Monthly Action Plans (MAPS

I have always hated year-end reviews. They’re like cramming for finals—too much pressure and not enough continuous learning. Once a year, you sit down and try to shove everything that happened into one document. Prove your worth. Show the company you did something.

At Swell+Good, we’ve ditched the traditional performance review playbook in favor of something we like to call Monthly Action Plans (MAPs). These aren’t your run-of-the-mill, check-the-box meetings. Nope, these are roll-up-your-sleeves, let’s-get-down-to-business chats that happen, you guessed it, monthly. 

During MAPs, we take a dual-lens approach: reflective and forward-looking. We dissect the past month—celebrating wins, learning from missteps, and gathering all those “ah-ha” moments. It’s not about dwelling on the past, but about harnessing it to fuel our future endeavors. We ask the hard questions: What worked? What flopped? What can we polish, and what needs a complete do-over?

Looking ahead, we scout the horizon for what’s next. We strategize on how to be the most kick-butt team members we can be over the next 30 days. And growth? It’s not just encouraged—it’s expected. Be it devouring new literature, mastering a skill, or snagging a shiny new certification, we’re each in the driver’s seat of our own professional development.

MAPs are not the only avenue for improvement, but they ensure none of us are ever coasting. No one gets missed. Got a bright idea or a nudge for a colleague? Speak up, anytime. Eager to learn something new? Dive right in.

We’ve even taken the MAP concept company-wide. Bigger issues, process improvements, you name it—all fair game in our collective MAPs. At the start of each month, we start a thread in Basecamp and everyone shares their feedback and ideas on our processes and projects as a whole. It’s our safe space for the big stuff, the team stuff, the stuff that makes us who we are.

And yes, we write it all down. Because accountability isn’t just a buzzword for us; it’s how we roll. Twelve times a year, every year, we’re checking in, not out. 

MAPs aren’t just monthly action plans. They’re actual maps. Maps to our collective growth and success.

We’re a team of storytellers, and our narrative isn’t just about what we’ve done, but also about where we’re going, learning every step of the way. We’re in the business of making stories come alive, and that includes our own.

At Swell+Good, it’s about the people. Always has been, and always will be. And just like the good ol’ office space that our team has left behind, it’s not the walls that define us, but the stories we create within them—and, of course, the growth we share along the way.

How do you manage your team’s growth and development? What is working and what isn’t? Hit the reply and let us know! We love learning from other teams, too!

The Rewardishment

A couple of months ago, Allison and I found ourselves in a rut, letting excuses and distractions keep us from relaunching this very newsletter. I needed inspiration—and I found it in an episode of “How I Met Your Father” (HIMYF for the acronym lovers out there and those who were also fans of HIMYM), where the gang embarks on a 48-hour challenge to achieve a collective “rewardishment.”

Feeling challenged by their adventure, we decided to follow suit and introduced a rewardishment of our own. The deal was simple: if we relaunched the newsletter by the following Thursday, we’d be rewarded with a mouthwatering lunch at local restaurant, Bartlett’s. However, if we failed, our lunch would be banished to the fast-food abyss of Jack in the Box—a punishment our taste buds definitely did not want.

Spoiler alert: the fear of consuming midnight-teenager-only delicacies was all the motivation we needed. We powered through, relaunched the newsletter, and rediscovered the joy of sharing our thoughts with all of you. Since then, we’ve reestablished our workflow, involved the full team, and made this newsletter an integral part of our weekly routine.

So why did this work when our weekly conversations about the newsletter didn’t get the job done?

Well, first, it was fun. Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping the fun in your work.

Second, when used sparingly and unexpectedly, rewards can have a profound impact on motivation levels. When we receive a reward for completing a task or achieving a goal, our brains release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This rush creates positive reinforcement, making us more likely to repeat the behavior that led to the reward in the first place.

We didn’t set out to reward ourselves for writing the newsletter, and we don’t get lunch every time we send another issue, but in that unexpected instance, it hit perfectly.

Parents and children the world over know this works. Heck, my new puppy even gets this. So, let’s embrace the power of positive reinforcement! 

On the other hand, punishments serve as a deterrent, reminding us of the consequences of inaction or procrastination. By linking rewards and punishments to our goal of relaunching the newsletter, we created an accountability system that kept us focused and on track.

You Can’t Spell Teyamou without Me and You

But let’s not forget the real MVP of our rewardishment journey—the team (or teyamou if you’re trying really hard to make a subtitle work). When we talked about our newsletter relaunch rewardishment, it wasn’t just Allison or me working in isolation.

We involved each other, rallying together with a shared sense of accountability. Failure or success depended on our collective effort. It was this spirit of teamwork that kept us going, even when the going got tough and our to-do list was filled with other more important things.

S-U-C-C-E-S-S that’s the Way You Spell Success 

When a team achieves a common goal, it reinforces the power of teamwork, showcasing the value of that team’s diverse skills and perspectives. Collaborating on a rewardishment fosters an environment where individuals willingly share their strengths, knowledge, and abilities, amplifying the collective effort.

Teamwork can ignite a spark of creativity and innovation. By bringing different minds together, teams can generate fresh ideas and unconventional solutions to problems that may have stumped individuals in isolation. The collective brainstorming and exchange of perspectives fuel creativity, propelling teams to new heights of ingenuity. (We’ve got some thoughts on how to do this and not spend hours on a phone call. You can brainstorm and still cancel meetings.)

Teamwork may make the dream work, but it also makes the learning and growth work! Succeeding as a team creates invaluable learning opportunities. Each member can observe and learn from the strengths and experiences of their teammates, enhancing their own skills and knowledge. The dynamic environment fosters continuous learning as individuals pick up new skills and refine existing ones through shared triumphs.

Working as a team helps spread the responsibility around. We’ve all got plenty to do, and we can’t do it alone. So don’t sit there quietly stressing when you can ask for help and bring your team closer together in the process.

We All Fall Down Together 

On the flip side, failure is not the end of the road; it’s a valuable learning experience. When teams encounter setbacks and failures, it can trigger a reflection process that highlights areas for improvement. Failure serves as a stepping stone to success, providing lessons on what went wrong and how to fix it in the future.

Embracing failure as a team builds resilience and adaptability. It forces team members to think outside the box, fostering a mindset that embraces challenges and seeks alternative solutions. Failure breeds innovation and experimentation, encouraging teams to take calculated risks and explore uncharted territories.

Failure also instills a sense of accountability and responsibility within the team. When faced with the consequences of failure, the shared experience creates a culture of accountability, where individuals reflect on their contributions and collaborate to address shortcomings or rectify mistakes. Failure breeds growth.

The journey to success (and failure) is filled with twists and turns—and can contain a healthy dose of rewardishments. No matter what, you and your team come out on the other side better than you started.

So, let’s motivate, conquer, and celebrate together because eating Bartlett’s (or, heaven forbid, Jack in the Box) alone just wouldn’t have been as fun.

A conversation with ChatGPT about nonprofit organizations

A conversation with ChatGPT about nonprofit organizations

There have been lots of discussions lately about ChatGPT, its capabilities, the possibilities the technology holds, and, equally as important, its flaws. It can understand natural language and generate responses that sound like a human wrote them. People have been using it for various things, like chatbots for customer service and even creative writing! But have you considered how nonprofits could use ChatGPT to improve their operations? That’s what I wanted to explore, so I had a chat with ChatGPT to learn more. 

I came prepared with a list of questions, but all of the answers below are exactly as ChatGPT replied.

What are three reasons a nonprofit organization should be paying attention to tools like ChatGPT?

Nonprofit organizations can benefit from tools like ChatGPT in various ways. Here are three reasons why nonprofit organizations should pay attention to these tools:

  • Efficient Communication: Nonprofit organizations have to communicate with their stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries, on a regular basis. ChatGPT can help automate some of these communication tasks, such as answering common questions or providing basic information, freeing up staff time for more complex tasks. ChatGPT can also be available 24/7, providing quick and reliable responses to stakeholders’ inquiries, improving the organization’s communication and customer service.
  • Increased Engagement: ChatGPT can help increase engagement with the organization’s website visitors by providing personalized and interactive experiences. With ChatGPT, visitors can get immediate answers to their questions and engage in a conversation with the organization, which can lead to a more positive experience and increased trust. ChatGPT can also gather valuable feedback from visitors, helping the organization to improve its services and engagement strategies.
  • Cost-Effective: ChatGPT can be a cost-effective tool for nonprofit organizations, especially those with limited resources. By automating certain tasks and providing instant answers to common inquiries, ChatGPT can reduce the workload of staff, enabling them to focus on more critical tasks. Moreover, ChatGPT can help nonprofits save on customer service and support costs, as it can provide accurate and helpful information to visitors without the need for staff intervention.

What reasons might a nonprofit have for NOT using ChatGPT yet?

While ChatGPT can be a useful tool for nonprofit organizations, there may be several reasons why some organizations may not be using it yet. Here are a few possible reasons:

  • Limited Resources: Some nonprofit organizations may not have the necessary resources, such as funding or staff, to implement and maintain a ChatGPT system. Developing and maintaining a ChatGPT system requires technical expertise and ongoing support, which can be challenging for some organizations, particularly smaller ones.
  • Lack of Need: Depending on the nature of the nonprofit organization’s work and the services it provides, ChatGPT may not be necessary. For example, if an organization primarily provides in-person services or has a small online presence, there may be little need for a ChatGPT system.
  • Privacy and Security Concerns: ChatGPT systems involve the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, which may raise privacy and security concerns among some nonprofit organizations and their stakeholders. Organizations may need to ensure that their ChatGPT systems are compliant with relevant data privacy laws and regulations and have adequate security measures in place to protect sensitive information.
  • Importance of Human Connection: Some nonprofit organizations may prioritize human-to-human connections and interactions with their stakeholders, as they believe that personal connections are essential to building trust and engagement. In this case, ChatGPT may be seen as impersonal or insufficient for meeting the organization’s needs.

What kind of tasks can ChatGPT help a nonprofit organization automate?

ChatGPT can help automate a variety of tasks for nonprofit organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Answering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Nonprofit organizations often receive many inquiries from donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries regarding their services, programs, and events. ChatGPT can help automate responses to these inquiries, saving staff time and effort.
  • Event Registration: Nonprofits can use ChatGPT to help automate event registration processes by collecting basic information from attendees, such as name, email address, and phone number, and sending confirmation emails.
  • Donation Processing: ChatGPT can be integrated with a nonprofit organization’s donation processing system to help automate the donation process. For example, ChatGPT can provide information on the organization’s donation options and guide donors through the donation process.
  • Volunteer Management: Nonprofit organizations can use ChatGPT to automate certain aspects of volunteer management, such as collecting volunteer information, providing volunteer opportunities, and coordinating volunteer schedules.
  • Program and Service Information: ChatGPT can help provide information on nonprofit organization’s programs and services. For example, if an organization provides support services, ChatGPT can provide information on the services provided and answer questions about eligibility requirements.
  • Feedback Gathering: Nonprofit organizations can use ChatGPT to gather feedback from donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. ChatGPT can be programmed to ask specific questions and collect responses, providing valuable data for the organization to use in improving its services.

Are there any nonprofits already using ChatGPT?

Yes, there are many nonprofit organizations that are already using ChatGPT to improve their operations and engage with their stakeholders. Here are a few examples:

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – UNDP has partnered with the government of Serbia to develop a ChatGPT-powered virtual assistant that provides information on COVID-19, including prevention measures, symptoms, and testing locations.
  • American Cancer Society (ACS) – ACS has deployed a ChatGPT-powered virtual assistant to provide cancer patients and their families with personalized support and information on topics such as treatment options, side effects, and financial assistance.
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – WWF has implemented a ChatGPT-powered chatbot that provides information on endangered species and habitats, as well as guidance on sustainable living and conservation efforts.
  • Charity: Water – Charity: Water has developed a ChatGPT-powered virtual assistant that helps donors learn about the organization’s projects, donate to specific projects, and track the impact of their donations.
  • Crisis Text Line – Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 crisis support via text message. They have implemented a ChatGPT-powered triage system that assesses the severity of incoming texts and prioritizes responses from trained crisis counselors.

What do you wish more people knew about ChatGPT?

As an AI language model, I don’t have personal wishes or desires. However, I can share some information about ChatGPT that may be helpful for people to know.

  • ChatGPT is a language model: ChatGPT is a type of artificial intelligence that is specifically designed to understand natural language input and generate human-like responses. It has been trained on a massive dataset of text from the internet, which allows it to generate responses to a wide range of questions and prompts.
  • ChatGPT is not a human: While ChatGPT can generate responses that sound like they were written by a human, it is important to remember that it is not a human. It is a computer program that uses algorithms to generate responses based on the input it receives
  • ChatGPT is constantly learning: ChatGPT is a machine learning model, which means that it is constantly learning and improving based on the data it receives. This means that as more people use ChatGPT, it will become even better at generating human-like responses.
  • ChatGPT has limitations: While ChatGPT is an impressive technology, it is not perfect. It may struggle to understand certain types of input, or it may generate responses that are inaccurate or inappropriate. It is important to use ChatGPT with caution and to verify its responses before taking action based on them.
  • ChatGPT can be used for many purposes: While ChatGPT is often used for customer service and other types of support, it can also be used for creative purposes, such as generating art or writing. Its versatility makes it a powerful tool for a wide range of applications.

Overall, ChatGPT is an exciting technology with many potential applications. While it is important to understand its limitations, it has the potential to help us communicate more effectively and efficiently in a wide range of contexts.

How can a nonprofit organization get started using ChatGPT?

Getting started with ChatGPT requires some technical expertise, but it is possible for nonprofit organizations to use this technology to automate tasks, engage with stakeholders, and improve operations. Here are some steps that nonprofit organizations can take to get started with ChatGPT:

  • Identify use cases: Before you begin using ChatGPT, you’ll need to identify specific use cases where it can be most beneficial. This could include automating responses to common questions, providing personalized support to stakeholders, or even generating content for your organization’s social media channels.
  • Choose a platform: There are a number of platforms available that allow you to create and deploy ChatGPT-powered chatbots. Some popular options include Dialogflow, BotStar, and IBM Watson. You’ll need to choose a platform that is compatible with your organization’s needs and technical infrastructure.
  • Train your chatbot: Once you’ve chosen a platform, you’ll need to train your ChatGPT-powered chatbot to understand the types of questions and prompts it will receive. This typically involves providing a dataset of sample questions and responses that the chatbot can use to learn from.
  • Test and refine: After you’ve trained your chatbot, it’s important to test it thoroughly to ensure that it is generating accurate and appropriate responses. You may need to refine your training dataset or adjust your chatbot’s algorithms to improve its performance.
  • Deploy your chatbot: Once you’re confident that your ChatGPT-powered chatbot is working correctly, you can deploy it on your organization’s website or social media channels. Be sure to monitor its performance and make adjustments as needed to ensure that it is providing the best possible experience for your stakeholders.

While getting started with ChatGPT may require some technical expertise, it can be a valuable tool for nonprofit organizations looking to improve their operations and engage more effectively with their stakeholders. With the right approach and a willingness to experiment, ChatGPT can help nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals and make a positive impact in their communities.

Thanks for your time today ChatGPT, it was really fun getting to chat with you.

You’re welcome! I’m always here to answer your questions and help in any way I can. It was great chatting with you too! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions or if there’s anything else I can do to assist you. Have a great day!

Leaders clean the toilets

Leaders clean the toilets

Early in my career, I was a store manager for Levi’s. I loved my job and all of the responsibility that came along with retail management. But most of all, I loved being a part of that team.

There is something special about early morning floor changes, the constant rush of customers, and late-night shipment processing. There’s an urgency and excitement that means you always have to be at your best. 

Retail comes with a unique set of experiences that bonds a team together very quickly.

As a manager, you learn how to do all of the jobs in the store. And hopefully, you also learn that no job is beneath you. You are responsible for every aspect of what happens in that space—from customer service, to merchandising, to keeping the store clean. 

As much as it can be, it is your store.

For me, in my three-level store with 25+ employees and thousands of pairs of jeans, sometimes that meant I cleaned toilets.

You see, it was clear to me from very early on that I couldn’t ask my team to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. How could I expect my team to respect me if they didn’t know I was reliable? After all, at the end of the day, I was just some guy with the keys and a title.

In that fast-paced environment, I formed a belief that has guided me as a leader ever since: There are two types of team members—people who clean the toilets and people who don’t.

I don’t mean janitors and everyone else. I mean that some team members don’t care about titles or what their job description says. They know what needs doing, and they will roll up their sleeves to get it done and help the team succeed. 

Even if that means cleaning a toilet.

On the other side are team members who won’t clean the toilets. They think that they’ve already put in their time. That they’ve done the work. They think that those sometimes-dirty jobs are for someone else. Someone who has it in their job description. Someone with less experience. 

After all, look at their business card. That sure is a fancy title.

Don’t be that team member.

Instead, as leaders, we should be proactive. Look at what your team is working on, and, without skirting your responsibilities, see where you can lend a hand. 

Pick up the toilet brush.

With Q4 in full swing and a million things on the to-do list, who has time to worry about whether something is in your job description? If it needs to be done, do it. Process those gifts, write that email, stuff those envelopes.

Don’t brag about it. Don’t look to take the spotlight for doing something extra. Just do it. Your team will see it. They’ll respect you, and they’ll know that you can be counted on when times get tough. 

Besides, who doesn’t love a clean toilet?

Embrace the suckage

Embrace the suckage

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. 

Not surprisingly, I‘ve spent a lot of time this year thinking back on the moments, experiences, and people that have shaped my life up until this point. Thinking about the luck I’ve had. Thinking a lot about the what-ifs and could-have-beens. 

It’s like watching the movie Sliding Doors in my head. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am exactly where I should be. I don’t long for those other imaginary versions of what my life might have been. I am insanely fortunate and there isn’t one meaningful thing I would change about my life today. 

I have an amazing partner and three intelligent, loving, and beautiful children. I have a career that has been built by leading with my heart. I have a growing business that I am excited to work on every day.

So I’m not looking back because I think something is wrong or out of place. I’m looking back to learn from the choices I made. I’m looking back knowing that while I may not have always made the right choice, I made the best choices that I could. I’m looking back to remember how much I’ve learned about what is important to me—and why those things matter. 

I’ve had 40 years of experiences that have led me to doing what I love today. Each of the moments and lessons that have led to this point help guide my decisions, big and small. They allow me to look forward. 

So now, as I stare at a birthday that once felt so huge (and, yes, so frightening), I’ve written down 40…er…3 things that stand out to me from my time spent reflecting.

Lead the way you want to be led. 

This one is at the top of the list for a reason. During the course of my life and career, I’ve hit the jackpot on leaders. My bosses, mentors, teachers, and coaches have helped shape my views on leadership. 

My high school theatre director taught me that it doesn’t matter where you work (read: perform)—you should do that work at an exceptional level, as though the entire world will see it. 

A manager at Levi’s taught me that at the end of the day, a leader is responsible for the outcome. When you have success, you elevate your team first. When something goes wrong, you stand in front of your team, take the heat, and protect them. 

A mentor at Opportunity International taught me that as a leader, your job is to empower your team. To get them the tools they need to do their best work. To encourage, guide, and support them, above all else.

Each of these people had incredibly different leadership styles. But they, and so many others like them, brought their unique perspectives to the table—and each helped me grow as a leader in a particular season. In them, I saw qualities that I wanted; qualities that I felt were important. 

One thing that was true about all of them: They were each leaders in ways that had nothing to do with the title in their email signatures. They were leaders because they led—not because their title granted them some kind of superiority. 

So that’s been my approach. I lead my teams, my crews, my work families like I want to be led. And I continue to grow my leadership because, like my team, I am always evolving and growing, too. 

Be honest with yourself and with others.

There are few things that value more than honesty. It is the foundation of everything. It builds trust, and without trust, a team can’t function and relationships can’t survive. Early on, I learned that in order to be honest with others, I had to first be honest with myself. I had to look in the mirror and take stock of my role, of my place, of what I was doing. 

Being truthful with myself meant that when it came time to teach, coach, or challenge someone else I was working with, I could do so from a position of understanding and clarity. If I was delusional or faking it, I was only setting myself (or, worse, my team) up for failure. It also meant that when I had to have tough conversations with peers or employees, I could do so more easily, because I already had the experience of having once had a similar conversation with my hardest critic: me, myself, and I.

So tell the truth. Have hard, honest, conversations with yourself. You will thank yourself later.

Not everything you do will make you happy and that’s okay. 

This is a hard lesson, and if I’m honest (see above), it’s still one I struggle with every day. The world makes us feel like we should be happy about everything we do. That everything should be an Instagram-worthy moment and that we should always have a smile on our face. 

Well, that’s a giant pile of crap. 

Some things suck. Some work sucks (excel sheets for days). You will inevitably spend time doing things you do not enjoy. But if you pay attention, you can get to the other side with a better understanding of what was miserable, why it wasn’t fun, and what you’d rather be doing instead. In even the worst, most annoying, most frustrating circumstances, you can learn something important about your work or yourself. 

So like I tell my kids when it’s time to do the boring chores or run the boring errands, just work through the giant piles of suckage and get to the other side. You’ll be better off because you didn’t avoid it. If you meet it head-on, it’s an opportunity for growth. 

So that’s it. Those are all the things I’ve learned. (Ok maybe not all of them, but I am about to be 40, and my memory is getting worse. So those are the three you get.) And here’s what I can promise: I am going to keep working on this guy and keep learning from you (shoot me a reply with something you’ve picked up!). Maybe when I’m 50, I’ll share a few more lessons I’ve learned along the way… #endoldmanrant