When Our Culture is More Focused on Doing Things Right Than Doing the Right Thing, Creating Change Can Be Really Hard


I like to brag to people that although I never made millions practicing environmental public interest law and advocacy, I always woke up every day excited to be part of an organization that was literally working to change the world.

After a decade of working for advocacy organizations, I switched gears and went to work for an association and the change was startling. For starters, the culture of the organization was decidedly more corporate. Advocacy was a part of our mission, but it wasn’t the whole mission.

The revenue model was dependent on membership dues, which required a heavy focus on providing continuous value, which was primarily defined as services. So the culture was inevitably more focused on managing the provision of services versus leading. Peter Drucker has called this false dichotomy, “doing things right (management) versus doing the right thing (leadership).”

One of my first tasks was creating a policy platform and agenda. I was charged with getting EVERYONE, from the staff to the board, onboard with the same shared understanding. To say it was challenging is an understatement. I didn’t realize I would get a crash course in Internal Organizing 101!

Looking back, I can see now that I was given what turned out to be a very challenging and rewarding professional opportunity: How to motivate individuals who were more comfortable embracing the status quo to make change and embrace risk.

Along the way, there were many days where I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle. I questioned whether I was making a difference. I was often the lone voice speaking up at meetings and proposing we try something different in order to remain relevant to our constituency.

In order to be successful, I had to figure out who were the key champions to engage. I also had to negotiate and learn how to create an agenda that would appeal to very different interests. Our members were both foundations AND nonprofits with very different policy concerns and very different understandings about advocacy.

Needless to say, I didn’t always do it gracefully. And there was a lot of trial and error!

When I did fail it was usually because I didn’t have the support systems in place that are critical when you’re tasked with creating change both inside your organization and outside.

Even more important, I learned that before we can advocate for change on the outside of our organization, we need to know how to do so on the inside. And that requires understanding the culture that’s in place, as well as identifying needed supports which includes people, resources, and the right structures and processes to facilitate and sustain any change.

What if you could be supported in advocating inside your organization for the resources and support you need so you could amplify your influence on the outside, in your community and with other leaders to advance your career?

Interested in learning a different approach to leadership?

Then click here and join me on March 22 for a LIVE free virtual 45-minute Workshop on Zoom where together we’ll tackle:

  • How to identify and move past common barriers that keep us stuck from using our voice for influence.
  • The mindset needed to be an effective advocate both inside and outside your organization.
  • How to Identify opportunities to amplify your influence and your leadership inside and outside your organization.

I’m super excited to have the chance to meet with you live and help you break through some of the barriers standing between you and the Leader you were meant to be.

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