In the years that I’ve been coaching clients and audiences on creating their own Life GPS® personal planning strategy, I’ve learned that identifying the outcomes they want to help create in their communities is often the most challenging component for people. I get that because, for many years, it was the most challenging for me too. I think there are a number of reasons for that. One is that a lot of leaders’ plates are so full with commitments in the arenas of home and work that it feels like there’s not a lot of bandwidth left for work in the community. Another is that there is so much need in the world that it can be hard to even figure out where to start to make a difference.
In this week’s post, I want to share some simple strategies for getting engaged in making the world a better place. For Diane and me and our team at the Eblin Group, we’ve concluded that our purpose is to help build better leaders who lead better lives and, in turn, help create a better world. If the world feels increasingly complex, I think one reason for that is because we’re recognizing how increasingly integrated everything is. Changes to one part of the system affect the entire system. As leaders, we need to be aware and intentional about our impact – on the people we live with, on the people we work with and on the people we share the planet with. You can break it down or scope it in any way that works for you, but, collectively, we’re all part of the same community.
Based on observation and personal experience, here are some strategies for making a difference in yours:
Pick a cause – The graphic that accompanies this post is an iconic representation of the United Nations’ 17 goals for sustainable development. There are at least two ways you can look at this graphic. One is to say, “Wow, that’s so many initiatives. How could I possibly make a difference in all of that?” Another is to say, “Great. They’ve organized a lot of options for me. I’m going to pick one where I want to get involved.” Needless to say, I’m a fan of the second approach. Most everything on the list speaks to Diane and me, but we’re putting a lot of our personal emphasis and effort on goal number two, zero hunger. That cause speaks to us because it’s at the intersection of great needs we see in our community and the empathy and passion we have for addressing that need. That’s one of our primary causes; yours could be something else. To make a difference, though, I encourage you to be specific and pick one or two that you really want to focus on. All of us only have so much bandwidth in terms of time, attention, and other resources. Yours will make more of a difference if you focus it rather than spread it thin.
Do your homework – To make the most of the time, attention and resources you can apply to a cause, it helps to do your homework. What’s the impact of the issue? How many people are affected? Who are they and where do they live? What are the root causes of the problems that need to be solved? Who’s doing great research on the topic? What organizations are already doing good work on the issue globally, nationally and locally? What kinds of help do they need? I’m not saying that you have to be an expert to get involved. For instance, Diane and I certainly aren’t experts on food insecurity but we know more about the subject than we did a few years ago. Learning and growth is an ongoing process. If you dedicate some of your time to learning more about your cause, you’ll be much more effective in making a meaningful difference.
Start where you are – Over the weekend, I read an article about Larry Fink, the chairman and CEO of global investment giant, BlackRock, putting climate sustainability at the center of the investment strategy for the $8.7 trillion in assets his firm manages. When someone in a position like Fink’s leads with the idea that “Climate risk is investment risk,” that has a huge ripple effect on the actions of others. And, hardly any of us are in a position like Larry Fink’s. That doesn’t mean though that we can’t have an impact if we start where we are. Pretty much any issue worth working on has a local angle and opportunities to get involved. Whether it’s big contributions of time and resources or small – they all matter.
Leverage what you have to offer – And that brings us to how to get involved. The most obvious answers are your money and your time. Guidestar.org is a great resource for finding reputable and effective non-profits that need your contributions of both. Don’t sleep, though, on other ways to leverage what you have to offer. Many companies will match your contribution to a charity making a difference. For example, a friend of mine recently wanted to gift some of my time to a friend who could use a few coaching sessions. When she asked me what I’d charge for that, I suggested she donate whatever she felt was right to a charity of her choice. To my delight, she chose her local food bank and ended up doubling her contribution with a match from her employer. That’s one example of leveraging what you have to offer. Another is to think about and act on ways you can amplify and leverage your networks, platform and voice to focus more attention and resources on development goals. The most effective efforts in this regard are those that connect people with the cause on an empathetic level. While it’s terrific if you’re in a position of broad authority, you don’t have to be to make a difference. It’s more about leading with influence rather than authority.
So, those are some simple strategies for making the world a better place this year. I’d love to start a conversation on what else we can all do. What are you already doing to make a difference? What cause are you focusing on? What advice do you have for others who are getting started on making a bigger difference? If you’re getting started, where do you plan to start?
If you’re reading this through LinkedIn, please share your thoughts in a comment. If you’re reading this directly on the Eblin Group blog, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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