Understanding and honouring your values is crucial to a leader with authenticity and integrity. As a non-profit leader, your values serve as the guiding principles that shape your decisions, actions and the overall direction of your organization.
Here are some examples of how your values may clash with others, get in the way of your work or cause you to feel inner turmoil.
Potential values clash:
When hiring new staff:
Your values of diversity, inclusivity and fairness may rub up against your value of efficiency when the diverse hire has less experience and will take more upfront work to become an efficient worker. You'll have to decide which way to lean, knowing one of your values will need to be deprioritized, which makes you feel icky.
Perhaps in your organization, the typical fundraising event includes alcohol. However, you have strong values around addictions and supporting those with addictions and minimizing alcohol at social events. Now you need to communicate that to your board, which heavily relies on this event for program funding.
You value well-thought-out decisions and take time to think critically about the risks, steps and impact. However, others on your team are frustrated with your need to pick apart everything and want to move the decision-making process along more quickly. These differences are creating tension.
Maybe your open communication, respect, and fairness values guide your approach to conflict. Others, who are uncomfortable with conflict, see your approach as aggressive, and they become defensive or shut down. Now the tension is building rather than diminishing.
You may value trust, teamwork, and personal growth and want to focus on those elements to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. And, there is no time. You are short-staffed, find yourself running from meeting to meeting and struggle to find the time to connect in a meaningful way with your team embers.
In each scenario, taking the time to reflect on your values can help you make decisions and take authentic, aligned, and impactful actions for yourself, your team, the organization and the communities you serve. But only if you are self-aware and take time for self-reflection.
Values identification is an ongoing process
Your values and what they mean to you change over time. Understanding how your values fit into your life and how you define them will also evolve. Therefore identifying your values is not an exercise completed once in your life. Instead, you must return to your values and review them regularly.
Verifying your values is more than a sit down once; power through and figure it out exercise. It also needs time, energy and curiosity. The work will be reflective, thinking and pondering. It will be emotional work as you explore memories and possible scenarios.
You won't fully understand your values in one chunk of time but over time. So come back to the process of verifying your values again and again. Each time you do, you will deepen your understanding of what your values really mean to you and why they are so important.
The steps to identify your values
1️⃣ List your top values
2️⃣ Define what your values mean to you
3️⃣ Determine how your values show up in your leadership and life
4️⃣ Create a system for knowing if you align with your values or are off-kilter
5️⃣ Rinse and repeat
🟡 Step # 1 - Identify Your Values
There are no right or wrong values. Remember, they change, and how you define them may change. Also, this is the first glance. You will be going deeper, so how you name and describe your values may change as you do that.
🟪 Review the list of value words found here
To confirm that you have nailed your values, look for an emotional connection.
Reminders about identifying your values
🟡 Step # 2 - Define what they mean to you
Now it's time to take a deeper look at your values. Those words you circled are just that, words. But what do those words mean to you? Consider these questions:
An example of how values show up
For example, you may know that it is important for you to keep the peace. You value cooperation and collaboration. So despite differences on a team, you have a habit of smoothing things over.
Over time you may notice your underlying irritation building with one team member as you work together on a project. You keep trying to collaborate, cooperate and keep the peace but feel frustrated each time you walk away from that conversation.
This agitation may be because your value of harmony keeps you from addressing a conflict with that peer. But now, that conflict has morphed, and you feel anything but harmonious!
Maybe you come from a long family of fighters. Yelling matches at the supper table was the norm. Over the years, you became the peacemaker working to create harmony wherever you could.
Now that pattern of behaviour is showing up at work. And it's not always helpful. What's more, you don't even realize how that one word that means so much to you, harmony is actually what is causing you grief! Until you unpack what harmony really means to you NOW, you won't be able to use it effectively to live.
You don't have to go to counselling or therapy to move forward. Although, please, if you need it, get help. There is nothing shameful about resolving your unresolved childhood or adulthood stuff! The bottom line is that you need to become more aware of how that value creates belief and ways of engaging now and consciously decide what you want to do about it.
The verification process
You must explore different facets of your values to help you flesh out what you mean. Remember, this is exploratory work, reflective work and emotional work. As you explore your values, here are some questions to consider:
🟡 Steps # 3 - 5
● Determine how your values show up in your life
● Create a system for knowing if you align with your values or are off-kilter
● Rinse and repeat
Determining how your values show up in your leadership and life and creating a system for knowing if you align with them or are off-kilter takes more time and intentional self-reflection. Stay with it, and over time you'll become clearer and find your values are guiding you more and more.
🆘 Extra help to verify your values
In Values Verification, I walk students through exercises to identify their values and create a working definition of what that value or word group of values means to them. We explore how you use your resources to express your values (i.e. time, money and energy) and how to live and lead aligned with values. The course is one of many courses in The Training Library membership site.
Do the inner work and use your values as your guide
Values are the glue that holds us together, the things that we hang our decisions on, the place that we get furious when they aren't upheld and the thing that makes us feel at peace and content when they are really honoured. But again, values are not simply a word. Instead, values are deep-held beliefs etched into our lives over time and through events.
Stop striving for work-life balance. It doesn't exist. Nor should it. Balance is nothing more than society's way of laying guilt on working women.
Cindy was seeing her kids for less than an hour a day
She arrived home and spent only a brief time with them before apologetically tucking them into bed. Each night, she vowed silently to change things. It was the same promise she'd whispered to herself for months. But the work demands were strong.
Cindy tried to make up for it on weekends
Cindy found herself exhausted and with little patience left. Most of what she had for energy, focus and compassion was used up in the day-to-day grind at the office. Cindy craved balance. She wanted to divide her time between work and home and not have them interfere with each other. Yet she could never find a way to do that.
Work-Life Balance doesn't work
That is because there isn't a way. You are not alone if you, like Cindy, have wondered how to juggle everything better to find more harmony in your days.
Women are tugged at constantly
Working women, especially leaders, feel pulled in all directions. It's not just work and kids. You also know you need to pay attention to your health and well-being. Likely you have some community groups that you feel a responsibility to. Your marriage, parents, and renovation projects all scream for their share of your priceless time.
Dividing things equally is impossible
The point is that it is impossible to equally divide your calendar and your energy to each task or area in your life. You can't spend 1.75 hours with your kids, 8 hours at work and…you get the point. There are weeks that you must work more than 40 hours, in fact, a lot more. But, just the same, there are times when your family requires more attention.
How do you find more alignment without the guilt?
The answer has been presented in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They call it counterbalancing. There are some key things to know about this strategy.
Priorities are the things we need to focus on. Everything else must be put on the back burner when we focus on that priority. This recognizes that we can't answer the phone when working on a report that you ranked at the top of your list. It also means we shouldn't be reading emails at the supper table.
Prioritizing goes deeper than that
In our work days, we chase everyone else's priorities. As a result, often, our own meaningful work never gets done. For example, many indicate relationships are key. Yet, we may plan to talk to an employee for days but have yet to get to that conversation.
Prioritizing isn't about ordering the tasks on our to-do list
It is about looking within and determining why we do our work. Then, it is about looking at the bigger picture and having a vision for how to get there. Another great resource on how to do this is the book Essentialism by Greg McKowen.
Lean way out
Counterbalancing recognizes we can't always walk along a path that is straight. There is no state of being completely balanced. We are constantly in motion. The approach is to sway back and forth. We will need to lean heavily into work some days. Other times life will draw us strongly into it.
Let yourself lean
When you allow yourself to lean in or out fully, you will find more enjoyment and meaning in what you are doing. Imagine being on a beautiful Caribbean holiday and checking your email. That sucks, right? Now imagine being on that same beach, completely shut off from work and simply soaking up the sun. You would find a more gratifying experience.
Stop feeling guilty
The same is true in projects at work. For example, you aren't completely focused on the task if you feel guilty about missing supper. Therefore you won't be doing your best work, and it will take longer.
It takes a bit of getting used to
Keller and Papasan acknowledge it can be bumpy. However, when we put our focused attention on a priority, it means we are going to lean away from other things.
When you put time and attention towards these priorities, naturally, it will take the focus away from other things. This will put things out of balance, which is okay if done for the right amount of time.
Engage in Counterbalancing
The key is for the right amount of time. Leaning way out isn't bad. In addition to a particular work project, your health and your family are priorities. If you stay at the office until 6 pm, it's not the end of the world. Counterbalancing the long day is when you head to the gym after. You further counterbalance when you immerse yourself in reading to your child at bedtime, fully present to him and the story, and leave your cell phone in a different room.
Think of counterbalancing as your umbrella
Tightrope walkers carry something to counterbalance them. They have a weight that pulls them back the other way. Your weight is your other priorities. It might be your health or family. By identifying it as a priority and then giving fully there, too, you will find more of the sway back and forth, just as anyone who appears truly balanced is doing.
When you are out of balance, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I currently focusing on my priorities or someone else's?
If you are focusing on someone else's, can you stop? Yes, you have a job to do. But are you doing someone else's work because they didn't do it? Are you chasing the stats that you have sent already? Are you solving a problem that staff can solve themselves? Are you having a conversation that might become a non-issue if left alone for a couple of hours? If so, step back, pivot and move toward your priorities.
2) What can I do to counterbalance the effort, time and energy put in here to pull me back toward my other key priorities in life?
We each have an internal bucket that only has so much within it. Everything continually dips out of that bucket. Conversations drain us. Work exhausted us. Chasing appointments, kid's activities and a mile-long to-do list deplete our reserves. What puts back into your bucket? It might be a massage, reading a book, having coffee with a friend or quality time with your family. Do something to put back into your bucket.
Counterbalancing can save your life
Getting good at swaying back and forth will be the trick to being able to "do it all." But you must not get stuck on one side for too long. Know all of your priorities. Acknowledge that your umbrella is there to support you.
Rather than freaking out, you will find a more controlled and comfortable sway back and forth. And while it may look to the naked eye that you are in balance, you will know you just got good at counterbalancing.
Take a moment to write down your top 3 priorities in life and your top 3 priorities at work. Put the list of priorities somewhere that you can see them often. Then, when you are out of balance, look to them to get back on track.
Choice points. You have them, but are you using them to be a better leader?
Choice Points 101
🟪 A choice point is...
A choice point is an opportunity to choose what you are saying or not saying, what you are doing or not doing, and, most importantly, who you are being in the process of making that decision and acting on that decision.
Choice points are critical for leaders to develop strong character
Nonprofit leaders that lead with integrity, authenticity, and strong character lead with confidence and competence and feel in control of what is happening inside and around them. When you lead with that strength of character, you create an engaged team with meaningful relationships who do impactful work. Therefore, developing our character is fundamental to good leadership.
Developing your character is multifaceted. However, one aspect that is often overlooked is the art of decision-making. Throughout your days, you encounter numerous choice points that shape how your day goes, the development of your relationships and the impact of your work. However, more often than not, we remain unaware of the existence of many of our decision points.
To lead with authenticity and integrity, nonprofit women leaders must cultivate awareness of their choice points and embrace decision-making intentionality using criteria aligning with their values and goals.
How unaware of your choice points are you?
Far too often, you default to not really making a decision. Your decision points often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of daily responsibilities while running your nonprofit. They may appear inconsequential at first glance, but their cumulative impact can be profound.
🟧 The decisions we default to:
We often make decisions by default. Rather than making a decision, we put our attention, focus and resources into reacting to:
When we aren't making choices...
We tend to follow this path: If A happens, I do B.
That's not a decision
👉🏻 Just because you get invited to a meeting doesn't mean you need to attend it.
👉🏻 Just because it came into your inbox doesn't mean you are the one to deal with it or you need to deal with it today.
👉🏻 Just because someone asks for "just a minute," you don't have to say yes.
We say we are making a choice, but really we aren't deciding anything. So, when we say the choice is either I do the work or the work doesn't get done, that's not a choice. That is a victim mentality.
Or if we say, either I stay late or do it in the morning. What were you deciding? Which punishment to take?
It's an either/or, with neither option being optimal. They're both sides of the same coin.
You've given your power away!
What often happens is we're not really making a decision. Instead, we are making excuses about why we're doing what we're doing or why we are doing it. We are pointing fingers (the funder needs it), resigning to martyr syndrome (I'm the only one who can do it) or getting caught up in survival mode just running around the hampster wheel (another day...)
By neglecting to recognize these decision points, we as leaders miss opportunities to cultivate our character and steer our organizations and teams in the right direction.
🙋🏼♀️ It's time to cultivate your awareness of decision points
Leading with authenticity and strong character requires a shift from reactive to proactive decision-making. Instead of simply reacting to circumstances, intentional leaders make conscious choices that align with their beliefs, core values and long-term vision.
🟨 Decisions drive character development
But they must be:
✅ Done deliberately
✅ Made intentionally
✅ From a place of consciousness
To unlock the power of decision-making, cultivating awareness is paramount
Taking time for self-reflection and introspection via The Inner Guidance Cycle allows leaders to identify decision points that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks. You can seize these pivotal moments and harness them for character development by heightening your awareness.
Using The Inner Guidance Cycle to make intentional decisions
When you intentionally make a decision, you must first PAUSE, slow down and then PONDER. By contemplating the paths ahead of you, you will PIVOT, realizing it is not an either/or approach, but you will see the options, opportunities and outcomes you can create. Finally, after purposefully deciding, you'll PROCEED back into action.
🟦 A choice point is an opportunity for you to choose:
✔️ What you are saying or not saying
✔️ What you are doing or not doing
✔️ Who you are being in the process
🔀 You need to develop a decision-making framework with decision-making criteria
To make more intentional decisions, you need to construct a decision-making framework. This framework serves as a guide, offering a structured approach to navigating complex choices. This way, you can ensure that your decisions align with your beliefs, values, goals, and the greater purpose of the nonprofit you are leading.
Your framework will include considerations to ponder when making your choice. You'll want to run your options around criteria like your beliefs, values, time, resources, strengths, interests, team pressure points, etc. Using these filters will help you choose wisely with a better sense of your current and future perspectives.
🆘 In the Decisive Decision-Making course in The Training Library, you'll find a framework you can use.
Questions to ensure you are making decisions with your strengths of character
When you are pondering your options, you'll want to ask these questions:
Is this action/decision a statement of
It's all about the Inner Work!
Learning to lead with authenticity and strong character is a transformative journey for you as you lead your nonprofits. It's a personal development journey that will profoundly affect your leadership. It requires you to grow from the inside out!
By recognizing the power of choice points, cultivating your awareness of where they show up, and embracing those decision points intentionally, you can navigate your leadership with purpose and integrity.
Developing decision-making criteria based on values, time, resources, interests, skills, and expectations provides a solid foundation for making better choices that align with your character and foster your growth and that of your team and organization.
P.S. If you want the decision-making framework worksheet, you'll find it inside The Training Library in the course Decisive Decision Making.
If your emotions frequently hijack you, you need to learn this
Do you sometimes find that your emotions sneak up on you suddenly, and you're afraid of losing them?
You are not alone!
Many women leaders have had the experience of being hijacked by their emotions. But here is the thing,
👉🏻 The problem isn't that you EXPERIENCE emotions.
👉🏻 The challenge lies in being unable to control how you EXPRESS your emotions when they appear.
To prevent this, you must first learn to recognize your emotions as you experience them and then manage how you express them. Another way to say that is you need to develop your emotional intelligence.
It's not wrong to experience your emotions at work.
Instead, when you become a more emotionally intelligent leader, you choose how and when to express your emotions.
⭐️ Just because you experience an emotion does not mean you need to express that emotion.
Become aware of and then manage your emotions
Emotionally intelligent managers kick butt over their unaware and emotionally incompetent peers. That sounds a bit harsh, I know. But you are emotionally unskilled when you are unaware of your emotions, cannot regulate your emotions, and have difficulty understanding and communicating feelings effectively.
👉🏻 Therefore, you are in a much better place when you are a leader who is aware of what emotions you are experiencing and able to manage how you express your emotions. That means you control how you express what you feel rather than your emotions being in control of you.
Emotional Intelligence increases a leader's effectiveness
An individual who is high in Emotional Intelligence rarely has their emotions hijack them. Emotionally Intelligent Leaders don't lose it when someone says something that sparks their anger or annoyance. A leader in control of what's happening inside them will be aware they are irritated but can catch themselves before they roll their eyes, sigh or have a sarcastic comment slip out.
How to increase your emotional intelligence
Individuals that have high Emotional Intelligence are incredibly self-aware.
Two Steps to Emotional Intelligence
Step 1 – Recognize emotions 🤔
Step 2 – Manage emotion 😙
Here's what happens:
🟪 Antecedent - An event happens
🟪 Thought - You have a thought about that event.
🟪 Feeling - You then experience an emotion
🟪 Behaviour - You then react
Emotionally Intelligent managers learn to get a handle on their thoughts to control their emotions and subsequent behaviour. They learn to respond rather than react unconsciously. So rather than snapping back, writing an unnecessarily pointed email or rolling their eyes, they pause and choose how they want to express that emotion before they act.
Do you know what your thought was?
We want to drill deeper into the thought part and see what's happening there. That thought is directing your emotion. We want to get to the point where you are aware of the thought and can change it if needed.
Getting clear on your thoughts
You have to slow down time to understand better what you are thinking. Slowing down widens the gap between the stimulus and the consequential feeling. It is like putting a magnifying glass on the event and your emotion and seeing if you can see between the thought and subsequent behaviour. You want to detect what thought was there in between the event and the emotional reaction. That way, you can change the thought and thus manage your emotional response.
It starts with a reflection
It's hard in the moment to learn to increase your Emotional Intelligence. You must practice the skill first by looking back at what happened and reflecting on it. Increased awareness of what happened between the event and your reaction to it requires intentional thinking and slowing down the events so you can notice things you didn't see at the time.
To learn to manage your expression of your emotions in the moment, you must create a routine of rewinding events and looking back to see what caused you to react in the first place. You must build in time to PAUSE and POINDER, aka go through the Inner Guidance Cycle.
Start with writing
Becoming more emotionally intelligent requires ongoing self-reflection and a commitment to personal growth. That starts with pondering events and reactions.
The best way to get the slow-motion replay effect is to write down what happened. When you set aside a few minutes to let your thoughts and emotions flow on paper, you'll see more of what is there. Doing this writing without judgment is critical. You must let your pen just flow. The point is to see what's there that you may have missed, got hooked by, or overreacted to.
✏️ Mastering Reflective Journaling: 5 Proven Techniques
1) PAUSE: Set aside 10 minutes daily to engage in self-reflection
2) Eliminate distractions.
3) Take a moment to become present.
4) PONDER: Set a timer and write down what happened, including:
Use journal prompts such as:
5) PIVOT: To wrap up your time, see if you can identify a summary of what happened, why and what you'd like to do differently next time something similar occurs.
Learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle here
Pause - Ponder - Pivot - Proceed
Do the INNER work!
Working on bringing awareness to your emotions and feelings can be hard work. We don't naturally go there. Initially, it will feel weird and awkward. But, the more you do it, the better chance you will have in becoming more aware of the emotions bubbling inside of you and choosing how you want to express (or not) that emotion in a way that feels more appropriate to you and the situation.
Gradually you'll regain control and learn to manage your feelings and responses to people and events. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. You'll find it worth the effort and commitment when you do.
P.S. If you don't like journaling, just call it self reflection 😉
Resources in The Training Library to help you learn effective self-reflection to develop your Emotional Intelligence
✏️ How to prepare for a tough talk
✏️ Managing Your Emotions at Work
✏️ Emotional Control Via Emotional Literacy
✏️ Quick Journaling for Effective Leadership
✏️ Staying Composed During Meetings, Conversations & Challenging Times
🙋♀️ Join The Training Library
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.