Uncharted Insider - December 2018
leadership, learning, social impact
Thanks for following along this year! I've been so humbled by your response and engagement to this monthly letter. Your questions, challenges, and offers to help all contributed to a breakout year for us. But it was your validations and encouragement that will stick with me; those words gave me the permission to share so honestly. My voice and style of leadership are still works in progress, so I'm grateful that you'd let me explore that tender and fierce terrain with you. For this year's last Uncharted Insider, I'm taking a different approach by sharing a few reflections and predictions.
Proudest Moment of 2018
When we run our in-person bootcamps for entrepreneurs (like we did in February and August), I often have nothing to do but watch our team lead the whole thing. The joke is I’m “dead-weight.” People have wondered: “What does Banks actually do for Uncharted... because right now he’s mingling with people at the snack table... and he’s been doing that all week.” This is what I am most proud of: that our team is made up of exceptional leaders who take ownership over our mission, our impact, our work, our relationships. I make less than 10% of the decisions at Uncharted, and we’re working towards a place where every person sees themselves and operates as the CEO of their role. I am honored to be a part of an organization where leadership and ownership are decentralized, and it’s not immediately clear to an outsider who the CEO is.
Biggest Mistake of 2018
Saying yes when I should have said no. I said yes to short timelines that put stress on the team because I was afraid saying no would jeopardize a partnership. I said yes to short-term projects that distracted our team from more strategic work. I said yes to meetings that weren’t important because I was afraid to disappoint people. And there were real consequences for the team and for me: feeling worn down, feeling distracted, and being pulled in too many directions. Next year, I’m challenging myself and the team to focus on the 20% of the work that is 80% most valuable for the long-term future of Uncharted. As Warren Buffett said: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Two Predictions for 2019
- We will see a tidal wave of entrepreneurs and activists working to spur civic engagement. For a long time, social entrepreneurship and social justice activists have occupied different worlds, but I predict a convergence around civic engagement. The 2018 midterm elections had the highest voter turnout in a midterm since 1966. Building on this momentum, between now and the general election in November 2020, expect a wave of new social entrepreneurs, existing organizations, and activists who take on civic engagement as the upstream, systems-changing approach to addressing hundreds of downstream problems.
- We’re at the beginning of a corporate citizenship renaissance. There are three big trends that are going to reinvent the ways that corporations commit to social impact:
- The days of corporate neutrality are over. Corporations are becoming activists and are taking a stand on issues like police brutality, gun control, and the environmental crisis.
- As corporations become more activist, there will be greater scrutiny on the integrity and social impact of their core business operation.
- Millennials 1) care about social impact and 2) are the least entrepreneurial generation in recent history. The convergence of these two factors will mean impact-driven millennials will fill the ranks of corporations and create internal pressure for corporations to walk the talk.
Partner with Us
In November’s Insider, I ranted about my dislike of the “donation dynamic” pervasive in the non-profit space where non-profits undervalue their impressive ability to transform dollars into impact outcomes. I prefer a dynamic of partnership where funders and non-profits see themselves as peers joining forces to create impact—i.e. non-profits convert dollars into impact outcomes and then deliver to the funder a return of social impact. Uncharted is in this business of transforming dollars into impact, and we have a big 2019 planned, so if you’re interested in partnering with us financially, click here or reach out to me.
From time to time I ask myself this question: what meta-story is my life telling? And is that the story I want my life to tell? I like these questions because they challenge me to take leadership in living a life I’m proud of. But earlier this year someone offered this: perhaps some of the best stories are ones we can’t take full leadership in manifesting. Perhaps they happen to us and we simply need to let a story be told through our lives. Maybe living a good story is as much an act of surrender as it is an act of agency. Here’s to another year of beautiful, courageous, and unexpected stories.
With a big hope for the adventure ahead,