Listening Differently

I have been reading Trust Agents by Julien Smith and Chris Brogan and as often happens for me when reading a new work, I take something away that feels slightly askew of what the book is about.  One example of this in Trust Agents, is where the authors talk about the tools that the interwebs have for listening to what people are saying about you or your organization.  They point us to all the nifty gadgets that are available for us to pull this information together with.

My mind immediately went to my own organization, but not in the same way.  I need to pull information together internally.  I need a better collection of the moments in time data of many moving parts of our organization.

It used to be easier

A few years ago within our previously small non-profit there were a few programs and listening and sharing were easier.  Getting information about the performance of our programs was often as simple as having a conversation with a teacher, therapist or director and asking for it.  It was softer, it was simpler, it was more personal and a couple of objectives could be achieved simultaneously:  connecting with staff and understanding how we were doing in each program.

What happened?

Having experienced some rather rapid growth (doubling the number of employees in 18 months through growth, not acquisition), I have noticed that the information I am needing and the speed at which I need it about our organization internally has changed.  We have over 20 financial departments that require reporting internally and externally.  We have dozens of revenue streams that must be managed, many of which are grants, all of which need reports.  Our customers/clients have grown and changed each one requires services that are as unique as each of them.

What I will be changing

Listening Internally

With Chris and Julien’s suggestion to create a dashboard of external listening, I came to the realization that my internal methods of listening were too scattered, inefficient and not as clearly rooted in the data to drive decision making as they should be.

Delegating

Again, the advice in Trust Agents is to delegate because your community needs you.  While I have enjoyed the collection of information process through connecting individually with staff, I have redirected the reporting responsibilities of programs (and adding/fine tuning a few), to my Executive Assistant to aggregate the important data.  She already receives and reports much of it externally to state agencies, foundations and the like, it just needed to be pulled together internally in order to listen to what it might be telling us.

Dashboard

All of this aggregation of data is being reported on an internal Dashboard.  The use of a dashboard is not a new concept, but I have used it as a reporting tool for our board and not necessarily as a listening tool for me.  It is my internal RSS feed albeit not as easily or neatly pulled together.  It will be one way in which I listen to some key indicators of our performance within the organization.

What’s Next

All of this would be useless if I didn’t have a plan for it or a reason why I am doing it.  None of this is entirely novel, and I have been doing it in some form and fashion for the last five years.  The difference is the size and scope and amount of information.  The difference is the time it takes to gather the information via my old means.  The difference is that I have to listen differently in order to understand my community and be present for them. Now that I am gathering this information in one place.  Now that I have changed the way I listen to that aspect of our organization, I have time for all of the other things.  I have time to hear the stories and visit with programs and listen for the meaning behind the data.  It gives me time and purpose with which to participate in my internal and external communities.   So thanks Chris and Julien for sparking an actionable idea.  Now, back to the book.

I Lied To You Last Night

As we sat together, you not feeling well, you asked me if I knew where there were any headphones.  You were looking to engage in something that might serve as a necessary distraction from *blech* and simultaneously not “bother” me.
I said, “No.”

It wasn’t entirely untrue.  I didn’t “know” for sure. But was in fact unkind and lazy and did not show the care I promised to you.
I could have, I should have, gotten up and looked.  It wouldn’t have taken long because I just found them and thought of you and thought less of me for not having done so last night.

I am sure that things like this happen everyday in relationships.

The “lie” we tell seems quite harmless until we weigh it against the value we have stripped from the care and kindness we could have showed.
I’m sorry.

5 years

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I’m coming up on my five year anniversary in my position as Executive Director of a social service non-profit in Maine which serves children and families.

Truth be told it’s a few months away, but I have a tendency towards nostalgia.
I don’t remember if the interview committee asked me about where I want to be in five years.  I don’t remember a lot of what they asked, but I do remember a sense of calm.  I remember things feeling right.  What I do know is that the kernels of where I wanted the agency to be, through an expansion of our ability to serve children and families, were there shortly after I arrived.  I just wasn’t sure how.

What I do know is that I had to spend time with this agency, I had to spend time with the people and understand the mission and the history.  It was crucial in my mind, to understand this history and build upon it’s strengths in order to grow and serve more children and families in new ways and at the same time honor the mission of this agency which was here long before me.  I think we’ve done that well.

In thinking about hitting the five year mark, I also realized that while I have been with other organizations longer than five years, I have never been in one position this long without moving “up the ladder”.  I was with one company for eight years, but in that time I held 6 positions with 5 different titles in 4 different locations.  I just kept moving to what was “next”.  After eight years when “next” wasn’t with that organization, I went to one that offered me “next” and within 6 months, I was promoted to “next” at that organization.
The funny thing is, when I think about what is next for me, it continues to be with this organization and it continues to be in this position.  Next is linked to so many possibilities for this agency, so many ways in which we can meet the needs of children and families, so many things that are not yet done and it makes me wonder what done even looks like.
I love this work more than I have loved any other “work” that I have done and I have always been fortunate to serve children and families.  However, I didn’t just arrive here five years ago, I felt led and that same sense of purpose keeps me right here.

For someone who has moved up so quickly and so often, it is an interesting feeling to see next this way.

Overachiever

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Merriam-Webster defines Overachiever as: one who achieves success over and above the standard or expected level especially at an early age.

This sounds only partially accurate to me, based on how the term seems to be used in our culture.
I was recently having a conversation with a friend who happened to be labelled an “overachiever” by his team mates.  Only the label didn’t feel like a recognition of his success but an accusation.  More than that, it sounded like an excuse.

Because of this I began to wonder if there is a sub-text for the way in which this word was used and often is used in our culture.  Perhaps it goes a little like this:
‘Well, you do all of this “extra” work because you’re an overachiever.’

Beyond that I wonder if we can also hear…

‘You do more work than I am willing to do, so I will call you an ‘overachiever’ so that I might find reason not to have to do the same amount of work that you do’

What about you?  Are you unwilling to do as much work as the successful person in the office next to you, or are you an overachiever?

A Bit Behind…

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January is the new December.

I’m not even sure December happened with all of the preparation and travel and busyness of the holidays. When I look at my calendar I can see that I had meetings.  I can see the results.  I know that at home we lit candles for Advent…but I didn’t experience Advent.  I don’t feel like I took the time to prepare…for anything.

January is here now and I am already reading new blogs, about new plans and strategies, about new words (3 or 300) that people are writing or using to guide them.  It feels like some sort of starting gun went off and I’m not even sure what course I’m supposed to be running on.  I want to yell out…”wait for me!”
OK, Maybe I am being a bit dramatic.  I’m really not behind and I have begun to work on some significant changes for 2009 and beyond, many are however still in idea/plan stage and haven’t moved into full on strategy and implementation stage.

Truth be told, 1/1/09 was not a starting gun.  Today and tomorrow are opportunities to begin and where would I end up if I didn’t take time to acquaint myself with the course.

So, perhaps I’m right on schedule.  I have had the chance to reflect and plan some, strategies are forming and implementation must be right around the corner.

All that said, so far I like 2009.  Hey, what’s not to like, it’s only a few days old.

Here are a few things I like so far.

1)  I like that I get to enter this year with so many new relationships.

In the past year I have found opportunities to connect with new people and have connected with old friends in new ways.  Thank you Facebook and Twitter and….
2)  I am entering 2009 with some interesting new perspectives based on 2008 experiences.
A few things happened to slow me down in 2008.  Some of my growth plans for the agency were put on temporary hold.  A key member of my team has been out for an extended period forcing me to take on some of additional responsibilities and dig into her role in new ways.   She is extremely valuable to this agency and her work is broad.  This experience of digging in to her role will allow me to support her in new ways and will support the long term health and vitality of our agency.

3)  My whole family feels like it has renewed energy and focus.

I am excited about the possibilites.  This isn’t some sort of New Years resolution, it is something that has been building.  It is something that we have been cultivating in our relationships.  Meg works hard to keep our home engine running smoothly.  Each one of us has their primary and supporting roles on our journey.  We have always been flexible enough to toggle between the two categories when necessary.  We are on the verge of a renewed understanding of this partnership as a couple, as parents, as friends and as managers of the business of family Hatch.  I appreciate her greatly and know that exciting things are on the horizon.
So, if you didn’t get your plans in order for 1/1, remember that January is the new December.   Now hurry up!  :-)

Mini Me?

Aidan and Papa

It’s hard not to see yourself in your children sometimes.

Punk #1 turns 9 today and I am awash in a broad spectrum of emotions. I can transport myself almost instantly back to the hospital room where I lay side-by-side, face-to-face on a cot with 1 day old Aidan while his Mama tried to rest and recover.

I can remember thoughts of hope and anticipation and wonder as I thought of who he would become.  And while nothing turns out quite as you would expect, the surprises have been like beautiful fulfillment of hopes I simply couldn’t conjure.

As any parent does, I love this boy.  More importantly though, I like him and appreciate who he is and who he is becoming.  I know that there will be more surprises along the way and they may not always be as fulfilling as I would hope.  What I do know is that I am his parent and partner on this journey and I could not be more proud as we discover together who he will become.

Happy 9th Birthday Aidan.

Trying To Understand

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People who have known me for years have come to expect a certain response from me. I have a tendency towards playing the “Devil’s Advocate”. Sometimes I do this for fun, sometimes it emerges in the moment as my way of providing perspective whether or not that is what has been asked for.  Sometimes this annoys the snot out of people.
2008 was a year of growth and change. It was a year in which circumstances have taught me a lot about how I impact others. I’m quite certain that I haven’t learned all the lessons and even more certain of my inability to master them.

Here are a few things I am certain of:

I can’t be helpful without understanding what someone is really looking for.

Time spent listening with an earnest desire to understand allows for more discovery.

Earnestly wondering with someone about what will happen is a helpful exercise in developing this understanding.

Over the holidays, I sat with people who are holding on to pain and hurt because people they know and care about  are in pain, hurting and not reaching out to those closest to them for support.

I have been watching them struggle with the how of helping and observing the oscillation between their own hurt of not being sought out for support and the concern for the hurt of the other.

I am trying to understand with them what their intervention will bring. Right now, there are still no clear answers, but I do know so much more about these people who care about this hurt and want more than anything to have relationships filled with trust and support…because they care.

“Hey, this is good! People should know about this!”

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A few things to note:

I read non-fiction.  My last book was Thomas Merton’s autobiography and before that a book about Thomas Merton.  I haven’t read a work of fiction since just after college.  I don’t know why, it’s just been my preference.

So, having graduated in the early ’90s, one can guess that a few works of fiction have been published since then.  In fact, entire series of books have been published.

I stumbled upon one such series that I thought was worth sharing with all of you.  I mean, I would feel just awful if I held onto this information and you, my readers, and others who you might encounter were deprived of knowing about this wonderful gift to the literary world.

I cracked open the first book in one particular series the other day.  Being a reader of non-fiction, I am used to books engaging me, but they’re not necessarily page turners.  This book captivated me from the first page.  The descriptions of the characters allowed me to create some of the most vivid pictures I can recall in fiction.

Throughout the book, the author’s use of language was clever as well.  I was also struck by how well she planted references for what was to come, either in this book, or in others to follow.

Contrary to my typical reading style, what I might term as “methodical plodding”(librarians hate me), I tore through this book in just a few days.

So, with all due haste, I simply had to tell the world that this “Harry Potter” series, by J.K. Rowling is good stuff.  I didn’t want to keep it from any of you.

They should make a movie about it.

Who are you?

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Yes, you!

I’ve been writing off and on here for over two years now.  I have written about business and government, friends and family.   I have written about being better, about relationship, networking and a few other things.  I don’t write as often as I’d like, but I keep plugging away right here, and you keep stopping by.
Some of you have come by and stayed for awhile.  Some of you have commented.  Some of you have not.  Some of you find me by Googling my name and come from as far away as Dublin.

I would love to learn more about you, why you stop by and what keeps you coming back.  If you’ve commented before, thank you.  If you haven’t, consider dropping a short message and a link to your site or if not yours, than others that you find interesting.
I want to know more about you folks than Google Analytics tells me.  I want to know about you.  Who are you?

The Portland Museum Of Art

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Punk #3 is still not 100%, but we are certainly glad to have been out and about as a family. This was our second visit to the museum since becoming members. It’s not always easy with 3 Punks under the age of 8, but each one was able to see something special and enjoy some aspect of the works on display. I was partial to the Rockwell Kent today.