Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feeling grateful for leaders!

Thinking back over 2014, I am most grateful for the leaders among us.  Some have come into my world with already impressive skills and others with more potential than practice, but what has become increasingly apparent at Walker and at reSET is that leadership is the key to opening the door to our future.

Our search for leaders begins with assessing a candidate’s potential before they are even hired. Then once they are on board, we help encourage, train, and support them to reach the next level of leadership and, after that, the next.

As children, and as new members to a team, we are pre-leaders.  At this stage we are doers.  Pre-leaders and doers follow orders ably enough, but are not yet comfortable thinking creatively on their own to seek solutions in new situations.  Even the most seasoned leaders need to begin their tenure in a new organization at this basic level, where they can absorb the new culture and process, and get to know the people before flexing their leadership muscle.  To do so before you have a lay of the land is presumptuous.  Waiting too long however is equally unproductive.

But once a doer has learned the ropes, they’re in a position to improve things.  The moment someone looks up from the doing and says, “Wait, this doesn’t make sense,” they show a potential for leadership. This initial spark may sound an awful like like criticism, complaining, or whining, but if they follow up with a solution, the fire of leadership can be kindled. 

By asking those inquiring doers a simple question: “What do you think we should do about it?” we can start to develop solutions-oriented leaders. Not those who just notice what needs fixing and then dump those problems on someone else’s desk, but those who figure out their own way to solve the problems they face. These people are powerful and important to any organization. The more leaders we have at this level the more our potential grows.

Then, as solution-driven leaders develop the people skills to lead a team, they can begin to move mountains.  Team leaders harness the collective intellect and energy of a group to get jobs done that couldn’t be accomplished individually.  The best are flexible, and comfortable moving between the roles of leader and doer, as the situation demands.

And finally, visionary team leaders can shape the culture of their organization’s culture and help it forge its way to a new future. I’m proud to work with a number of visionary team leaders and it makes me very very excited about where we’re going from here!

There was a time when I would have said it’s not possible, necessary, or even desirable for everyone on the team to be leaders. Now, I would argue that we can’t become a great organization without every single person pushing ahead rather than waiting to be pulled forward. Things change too quickly, and the landscape is too complex to give anyone the luxury of waiting around for someone to tell them what to do, or to continue rotely doing what they’ve always done.  

But as a team of leaders we become unstoppable. That’s just how it feels right now at Walker and reSet. And for that, I am very grateful!

"The future of organizations is the growth of the people in them. "  - Leadership  Freak

Monday, November 17, 2014

Connecticut - The Social Enterprise State

Connecticut has been searching for an identity that will help us emerge from the shadow of New York and Boston to become a magnet for business and job growth. Social Enterprise could be our secret sauce.   

Social enterprise is a huge and growing movement around the globe, an idea whose time has come. And while many states are working to develop social enterprise ecosystems of their own, no other state has laid claim to this identity - yet. So lets grab it quickly! 

Theres a number a reasons it makes sense for Connecticut. 

We have a rich history of social innovation. Were the home of the first written constitution. And the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who is credited with singlehandedly raising the conscious of a nation to recognize the immorality of slavery. Connecticut can boast the countrys oldest continuously published newspaper, its first public art museum (The Wadsworth Atheneum), and its first public park (Bushnell Park). 
We have an impressive number of highly respected, socially progressive colleges and universities, many of whom are now offering programs in social enterprise and are increasingly graduating students who are not just interested in but insistent on meaningful work. 

We have a tremendous amount of wealth in our state, held by corporations, foundations, and individuals who are interested in going beyond socially responsible investing to making impact investmentsand measuring the return on their investments on multiple bottom lines. 

And most recently, on October 1st of 2014, we passed the most comprehensive social enterprise legislation in the United States. It not only recognizes Benefit Corporations, but enables shareholders to voluntarily elect a preservation clause to protect a companys status as a social enterprise in perpetuity. 

On the first day it was possible to do so, more than 20 companies, including The Walker Group, registered to become the states first social enterprises. Even before the legislation passed, Connecticut was home to some of the best known social enterprises in the United States: Newmans Own, one of the oldest and most recognizable social enterprise brands, and Jackson Labs, a nonprofit which generates a significant percentage of its operating revenues from the sale of lab mice. 

Social Enterprise is complementary our public policies and to the sectors we are working to develop, such as biosciences and green technologies. And social entrepreneurs start the kinds of companies that people are proud to work for, proud to patronize as customers, and proud to invest in. 

Lets capitalize on these strengths! In doing so, we can hold onto our young graduates, who may stay in Connecticut to start their career or to set up their own social enterprise. We can attract social entrepreneurs from other states who come here for training, resources, and to join a community that understands and supports the idea of building businesses focused on making a better world for us all.  And by developing our social enterprise ecosystem, we will attract impact investment dollars to further benefit the state. 

ReSET (SocialEnterpriseTrust.org) has helped to build an engine here in Connecticut that can spearhead this effort.  With programming aimed to help launch new social enterprise, co-working, space, mentors, funding, and the social enterprise challenge which gave out $50K in cash and prizes this year there’s a lot of support to help make it happen.  And with this progress we’ve seen increasing support from the municipal and state governments as well as business and the nonprofit community.  It could happen!

Its revolutionary, its evolutionary, and its sexier than being known as the Nutmeg State or the Land of Steady Habits. 

Lets be the state that encourages businesses which create jobs to solve community problems.   

Lets make Connecticut the social enterprise state.