Tuesday, April 5, 2011

BIG’s Blog: The Milk Stool Becomes a Chair

For those of you that have worked with me, and for others that have heard me speak, you no doubt remember the "Mike Browne Milk Stool." As you all know, a milk stool has three legs. When you are milking a cow, the darn cow moves around; you need to be able to rock this way or that way depending on the way Old Bossy moves.

For the rest of you that are hearing this for the first time, about twenty years ago, I formulated the following three rules that I refer to as the 'legs' of the three-legged milk stool.
  1. Grow revenue yearly – no excuses.
  2. Hire smarter than yourself.
  3. Utilize a personality profiling tool in your hiring and management of personnel.
Again, for those that are learning these for the first time, these three rules have helped me be successful in the many businesses that I have run through the years.

First, Grow Revenue Yearly.
This one is the easiest to understand as there is no organization that doesn’t need to grow and that goes double for the nonprofit world. For nonprofit fund raisers, the goal must be to grow revenue every year – no excuses.

Second, Hire Smarter Than Yourself.
This rule actually has two beneficial effects. By telling managers to hire smarter than themselves, you are sending a message to any manager that may feel insecure that they will be judged on the capability of their staff. Those misguided managers that want to hold all the key information and have their staff be dependent on them, as if this will protect them in their job because then they believe they are indispensable, get smoked out with this rule. The second benefit of this rule is that the DNA of the organization gets stronger and stronger as you continue to hire smart people.

Third, all leaders and managers MUST understand the science of personality profiling.
Essentially, this is understanding that everyone – everyone – has key strengths based upon their personality traits. These are, many times, called people's natural talents. When you match the talents or traits you need for a particular position with someone that does that job as easily as breathing, then that is the heart of matching the right personality to the job function.

Well, guess what? Today I am changing my milk stool to a chair – four legs. I have been thinking about this for about eighteen months, but, it is becoming clear to me that this fourth leg to my chair is so important to organizations operating in today’s environment that I must put it out there.

The fourth leg of my chair is: Incorporate State-of-the-Art Information Systems.
We are in the information age, yet most nonprofits are woefully behind in having up-to-date information systems that can give them the information they need to understand their donors. Technology is moving at a breakneck pace. And, that pace of change seems to be ever-increasing. This, we all know. What is less known and does not have enough focus put on it is the fact that the costs of these information systems has dramatically dropped. We have all heard the analogy that today’s average laptop computer has more computing power that the entire air traffic control system circa 1965. The information systems that are available to small, medium and large nonprofits today are so much more user friendly and powerful than they were as recently as five years ago.

When was the last time you up-graded your information systems?

Many blog posts to come will focus on this topic. For today, what is important is that the milk stool has grown into a chair!


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