As I work with companies that want to create a social good, I am often surprised at the similarities in their approaches. As a social worker, I employ the ethic of self-determination in my consulting and coaching. Yet, what works is just what works in business. In this piece, I present what seems to work for many social enterprise ventures. In the spirit of self-determination, I present these as a starting point for your creativity, or a framework for your thoughts on social entrepreneurship. Reflecting on these three elements is a must as you consider the next steps for your business. Take your business from social good to social greatness.
Cast a Vision: Collaboration
Vision includes goal setting, team building, and convening. Collaboration is the most effective organizing framework I have observed. Goal setting is straight forward. One key is to create the goals based on what you want to see rather than achievements. Answer how you want your community and interactions to function.
Team building is an all important phase. Everyone who shares in your idea is not a team member. Disagreement does not automatically signal exclusion from the team. Have criterion for your team. Focus on skills. Require commitment.
Convening is getting together. Whether virtual or in-person, a consistent schedule of idea sharing, social support, and brainstorming is important. Always set an agenda, invite input, and reinforce the reason your social enterprise exists.
To goal setting, collaboration brings a consideration of the other: workers, partners, and the community at large. When you set goals that support the engines of your business model, you win. To team building, collaboration brings idea sharing, risk taking, and ownership. A sense of empowerment among your team members results in greater creativity and productivity. To convening, collaboration brings networking, culture, and imperatives. Action and a sense of urgency is the byproduct of getting people together around a deadline.
Alignment refers to the ability of your mission to outline a process, which indicates an outcome–all in a logical flow. To alignment, technology offers the ability to calibrate systems, indicators, and measurements. Knowing your beginning level of functioning, as well as any deficits, is important information when considering improvements.
To efficiency, technology offers a shorter time commitment to potentially perform even complex tasks. Sorting, organizing, categorizing, formatting, communicating, and more can be completed with less time effort and greater editorial control when technology is employed. To evaluation, technology offers automation–the single greatest time saver in the toolkit of organizations. Sign-ins, switching off, entering forms, noting communication times, compiling reports can all be automated to free up time for interpretation and innovation.
Connect Personally: Coaching
Interaction at the personal level refers to an ethic of treating workers, investors and stakeholders, as individuals. Coaching is used time and again with success in organizations. This ethic of individual treatment highlights the importance of human relationships to anchor business enterprise, create lasting value, and guard against mission-creep by speaking of people rather than “the corporation.”
For workers, coaching means developing the skills, talents, AND capacity for creativity among your employees. The ability to think critically toward innovation is heightened when workers can see challenges and inputs in new ways. For investors, coaching means accepting input and guidance from those who have done this before. It also means articulating new vision and social pivots to seasoned benefactors. For stakeholders, coaching means a view into the inner workings of the business. An opportunity for inspiration, idea sharing, and network expansion exists.