Developing an inner management team

I have a strange personal relationship with McKinsey…in many respects, I think they’re amazing.  I trace a good deal of my better consulting traits (partially the way I structure analysis, partially the way I present myself) to working with a ton of McKinsey “alumni” early in my career.  If I were ever to work for a gigantic consulting company, I’d do my best to get in with them.

Of course, on the other hand, I decided not to work for any of the big consulting companies, and there are good reasons for that.  Perhaps a story for another day…this preamble is all to say that I pay attention to the “Insights & Publications” section of the McKinsey site, and you should check out this article from the March McKinsey Quarterly by Nate Boaz and Erica Ariel Fox. Read more

Quick Tips: Development Impact Toolkit

I love passing on interesting tools I come across online in the course of my paying work.  The latest is a website called Development Impact & You (DIY).  Their tagline is “practical tools to trigger and support social innovation.”

I’m not so sure that all of their forms are easy to simply download and use effectively, but there’s a clean structure to everything they’ve put up so far – for anyone looking to provoke important conversations about organizational effectiveness or internal processes, using these can make you look polished and authoritative.  As far as how useful they are, well, they’re tools.  You’re going to have to wield them well if you want them to work for you.

Start here, on their Tools page.  Enjoy!

What smart women look like

I have mixed feelings about Lean In (the book and the organization).  In fact, it’s better described as an internal hurricane, roiling my kishkes…but some of their initiatives are easier to talk about, at least before we see how well they’re executed.  In concept, I’m a tremendous fan of their partnership with Getty Images (incidentally, where I get most of the pictures embedded in this blog), which attempts to broaden the scope of women as they are depicted in stock photos.

We can’t help it.  We internalize what we take in.  Our mind’s eye is very impressionable, and the world at present is not putting a very broad set of images in front of us. Read more

Quick Tips: Purge cliches from your writing

Particularly useful for fundraisers who write a lot of copy, there are two tools that I’ve taken to using more and more since I’m now a solo practitioner who gets a lot of work done in the hours after the rest of my house has gone to bed.

Now, please don’t get too excited about my violating my own “sleep, dammit” advice – the kid’s down at 8:30, the husband retires at 9:15 at the latest…but it’s not my own finest hour for creating inspired prose, which means I edit in the mornings.  Here are two tools I want you to know about.

Cliche Finder

It’s a web form…cut and paste your stuff in there and click the button that says “find cliches.”  Some cliches can be useful in a piece meant to appeal to public emotion…but cliches that aren’t a deliberate choice are probably doing you a disservice.  You spellcheck, right?  Cliche check.

The Passivator

OK, I don’t use this much, but then again, my first boss was the analog version of this bookmarklet that hunts out and scolds you for using the passive voice.  Thanks to him, I reflexively review my work for passive verbs and useless adverbs all on my own.  If you’re either starting out as a professional with writing duties or a mid-career professional who’s never developed into a star writer (it’s such an important job skill – good writers are in high demand, always), this tool might help.  (Again, it’s not *always* a no-no, but you want to be intentional about your choices and how they impact your readers.)  It’s a little more involved than a web tool, but worth installing and trying.

Quick Tips: The magic of tiltshift

Looking for a cheap way to look like you spend a ton on your graphics?  I’m always looking for techniques that are really simple to use, but pack a punch.  Tiltshift is one of the things I keep up my sleeve.

I really don’t know why Universities aren’t using adorable tiltshifted photos for more of their mailings…
I really don’t know why Universities aren’t using adorable tiltshifted photos for more of their mailings…

Tilt-shift is a technique that manipulates your photos to look like miniatures and models of real-life scenes.  And you can do it with your photos very very easily.   Read more

Quick tips: Roll over Roget

The quickest of all my quick tips!

Getting language just right is a BIG part of effective development.  Whether it’s a grant or proposal or letter or your website landing page or just the right turn of phrase in conversation, picking just the right words matters.  A lot.

You already have your favorite thesaurus application, whether it’s whatever tool exists on your word processing software (am I the only one who misses that little paperclip guy?), Google’s thesaurus extension for your Chrome browser,,…whatever…

Try this: Word Sense 

It’s a dictionary and thesaurus, but it also gives you some interactive charts that highlight common word associations and phrases, insight into word relationships (great for avoiding accidental interpretations and double entendres), and for linguistic nerds among us, lays out hyponymy and hypernymy.  Enjoy!

Quick Tips: Wordle

In my consulting work, I spend a lot of time on storytelling.  If you want to figure out a strategy forward, it helps to have everyone who’s involved with your organization agree on who you are and what you do now…and getting stakeholders to tell their personal and institutional narrative is a great start towards that agreement.

One of the things I frequently do after getting a bunch of people to write down answers to a few questions (nothing particularly complex – things like “how would you describe your organization to a friend?” and “what are the values of your organization in 140 characters or less”) is run those answers through Wordle.

Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.
Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.

People think it’s magic. Read more

Don’t forget to laugh

Someone forwarded me an article yesterday on sleep deprivation and mothers of young children.  A sweet and hilarious personal essay recounting great stories like “I walked into a wall and sent my kid to school with an onion instead of an apple” and “that time when I almost fell asleep while walking a couple of blocks with my kid in a baby carrier.”  When you truly love the best parts of your job (yes, being a mom is a job – though it won’t pay the bills and it’s *really* hard to quit), you can laugh at the ridiculous bits.  You know, the ridiculous bits that test your every limit and make you want to cry or hit something; the ridiculous bits that might make someone who’s never experienced such a thing smile, but makes instant compatriots out of those who share the experience and gives members of the sister/brotherhood a chance to laugh loudly and deeply, with real guffaws.  I personally laugh in the face of utter exhaustion. Read more