January 14, 2014 | Tom Suddes

A Culture of Freedom & Responsibility (MUST READ)

This is not a short post! It’s not 140 characters to be tweeted nor is it designed for ADHD, fast-twitch consumption.

Encouragement.  Hopefully, I and we have built some trust within our ‘Tribe’.  If so, what follows could be one of the most thought-provoking pieces you’ve read in a long time.If you are a For Impact Leader, Chief Whatever, Executive Director, Member of the Senior Team, Vice President/Team Leader of the Advancement/Development Office, or an aspiring Social Entrepreneur … I truly believe this is a must read.

This month’s HBR talked about a “A Great Place To Work”.  Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and now a consultant, wrote How Netflix Reinvented HR.  FWIW, I think that is a terrible name for this powerful article on culture, talent, counter-intuitive/radical practices and more.  Take the time to read the article.  Patty and Reed Hastings, the Founder and CEO of Netflix, shared two over-arching principles:

  1. “Hire only ‘A’ Players.  Excellent colleagues trump everything else.”
  2. “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package.”  As they say, this blunt statement underscores their hunger for excellence.

They then shared their five tenets for a true culture of freedom and responsibility:

  1. “Hire, reward and tolerate only fully formed adults.”  (If this were your ‘only’ hiring practice … it would change the game.)
  2. “Tell the truth about performance.”  (They eliminated all formal reviews!  “Too ritualistic and too infrequent.”  Their alternative:  “Have conversations about performance as an organic part of their work!”)
  3. “Managers own the job of creating great teams.”  (Netflix told all their ‘managers’ that building a great team was their most important task!  They were not measured on whether excellent coaches or mentors or got their paperwork done on time.  “Great teams accomplish great work, and recruiting the right team was the top priority.”)
  4. “Leaders own the job of creating the company culture.”  (Read Patty’s example about action not matching values.)
  5. “Good talent managers think like business people and innovators first and like HR people last.”  (For me, “business people and innovators” could be summarized as ENTREPRENEURS.  Think like an Entrepreneur makes for a truly astounding, creative and and innovative culture.)

Pay attention!  What follows has been called one of the most important documents ever to come out of Silicon Valley.  It’s been viewed more than 5 million times on the web!

*Even with all the reading that Nick and I do, somehow we missed this.  It has had a huge IMPACT on our little company … and I am confident that you will find some real gems and nuggets within these 127 slides titled Reference Guide on Our (Netflix) FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY CULTURE.

Here are things that jumped out/literally leaped off the page for me:

  • The real company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go.
  • A great workplace is stunning colleagues.
  • The Keeper Test:  Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?
  • Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it, to continue to attract and nourish innovative people.  (Check out the Complexity/Performance charts!)
  • Netflix policy for expensing, entertainment, gifts and travel:  “Act in Netflix best interest.”  (5 words long!)
  • CONTEXT … NOT CONTROL.  (This is a truly exceptional nugget that could change your entire organization.)
  • Highly aligned, loosely coupled (vs. a tightly coupled monolith or independent silos) is dependent upon high-performance people and good context.  Goal is to be big and fast and flexible.

If that’s not enough to get you to download the ‘slides’, you probably won’t get it anyway.

***One of their 9 behaviors and skills is IMPACT! These are the VALUES that drive hiring and talent:


In their world, IMPACT means:

  • You accomplish amazing amount of important work.
  • You demonstrate consistently strong performance so colleagues can rely upon you.
  • You focus on great results rather than on process
  • You exhibit bias-to-action and avoid analysis paralysis.

WHEW!  I urge you to print out everything and take some solo time to digest and think.  Then, get your Senior Team or colleagues together and see if you can’t take some of the above and create an amazing CULTURE OF FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY.

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January 13, 2014 | Tom Suddes

Building A Game-Changing Talent Strategy

HBR’s January/February issue talked about “A Great Place to Work” and featured IDEO, BlackRock and Netflix. Here is the link to the initial article Building A Game-Changing Talent Strategy.

Here’s my shorthand to help encourage you to read these articles if you are in any kind of Leadership position in a For Impact organization.

  • Game-changing organizations are purpose-drivenperformance-oriented … and principles-led.
  • Great comments about investing in professional development and training.
  • “Committed leaders and gifted HR managers create an organizational climate of SPIRIT and ENERGY – a magnet for the very best professionals.”
  • The game-changing organizations focused on talents four inherent tensions:
      Support both strategic and operational superiority.
      Are globally scaled yet locally relevant.
      Foster collective culture yet enable high potentials to thrive as individuals.
      Policies endure yet are agile and open to revitalization.

At the end of the article, there are 12 statements that you should look at and answer if you really want to have a GAME-CHANGING TALENT STRATEGY!

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January 8, 2014 | Tom Suddes

How To Draw An Owl

I got the following from Seth Godin’s daily blog. If you don’t know Seth, look up prolific writer in whatever dictionary you use and his picture will be there. I get a blog from every day.

With total and highly complimentary attribution … here’s the beginning of his post on HOW TO DRAW AN OWL.

The problem with most business and leadership advice is that it’s a little like this:


The two circles aren’t the point. Getting the two circles right is a good idea, but lots of people manage that part. No, the difficult part is learning to see what an owl looks like. Drawing an owl involves thousands of small decisions, each based on the answer to just one question, “what does the owl look like?” If you can’t see it (in your mind, not with your eyes), you can’t draw it.

WOW! “If you can’t see it … in your mind … you can’t draw it.”

In the For Impact world, I think this is a beautiful example of the need for both VISION and FOCUS.

What does the ‘owl’ look like? You can’t just draw two circles, and then say “Okay, draw the owl.” You’ve got to lay out the VISION as clearly as possible … with great STORY LINES to help people ‘see it in their mind‘.

Then comes FOCUS. When you’re ready to finally draw the owl, there has to be enough detail and enough of a picture in the mind to actually be able to fill in the ‘final’ drawing.

We used this wonderful analogy yesterday to talk about ‘What does a name-changing, health care philanthropy organization look like?’

We are going to use this with our Suddes Group coaches and clients to help people get from ‘two circles‘ to the ‘finished product‘ … by trying to be as clear as possible around what the ‘owl’ looks like.

Note: If you’re part of the Tribe, you know how important vocabulary and common language is for an elite team. This is just another great vocabulary word to help shorthand results!

What does the owl look like?

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January 7, 2014 | Tom Suddes

12-Point Checklist

Working today with some of the best Chief Development Officers in the United States/world.

I wanted to share this 12-Point Checklist with all of you in hopes that it provides a framework or template for your own organization and fund development.

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January 6, 2014 | Tom Suddes


HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope everyone had a great holiday season with family, friends and some solo time.

2014 can be a great year for all of us.

Three thoughts to start off the New Year.

    1. ON CHANGE! Darwin said, “Adapt or Die.” Alan Deutschman wrote Change or Die”. 2014 can be your Year of Change. Here are some quotes to get you going.
    *I will be feeding you a lot more stuff in the next week on this topic of CHANGE.
    2. HIGH PERFORMANCE. Nick and I are on our way to Colorado to spend some time with one of the most cutting-edge and innovative health care organizations in the world. Topic tomorrow with their leadership is all about High Performance Talent.
    ***Pay particular attention to Tony Schwartz’s thoughts on routines and rituals and systems.
    3. YOU RUN YOUR ORGANIZATION. YOUR ORGANIZATION DOESN’T RUN YOU. I’m going to be sharing more thoughts this year directed towards YOU … as a person and the CEO of Me, Inc. This will be our Gold section around Personal Development.
    You run your life. Life doesn’t run you.

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December 20, 2013 | Tom Suddes


This will be my last post and last WOW email for 2013. And, it’s not about your organization, your team, fundraising or sales. It’s about YOU. It 2014, we’ll be organizing all of our content, resources and support under Blue-Red-Green-Gold. This represents Organizational Development (Blue), Team Development (Red), Fund Development (Green) and Personal Development (Gold). I want to close out 2013 with some GOLD. BE HAPPY. BE HEALTHY. BE FOR IMPACT. BE HAPPY. Check out this great link to 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Happy by Belle Beth Cooper via Jeff Haden. Shorthand:

    1. Exercise.
    2. Sleep more.
    3. Spend more time with friends and family.
    4. Get outside more.
    5. Help others(!)
    6. Practicing smiling.
    7. Plan a trip.
    8. Meditate.
    9. Move closer to work.
    10. Practice gratitude.

A lot of great links in this article! One more resource for some reading on happiness over the holidays might be The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven. *I’m learning to be much more productive in my old age. My good friend Jim Mahoney of Battelle for Kids has done a terrific job of Book Notes on Niven’s book. Here’s the summary. Happy people have:

  • Humor/Positivity/Fun
  • Friendship
  • Purpose and Meaning

BONUS READING: Jim Rohn’s 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness: Power Ideas from America’s Foremost Business Philosopher. One of my favorite authors, Rohn says the 7 strategies are:

    1. Unleash the power of goals.
    2. Seek knowledge.
    3. Learn how to change.
    4. Control your finances.
    5. Master time.
    6. Surround yourself with winners.
    7. Learn the art of living well!


BE HEALTHY. There was a sign in one of the original athletic clubs I built many years ago that I will never forget: “HEALTH IS THE GREATEST WEALTH.” I’m not going to encourage you to make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, but here are three great resources to read or skim over the holidays regarding your health.

      • Aging Well by George Vaillant. Again, I don’t need to summarize. You can all use Google or Bing. Vaillant is the one who summarized the groundbreaking study of five decades of Harvard graduates.
      • Brain Rules by John Medina. The reason I included it here is because it’s one of Nick’s favorite books and a HEALTHY BRAIN means everything!

BE FOR IMPACT. This is our commitment to help you in 2014 and beyond.

Here are my initial year-end thoughts on BE FOR IMPACT. I would love your feedback.

Have a wonderful holiday and end of the year.

Look for some great stuff ON CHANGE on January 6th.

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December 16, 2013 | Tom Suddes

Nelson Mandela Just Asked

A good friend of mine in Ireland (who, by the way, runs a fantastic anti-bullying program there) sent me an article from the Irish Times.

Article is written by Bono on his “friend Nelson Mandela”. Here’s the opening of the article:

    “He could charm the birds off the trees – and cash right out of wallets. He told me once how Margaret Thatcher had personally donated £20,000 to his foundation.
    “How did you do that?” I gasped. The Iron Lady, who was famously frugal, kept a tight grip on her purse.
    “I asked,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.”

JUST ASK! We can now add Nelson Mandela to the list!

    “If you don’t ASK, you don’t get.” Gandhi
    The Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive.”
    In Hebrew, it’s “Rak B’vakaysh!! ONLY ASK!”
    “You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.” Nelson Mandela

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December 16, 2013 | Tom Suddes

3 Big Things We Created …

We had almost everybody to Eagle Creek last week for year-end review, 2014 goals and planning and some serious celebration!

As I was listening to the team talk about impact that we have had in 2013, I was reminded of the power of our thinking, models and frameworks.

Three of the really big things that resonated most with clients and in our trainings were actually things that we (kind of) invented:

    1. MASTER PROSPECT LIST. Top-down, descending order of importance, rating based primarily on Capacity and Relationship, not ‘siloed’ into individual or corporate or foundation or whatever and more.
    In all the sales trainings I’ve attended over the years and all the sales books I’ve read … I’ve not seen anyone use this concept of the MPL to drive Prioritization and Strategy with prospects.
    2. PREDISPOSITION. Again, this is a term that we coined (pun intended) to raise a lot more money. Professionals in the For Impact world do not make ‘cold calls‘. We predispose before any contact with our best prospects and before every visit. Professionals know they have 30 minutes, on average, for the Presentation of the Opportunity. Anything and everything that we can do before that presentation to help the prospect make a decision is invaluable.
    ***The three parts to our Sales Process are of equal importance: PREPARATION/PREDISPOSITION … PRESENTATION … FOLLOW-UP.
    3. THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page PRESENTATION FLOW, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.

Special Note: We are committed in 2014 to continue bringing you as many ideas and frameworks and nuggets as we can to help you make an even greater IMPACT. Stay tuned for re-designed ForImpact.org to better serve as a resource.

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December 9, 2013 | Tom Suddes


Jason H., a For Impact Tribe Member, shared the following graphic from Anna Vital.

Click to see full size version.

Makes a great point. Your personal life, starting something that matters, a lot more.

***Still trying to figure out how we at For Impact can IMPACT 198,000,000 people!

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December 5, 2013 | Nick Fellers

Meet Farnam Street. And, think.

I’m excited to share with you the crown jewel of the Internet.

Meet Farnam Street: (Seeking wisdom by mastering the best of what other people have figured out).

It’s not really a blog.  It’s more like a feed of incredible tools to help you THINK.

Farnam Street is run by Shane Parrish.  I know three people who read as much as he does: Charlie Munger, Bill Gates, and Tom Suddes.

For Impact | The Suddes Group is sponsoring Farnam Street. We’re really proud of this partnership because we feel like it gives us a chance to invest in the sharing of ancient wisdom and modern thinking – in the form of digestible nuggets.

The Suddes Group has been working ‘in the field’ since 1983, delivering funding results for organizations. We have been packaging and sharing our thinking via For Impact (website, training, publishing) since 2000.

Clients tell us again and again, “We chose to work with you for your clear thinking, simple approach, and transformational results.” I don’t need to hire a branding consultant to see the value in more statements like that.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, that’s why so few people engage in it.” - Henry Ford

So brand-building, partnerships… all that’s great.  On a more meta level I believe, simply, Shane and Farnam Street are providing tons of value to the universe. That’s impact.
We’re FOR  IMPACT. I’ll invest in that.

Thanks, Shane.

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