Are you a nonprofit leader who's almost at the end of your rope this holiday season? Are you afraid of falling apart, burning out or losing it? I was there once too! As a nonprofit leader, you may resonate with my story.
Let me be honest for a moment. There were many years where I was not fond of Christmas. While raising four children and working full-time was challenging, the magnitude of "stuff" I dealt with during the holidays often put me over the top.
The Dangers of Mental Health Challenges for Nonprofit Senior Staff
Below is part of what I was dealing with at Christmas. Take a look at the following list of issues I was dealing with during most December months as I ran my nonprofit. Do any of these typical nonprofit challenges sound familiar to you?
It's no wonder I was a basket case by the time old St Nick had to put the presents under the tree!
I felt very much alone as a nonprofit leader!
While I knew everyone was struggling to a degree, I felt alone with my struggles. I didn't want to share my burdens with other people who seemed to be enjoying the holiday build-up, that is, if you could believe their social media posts. So I suffered alone for many years.
How often do you feel isolated and alone in your leadership role? Do you feel that you have to put on a smile and power through the last few days leading up to Christmas? I bet you are wondering: How can I reduce the stress for my team and me!
Let me tell you what I learned.
I wanted to change to feeling the joy and excitement of Christmas
Over the years, I learned to sit with my Christmas blues, my moody disposition and the crankiness I felt. Engaging in mindfulness, journaling and self-reflecting, I learned a lot about myself, what was preventing me from feeling the joy of the season and how to overcome it.
The truth is, we aren't alone! I bet you are feeling some of this, too, right now!
Many leaders in the nonprofit sector feel isolated - The Stats
A recent report from the Alberta Nonprofit Netwerk indicates an alarming statistic. They report that the biggest issue nonprofits face right now is staff mental health. That stat came before the holiday season!
Please note, when they say "staff," you're included in that group. Nonprofit leaders are struggling with their mental health too!
Stress has been building long before the pandemic hit. For example, the 2016 study from Peele Leadership in Ontario indicated that 92% of nonprofit leaders feel some degree of burnout. Ouch!
That's you and your team.
Add to that the Christmas season and continued stress over the pandemic.
Whatever else you've got going on, it's no wonder people are moody, stressed, and short with people or ready to head out on stress leave.
Worried About Staff Stress And Burnout? Four Ways Nonprofit Leaders Can Promote Resilience At Work
Dealing with the mental health of you and your nonprofit team this week doesn't have to be so challenging. So what can you do for your nonprofit team? Follow these steps with your team to fend off burnout.
First, pause and deal with your stress at this moment.
Practice Mindfulness 🙏🏻
Take a deep breath. Seriously just right now, take a slow deep breath. Focus on your breathing for just a moment and let your exhale be slightly longer than your inhale, as that's what helps you destress.
How do you encourage your team members to be mindful?
You can encourage your team members to be more mindful too. Start by slowing down the meetings and conversations. Begin them with a moment of silence, breathing or gratitude. Slow your breathing down to set the emotional pace of the meetings and calls. When you role model mindfulness to your employees, you create a safe space for them to practice it.
Second, talk to your team
Be honest about the stress, and rather than asking them how they're doing because we all know we'll see we're doing just fine, offer some options to support your team's mental health, including your own:
How can you encourage your employees to deal with their stress?
You allow your employees to deal more effectively with their building stress when you create a culture of psychological safety. By making it ok, being vulnerable yourself and responding with empathy, you permit your employees to deal with their stress effectively.
Finally, plant a seed for future change
Begin to think of how you can implement new strategies for reducing stress in the future. Don't "stress" about it now! Instead, please make a note to include it in the new year for discussion.
How do you create ongoing stress management strategies for your nonprofit team?
Deal with the ongoing stress of nonprofit life by creating a plan for stress management. Set this as an agenda item and keep it there. Bring in resources, share strategies and offer options for team members to deal with their stress. That way, you'll make it psychologically safe for them to bring up and address their own mental and physical wellness.
🎁 My gift to you and your nonprofit team🎁
Because I know you're struggling with asking for help or not, and so are your team members, I'm gifting you the following webinar: Stress Management for the Busy Lady Leader.
The more we can manage the season's stress for more and more people, the better we'll all be as a result!
🎁 Watch the FREE Webinar now 🎁
Leaders should be able to reduce stress effectively without much hard work or time.
⭐️ Watch the FREE WEBINAR: Stress Management for the Busy Nonprofit Leader
Frazzled, fried and fearful that you will drop the ball, mess up or fall apart?
That's not the way you want to lead or live your life!
Did you know that stress affects leaders differently than non-leaders? You bet it does!
In this webinar, you will learn 3 strategies for leaders to renew and recharge.
Watch now for free until December 31st!
🎁 Watch the FREE Webinar now 🎁
Last night my husband and I were sitting at the supper table, and the Christmas clock sang its carol at the top of the hour. I commented on how much I enjoyed hearing it throughout my day.
My husband looked at me. "That's so good to hear." he said, "You haven't gotten down this year!"
I smiled 😊and agreed!
This year is probably the first year in a very long time that I didn't get overwhelmed with sadness, loneliness or Christmas dread. It's been a journey and one I hope to pass on the lessons from to you and others!
While stress is a normal and even healthy part of life, it becomes a problem when it starts to deteriorate your mental and physical health! So tune in for some tips to manage your stress in the coming days!
This week Twitter's founder Jack Dorsey resigned and passed leadership over to Parag Agrawal, who has been with the company since 2011.
Now, I'll be honest. I don't know the whole story. And, to be fair, I don't spend much time on Twitter or following how the tech giants run their businesses. So, suffice it to say that I will make some assumptions here.
Assumption # 1: Jack knew he wouldn't be around forever and needed someone to take over the helm.
Assumption # 2: Parag has been learning and growing since he's been with Twitter.
Assumption # 3: Jack and Parag had more than one conversation about Parag's potential and possibly taking over someday.
Assumption # 4: Jack has provided growth opportunities, invested in his development, and spent time mentoring and coaching Parag.
Are you picking up how this pattern might be similar to yours?
While you may not be ready to walk away anytime soon, there will be some point where you are ready to pass over the oars.
How do you create that succession plan with an employee you trust and who is ready to pick up your duties?
You grow them
You develop them
You mentor them
You coach them
You see the potential in them and uncover it day by day.
Your job as a leader is to grow yourself so that you can grow your team. When you continue to grow your strengths and skills and reach your potential, you can help the individuals on your team reach their potential step by step. Then, you'll also help them to see their next-level potential and begin to take steps to get there.
Let's talk about how you can help your employee grow, develop and reach their potential.
How to grow your nonprofit employee
When we think about children's growth, we often plot their physical growth on the growth charts. While physical growth is part of it inside, children are also maturing. It's that maturation process that I want you to think about with your employees.
TIP: Get them to start thinking about what's important to them and why. That creates the inner desire to grow and learn and keep them connected to a sense of purpose rather than just a warm body in the role!
RESOURCE: To help you get clearer on what's important to you, check out these resources:
How to develop your nonprofit employee
When you develop your employees, you are helping them learn the skills, talents, and knowledge necessary for your sector.
Mandatory training comes into this area, but not only that. I also want you to think about how to help the employees stretch their knowledge and skill bank beyond their current role.
TIP: Ask your employees one thing they would love to learn that isn't on the must-learn list.
COURSE: Staff Supervision That Transforms
How to mentor your nonprofit employee
Mentoring is passing your knowledge and expertise onto your employee.
You've been through a lot and have figured things out along the way. But, far too often, that knowledge is tucked inside of you and never shared.
TIP: Give your employees time to pick your brain?
RESOURCES: To help your employees learn leadership skills, tell them what books to read. You'll find my favourite leadership books here.
How to coach your nonprofit employee
When you are mentoring, you're transferring your knowledge to others; however, coaching is different. Rather than imparting your knowledge and wisdom to them, in coaching, you are helping them to pull out their inner knowledge and insight.
By asking your employees coaching questions, you help them uncover what they already know and apply it to current challenges. In this way, you build their confidence, their ability to think for themselves and help them step into their potential
TIP: Learn how to ask powerful coaching questions
RESOURCES: To learn how to coach your employees check out these two resources
As a nonprofit leader, If you've got a problem employee, you want to fix them. That's human nature.
Angela was my problem employee. She drove me nuts! My frustration with her created a lot of angst inside of me and spilled out onto my team.
When I started coach training, I wanted to use coaching Angela to fix her. But what I learned is coaching isn't about fixing people. Instead, it's to take what's already right with them, their strengths, their potential etc. and help them see that.
And to do that, coach someone; they have to be open to it. Angela was not.
With Angela, I needed to have a performance or corrective conversation. I needed to review expectations, do a bit of training and then hold her accountable to do the role she was hired to do.
But Cynthia was a whole different story. Cynthia was eager to learn, interested in growing and always seeking feedback. She wasn't lacking in her performance. She was ready for the next level!
And so, I chose to practice my coaching skills with Cynthia!
The difference between a corrective and a coaching conversation is this:
How to coach your employee - 3 steps
Before I could have a coaching conversation with Cynthia, I had to do a couple of things.
First, I had to think about and identify her strengths and consider her potential and how she could grow into that.
Then I had to help her see that as well. I had to point her in the direction, or maybe just open her eyes to what she already knew.
After that, it was time to use powerful coaching questions.
How to use coaching skills.
Before I go any further, let me say this as a coach. To get to where I am, I have taken a ton of training and practised lots! There are many skills involved in coaching, and asking questions is only one of them. But just like you ask your child what hurts as a doctor does, you can use some coaching skills to develop your employee.
Learn how to ask powerful coaching questions
That's where asking powerful coaching questions comes in. Learning how to ask those questions, what kinds of questions to ask, and when to ask them are part of understanding how to use coaching questions as a leader.
Help to learn how to ask powerful coaching questions
If you want to coach your employees, you need to learn how to ask powerful coaching questions. Michelle Maloy Dillon, a fellow coach, talks about how curiosity is your superpower when you ask powerful coaching questions in this week's podcast episode. From Michelle, you will learn what kind of questions to ask and a few no-nos that you'll want to stay away from.
The 3 steps for coaching your nonprofit employee:
To review, here are the three steps that you need to take into account when you start coaching your employees.
Identify your employee's potential
Communicate their potential to them, helping them see what's possible as they continue to grow and develop.
Ask powerful coaching questions to help them determine how to grow into that potential.
The impact of coaching on Cynthia
Cynthia walked into the first coaching conversation a bit apprehensive. I was honest with her about practising some new skills with her. However, within moments of asking her a couple of the powerful coaching questions, I could sense a shift in her. Cynthia was sitting up taller, was engaged in the conversation, animated with her passion for the work.
As I continued to use coaching questions in our conversations, Cynthia continued to grow. She remained engaged in the work, committed to the clients and the role and took over when I left the position!
The impact of coaching on me as the leader
I quickly learned using coaching skills with Cynthia that I did not need to fix her. I didn't need to have all of the answers either. Nor did I need to solve all the problems. Instead, I could ask the coaching questions and allow her to answer, letting her inner knowledge and wisdom emerge. It took a ton of pressure off me as a leader, and I began to enjoy my job more.
Remember to tune in to this week's podcast episode to learn how you can use powerful coaching questions too!
Extra help and ton's of ready to use questions
If you want some extra help with this and are a member of the Training Library, you'll find a worksheet with three pages full of powerful coaching questions in this lesson. If you're not a member of the Training Library but are curious what it's all about, check it out here.
Remember that you got to where you are because you are skilled at some part of the work you've been doing. Each of the pieces of training you have taken along the way has taught you skills. You can use those skills with your employees.
Have you learned listening skills, conflict resolution skills, relationship building skills or team building activities?
I know that we often think we don't have a lot of training to do our job, but sometimes we just have to be a little more curious about how we can apply what we already know!
I think you already know how to ask questions. Tweak them a bit, and you'll find excellent results!
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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.