Defining a Strategy

By | Board, Industry, Leadership, Organizational Health | No Comments

There are certain business terms that are used to mean such a wide range of things. Terms like mission, vision, strategy, goals and objectives all come immediately to mind. These inconsistencies can lead to confusion and lack of clarity.

So when we tackle something like “strategy,” it is vitally important for us to all have the same understanding of how we will define the term for our use. It doesn’t mean others outside Daxko will agree with how we define it or that our approach is the right one, but it does mean that all of us at Daxko need to use the same definition and context.

When we talk strategy at Daxko, here’s how we put it into practice and what we’ve learned over the years:

  • For us, going through a formal strategy process needs to happen every three years. We just completed our latest round, which will take us through 2017.
  • We’ve learned that it needs to be regularly reviewed and validated. It can’t be a one-time event.
  • Strategy statements are for internal use. They are not marketing pieces.
  • A strategy statement is best if it’s short and memorable. We try to keep ours to around 40 words. Our latest one is 44, so pretty close.
  • We’ve learned that even 40 words…or 44…can be hard to remember, so we developed a 9-word strategy “headline.” Think of it as a theme or rallying cry. Here it is: “Daxko will empower our customers to engage more people.”
  • At its core, strategy needs to answer 3 questions: Where will we play? How will we win? How will we keep score?
  • Strategy tells you what you will do, but just as importantly, it should tell you what you will NOT do.
  • Finally, strategy is not magic. It still requires smart people to make informed decisions, maintain focus and exhibit determination.

Leading with Influence

By | Culture, Grow Your Career, Professional Development | No Comments

Good leadership is essential to the member-based nonprofit movement, but sometimes you need to lead when you don’t have any direct authority—such as when you need to motivate your community to action to support a new program or initiative. In those cases, leading with influence can help you inspire the action that’s necessary to fulfill the mission and goals of your YMCA, JCC, or community centers.

Leading with influence is all about taking engagement to the next level. It’s about engaging your community and then leveraging that engagement to drive the specific outcomes that you’re looking for. What is the point of engaging others or in making connections if you are not influencing them toward meaningful action? A fruitless interaction – or worse, a negative interaction – does nothing to deliver your mission. Every interaction should be influential: it should motivate people donate to your organization, sign up for your program, or just take charge of their own health and well being.

leading-with-influence-post1Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why says, “…the first criterion for any leaders is that they should have the desire to lead. And by ‘lead” I don’t mean that the would-be leaders simply wants to be in charge or stand as the figurehead; true leadership is about service, accountability and sacrifice.”

To communicate or lead through influence, one must:

  1. Imagine a better tomorrow – When you are leading through influence, vision is necessary. When we think of people with vision, we think of people like Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King, Jr., Teresa of Calcutta, Eleanor Roosevelt, and George Williams (founder of the YMCA). Casting yourself in the same light as those visionaries can be paralyzing, but there’s good news: your vision doesn’t have to be that big. All of us, every day, catch a glimpse of ways in which the world could be better. What if you found a way to teach more kids to swim and reduce drownings in your community? What if you could work with local doctors to get prescriptions to participate in your programs? A great example of a small vision is the Little Library movement. People place boxes in their neighborhood that neighbors can use as a lending library. People are invited to take a book, and leave a book. The idea is simple and small, but it has a huge impactful in the community.
  2. Inspire others to see it – Once you’ve caught a glimpse of a better tomorrow, don’t ask others to join your team. Instead, convince them that you’re already on the same team by showing them the vision, letting it resonate with them, and having them get excited. Letting people see your vision as their own won’t convert everyone into a champion of the idea, but it ensures that those who do see it really, truly see it. But practice some discretion in who you try to win to your cause. To lead with influence, you have to have a basis of trust and relationship. Jim Rayburn, the founder of YoungLife, recognized this in his work with American high school students in the 1950s. He saw adults expect to be listened to just because they’re adults, and he realized that no one had an intrinsic right to be heard. We each have to “earn the right to be heard.”
  3. Foster a common identity – Once you have people rallied behind the cause, you have to forge them into a community that can execute together. Imagine this like a pick-up basketball game. Nobody organizes a pick-up game; people just come to the park, sort themselves into teams, and have fun. Leading with influence can be the same way. You give people a chance to connect and do something together, but you don’t mandate how. This can be tough, as we’re taught in western culture that the leader is the decider. But to see your better tomorrow become reality, you don’t have to have perfect alignment; you just have to share the vision and be headed to the same endpoint. Leading with influence is directional, not prescriptive.
  4. Let go of control – To truly be directional, you have to be willing to give up control. Leading with influence is all about finesse. Captain David Marquet of the US Navy understood this when he took command of the Santa Fe, which was, at the time, the worst performing US nuclear submarine. Under his leadership, the Santa Fe went from “worst to first.” Marquet didn’t accomplish such an astounding turnaround by tightening his grip, revising the standard operating procedures, and mandating compliance. Instead, he loosened his grip, trusting people to make good decisions, and letting them organize themselves within the bounds of their common goal. As a leader, this approach can be terrifying and counterintuitive, but if we want to grow the capacity of our organization to act in ways that drive the mission, it’s essential. “When we give away control, followers become leaders, and doers become thinkers,” said Captain Marquet. In volunteer-led organizations, more leaders means more mission impact.
  5. leading-with-influence-post3Lead from the trenches – At a certain point, leading with influence goes viral. You’ve inspired people to see a better tomorrow, rallied them to be a team in pursuit of that vision, and given them the chance to lead themselves in pursuing it. From that point on, you take a back seat role and let things play out. But that doesn’t mean you become passive. Instead, you keep your eye on the vision, periodically assessing the group’s efforts towards that vision, and tweak, nudge, encourage, and finesse as need. Your goal, ultimately, becomes to help the people accomplish the work. As Lao Tzu wrote, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, the people will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”

Leading with influence isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most effective methods of leadership for bringing about change in a group of people or a community, and it can help you engage the people around you in your organization’s mission and purpose.



Will S. is a product strategist and designer who measures real life objects in pixels and pinches to zoom on his paper edition of Wired magazine.

Who We Are

Who We Are

By | Building a Company, Culture, YMCA | No Comments

For our November, 2014 TMD (Team Member Development) series, our very own April Benetollo, SVP of Marketing at Daxko, led a session on defining “The Daxko Nation-Who we are, who we serve, and how we defend the hill.” Below is a quick recap of the series.

Who we are

  • The leading partner for progressive member-based or organizations committed to engaging their communities to drive impact.


Who we serve

  • We partner with several YMCA’s throughout the country
  • Y’s became the largest provider of childcare in the country in the 1970’s
  • We have about 50% of our core market
  • We also partner with various Jewish Community Center’s


How we defend the hill

  • We stay innovative and have a culture that matches the values of our customers
  • We understand the outcomes our customers are trying to achieve, and help them make an impact on their communities


This TMD is a great reminder of how Daxko plays an important role in what our customers are trying to accomplish, and the impact that we can help make across the country.

Alex S. is a Product Manager who strives to create awesome experiences.