It has been too long since my last post and many things have built up to write about. Here is an attempt to make sense of my recent seemingly interconnected thoughts and ideas. I have been reading The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block and came across an article titled Why Employee Well-Being Matters. Both of these readings seem to support the idea that work really is about people and that when people are happy (oneself included) then good, meaningful and engaging work happens. It is in the pursuit of purpose that this joy in one's work is found.

I think about this in relationship to non-profit work and how it compares to business. We are at a point in time where working in non-profits is difficult due to shifts in funding sources, working against a culture that does not support many non-profits' missions(which is why they exist in the first place) and a small business model that seems to be upholding many values that non-profits are thought to have, but in the current climate may be left behind at the cost of survival.

I realize that it all comes down to people. Regardless of whether one is running a non-profit or a for-profit business, the way people are left feeling after their interaction with your business or organization is what matters. What will dictate this interaction is why you do what you do. Peter Block's premise in The Answer to How is Yes is that if one is too persistently asking how to do something that it is a sign of doubt and not something that is truly meaningful or necessary to do. The question he poses is why. If you have the answer to why you are doing something that will drive you to figure out the how regardless of difficulties.

Returning to the idea that it is the people in your organization or business that matter the question why is already answered - because one must take care of one's people. These people include staff, management, board, customers, community and anyone else that is touched by what one does (as well as the environment, etc. and all that creates a healthy world for people to live in). The question of how too often is used to deflect this why. In a climate where funding is being cut, when the economy is not strong, questions like - how can we keep paying full time staff, how can we provide health care, how can we cut costs to save money - end up at the forefront of conversation.

This how is doubt. It is a doubt about why one's organization or business actually exists. I am not saying that people will never have to be laid off or that organizations to not have to address the fiscal reality of their circumstance. In this focus on survival however, I think that often organizations lose sight of the values they were built on, which leads to a perpetual state of how and eats away at the why. In this state of doubt and in answering these questions, when people stop being cared for one loses one's why regardless of whether an organization or business is started to provide health care to those who lack it, to provide a creative space for those who don't have access or to provide a service or product that is useful, beautiful or a technological advance. People begin things as a means of making the world somehow better, through a product or service, through leveraging resources for those who do not have access or by working to realize a vision of how things could change. At least those people who ask why and not how do. Taking care of people also includes oneself and that means choosing a life that is meaningful to oneself. This choice is the choice to live a passionate existence and to live with care for what one does and those one comes into contact with. In the words of Peter Block, "When we commit to bringing our deepest selves to the table, we are transformed by the act of creating something together that we cannot create alone."

It is this creation, together with others that brought me to non-profit work in the first place. Non-profit workers are some of the most committed, passionate people I have met, but at the point that their organizations start asking too many hows and forget their why, it is often these people that are hurt the deepest. This is also seen in businesses where the why was forgotten long ago and workers and managers are there solely to make a profit, not to act on their wisdom or passion.

"There is always time to do everything that really matters. If we do not have time to do something, it is a sign that it does not matter."

Businesses, non-profits and people flourish if they know why they exist. Vision is crucial in remembering that how one functions is inherently tied to the why of what one does. It makes me think that it does not matter if an organization is for-profit or non-profit, but the question is whether the how matches the why. If it does, then the answer to how is always yes and one's plans are carried out in a way that benefits all. Peter Block quoting Brian Tracy, "A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power." If all in our organizations are acting in this way and working together purposefully then something great will be achieved.