If you're going to make it as a nonprofit leader, you'll want to understand yourself and what makes you tick! If you don't, you'll stay stuck in survival mode, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated far more often than you need to be.
Self-awareness is when you develop a conscious knowledge of your own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It is being aware of what's going on inside of you, what drives your heart, mind and soul. Doing the work to become a more self-aware nonprofit leader is a critical component of navigating all that leadership throws at you.
Self-awareness is important in leadership for the following 3 reasons:
First, leaders make decisions and need to be self-aware to make good decisions.
The job of a nonprofit leader is to take a team of people, help them work well together so that you can achieve a mission. Leadership invites people to come together to do the day-to-day work for a bigger purpose. To do that, though, a leader must make choices and decisions all day long.
Leaders decide whom to hire and how to train, develop, and provide feedback to their people. In addition, a leader makes financial decisions, allocates resources, and interprets policy and procedures.
Each of those choices is an ethical, moral decision, or a value-based decision.
Self-aware leaders know which ethics, values and morals are coming into play as they evaluate their choices. Critical thinking, slowing down to consider all factors involved, requires a leader to be self-aware.
Second, leaders' decisions are affected by their beliefs, and self-awareness helps them understand and manage those beliefs.
Our underlying beliefs and assumptions about what's going on are drivers of our decisions. When those underline beliefs and assumptions are unconscious, we tend to react and make choices that perhaps aren't as fully in alignment with our authentic self, the best needs of the organization, or the future outlook of our clients.
When we become more self-aware of our beliefs and assumptions, we can question them, fact-check them, and determine if those beliefs are old patterns of thought based on old programming or help us lead with our strength of character.
Consider this thought: I have to get this report done today. I'll need to cancel my 1-1 meeting with my staff. This report is more important.
Now consider what values are coming into play here?
Next, think about your character and reputation.
Perhaps you want to be a leader who leads with integrity, which means you walk your talk. So if you told your staff member that you were committing to regular 1-1 sessions with them and this is the 2nd time you reschedule, how does that align with what type of leader you want to be?
You can see how being self-aware will help you make this decision.
Third, leaders' emotions come from their beliefs and play a role in their decision-making. Self-aware leaders are emotionally intelligent leaders.
Most of our days as nonprofit leaders are spent chasing fires, dealing with crises and running from meeting to meeting. As a result, we often struggle to get everything done without staying late or pulling out our laptops after supper. With this schedule and level of responsibility comes a vast range of emotions.
One minute we are overwhelmed, the next minute worried, and at the same time annoyed. An email leaves us feeling judged. A look during the meeting causes our back to go up. The lack of response from a team member causes you to feel discouraged and cranky.
When you feel cranky, judged or overwhelmed, those emotions impact your interactions, cloud your judgement and leave you feeling less than engaged in your job. When you lack self-awareness, you don't even realize how you feel and how that emotion impacts you. Whatsmore, you often are not in control of your feelings, leading to losing your composure.
Self-awareness is a part of the leadership development process.
While self-awareness is a part of the leadership development process, many leaders shy away from doing the inner work to understand how their inner world works.
But here's the thing: if you don't understand your ethics and morals and haven't identified your values, you're not consciously making those decisions.
To become a more self-aware leader, you must create the space, have a plan, and do the work.
1 - Creating the space to become more self-aware
Set aside a time set aside time each day to reflect. Start with five or 10 minutes.
You can write in a journal or sit and be with your thoughts.
Start with these questions.
2 - Create a plan for how you will become more self-aware
Having a plan means you're clear on growing one aspect of your self-awareness, you know what aspect that is, and you know how you're going to do that.
For example, you might be working on identifying your triggers. Your plan might be to note them down each day in a notebook.
Another example might be identifying your emotions. Again, your plan may be to note them in a notebook, but you will also use the wheel of emotions to explore the granularity of your motions.
3 - Do the work to become more self-aware
Ultimately this is the hardest part of creating increased self-awareness. Again we are busy, and this often brings up emotions. This means we need to create a safe space and time to do the work and commit to doing it even if it's challenging.
Growth comes from struggle. Nature shows us that struggle when a seed opens and bursts through the ground, and babies are born. Struggle, challenge and feeling icky at times are all part of growth!
I won't lie to you and say that this is always easy work. But it can be so liberating and freeing! This inner work to help you become more self-aware allows you to feel more in control, composed and capable.
What will you do to become more self-aware?
Are you committed to becoming a more self-aware leader? If so, what are you doing this year to ensure you are doing that? Again, it's essential to consciously work on yourself and have a deliberate plan.
Remember, do the inner work! It's worth it!
Lead your nonprofit with confidence, composure & your integrity intact |Learn from a coach who's been there too!
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!
Friends or friendly? Moving from peer to manager and how to deal with friendships on your nonprofit team
When I moved from peer to peer manager in my nonprofit, I didn't realize how hard it would be on friendships I'd developed over the past several years. Nor did I realize how hard it would be to create new boundaries as a new leader. But it was!
Women leaders struggle with past friendships.
Sarah echoed that sentiment at a recent training I did. She'd moved from peer to team lead less than a year ago and was now needing to address performance issues with her friend, and she was dreading it!
You may be nodding your head right now, knowing full well what these ladies are talking about
Even if you made it very many years ago, that transition still gets you in trouble if you have not created new relationship parameters with your friends.
But research shows you should have a best friend at work.
I want to start this conversation by asking you if you have a best friend at work. Gallup measures your response to that question as of the 12 questions it asks to measure engagement in the workplace.
Gallup's research has found that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).
In their Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived report, Gallup found that two-thirds of women say the social aspect of a job is a "major reason" why they work.
So let yourself off the hook if you have friendships at work and crave friendships at work. It's normal and even, in my opinion, necessary. The key is those friendships need to be developed with different people as you move into leadership positions. And you need to re-define the relationships you have with friends previously.
Friendships are different than being friendly.
Rather than define the difference, let's look at synonyms because I think it points it out very clearly.
Other words for a friend: chum, crony, confidant.
Other words for friendly: kindly, cordial, helpful, receptive
If you cringed at the first list, I know you know the difference!
Friendships versus friendly examples
It may be helpful to look at some examples now.
Does going to someone's house after work mean you are friends or just being friendly? That depends.
Is it just you, or only a few of the employees? Or is everyone on the team invited openly?
When is having a conversation with someone about a coworker appropriate for a leader/subordinate conversation? That depends.
Who's behaviour are you focused on?
Coworkers often vent and gossip about others in the workplace to find commonalities, create connections, and share struggles.
The conversation between leaders and their subordinates focuses on the subordinate's behaviour with their peers. The leader often coaches them to be their best self.
So how do you move from being friends to creating some boundaries with your friendships?
Here are 4 tips
1) Have an open and honest conversation with your friend that the relationship will or has changed.
Acknowledging that the relationship has changed will lay the foundation for a stronger trusting relationship in the future.
2) Get clear on how the boundaries change for yourself.
For example, Saturday night wine nights may not be an option now. Nor will the conversations about certain people on the team be appropriate anymore. So what is the line that you now need to draw?
3) Begin to state those boundaries overtly as well as model them.
When conversations come up that are inappropriate for your newly structured relationships, steer the conversation in a different direction or clearly state that we can't be having these kinds of conversations anymore.
4) Most importantly, become very self-aware.
Moving into new leadership positions will activate imposter syndrome, feelings of being not enough, and highlight your weaknesses. Additionally, you'll quickly learn where you lack competence and experience.
All of this will trigger you when things are going on around you. It's often here where you revert to old ways with old friends. Instead, it's time to both build your self-confidence and your self-awareness.
It's also vitally important now to create new friendships at new levels. Find others outside of the organization and build new relationships with them. Try to connect with peers at other organizations. You may also connect with peer students in leadership training sessions. Finally, find a trusted mentor or coach to work through challenges with who will hold confidentiality for you.
Realigning relationships will help to strengthen relationships with everyone on the team. So rather than having special bonds with certain people and other people seeing favouritism, you'll be creating friendly relationships with everyone.
One of the biggest challenges I hear from women I work with is that leadership is lonely. When you join The Training Library, you become part of a community of like-minded women growing their leadership! Learn more here.
How to increase your leadership competencies to meet your nonprofit goals with confidence
Leading your nonprofit organization to hit its targets and achieve its goals can be challenging!
Have there been times lately where you wish for a bit more confidence as you run your nonprofit organization? Perhaps when you were going into a conversation, you wanted to feel a bit more sure of yourself. Maybe in a meeting, you hoped the nagging doubt would disappear. Or was it that you put off a project longer than you should have because you weren't quite sure how to tackle it.
Lingering doubt, fear and hesitation are all signs of lacking confidence.
To feel confident, though, you first need to feel competent.
But, do you often wonder what you need to be skilled at? Furthermore, do you wonder how to develop those skills to increase your confidence?
Are you at a loss of what competencies you need to learn?
Developing competencies to achieve results is critical, but do you often wonder what you need to be skilled at? Furthermore, do you wonder how to develop those skills to increase your confidence?
You aren't alone. Many women leaders come into their nonprofit leadership roles not knowing precisely what they need to learn and grow. This often leaves them, and perhaps you, feeling incompetent, anxious and struggling with imposter syndrome.
You've probably learned the basics of leadership.
You sometimes learn the basic tools and skills you need to do your job, such as using Excel, Zoom, and filling out a performance appraisal. However, many of the more subtle competencies of leadership you may never have had the chance to learn. For example, I remember hearing the term servant leadership but was never taught what that was, how to be a servant leader, and why I might want to.
But leadership requires a whole new set of skills, including how to meet goals.
Beyond goal setting and meeting targets, consider these examples of leadership competencies you may not have been taught.
Those are all skills that lead to the competencies that make you an effective leader, and without them, you may have noticed you feel incompetent at times and struggle with your lack of confidence.
How to learn the key leadership skills
This week I've been teaching my students how to develop the competency of systems awareness.
Being skilled in systems awareness allows you to see the bigger picture, connect the dots, and ensure your work is related to your bigger purpose, thus leading to feeling like you are doing meaningful work. I thought you might like to have a peek at the lessons
There are 5 essential leadership competencies for nonprofit leaders
Each week I'm adding more to the Library to help YOU gain all of the skills I spoke about in the podcast: Episode # 62 - The 5 leadership competencies you need now for impactful nonprofit leadership.
For your reference, those competencies are:
Listen to the Podcast
This week, I dived deeper into the competency of achieving results. You can find that episode here: Episode # 64 - How to get results in your nonprofit.
With all of these competencies, I'm teaching you, the way to learn them is to do the inner work. You need to be self-reflective. That's why I always give exercises and worksheets to my students. There is no cookie-cutter way to think strategically, no best time and no mandatory topic.
You need to find your way in your nonprofit leadership journey.
As you learn more about yourself via the introspective work, you'll find that perhaps you like to journal or meditate. Others will go for a walk to think strategically. I had a client yesterday tell me that when she drives home, she shuts off the radio and lets everything settle in her mind. That's often when she connects the dots between things in her day and her role.
If you'd like to dive into the exercises inside of The Training Library to grow your leadership competencies, you will find your access to a 14-day free trial here. But, if it's not for you, you can end your membership before you pay a dime!
The bottom line to become a confident leader is two-fold.
First, where you lack confidence now is often an area where you've received no guidance, training or mentoring. Therefore you lack competence. So until you increase your competence, it will be hard to build your confidence.
Second, the types of skills, competencies and mastery you desire as a leader are different. To gain these require an inner knowledge and aptitude that comes only with self-reflection.
Do the inner work! It's worth it!
Do you struggle with anxiety?
I do. Not diagnosed anxiety but every day, I struggle with anxious thoughts. And I often feel anxious. We probably all do!
Anxious thoughts like worrying, fretting or wondering if things will go the way we want are "normal." However, when these thoughts take over, we may feel nervous, jittery or uptight and struggle to do what we need to do. Sound familiar?
Karen struggled with anxious thoughts too!
When Karen came to me for coaching, she struggled with overthinking pretty much everything in her day. Her mind would swirl with anxious thoughts:
Anxious thoughts turn to physical problems
Sadly, these anxious thoughts were manifesting physically in Karen's body! You've probably felt that happen to you too — tension in your shoulders, headaches, tightening in your chest etc. We get ourselves wound up tight as a top!
You're in a painful cycle
Anxious thoughts make us pull in physically. Feeling strain and stress in your body leaves your mind jittery and has you switching from email to text to the document you were working on, back to email again. Then you are heading down the hall (or into chat) to check with someone about something. And, often that "something" could have waited!
This is not helping your productivity
The problem with this muddled mess is that you have a lot to do! So going round and round in circles is not helping you.
When Karen realized her anxious thoughts were causing her to feel less productive and consequently less confident and capable, she realized it was time to get control of her thoughts. How do I do that? She asked!
I suggested Karen use the magic pill that I use
When my thoughts start to pull me in multiple directions at once, make me feel scattered, or create doubt, fear and anxiety in me, I tell myself back away from the computer! Then, I sit down and take a few deep breaths. That chair you've seen behind me in videos is the chair I use. When I am deep breathing, I activate my parasympathetic nervous system and get grounded.
Karen finds this moment extremely helpful
Karen put the technique to the test and told me that she could feel her body relax when taking several deep breaths. Karen finds this mindfulness activity activating her parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, she is so happy she can regain control of her thoughts and thus her focus.
Why this works
The opposite of your parasympathetic nervous system is your sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight, flight or freeze mode. The way I think of this is that your sympathetic nervous system has sympathy for our "tough situations." Our body thinks it will help us by
Why it makes you a better leader
Unfortunately, those sympathetic responses are not so helpful in leadership. Instead, we need to calm our bodies down by taking deep breaths, thus triggering our parasympathetic nervous system. This calmer state allows us to activate our critical thinking abilities, think strategically and have perspective. It also arouses empathy, compassion and caring, all essential in developing strong working relationships.
I think of this like an Archer ready to pull her arrow back. If she's shaking, she's not going to hit the target. But if she can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, she can become laser-focused on what matters most, which is what you need to do to achieve your mission and have a strong team culture to do just that.
How to do this
Although we know that taking "3 deep breathes" helps, you may not be doing it in the most effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus making you a better and calmer leader. To learn how to breathe in a way that activates the system, check out the
Webinar Breath Magic: Breathe your way to being a calm, composed and in control leader!
I know this sounds like a soft skill. I suppose it is. Yet, this soft skill will give you the capacity to have the courage to do the hard stuff! Try it, and let me know how it works!
Staff meetings can be draining. They can be for you and everyone involved. By the end of the staff meeting, many people feel depleted and just ready for it to be over. Ending a meeting with a low vibe is not a good thing!
How not to end a staff meeting
While ending a meeting on time is important, let me first describe three ways not to finish a staff meeting
Tips to make meetings better
You can do many things to have staff meetings be more efficient and energizing instead of energy-draining.
Getting the work done
At some point, you need to get some business done. Your team is likely working on projects. Changes are happening. You are also dealing with the next steps of decisions that have been made. Moving forward is critical.
3 things to end the meeting with
To ensure things are moving along, always and your meetings with three summarizing points written down:
Who said they would do what by when?
Then make sure that summary comes back to the next meeting for accountability's sake to see where things stand. That list should be a review item of the next meeting. What did get done, what didn't and what still needs dealing with? Having that check-in will make your meetings more productive.
TIP: If it feels like everything falls on you, then something is not right. You are the leader but not the almighty doer. Delegating, building collaboration and developing upcoming leaders are things you need to be working on to cultivate a strong team, a thriving culture and for your own sanity!
The 1 BIG thing to do at the end of the meeting
But there's one more thing you need to do before you end the meeting. How are you and the meeting will dictate what people say about how the meeting went. It's what they leave with that they remember most.
The FINAL thing you need to end the meeting with is specific appreciation.
Don't be general!
I am not talking about general comments like these:
Thanks, everyone, for doing your part! I know we're going through tough times.
I appreciate everyone doing their best
Belinda, good job on the proposal last week.
The key to being specific is to be specific!
Try comments that are more specific like these ones
I appreciate working together to ensure we saw as many of our clients as possible this past week. We were up 10%
Jessica, thank you for helping me pull the data together for the application last week.
Denver, I can see that you are working to create fun experiences for your clients, like visiting the corn maze. It's great to see you being so creative and including your coworkers and their clients too.
Why is this ending important?
There are two reasons why ending staff meetings with appreciation is important.
1) Appreciation and recognition create engagement.
Gallup has identified that when we receive regular recognition, we are more engaged at work. And by regular, they are talking once a week!!!!
2) It creates good mojo
When you feel appreciated, you get a hit of dopamine which makes you feel good! That lifts your mood, your spirits and your energy. Leaving a meeting with a good vibe brings energy and positivity to the rest of your day, your team's day and thus to those around you. That's a good thing!
Staff meetings CAN be reenergizing. The way to do that is to be a bit more strategic about your energy, especially at the end of the meeting.
Do you wish you had more time or energy? Or perhaps both?
I've been talking to several clients lately who are struggling to fit everything into their days, and they are finding it draining. Yet the truth is, if we look at the slots in our calendar and match that up with our to-do list, we will never fit it all in. There's just no way.
Focus on energy rather than time
But instead, if we look at our energy levels and what's draining and boosting our energy, we may find some hope.
We all start each day with a battery level of energy. Sometimes our batteries are full. Sometimes not so much. Some things happen in our day that drains our battery. Other things boost our power back up.
Consider these examples
Nancy told me about a meeting she attended that sucked the life out of her!
But, Nancy also talked about a meeting she attended where she felt very excited for the next steps when she left.
Olivia finds her one-to-one conversation with one employee draining, and her conversation with another employee tends to lift her up.
What's the difference between one meeting to another? Or from one relationship to the other?
Why is it that one drains us and the other boosts us?
There are a lot of factors! However, many of us believe we can't control the factors when in truth is we can control some of them.
Here's how they've regained energy
For example, Rebecca knows that if she's had a draining meeting, she needs to make sure she schedules some buffer time to recharge after. So she plans to go for a 15-minute walk after to increase her battery level.
Anjali has realized that many of her employees find value in 20 minutes touch base meetings rather than a full hour and that it's less draining for both of them. They use an ongoing document for creating the agenda ahead of time. This document also allows them to cover as much content outside of those meetings as possible, such as program updates. As a result, the meetings are less draining and much more efficient!
The 3 energy drainers and how to recharge
What drains us falls into three main categories: People projects and problems. Below you'll find tips to help keep, maintain or recharge your energy level.
While you can't get rid of everyone in your workspace that drives you nuts, you can change how you engage in a relationship with them.
DO THIS: Consider which might work to shift the energy drain you experience from some relationships.
We often find projects very overwhelming, and many of them have time constraints around them.
DO THIS: Break the projects down into smaller pieces, so you're not as overwhelmed.
Rather than write the big project on your to-do list as one gigantic, overwhelming item, create tasks from the smaller project pieces. Seeing smaller parts makes a shift in your mind that engages you to get them done rather than pushing away.
Time management guru David Allen reminds us that projects and tasks are different. Tasks belong on our to-do list. Projects belong on a weekly strategic review list.
Many problems are energy drainers because we spend so much time worrying, fretting, and wishing them away. It's like we have open tabs in our minds that continue to draw power and energy on us all day long! No wonder you feel drained physically, emotionally and mentally at the end of the day!
DO THIS: Schedule time for strategic thinking. Taking time to intentionally do some critical thinking, weigh the evidence, and consider other perspectives helps you to make a decisive decision. One of my clients does this at her kitchen table, another on the run.
A tip here is that we rarely do good strategic thinking with our hands on the mouse. It requires a different way of thinking, which happens in the shower, cutting vegetables or tending to the garden! So schedule that time in as WORK TIME!!!! I bet you'll feel reenergized, clearer and liberated from that stuck place you've been in!
Put yourself back in control of your energy. First, be conscious of what drains you and how to regain your energy. Then, monitor it regularly and do what you need to keep your battery at a level that allows you to lead with impact AND have energy left for the rest of your life
I am deep into the Apple ecosystem, so I was a little alarmed when my newsfeeds showed me an Apple security issue. I immediately headed over to install the update that came out to deal with that security breach.
Do you do the same inside of you when something INSIDE of you needs updating?
Your internal operating system may be at risk of being hijacked
Here's the thing, knowing my devices may not run as I want them to, I updated things. But what about me? Will I run smoothly without being hijacked when new responsibilities, roles and experiences enter into my daily experience? Will you?
This is what your internal operating system is:
Your internal operating system is what makes you, you. In Scaling Leadership, the authors describe your internal operating system as
What happens for most leaders, though, is that they continue to expand their responsibilities, roles and expectations of how they are doing things... but they never upgrade their internal operating system.
Most leaders neglect their internal operating system
Let's take the Covid world for a moment. Two years ago, we were not supervising staff via virtual conversations. To make the switch, your organization likely installed systems on your computers, updated the microphones and equipped you with a webcam. You've probably figured out a strategy for sharing virtual call links, agendas and how to share screens.
This Executive Director is learning to do updates
When I was talking with Phoebe yesterday, she spoke of a difficult conversation she was having with a client. I asked her if her screen was off or on. Phoebe smirked and shook her head no. She is reluctant ever to turn on her screen. I reminded Phoebe that it's important to read what's happening for the other person during a difficult conversation.
I suggested to Phoebe that having cameras off or on is not a switch. Instead, it's a dial. So perhaps we don't start with cameras on. However, when you have really learned to tune into your internal operating system, you can sense when something is off, a bit more sensitive, or there is a need to connect deeper. When that happens, your internal operating system is guiding you to have the courage to say, "Hey can we turn the cameras on for a few minutes."
But that takes awareness inside you to know what you're sensing, what you're feeling and perhaps what the other person is experiencing. You didn't necessarily need that skill two years ago in the same way that you do today with virtual calls. Then, you could read into someone's body language when you were sitting across the desk from them. Now you need an upgrade on your internal operating system.
How to update your internal operating system
Here are the steps to update your internal operating system so you can lead your nonprofit with effectiveness.
Look at your inner world and see which parts are working well and which need upgrades. Take time to examine:
I strongly suggest writing these down.
2) SHOP AROUND
Not all updates are the same. If your current assumptions are getting you into trouble or you are being triggered by someone regularly, assuming someone else needs to change is probably not going to work for you anymore.
Do the inner work to grow your level of awareness and emotional intelligence. Take time to examine your thoughts, beliefs and assumptions regularly.
Choose new mental models.
What got you here in your leadership will not get you to the next level of leadership you desire. So it's time for an update! It's also time to commit to regular updates. Finally, you need to put personal and professional development into your routine. Ongoing personal and professional development is your path to success in both leadership and life!
Help to update your INTERNAL operating system
If you need help to update your internal operating system, I strongly encourage you to find someone who can support you on this journey.
► In this article, you'll learn how to hire the best coach for you. I provide some questions you can ask a potential coach to ensure you are finding a good fit!
Remember, as your organization grows, the world evolves, and the sector swings back and forth; you too must grow. So don't neglect your internal growth.
Commit to ongoing personal and professional development, and you'll thrive in both leadership and life!
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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.