates to my best friend who is intellectually brilliant, remarkably astute, hard working, produces work of the highest quality, who is ambitious, caring, philanthropic – someone who I think is destined for greatness. He is currently overcommitted in his job, and he is exhausted, and it is taking a toll on his health. He sees cracks forming around him, and he does not know how to navigate out of these difficult circumstances. In terms of his time, his plight is not unlike our economy’s fiscal overextension. I have been in the same place years ago in my own job, too – it is painful, and it seems that there is no obvious way to get to the “other side”. But there is a way to the “other side” – there is always a way…

Here is what I did – Ten steps. Looking back, it is so obvious, but at the time, it was not so obvious at all:

  1. Take Inventory. Restate your mission – where do you want to be in your career  this year, in five years, in twenty years? What do you want for yourself and your family? Identify your commitments – all of them. Account for your use of time – all of it.
  2. Unload Freeloaders – identify parties that take time from you for their own gain with no intention of giving anything back to anyone – if they take your time and retain all the benefit for themselves alone, CUT THEM OFF! Just say “NO”.
  3. Put Underperformers on Notice – identify parties that take time from you with the promise of giving back who are late and haven’t yet – demand a payback – even just a token return – even to someone else – before you commit any more of your time. Cut them off until they begin to pay back something to someone. Say “No, not until you do this…” and tell them your new bargain, boundaries and conditions. You have that power.
  4. Prioritize for an Optimal “Cost – Benefit” – prioritize your standing commitments in order of total value to all parties involved including the value to you – be certain that the benefits outweigh the costs. If the benefits from a commitment do not justify the cost (your time), adjust it’s priority downward… Keep this in mind for every new commitment you make going forward.
  5. Embrace your Mission – make every second count toward deliverables that are meaningful to your mission, whatever that may be. If a commitment does not satisfy your mission, adjust it’s priority downward… Keep this in mind for every new commitment you make going forward.
  6. Abandon Fruitless Efforts – don’t invest in a failure – make every second count toward deliverables that will be complete enough and timely enough to meet your commitments.
  7. Make Today Count – deliver today what you promised for today.
  8. Make Tomorrow a Different Day – seek adjustments on scope and extensions on deadlines in the near term beginning with what is promised for tomorrow.
  9. Do Damage Control – Prepare for the lowest priority commitments to simply go unfulfilled – warn the potentially impacted parties in advance – tell them your circumstance and the uncertainty of meeting your commitment as early on as possible – tell them several times – be frank and honest – tell them when it is apparent you won’t deliver and apologize.
  10. Ask for help! Delegate! Relinquish some control to others. People will come out of the woodwork to help push things forward with you – they will – you just have to ask them.

I had trouble at every step. I was so disappointed in myself when I failed to meet a commitment. A lot of commitments were not negotiable – absolutely rigid scopes of work and cast-in-stone deadlines – I was powerless for some of my commitments that had no potential to be relaxed. I liked to be highly visible, and I had to step “out of the limelight” when I said “No” to someone. I didn’t like to say “No” – I still don’t. I had to be more realistic about my ambitions and my abilities. I angered some people and disappointed others, but at the end of the day, those people didn’t impact my future. Gradually, things got better!

I am trying to help my friend get to the “other side”. He will get there – with some help. If I try too hard, he will push me away, so I am “nudging” just a little. I may have to nudge harder if his health declines any further.

Regarding the economy, I am pushing the politicians along this same 10-step recovery process. If every constituent nudges their representatives in Government accordingly, it will get our economy to the “other side”, too. Send your Senators and your Congressperson an e-mail – remind them of their “mission” – tell them what you think is fruitless – tell them what your priorities are, and NUDGE them to the “other side”.

So, please help me – nudge with me, won’t you?