Marcia Coné is President of Marcia Coné Consulting and author of Permission Granted: Changing the Paradigm for Women in Leadership. In this interview, Marcia extols the virtues of being a change-making disrupter for your cause.
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Watch the full interview above or read the highlights below.
What is a “Disrupter”?
AE: Today we’re going to talk about being a disrupter. What does that mean?
MC: A disrupter is someone who goes in and is focused on changing things. And, not changing for the sake of changing, because that can be destructive. A disrupter is really thinking … where can I take this organization? Where can I take this work and how do I get there? Rather than constantly tapping back into the status quo, which is so easy to do.
A disrupter is really clear and concrete about how to move the ball forward.
AE: That’s great. We need more disrupters, don’t we?
MC: We do need more disrupters, especially in the nonprofit sector.
Disrupting the Status Quo
AE: Why do you think that is? Why are people afraid to shake the status quo or think outside the box?
MC: Human beings are innately designed and wired to fit in…. We’re looking to fit in and understand how things work.
Often times organizations are really rigid … so even if you’re been brought in to be the disrupter, the culture says, you’re not going to be a disrupter… you’re going to follow the rules. Then we wonder why we’re not being as innovative or creative as we could be. And, that’s really why the nonprofit sector is here — to be innovative and creative to solve complex problems.
Constructive Disrupting at Your Nonprofit
AE: How does a disrupter play a role in that? What’s some constructive disrupting look like?
MC: Often times you start doing brainstorming activities, and immediately people freak out … “we can’t do that, we’ve never done that.” The disrupter says, “Tell me more about that. What worked? What didn’t work? Are the circumstances different? Might it work now?”
Disrupters are good at sharing vision.
Having the Courage to be a Disrupter
AE: How do we give people permission and the courage to be disrupters? How do we encourage that at our organizations?
MC: There’s a process by which we brainstorm that allows everyone’s voice to get into the room. There’s an opportunity, as a group, to narrow down and decide what things we’re interested in doing. That kind of collaborative, cooperative process, enables people to feel bought into the idea.
AE: A lot of the nonprofits that we’re working with haven’t succeeded in making real change. That is a challenge. They’ve been working on these issues for years and years and we’re not seeing real results.
MC: Your job is actually to put yourself out of work. To achieve the mission means you are no longer needed. People get little afraid of that.
And, how far outside of the box can we be and have our donors follow us?
Self-Permission to be a Disrupter
AE: I think we are afraid to be too experimental. We’re afraid our donors won’t approve, but the reality is that they’re investing in us to make real social change. I can only think of one nonprofit that put itself out of business because they succeeded in accomplishing the mission.
What can we do to break free of this cycle, and what’s one thing we can do to be a disrupter?
MC: We need to give ourselves permission … to go in and do the jobs we were hired to do. We need to give ourselves permission to ask why, and challenge leadership.
AE: Any parting thoughts?
MC: I’m passionate about social justice. I want to live in a world where there’s equity for all. I think that all of us, if we commit to being an individual disrupter, can really advance the work and move things forward. So give yourself permission and then make a plan and follow that plan through!
Watch the full interview for more words of wisdom from Marcia.
What are your thoughts about being a disrupter and agent of change for your cause? Let me and Marcia know in the comments.