I try to live a life of kaizen - that drive for continuous improvement. It’s not always easy, but I believe it’s vital to a fulfilling life. After returning from my high school reunion weekend, I reflect on how most of us have improved over time. For the most part, my classmates (now thirty years removed from high school!) looked better than ever. I conclude that kaizen drives us.
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning continual improvement: the idea of working to get better every day, and the collective result of such an effort. It applies to work, relationships, kids and fitness. If we live with a kaizen mindset, the possibilities are endless. Personal and professional development becomes part of our DNA.
In my nonprofit consulting business teamWorks, I often meet two kinds of leaders. Staff leaders who are stuck in the status quo with the mentality of, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” But if you do what you’ve always done, you’re likely to get the same results. That leads to plateauing events and bored volunteers. The other kind of leader I meet is the one on the verge of burnout. They have deep commitment, ever-increasing goals and not enough time. They try to do it all, but that formula is not sustainable. They feel like throwing in the towel. If we want our organizations to operate under the kaizen mindset, we must do something different in order to grow and thrive. Enter volunteer leaders.
The collective impact that a group of people can make will almost always exceed what any of us can do alone. It’s called mobilizing volunteers and it’s the secret weapon for continuous improvement in nonprofit work. In order to generate buy-in for an event, program or outreach opportunity, we must engage volunteers. That means giving them responsibility and ownership. Leadership development means helping volunteers realize their potential and working with them to lead others. The volunteer-driven, staff-supported approach I preach allows you and your organization to change and grow in order to become more sustainable. If you work for an organization that aspires to raise more money, recruit more volunteers and reach more people, let’s talk. Through kaizen-inspired leadership, together we can get results.