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53: Optimizing Your Resources, Operations, & Strategies for Organizational Growth with Jhana Li

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“Time is an interesting one. Of the four resources (time, energy, money, human potential) it’s time that appreciates. The value of your time when your organization is small is not that much … but as you grow your time becomes more and more valuable.”

– Jhana Li
Episode #53

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Do you ever feel that you’re spinning your wheels or being penny-wise and pound-foolish? My guest on this episode of What the Fundraising is here with some straight talk about managing operations efficiently and effectively. A consultant who helps small businesses scale, Jhana Li is a systems thinker with a gift for optimizing organizations from both the 30,000-foot and three-foot levels. This conversation offers a framework to audit your organizational health. Plus practical tips for making change!

Jhana walks us through core resources for early start-up development as well as key systems to support transformation through scaling stages. Where a founder’s time was once abundant and expendable, the prism has to shift when momentum builds and the demands for long-term growth intensify. Resources must be reassessed – and often re-allocated. Clarity is key. Jhana ticks off some of the most common managerial vulnerabilities among founders, including a reluctance to delegate and measure ruthlessly for ROI. “It takes a good bit of humility to recognize that you’re not the thing your business needs anymore and make the changes necessary to adapt,” says Jhana, who invites us to take a clear-eyed look at who we’re serving with some of our limiting beliefs. 

You’ll recognize some insights that are especially relevant to the nonprofit world. For instance: Are you a serial “helper” or “fix-it” addict who feels constantly compelled to do, facilitate, cure, and manage? Consider whether that behavior is actually serving you or the co-workers who – deprived of the opportunity to take on new tasks – forfeit an opportunity for growth. Or perhaps you default to a scarcity mindset that renders you too fearful to invest in important systems critical to sustaining your work? Jhana not only urges a shift of focus to the big-picture and all the resources you’re expending and can never get back, but she also gives tactical and practical ways to do so. Plus, learn about what it looks like to do a Time Audit and how to grow a team in which everyone is getting smarter (and feels more empowered) every day! 

This is the episode I wish I had as a Managing Director and Executive Director – it would have completely changed the way I looked at my organization’s resources and planned for growth. Listen now to learn how to audit your organizational health & optimize your resources for growth. 

If you’d like to run your own scenario by her, book a free discovery call with Jhana here.

You might also be interested in taking my Fundraising Superpower Quiz to learn more about you can optimize your natural fundraising talents.

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This week’s guest @JhanaLi roots for @BYkids

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BYkids is a non-profit organization pairing master filmmakers, including Albert Maysles and Ric Burns, with youth (ages 8-21) from around the world to create short documentaries that educate Americans about globally relevant issues. By giving kids the tools and mentoring to make documentary films about their lives and packaging those films for a wide American audience, BYkids gives voice to youth from diverse cultures and encourages international understanding and engagement by giving viewers concrete ways to respond.

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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

Mallory Erickson: Hello and Welcome Everyone! I am so thrilled to be here today with Jhana Li. Jhana and I just met a few weeks ago and I was blown away by the work that she does helping small teams rethink the way that they handle and manage operations. And I think her experience in the for-profit world and the startup world and the tech world is so relevant to what nonprofits are going through. So thank you so much for joining me today. 

Jhana Li: Yes, of course. I’m so excited to be here. 

Mallory Erickson: So why don’t you start just giving, I gave a little bit of a snippet, but like your background and what brings you to the work that you’re doing today?

Jhana Li: Yeah, definitely. Right now I am an Operations Coach and Consultant and I will define what that means because the follow-up question I always get is cool, what? So essentially what I do is I work with small start up for-profit businesses generally, but just organizations and institutions who have really figured out what it is that they do best. And the market that they serve and the value that they provide. And they’ve figured that all out and now they are struggling to do it more, to do it better, to efficiently and more scalably and more sustainably. And so that is really where I step in. I specialize in building out systems and team infrastructure and working a lot with founders to also elevate their own thinking and their own approach to their companies, to make sure that they are evolving with the needs of the company.

Mallory Erickson: I love that. And one of the things I think is so interesting about even just some of the materials that you sent me about what you do, is that you broke up and I see this more in the for-profit world and not in the nonprofit world. You broke up sort of the type of operations, coaching, and support that might be needed for businesses at different sizes and scales.

Can you talk to me just from a macro level about that, why it’s so important. Organizations are thinking about this development in relationship to their sort of size. 

Jhana Li: Totally. Yes. So I think that this is going to sound weird, but I think for the initial stages of a business, operations can actually serve as a major distraction. Like I think, oftentimes people, especially founders who are maybe more detail oriented or systems oriented are trying to make everything perfect  from the beginning and as efficient as possible, from the beginning. When in fact they need to focus on how do we get this business up and running? How do we make it work? Like how do we crack the core value of what we provide? And it can be sloppy. It can be messy. We can, we’re going to change our mind 50 times. So there’s not really a point to building out a system because that system is just going to change. And at the beginning stages, oftentimes what I’ll say is like the opposite of the district is a distraction. Keep it very simple. Use the easiest tech stack you possibly can text your assistant. If that’s the only communication channel you have, like just make sure there’s communication there. And then as you start to evolve, your business needs will develop and you can start to layer in more advanced, more sophisticated, more streamlined operations.

But at the end of the day, ops is just about the efficient use of resources. And so weirdly the operational lens when starting a business, the most efficient use of your resources is to not do operations and that’s the operational lens.

Mallory Erickson: Okay. That’s really interesting. So I can imagine though, one of the things I really appreciate around the way you think about operations is that you think about it really across the board, like the operations of sales, operations of marketing, the operations. So I’m assuming though that there are certain types of operations that are critical to the core value proposition that organizations, and I’m trying to think about this from a nonprofit lens,need to start with. So how do you define those? If they’re going to prioritize sort of three pieces of operation at the beginning, and maybe that’s still even too many, you tell me, but what should those be?

Jhana Li: Definitely. So I take a pretty broad definition of the concept of operations, especially for small businesses and startups, because it’s not like there’s a dedicated head of marketing operations and a dedicated head of sales, right? Like it’s just operations. It’s probably one person, or maybe even a fraction of a person who is putting their time towards that.

And so my definition of operations is any action required to optimize a company’s use of its four core resources, which is time, energy, money and human potential. So anything, any action, any task that helps contribute towards the efficient use of those resources, falls, in my mind, under the concept of operations.

So to start, when you’re beginning with that, I think the big ones, like you have more time than you have money, generally. And so that calculus kind of shifts where the time becomes something that you’re able to put towards everything. This is why founders in the beginning are always wearing all the hats, right?

Because they have the time when the business is small to show up in all of the ways. And then as their team starts to grow and their business starts to grow. I would say the initial, like pillars of operations that come in first are process and workflow optimization and management, right? So like the repeat processes that happen in your business, can you delegate them? Can you automate them? Can you systemize them so that they happen reliably every single time, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel once the wheel is set. So it’s like process and workflow management for the high volume SOPs and workflows that happen in the business. 

The next one is task management. So now that you have maybe a small team around you, how are you effectively delegating those tasks? How are you tracking tasks? I noticed a lot of founders get really bogged down, their own time gets really bogged down as their team starts to grow with just following up on tasks and holding people accountable to doing tasks. So how can you build out your task infrastructure and management structure in such a way, where your time, because that’s a very scarce resource, is not maybe focused on the delegation and the overseeing of what tasks are happening, but it’s not in the follow-up, it’s not in the accountability. How do you build a team that you can trust and a system that supports that to make sure those tests are being done and they’re being done efficiently.

And then the third pillar, I would say, especially as the team starts to come in is communication. And not necessarily your communication style, there’s certainly a lot with that. But like when I’m breaking down or auditing an organization, I’ll literally in my mind try and build a diagram of what is the flow of information around this business, around this team, is all of the information having to go through. Or is there a horizontal direct information, could information be passed more directly or maybe even automatically, so as opposed to the founder showing up every single day to go through the to-do list for the day, is there a way of storing that in some sort of project manager or repository? So people don’t have to ask and take up each other’s time when they could just go to one place and find the information that they’re looking for.

So I would say those would be the three things. It’s the flow and efficiency of communication and information, task management and then workflow and project management. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I want to talk about when you talked about the four kinds of core resources, and had time and energy as separate things. Can you talk to me a little bit about that and how you define energy and what that means? 

Jhana Li: Totally. Energy I would describe as the output in the amount of time that you have. I know if I am checking my slack and my email every other second, and I’m trying to get some big project done, but then I’m actually just dipping into Facebook all the time, my energy is scattered. It is not being used as efficiently as it could be. I am not focused and maximizing the amount of creative energy and human potential energy that I’m directing towards the task in the moment. And so there’s actually structures that we can put around that to make sure that with the time you have, your energy is maximized.

And then time, I think more of, is your time being spent on the right things? So is it, there’s this metric that I invented to help me measure this and quantify this which is effective hourly value. So how much potential value could you drive to your organization with one hour of your time, where’s the highest value activity you can possibly do with one hour of your time. And are you spending your time there? Are you prioritizing your to-do list by the highest effective hourly value activities? And so optimizing time for me is around making sure that time is going towards the highest level. Does that make sense? 

Mallory Erickson: Yes, it does. And it’s just having me spin out on a few different ideas here that I’m just curious how you would think about this. One of the things that often can feel so hard with fundraisers in particular, is that the length of time that different opportunities take to close can just vary so drastically. And my guess is that this isn’t so different from big sales, commitments, or partnership integrations or things like that. But a major donor can close in a month, it can close in 18 months. And so I think there is this piece for fundraisers around not understanding or not knowing how to quantify the value of their time and like how much time and input should something take. 

Something I did a few years ago with an organization I was running is I took our annual goal budget and I divided my fundraising hours by that budget, because at the time I was doing all the fundraising. And I was like, okay, so each one of my fundraising hours should really average out to be worth around, I think it was like $480 or something. So I was like, okay. So if that’s how much my hourly kind of ROI needs to be, what does that mean then in terms of how I’m prioritizing, thinking about meetings. It really just created a different level of rigor around the time that I was investing in things. So I’m just curious what you think. 

Jhana Li: Yeah. A hundred percent, because time is an interesting one, of the four resources time appreciates, right? The value of your time when you’re small. It’s frankly, not that much, which is why you do everything, your effective hourly value because of just the size of the institution itself is not that high. Because nothing’s high, it’s all small. But as your company grows, your time becomes more and more valuable. The trick is that boundaries don’t treat it as more valuable, right? They don’t start to be more selective with how they deploy it as a resource. When in fact their time, it is exponentially becoming more valuable as their team grows, as their company grows, with those as the potential opportunities on the table grow. 

Your effective hourly value increases at an exponential rate, but people will treat their time exactly the same, where they used to hop on a meeting, yeah, I can still help on that meeting because I’ve always hopped on that meeting. Where I used to take this type of call or I used to do this type of task, yeah. I’ll still take care of that. That’s just what I’ve always done. As opposed to really strategically treating their time as something that is a finite resource and making sure they’re deploying it towards their highest leverage activities, which also evolve over time. 

Those opportunities get bigger and as an individualized calculation. Because every founder has a different set of skills. There’s different things that they gravitate towards that they do better than other things. So you have to tell me how this kind of applies in the fundraising and nonprofit world, but at least in for-profit, right, not all owners are the same and maybe somebody is fantastic at sales and somebody is fantastic at marketing. Cool. They’re going to stick in the sales role or the marketing rule longer and delegate out the other faster. Versus at the very beginning they were both because there was just a choice, right?

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. It’s really interesting. One of the quick questions it’s bringing up for me is like, how often do you recommend organizations audit these practices? Because some of what you’re saying to me, it’s just that we get stuck in our ways and we make a lot of assumptions every single day based on something that happened last month, last year, five years ago. And we just continue. I think about how many things, like when do you stop doing a certain thing that you have always just done? So what is that kind of like review and reflection practice to make sure that folks and organizations don’t get trapped there. 

Jhana Li: Yeah, definitely. I would recommend doing a personal task audit, depending on how quickly things are moving as frequently as once a month. And it doesn’t have to be rigorous. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. But just to do a quick mental calculation of like, all right, what did I spend my time on over the last. And let me be frank with myself. What of those activities were truly value driving high leverage activities and what of that is stuff that I wish I didn’t have to do, but for some reason I still feel like I am doing it, or somehow I just find myself still on that meeting. And how can I slowly strategically start to not even disengage, but really delegate and trust and empower your team to start filling those gaps. And this is why we hire, is because we hire in people who have an effective, hourly value that is a match for the role that we’ve put them in and then we’re able to step out of that.

Mallory Erickson: This is a really complicated question okay. What if the founder skills actually are best suited for a functional task. Have you ever run into that? I feel like I’ve seen executive directors or founders where part of the reason they’ve really struggled to pull out of some of the like day to day or nitty gritty, particularly around programs is not just because they’re not delegating, all of those things are still true, but really when I look at their skillset and I think about what would you be best suited to do instead. And I think about some of those more high level tasks or the visionary tasks, those pieces, they actually are much better suited to be the program director. How do you deal? Do you come across that? Like how do you deal with that? 

Jhana Li: For sure. I think there’s a couple of pieces to that. First when we are delegating anything, we’re first delegating always. And I think that’s a pretty easy concept for everybody to grasp. Where it gets really hard then is when you have to start delegating what you’re good at, because oftentimes that’s the thing that you’ve worked really hard at. You really cultivated a skill set in. You’re very proud of what you’ve accomplished in that arena. And I find a lot of owners have a limiting belief that there’s nobody out there who will do this as good as I will. And so they build their identity into that and they keep themselves in that role because they don’t, because it’s something they’re proud of, rightfully like they’ve worked really hard on it. 

But the reality is that their business is now asking them to evolve new skill sets. I think that’s the challenge, as your organization grows it will constantly demand evolution from you. And the really strong entrepreneurs, I think, are the ones that are self-reflective and constantly willing to develop the next skillset. Like maybe you were never great at data analysis and now your business is so big. The only way to make consistently good decisions is with data. You’re going to have to teach yourself that skill. That is what the business is asking you to acquire. Are you willing to do that? And it’s not, there’s not really a wrong answer here. Like it’s okay if you say no, all that means is now you have the challenge of cool. That is something I need to do, that’s a functionality I need to build into this team. The leadership team that I put around me to make sure that all the core functions are met and I’ve worked with people to fire themselves out of their roles, right, as a CMO or a COO. And they recognize that actually I’m not the best marketer out there. This is the role that I was best at with where the company was at, but actually what the company needs now is somebody totally world-class in marketing and I’m actually better just a human leader and a head of culture so when I step into that role and it takes a good deal of humility to recognize that your not the thing that your business needs anymore and to make the changes necessary. 

Mallory Erickson: Did I tell you about how I demoted myself? I can’t remember if I told you that story, but I was the managing director of an organization where I really felt like I was hitting a wall in terms of the way in which, it had a very active board chair who was really running the organization and micromanaging the organization, that was also the founder. And wasn’t trusting me to make decisions for a number of different reasons. I think I got to the point where I just felt like we were wasting my talents, banging my head against the wall in certain areas. And I couldn’t convince her to trust me to make executive level decisions. And so it wasn’t the right fit anymore. And I demoted myself and I wasn’t, plenty of people asked me at that time, don’t you just want to go run a different organization. And it took a lot of self-reflection on my part to say, actually, I don’t want to be an executive director anymore. That isn’t the right fit for me. And so I think it’s interesting, I’m sure this happens so much in all the sectors. But everyone kept saying to me things like, but you’re at the top. But at the top of what, like your mountain. But I feel the best when I’m optimizing my time, energy, those four things. And so what’s the role that’s going to allow me to do that? 

Jhana Li: That’s amazing. And I see that all the time across all levels of the organization, right? Like you see it all the time even in frontline, moving into a management position. Your top salesperson or your top marketer may be a terrible manager and maybe that’s not what they want to spend their time doing, but there’s this kind of societal rule that says you gotta move up the ladder. I think the best managers in institutions recognize that, put people in their zones of genius and give them uncapped growth potential in that role. So they feel pressure to move out of that role to access a higher earning potential. Or a new job title or whatever it is that’s important and driving to them. 

Because in reality, you might be undermining their human potential and the ROI you could have on that potential because you’re turning them out of a role where they were amazing and in their zones of genius and operating at their highest effective hourly value and moving them into a role where their talents and their passions are actually not in alignment with what the role needs, even if it’s higher on that.

Mallory Erickson: I really love that. And I’ve actually never heard someone break those pieces apart. How do you let someone stay in their role, grow in their role, get a raise in their role, all of those things without making them manage a team of people and not letting them do the thing that they’re really good at.

And I think that’s really smart and there’s so many applications to fundraising that I can think of there. I think of development coordinators that then get promoted to that maybe are doing more like events and administrative tasks, but they like that, and maybe a chief development officer or major gifts officer isn’t the right fit for them. And really what’s possible if their role had that more potential for expansion. So I think that’s a really awesome and different way to think about.

Jhana Li: And it’s challenging, right? Because of certain rules, there is a cap to just the amount of value that role can provide to an organization. As well as there’s a cap to what you can pay that person, justifiably with the value that they’re providing. And when you hit that point, realistically, it’s time to go.

And that’s the other hard thing, right? It’s like in my mind, the companies or organizations at their best serve as a vehicle of growth for all of their stakeholders, right? The people they serve the clients, their shareholders, and their team. And when your vehicle is no longer the right fit for that team member, when they have given you all the value they could possibly give and you no longer represent the next step for them. That’s okay, too. But that’s actually not a bad thing. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I want to go back to something you talked about a few minutes ago when we were talking about how often you should analyze and look at these different practices and look at your role. And part of what you’re talking about there is the leaders setting new boundaries on a rigorous basis. 

And the nonprofit sector is 75% women, and I’m going to make a massive generalization that women have a harder time often setting boundaries. And particularly women in the nonprofit sector who are really helper oriented. And I identify so much with a lot of the characteristics I’m describing. So then to ask them to regularly analyze their boundaries or set new boundaries or say, you know what I took that person to coffee every week. And now when I do this analysis of my time, that’s really not the right way to spend my time. Or not all of the sort of community building people, pleasing, harmonizing elements of who we are, are really shaken.

Jhana Li: Yeah. A hundred percent. And how to go about setting that boundary, right? Yes. I think that it comes from reframing what it means to serve, right? Because that is the core underlying driver there, is a desire to serve, to support, to help, to nurture. And as, especially as your time becomes more valuable and you become responsible for more people and your potential impact, the people you could potentially reach also expands as the organization increases its resources and its reach. What does it mean to be of highest service? 

Is the highest service spending the hour with that person, or is the highest service pursuing that next major opportunity that will allow your organization to serve way more people. And so it is understanding true service and specifically in a one-on-one where I see this a lot between a manager dynamic with their team, is in not doing things for their team. Like when your team member comes to you and says, hey, where did you, can you send me that thing again? Or can you show me how to do this again? Or like all of those little things that bog down a ton of manager’s and leaders’ time. What does it mean to serve them in that way? Is it to always be there and always be the rescuer and always be the person. And again, it comes from an amazingly positive place of wanting to serve and wanting to help and not wanting to say no. But if we think about how to raise kids, I think everybody’s on the same page if you give your kid everything they ever asked for, they just become spoiled.

And there your team is very much the same way where you have to set boundaries, that challenge them to figure things out for themselves, to make mistakes, to try something fail and learn from it, to take a chance, not knowing how it’s going to work out, right? Like these are the things that actually shape and grow individuals over time, regardless of their age. And so you also, a reframing of service also means like, how am I best allowing this person to grow and supporting this person’s growth? And for me, the big leadership thing that I had to overcome was exactly that because I just always equated saying no with not serving someone. And I had to really reframe that in my mind in order to feel more comfortable setting boundaries about what I could or could not do.

Mallory Erickson: I think what you’re bringing up is super important and I’m thinking about the ways that fundraisers in particular can maybe keep that top of mind as often the request in the moment that they would have to say no has so much more immediate emotion tied to it then that big potential opportunity. And even back to what you said before around the best ROI for your time, I  forgot exactly how you said that. This one is really tangible, right? I know if I do this, but there are all these activities as a leader, as a fundraiser that I might spend time on that might not have ROI and I don’t know yet. And I might not even know for four months. So how do I prioritize this? Everything we know about motivation and behavior and all of these pieces, it’s so hard to take something that has an immediate emotional implication for a long-term emotional and more implication.

So something I do that I’m curious what you would think here is, I think like there are ways for leaders to have photos up around their desk or reminders of the vision, the long-term goal. I’ve done things in the past where it’s like this or that. Do you really want that? And so every time I had to say no to those smaller things. I am like it’s because of that, it’s because of that, it’s part of exactly what you said, my focus on serving X. I get a lot of requests for free coaching. And it’s been a super hard thing because people will reach out with something I know I can help with and a whole story about how they can’t afford to work with me. And I ache for them and I was them and all these things. And finally, I got to this point recently where I was like, gosh, it’s so disrespectful to my paying clients for me to do things like that. 

And so that’s just had to be my response, which is out of respect for the fundraisers that I work with one-on-one. I can’t offer this. And  really require me to rewire, what does it mean to serve? What does it mean to show up for my community? What does it look like to be in full integrity with that? And it does actually often require saying no, as much as that makes me super uncomfortable.

Jhana Li: Totally. And I would say unfair to your current paying clients and also unfair to your future paying clients, right? The people that you can reach by getting that time back and reinvesting it back into, to scale, to broaden your reach, to reach more people, to do a podcast that might generate an idea for somebody that actually sparks a whole new journey for them.

And I also have to use that logic with myself often when setting personal boundaries too. Because at the end of the day, our highest form of service is one that we can do today and tomorrow and next month and next year and 10 years from now. And investing in your own scalability, your own sustainability as a founder or a leader and setting boundaries around your time and your rest and your rehabilitation and rejuvenation, right? And like the things that make you feel you, and allow you to show up at your best again tomorrow and the next month and the next year, are also very ROI positive. Because success is something that needs to be sustained. 

Mallory Erickson: 100% and you said something else too before that I just want to highlight for folks who are listening. You were talking about that sort of helper energy and how high that is in the nonprofit sector and why it’s so hard often for us to set these boundaries and do this analysis. And then we, I can’t remember exactly how you said it, but what it triggered for me is that the helper energy is also intertwined with this fix it addiction.

And so we, even though, if we’re rooted deeply in our values around being helpful and taking care of the people around us, it often is really connected to what’s developed over time for us as a condition tendency of a fix it addiction. Which is like that we get anxious and stressed and uncomfortable when we can’t fix something for the people around us. And so I just want to call that out for folks that yes, it’s about redefining the service and it’s about staying focused on these pieces and all these things. And to just recognize that we get conditioned over time around some of our behaviors related to helping that then when we start to scale those back, it can trigger a really uncomfortable somatic response. And it requires us to dig in those moments too.

Jhana Li: A hundred percent, especially when you have the answer, right? Like when you know what needs to happen, you know how to fix it. And they have to figure it out. It takes longer. This is why it’s so hard, is because the immediate return on investment on your time, it’s to just step in and do it because you can do it faster. You can do it better. You’ve already done it. You know how to do it, right? You can just go in there, you can fix it, but you’ve robbed them of a learning opportunity. And as you aggregate those occurrences over time, not only does it keep you stuck in tasks and in fixing things that are not the highest value things for you to be focused on and fixing. But it’s also conditioning your team that, well every time I have a problem, Jhana, so why would I try and fix it when I have somebody, if I had a magic vending machine that would always give me the answer, why would I ever try and figure it out myself? I’ll just get the vending machine to take care of it. 

And so the long-term ROI in your time is in investing in your team and letting them struggle with it a little bit and figure it out and learn from that experience and maybe mess it up. But then get better and learn from that. And it’s a very hard thing to hold yourself back in that moment, when, in the moment everything tells you, like I would be serving them. I would be making their day easier. They’re uncomfortable right now. And I can get them out of discomfort. All of these things that make you want to step in.

Mallory Erickson: Ok so let’s take a really tactical example for a second. I hear a lot from executive directors that they chase their staff around for time cards. Okay I’m sure you hear this too. So if somebody is listening to this and they’re like, okay, one of the ways I know I am wasting the most time is that I feel like we’ve set up this process for submitting timecards. Nobody’s doing it. We’ve had the conversation a million times. I always spend a lot of time chasing people down for their time cards. How do you approach solving an operations challenge like that? 

Jhana Li: So the first thing that comes to my mind is to automate that, right? You can have an ongoing notification that goes out until something is checked off as complete. So if it’s a structural level thing that is just like universal, every firm struggles with it, and it’s a process that happens over and over and over again, automate it. Because it’s not personal, I think people hold themselves back from automating because they want it to be that personal touch. And oh, it doesn’t mean so much of it comes from a notification or whatever. But again, your time is valuable and it’s not a personal ask. This is just an expectation of the role, right? 

If it’s something that is happening across the board though, maybe not that example, but like some sort of behavior that you’re seeing from your team over and over again. This is always so confronting but the reality is that if you are seeing the same ball getting dropped everywhere across your organization or the same type of behavior or expectation not being set. The lowest common denominator is you, is your management of that situation, right? It’s probably not an individual problem. It’s not to do with the individual team member. It’s something about how you are showing up to that situation that is generating that response at scale all the time, systematically. And so it causes like the hard truth is that you have to like, hold up the mirror and say, what about what I am doing? How can I take ownership for what someone else is doing, their behavior and see how I’m contributing to that. 

Mallory Erickson: So how do they do that? Like with their team, for example, what’s the process of that kind of investigation? 

Jhana Li: Totally. So for anybody listening right now that this is hitting home with and being like, uh oh. I have a book that I would recommend, and this has literally changed my life and changed my leadership style. And it’s so confronting it is called Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. Are you familiar with it? 

Mallory Erickson: Yes. My husband loves this book. It’s so good.

Jhana Li: And it really breaks down at a very analytical level. Like how do certain managers, certain leaders just get the maximum performance out of people, right? Give people to give more than they thought they were capable of giving,  performing at a level more than they ever thought they were capable of. How do they do that? And it breaks down these kinds of personality types that are rooted down oftentimes in really beautiful beneficial impulses, like service or helping or fixing it. And carrying that story forward in a way that demonstrates why this is actually inhibitive to your team showing up and performing at their best.

And each personality type has various tactical strategies with maybe it’s asking more questions, maybe it’s speaking less and listening more. There’s tactical things that we can do. Once we’ve identified this is my, she calls them incidental diminishers right. Where I’m showing up with my best intentions, but sequentially diminishing the people on my team. What’s my type and what are some self-reflection strategies I can incorporate to keep that just top of mind so I can start to reprogram my behavior. 

Mallory Erickson: I love that. Okay I want to ask you another, maybe nitty gritty question. So you were talking a little bit before about what happens when an organization is really small and time is more valuable or is less valuable than money. And so I want to revisit that for a second because the nonprofit sector is really laden with this scarcity mindset. And so I think that belief lasts a lot longer than it’s actually true for. 

And so I’m starting to think about as financial resources grow, but perhaps have less consistency or repeatability as like the for-profit sector, right, fundraising is just a little bit less systematized. And oftentimes not always, there are ways to systematize it of course. So thinking about that and thinking about I really liked this idea of how valuable is an hour of your time, and how does that relate to technology solutions that can automate things. How do you start to think about, okay that system is, like I invested in some digital support recently for multi thousands dollars. And I think a few years ago I would not have done that. It would have really freaked me out to make an investment like that. But when I looked at the past year and I looked at how much time I had sunk dealing with tech breaking and not knowing how to resolve things, on the phone with support and not just time, energy, tears, emotion, my marriage, all of the things. 

And so finally, I just could really feel that value, but I think oftentimes with the limiting beliefs that we hold inside the sector, we have a really hard time making financial investment decisions. How do you invite organizations to think about that and really maybe use data or really analyze like what resources are actually available instead of the way we’re projecting what’s available based on how things used to be, for example. 

Jhana Li: Right. Totally. Well, and I think it at just a quantifiable level, if we were just to theoretically do the math, right? Let’s say that you are investing 5 hours of your week, every week out of an average 40 hour work week, I don’t know it’s probably more than that, into dealing with these tech issues. And if we try to quantify an hour of your time, what is the value of that? Let’s put a number to it. And then multiply that by 5 hours a week and then multiply that by 52 weeks a year. How expensive is that, there’s a loss. 

There is a cost there, and you’re not only losing out on that, you’re also losing out on the potential value, the potential growth of potential opportunities that you could be bringing in the door with that time gotten back. So you’re losing in both. It’s both a sunk cost as well as a lack of potential growth. And so when you run that calculus again, it comes down to let’s assign a value to your time for a moment. Again theoretical math, but it’s just helpful with the framework to constantly bring it back to something more tangible, the value of your time appreciates. So the bigger your business grows, the longer you hold out on that problem, the more expensive it gets. And at some point on this theoretical graph, there’s an equilibrium and you cross it where it actually costs you more to continue putting up with the tech issue then to get the help. At that moment, that is the theoretical perfect moment to make the investment, right?

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay, I really hope that one of the takeaways that people have from this is that they try to do some of this, like calculus, like thinking about their budget, how much of their weekly time they should be spending on fundraising versus other things. And what do you need to value your time at in order to make some of these strategic decisions? So I really think that framework is so helpful. 

Jhana Li: I can add a tactical exercise for people to do to help with that. I would recommend running a time audit, you guys. So for three days, set a reminder on your computer or on your phone that goes off every 15 minutes, every 30 minutes and just jot down what it is that you’re doing in that moment. That’s all you have to do. It’s just data aggregation, right? Don’t look into it too much. Just jot it down, keep going with your day. At the end of three days, take a look at that and run an audit of where am I spending my time and try to sort that list by the highest effective hourly value activities to the lowest.

And then look at the bulk of your time and where it’s actually being spent. Are you spending 80% of your time on the things that are driving 20% of the value? Which is almost always how I see it, right. Because then that actually gives you something very tangible to work with. You can take that lowest 20% and start delegating, start automating. Maybe it’s something that really doesn’t need to happen anymore. We can just eliminate it off the list, and you can work from the bottom of that list up and start saving and reallocating more and more of your time to the higher value activities. And it just gives you a framework through which to check in and see how you’re doing with that.

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I love that. So tell folks about your business, how they can find you if they’re like, can we work with her? And then I know we get you inside the Power Partners Formula as a guest coach as well, but tell them those things.

And then I also invite folks to share a nonprofit that is near and dear to their heart that we highlight at the end of each episode and invite people to check them out and give if they can. 

Jhana Li: Amazing. I love all of that. So my name is Jhana Li. The website is actually about to go live, but it’s Jhanali.com. Maybe we can write that down somewhere because my name is weird. You can also, probably the best way to get in touch with me would honestly be to just email me and my business is still small enough that I’m able to hop on a free discovery call with absolutely anybody that I believe I may be of service and value to.

And so that is the invitation I put out to anybody who maybe they’re even just struggling with something small and we can knock it out on that call. And that’s it, beautiful, happy to have added value in that moment, or if it seems like it’s a better fit for us to keep working together, we can talk about what that looks like.

Mallory Erickson: Awesome. Okay. And yeah, we’ll make sure all the links and everything is below as well, but tell us about your nonprofit highlight.

Jhana Li:. Oh my goodness. There’s a few that I have volunteered at personally that are near and dear. I would say there’s one that’s really amazing. This is an internship I did in college called BYkids. And the founder essentially realized, and really believes in the power of storytelling and created a nonprofit that pairs  master filmmakers with kids who had a powerful story to tell. And they tell the story of a place or of a people or the community through the eyes of a child in that community as an early teenager. So this could be a displaced refugee as a result of the Colombian civil war, right? Or a climate refugee or something. And it’s a child that is just sharing their life, their  experience as a way of highlighting the reality of the situation through this beautifully told story with the mentorship of this filmmaker.

So I find that to be an amazing thing and that the stories that come out of this organization are always incredible. And oftentimes not the voice that’s heard in that dialogue so I love that.

Mallory Erickson: I love that. Okay. We’ll have their link and everything too as well so folks can go and check it out and give if they can.

Thank you so much for joining me for this conversation today. I’m blown away and really appreciate your time. 

Jhana Li: Absolutely Mallory. It was so fun hoping on here with you. I can’t wait to chat further in the future.

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