Nonprofit leaders and the people who make the organizations hum have a deep desire to impact the world positively. Creating an engaging workplace, or what my colleague and I call a Magnetic Workplace, is essential to have that impact.
An engaging workplace exudes magnetic qualities. It is a workplace that fosters growth, openness, belonging, generativity, and creativity among its people. This type of workplace inspires individuals to contribute to something larger than themselves, instilling a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. At a magnetic workplace, employees know that they matter and feel cared for, which creates an environment that draws people in and fills them with energy.
I introduced you to The Intentional Leadership Model to create a Magnetic Workplace. The Intentional Leadership Model, an infinity loop, is a continuous process of moving back and forth between, on the right-hand side, turning inwards in self-reflection and on the left-hand side, engaging with your team. The loop has the four components of the Inner Guidance Cycle on the right; pause, ponder, pivot and proceed. A 5th point, people, is on the left.
To develop yourself and your team using The Intentional Leadership Model, you will need to deliberately build a habit of purposefully ebbing and flowing between being self-reflective and engaging with the people around you. To do that, the following four building blocks of The Intentional Leadership Model will help you.
🟨 Building Block # 1 - Curiosity is Critical
The first building block towards a Magnetic Workplace is curiosity. In Magnetic Workplaces, people are openly curious about improving their impactful work, sharing their ideas and collaborating on innovative approaches.
Curiosity allows for reflection, new perspectives, and the courage to act and engage with your team. It helps to create a magnetic work environment that draws people in. When you learn to be more curious, so does your team.
TIP to help you be more curious
Creating Comfortable Coaching Conversations
🟨 Building Block # 2 - Inner Work is Imperative
Magnetic Workplaces prioritize the inner work of their leaders and their team members by giving them time, space, and freedom to think and reflect. This time for "inner work" allows them to think strategically, make effective decisions and improve their emotional intelligence.
In most organizations, leaders and team members are constantly busy, running from one meeting to the next and dealing with crises and fires all day. To create a magnetic work environment, distractions and interruptions must be intentionally reduced, and time must be deliberately created to reflect, process, and resolve issues.
Scheduling time to pause, prioritize, and proactively plan a way forward for everyone on the team is essential to improve decision-making and foster an environment of growth and development.
TIP to help you make space for more inner work
📚 Resources to Help:
The Pause Principle by Kevin Cashman
Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman
🟨 Building Block # 3 - Vulnerability is Vital
Magnetic Workplaces encourage vulnerability because trust is grown by being open, honest and vulnerable with each other.
Vulnerability is also critical for you to engage in the inner work of The Inner Guidance Cycle. It's hard to look at what triggered you, why and how you will deal with it differently without being vulnerable with yourself.
Start by learning what vulnerability is (courage) and what it isn't (weakness). Then, role model courage and vulnerability. When you do, you'll create more of that sense of trust and the understanding, respect, kindness, and compassion required to develop a magnetic work environment.
Tip for learning to be vulnerable
Make a list of leaders you admire and what you admire about them. Look at that list for places where they demonstrate vulnerability. Use these as your role models for doing it yourself.
Another great place to start is to identify and speak to your values. The Values Verification course in The Training Library helps you put voice and action to the value words you identify.
📚 Resources to Help:
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Boy, The Mole and The Fox by Charlie Mackesy
🟨 Building Block # 4 - Movement is Mandatory
Building a Magnetic Workplace requires movement and growth. These elements are necessary to create and sustain a workplace where team members feel safe to be curious, take time to do the inner work and then do the impactful work that moves their nonprofit forward.
Leaders must break out of this pattern of holding on to old ways and resisting change. It's essential for leaders themselves and their people to move outside their comfort zones. Leaders must model this behaviour and create an environment where people feel safe to try, flounder and sometimes fail.
Tip for learning to move into action, even when it's scary
Move. Get up and move. Go for a walk or move around your office or house. Movement in your body creates movement in your mind; sometimes, that is exactly what we need to move into action with our team.
Having a plan also helps you move. When you know the steps, it's easier to take them. To help you with that, try this webinar in The Training Library: How to Prepare for a Tough Talk.
📚 Resources to Help:
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
The Confidence Gap: A Guide to overcoming fear and Self-doubt by Russ Harris
Your next steps
You must create an engaging workplace to have the positive impact you desire in your workplace. An engaging workplace, also called a Magnetic Workplace, fosters growth, openness, belonging, generativity, and creativity among employees, inspiring them to contribute to something larger than themselves. You'll do that when you put the Intentional Leadership Model into action.
The continuous process of moving back and forth between self-reflection and engaging with the team helps you to process what's going on inside of you so that you can be your best self in your leadership role. Remember though:
As a Nonprofit Leader, you likely want to build and sustain a team that continues to make a difference. However, finding the time, energy, and focus to make that happen can be challenging. Being overworked, overloaded, and overwhelmed may lead to burnout and keep you in survival mode.
Staying stuck in survival mode, if you aren't careful, can taint your workplace energy and create disengaged teams and toxic work environments. But there is another way. Keep reading to discover a model you can use to become a leader who creates an engaged team of difference-makers!
What we don't want:
Leaders and organizations do not want uninvolved, unenthusiastic, uncommitted, and disengaged team members that contribute to a toxic work environment.
What we do want:
Leaders and organizations do, however, want engaged teams that are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace, which is how Gallup defines engagement.
The way forward:
For leaders and organizations to increase engagement and build a team of involved, enthusiastic, and committed employees, you need a system, processes and habits of interacting that will help you get there. Let's learn the framework to help you create that way of leading.
Your individual path is connected to the organizational path
Learning how to move from surviving to thriving as an individual leader is important to understand how you can impact your organizational culture. This blog teaches you how to move along the surviving to thriving continuum. Let me summarize the continuum here.
On the left, survival mode is characterized by fear. You are always afraid of falling apart, dropping the ball or losing it emotionally. You are barely hanging on, just getting by or just trying to stay alive.
The opposite, thriving mode, is characterized by energy, enthusiasm and engagement. You bloom and flourish as you learn new things, take on engaging projects, and have strong, developed working relationships that allow you to do your work purposefully.
Most of us hang out in the middle, coping. Here you are doing more than barely getting by, but you're not feeling so alive that you want to yell from the mountaintops about how much you love your job. This middle ground is where the idea of being on a hampster wheel fits: round and round you go.
Surviving, coping and thriving are all places you "live" in individually. They may overlap, though, with your workplace culture and thus your workplace continuum also. So, first, let's review what workplace culture is.
Your Workplace Culture
Your workplace and every other workplace has a specific culture - a feel to it, an impression it leaves. Each workplace has a certain intangible quality that makes something about it distinct and decidedly different but difficult to define or describe. You know whether you like it or not, want to be there or run away quickly.
The Points on a Workplace Continuum
My colleague Bill Scott and I developed a workplace culture continuum that stretches from toxic to magnetic. In the middle is the place that most of us are far too familiar with - a tolerable workplace. As you read the following explanations of each of the points on the continuum, we expect you'll know if that "feels" like your workplace or not.
A toxic workplace sucks the energy out of its people.
A toxic workplace is characterized by:
A toxic workplace is unhealthy and destroys individuals and team connections.
In a TOXIC workplace, employees are actively disengaged.
A tolerable workplace is not bad enough to leave, not good enough to give it your all.
A tolerable workplace is characterized by the following:
In a tolerable workplace, people have tolerated far too much for far too long.
In a TOLERABLE workplace, employees are not engaged.
A Magnetic Workplace draws its people in; they know they matter and feel cared about.
A magnetic workplace is characterized by the following:
In a magnetic workplace, people contribute to something bigger than themselves. Magnetic Workplaces draw people to them and fill them with energy!
In a MAGNETIC workplace, employees are actively engaged.
It's not a static point you are at
There are more than three points on a continuum. In fact, there are an infinite number of points. As a result, many of us simultaneously find elements of toxic, tolerable and magnetic experiences in our workplaces. It can shift depending on the day, the day's agenda, your work location, and who you are interacting with.
Creating a Magnetic Workplace
Imagine being in a workplace where people feel an irresistible pull to be at work because of some strong positive vibe, energy or even magnetism. Bill and I know that's possible because we've seen it happen. When you create magnetic teams with involved, enthusiastic and committed employees, you will lead a magnetic workplace that attracts good employees and keeps them around long-term. So how do you do that? By becoming a thriving leader.
Thriving leader to magnetic workplace
To become a thriving leader, you've learned to use The Inner Guidance Cycle to take time for self-reflection to be a more intentional leader. But it doesn't end there. You can't "stay in your head" to lead. After thinking, reflecting and sometimes making decisions, you'll need to reengage. Reengaging is about engaging with the people you work with, your community and your family. Thus, another cycle links with The Inner Guidance Cycle creating a new model.
The Intentional Leadership Model
To become a thriving leader, you've learned to use The Inner Guidance Cycle to take time for self-reflection to be a more intentional leader. But it doesn't end there. You can't "stay in your head" to lead. After thinking, reflecting and making decisions, you'll need to reengage. That's about the people you work with, your community and your family. Thus, another cycle links with The Inner Guidance Cycle creating a new model.
Bill and I developed the Intentional Leadership Model (ILM), a continuous process of moving back and forth between turning inwards in self-reflection and engaging with your team. Both model components use curiosity as fuel for continued learning, resulting in an engaged workplace.
Think of this model as the infinity loop. The loop, with the 4 components of the Inner Guidance Cycle on the right, pause, ponder, pivot and proceed, and the 5th point, people on the left, demonstrate the ebb and flow between self-reflection and engagement with others.
Putting the ILM into action, we move consciously back and forth from our inner thoughts to our external connections. When we do this more consciously, intentionally and deliberately, we move individually from surviving to thriving and our organization from toxic to magnetic.
Be an intentional leader
Take time today and every day to pause, intentionally going within and ponder and then engage with your people more consciously. The more intention you put into who you are and how you show up, the more authentic you'll feel and the bigger impact you'll have!
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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.