As a nonprofit leader, you've probably struggled with your emotions during a meeting. And, you know that feeling of being about to lose your composure is not fun! I've been there too, and it sucks!
When we are out of control, we are often reacting to what's going on:
All of these are examples of losing control. In these situations, we feel powerless to hold onto our feelings and behaviours. We simply react.
Are You Playing the Blame Game?
Many of us blame that reaction on other people around us or the situation. Those darn Kleenex commercials always make me cry. My daughter tells me it's my fault that she cries. If I cry, it makes her cry.
We do the same in business settings.
We Give Our Power Away
When we hand our thoughts and feelings to other people or the bigger "world," we give our power away. So, in essence, you are saying. I am not in control of my emotions, or I am not in control of the way I act.
It's that belief that makes you feel powerless.
When you feel powerless, you certainly don't feel confident!
Who's fault is it?
It's not anyone's fault, but we look to lay blame somewhere. Really, is it the rain's fault that you feel sad? No. Nor is it your boss's fault that you feel overwhelmed. And it's not the employee's fault for questioning something in a staff meeting. I know it sure feels like it. But hear me out for a moment.
Regain Your Sense of Control
When you gain access to what is going on inside of you, you can regain your sense of control and power.
We can see rain as a pain in the butt or a blessing. We can enjoy the sprinkles as we take out our umbrellas or grumble and groan at how it's wrecking our plans. It's up to us how we see it. In the same way, when we do self-reflective work, we can begin to feel grateful for the disgruntled staff member. They are growing our conflict resolution.
Take Back Your Power With This Tool
Here is the tool to gain back that control and increase your confidence. Using the Inner Guidance Cycle, you can shift from giving your control away to taking your power back.
There are 4 steps to the Inner Guidance Cycle: Pause, Ponder, Pivot and Proceed.
Let's use the example from above to see the Inner Guidance Cycle in action.
🛠 The Tool: The Inner Guidance Cycle in Action
PAUSE: Stop and take a deep breath.
When your boss hands you another task, and you begin to feel overwhelmed, then PAUSE. Often, our first reaction is to direct frustration and anger at our boss. That gives power to them. They are in control of how you feel if you let them be.
When a team member asks a pointed question at the staff meeting, you may feel triggered and put on the spot. You know they said it to make you look bad. Your automatic reactionary response is to lash back at them. Before you react, pause!
Take a deep breath and begin to tune into yourself.
PONDER: Reflect on what is going on inside of you.
Take time to check your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. These are the parts of your Inner Guidance System. Just like a compass, they can guide you. Take time to PONDER and reflect. They help you identify your triggers.
Do you think your boss is a jerk? Perhaps you are wondering how you will ever be able to handle the workload. You might be thinking that you have to do it immediately. But, on the other hand, you could be telling yourself how unfair this is.
Do you believe this employee is trying to get you fired? Do you want to squash them, quiet them or put them in their place? Just notice the thoughts.
Are you experiencing a sense of overwhelm? Anger? Frustration? Despair? Incompetence?
3️⃣ Body Sensations:
These are often the clues that tell you what you are feeling. They help you become smarter about emotions and better able to name and tame them in the future.
Start to reflect on what set you off. You're still PONDERING at this stage.
🤔 What was the trigger?
Take time to consider what caused you to react strongly and quickly.
When a team member asks you a question at the staff meeting, and you immediately feel your composure slipping, consider the trigger.
Example of triggers
Our triggers are often around "not enoughness."
You may also be triggered by
💭 What mistaken beliefs do I have?
"I have to do this now."
Do you really?
"I have to do it perfectly."
What does good enough look like? What is the real expectation versus my own "perfectionist" expectations?
"I can't say no."
"I need to have an answer."
"They are out to get me."
💜 What values are not being honoured here?
Perhaps your value of family time is being squashed because you will now have to work late. Maybe you feel that you will have to rush this project or another one now, and that impedes your value of doing good work. Perhaps you are not feeling respected or appreciated.
This whole reflection piece in the PONDER stage of the Inner Guidance Cycle serves to awaken new insights. This awareness is what allows you to take back control.
As you sift through all of the stuff inside you, you'll see the mess of thoughts, feelings and body sensations begin to settle, and you'll often be left with a clearer picture. It is that clarity that can make you do a bit of a shift in your thoughts and feelings. That is the PIVOT stage.
PIVOT: Shifting how you see things
When you see things in a new light, you shift your perspective. PIVOTING allows you to head in a different direction. Perhaps instead of feeling out of control and angry with your boss, you take a deep breath and ask if you can have a moment of their time.
PROCEEDING back into action
When you are proceeding, you are taking your finger off the pause button and PROCEEDING back into motion. You might ask if you can renegotiate the deadline. You might suggest splitting the task between you and another person. You might say no. Any of these actions put you back in control and feel an increase in confidence.
By moving through the steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle, Pause, Ponder, Pivot and Proceed, you begin to take back your inner power. Instead of feeling out of control, you begin to regain a sense of power. But this time, it is internal power.
It isn't your power over the situation or power over another person. Instead, you've found your voice. You've connected to what is truly important and discovered your strength from within. That's the true meaning of being in control. This inner power is your inner confidence.
To be in control of yourself, do the inner work. Connect to your Inner Guidance System. You'll be glad you did!
We've all been to a nonprofit staff meeting where there are items that shouldn't be on the agenda. And often, it makes for a painful and long-drawn-out meeting. We wonder to ourselves or text our colleagues, "Why are we even talking about this?"
Often that's because nonprofit leaders haven't learned what belongs on a staff meeting agenda. Without training on how to run a staff meeting, we are left to follow what our predecessor did. If they did it for so many meetings, it must be the right way, no?
Learning what goes on your staff meeting agenda will help you feel more confident, competent and in control.
Ask yourself these questions:
Let's start first with what's on your staff meeting agenda.
Your staff meeting agenda should be prepared and provided to those who will be in attendance several days before the meeting. They need to know what to expect. Therefore, they may need to prepare. Additionally, if you are running an engaging and collaborative meeting, your team members may have items to add to the agenda.
So what should go on a staff meeting agenda? Here are 10 questions you can ask yourself when you prepare for your next staff meeting
Does this belong on your nonprofit team staff meeting agenda?
1) Does everyone need to know it and discuss it?
If it is an item that only certain people need to discuss, either put it on a different meeting agenda or put it at the end of their agenda so that those people who the topic is not relevant for can leave early
2) Can it be done as an email update?
If you were providing information, an email update might be fine. If you need a discussion around something, you may want to give the email update first so that people have time to prepare before the meeting. It's important to be clear on the agenda item what the agenda item is. It's not information sharing.
Instead, the agenda item becomes
3) Is it the right time?
Often we start talking about things before we have all the information, knowledge or information, and it can create anxieties, tension and confusion. Or we talk about things that aren't yet resolved, and really people shouldn't be privy to yet.
Be cautious and trust your gut when you ask yourself, "Is it the right time to talk about this at this meeting?" Your intuition will know best.
4) What is the point of sharing it?
Are you sharing information because it's something employees need to know, because it will help them somehow or because they need to prepare for it? If you can't figure out the point is for sharing it, don't share it.
If you do know the point, be clear on what the point is. Please don't assume that everyone knows why you're sharing it.
5) Is everyone there that needs to be included to discuss this item?
It's annoying to have a discussion that can't be resolved because the key stakeholder isn't at the meeting. When this happens, we often go around and around, but no one can make a decision or answer a question because the person with that power, authority or knowledge isn't at the meeting.
Be sure the key players are at the meeting for that particular item if you put it on the agenda.
6) Do we have time for that discussion?
Some discussions take time. When an agenda is crammed full, and we throw a topic in there and expect to brush over it, that often causes frustration for the people in attendance. They won't have time to explore, ask questions, provide suggestions and dig deeper.
Brainstorming, for example, cannot be done well in three minutes. If an agenda item needs more time, create a separate meeting for it.
7) Is this the most efficient use of our time?
Pulling a team together is costly and takes significant organizational time and resources. So make sure you're using that time and those resources wisely.
8) If this is a sensitive conversation, is it the right time to discuss it?
Even though some topics are relevant for everyone, sometimes those conversations are difficult. It's not always the right time to discuss them. That may have to do with what's going on organizationally, in the world, or someone's family. Remember to be sensitive about the topic you put on your agenda.
9) Consider the urgency of the matter.
Even though everything may be relevant to the agenda, that doesn't mean it needs to go on the agenda. If it's not an urgent topic and the agenda is already full, hold onto that topic for a future meeting. Give time and attention to the most pressing things, not just for you in the organization but also for your employees.
10) Is this the right place for this agenda item?
Lastly, once you've decided that it does go on the agenda, be considerate of where you place it on the agenda.
Things that need more discussion and focus should be done earlier on.
Additionally, things that need more composure for a difficult conversation should be done earlier.
You want to end on a positive, uplifting note. Therefore ensure the last item will make people feel good as they leave the meeting.
Running an effective and engaging staff meeting is much easier when you are more conscious and intentional about creating your staff meeting agenda.
1) Schedule a few minutes into your calendar to prepare your agenda.
2) Consider what belongs on your agenda, running potential items through the above list of questions.
3) Feel confident, capable and in control as you run your next team meeting.
Preparing is one of the first steps to feeling more confident running a staff meeting. When you prepare your staff meeting with intention, you will feel more confident, and your team will find it much more valuable and engaging.
Jennifer recently came to a coaching call infuriated with her boss. Jennifer was a middle manager and found herself entangled in a triangle of sorts with her boss, herself and her team.
Often her boss would undermine Jennifer in meetings. Without knowing all the facts, he would make a decision and announce it before conferring with Jennifer.
By the time we got onto our coaching call, the above scenario had happened numerous times. Jennifer noticed how it triggered her anger and prompted ineffectiveness in the team. The team didn't know whom to believe anymore. It was all a big mess, and Jennifer felt undervalued and unsupported. However, Jennifer hadn't had the courage or understanding of how to address the issue with her boss. Therefore, she'd been avoiding it.
Have you ever avoided a tough conversation?
We have all done it, but avoiding tough conversations does not resolve them. On the contrary, it only worsens them and often leads to deteriorating your team's effectiveness. Jennifer had realized that. It was why she'd brought the issue as a topic for our coaching call.
Jennifer started with why it was important to figure out
Through coaching, Jennifer was able to get reconnected to why she needed to engage in this potentially intimidating conversation with her boss. She was passionate about her staff members being supported and wanted them to have solid supervision. In the end, addressing the conflict with her boss would be better for her and her team. Even though it would be difficult, it was worth figuring out.
Take the first step to resolve the issue
Jennifer realized that in a "perfect" situation, her boss would recognize incongruences in messaging and deal with them himself. However, life isn't perfect. Jennifer knew she needed to be the one to tackle the problem head-on. She did just that. Jennifer took the first step and arranged a time to meet with her boss and then shared her concerns.
The result isn't always perfect, but it's a movement forward
Now, of course (remember, this isn't a perfect world), he didn't quite see the story like Jennifer. He did, though, become more aware of checking with Jennifer before he issued new standards of practice. As a result, Jennifer felt more confident and sure of herself. By stepping into the difficult conversation, Jennifer discovered she could fight her own battles rather than hoping they would magically disappear.
What is the tough conversation you need to have?
Perhaps you've found yourself in a similar situation, sandwiched between frontline staff and management. Other times you may have found it is the supervisor who isn't dealing with their team, and you see the mistakes happening. In that place, the tough conversation needs to happen with your subordinate, encouraging them to handle their reports more effectively. It could also be peer-to-peer where your co-worker is stirring the pot, causing havoc on the team.
When you realize a storm is brewing and know it's not going away, it is probably time to wrestle the tough conversation yourself. Below find the steps that will assist you in moving through the challenge.
Your 3 step plan to help navigate your nonprofit leadership challenge
1) Identify the issue
Notice that you may have been avoiding or hiding from the issue. Perhaps you push it away, praying someone else will deal with it. You've probably noticed, unresolved, that the issues continue to rise again and again. Each time you become aware of it, you probably tense up, get a knot in your stomach or feel anxious. By noticing when something is off, you help identify the problem that needs to be dealt with clearly.
Jennifer recognized the challenge was when her boss skipped over her role and function and did her job. She would have preferred that here and her boss discuss the issue before communicating them to the team. But instead, she identified the problem as feeling undermined.
This step is about getting clear on what precisely your challenge is so that you can communicate it.
2) Take responsibility for moving things forward
Stop pushing the problem away and blaming others for not fixing them. Instead, recognize that it is your job as a leader to resolve the issue. No, it may not be your problem but acknowledge that it is your responsibility to lead your team into a more effective, cohesive working environment.
That may mean that you need to be the one that grabs the bull by the horns. Jennifer did just this when she initiated a conversation with her boss.
3) Create your plan for dealing with the challenge
When you realize the problem is not going to go away and no one else will deal with it, it's time for you to address it. The best way to move through the muck is to be clear about what you will do it.
Dealing with challenging exchanges is not always easy but worth it
Even though they are tough, I encourage you to take the initiative to have tough conversations. You will find your confidence and courage increase the more often you tackle them. As a result, your team will be more effective, and you will also discover that you can enjoy your work more.
If you need more help planning for your tough conversation, try this.
How to be an effective nonprofit leader? Continue to grow and develop yourself!
Do you love to learn? Perhaps not. I know that not everyone is a lover of learning like me. But what I also know is that learning is part of leadership. It's necessary if you want to be an effective leader to continue to grow and develop yourself.
But if you struggle with the learning component, it's hard to make it happen on an ongoing and effective basis. Yet when you do, the results are astounding.
Is your learning too shallow?
Learning in a way that helps you apply it and get value from it requires some effort. So often, when we learn, we're just going shallow. We read a book, listen to a podcast or attend a session at a conference and get some good ideas. And that's as far as it goes. Perhaps you apply one of them, but more often than not, it's a fleeting thought.
What if you spent 3 weeks diving deep into how to develop your employees?
Mark These Leadership Training Suggestions
Consider taking a topic like learning how to develop your employees. For example, perhaps you listened to Strengths-Based Leadership on your commute to work. Then you listened to 10 Ways to have better conversations with your team leads and discussed it. Additionally, you completed the course Staff Supervision That Transforms.
Do you do this as you learn?
As you read the book, listened to the video, and completed the training, you wrote down what you were learning. You also had a couple of discussions with a peer who read the same book. On those calls, you added any new learnings or deeper understandings of how to apply the concepts to your notes. Then over the 3 weeks, you went back to your notes regularly. You added to your notes what you continued to learn as it related to your day-to-day world. You also became intentional in identifying where you could practice or apply the concepts.
What would you expect would be different in your leadership abilities?
Can you even imagine the change you might experience? I bet you would feel way more confident! Think about it. It's only a 3-week commitment. That's it. And it wouldn't require much time, just intentional scheduling of your time.
Will you make a 3-week commitment that allows you to go deep on a subject?
To be a stronger leader, you must go deep on one subject rather than bounce from book to podcast blog, but never really dive deep. Are you ready to dive in?
Keep reading as we break it down more as you learn to create your 3-week learning plan.
How to deepen your learning into a leadership topic in 3 weeks
If you want to dive deep into a topic, here are three strategies. Once you've picked the topic:
1️⃣ Identify 3 places you will learn about that topic
There are a ton of places to learn from. Pick 3 that will give you various insights, perspectives and strategies.
2️⃣ Identify 3 ways you will integrate that learning
3️⃣ Identify a time to review your learning
Set aside 15 minutes and answer these questions
When you set aside three weeks to deepen your learning about a topic, integrate your knowledge by implementing strategies, and practice it, you'll find that a quick dive into learning something has benefited you exponentially.
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