Aug 08 2017

Creating Psychic Income, Part 2: Six Actions That Enable it to Flourish

In Part 1, I talked about how social enterprises are supposed to pay attention to the double bottom line—create social good while generating income and excess return. But this concept fails to capture a third, equally important focus for non-profit leaders—creating “psychic income” or emotional capital.

Chances are good that you’re already doing much of what’s needed to generate psychic income in your organization or you wouldn’t be where you are. But just as diverse, coordinated revenue streams are needed for securing financial income, so, too, are many aligned inputs needed for ensuring psychic income. It’s never just one thing.

What creates psychic income for employees often looks different than what creates psychic income for your board. But all forms emanate from the same premise of mindful management. See: How to Practice Mindfulness.

Over the past 20 years, as I’ve worked in the social sector to enhance leadership dynamics, improve staff/board productivity, appeal to investors and funders, increase program impact and reach, and resolve the crises that come from chronic resource gaps, I’ve come to understand the common core of all these issues—a shortage of psychic income.

I’m not suggesting that other factors don’t materially influence whether, how, and how well these issues are resolved. But emotional capital, or shortage thereof, plays a big role.

We can all think of massively well-funded projects that produced less than anticipated results because essential stakeholders weren’t at the table, or funder egos clashed, or forced alliance partners couldn’t or wouldn’t coordinate actions, or poor communication stalled momentum, or boards failed in their oversight, or execution capabilities on the ground couldn’t be sustained despite the best intentions.

From witnessing those experiences, I’ve come to see the following as essential actions enabling the creation of psychic income:

  • Connecting with your stakeholders
  • Managing power dynamics
  • Making your strategy understood
  • Embedding shared culture and ideology
  • Focusing on what I call affirming influentials
  • Communicating in concerted, compelling ways.

This is not intended as an exhaustive list but, in its breadth of execution, it is, nevertheless, exhausting.

As CEO or senior executive, your job is to catalyze awareness of the need for greater attention to psychic income and then work with your team, board chair, volunteer leaders, and others to create sustainable mechanisms for its cultivation. This work is no less important than building your fundraising or program capacities.

In the articles to follow, I discuss each of these actions to increase psychic income, with the hope and expectation that I’ll learn from leaders in the field about how they are addressing the challenges and applying the counsel I offer.