Understanding and honouring your values is crucial to a leader with authenticity and integrity. As a non-profit leader, your values serve as the guiding principles that shape your decisions, actions and the overall direction of your organization.
Here are some examples of how your values may clash with others, get in the way of your work or cause you to feel inner turmoil.
Potential values clash:
When hiring new staff:
Your values of diversity, inclusivity and fairness may rub up against your value of efficiency when the diverse hire has less experience and will take more upfront work to become an efficient worker. You'll have to decide which way to lean, knowing one of your values will need to be deprioritized, which makes you feel icky.
Perhaps in your organization, the typical fundraising event includes alcohol. However, you have strong values around addictions and supporting those with addictions and minimizing alcohol at social events. Now you need to communicate that to your board, which heavily relies on this event for program funding.
You value well-thought-out decisions and take time to think critically about the risks, steps and impact. However, others on your team are frustrated with your need to pick apart everything and want to move the decision-making process along more quickly. These differences are creating tension.
Maybe your open communication, respect, and fairness values guide your approach to conflict. Others, who are uncomfortable with conflict, see your approach as aggressive, and they become defensive or shut down. Now the tension is building rather than diminishing.
You may value trust, teamwork, and personal growth and want to focus on those elements to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. And, there is no time. You are short-staffed, find yourself running from meeting to meeting and struggle to find the time to connect in a meaningful way with your team embers.
In each scenario, taking the time to reflect on your values can help you make decisions and take authentic, aligned, and impactful actions for yourself, your team, the organization and the communities you serve. But only if you are self-aware and take time for self-reflection.
Values identification is an ongoing process
Your values and what they mean to you change over time. Understanding how your values fit into your life and how you define them will also evolve. Therefore identifying your values is not an exercise completed once in your life. Instead, you must return to your values and review them regularly.
Verifying your values is more than a sit down once; power through and figure it out exercise. It also needs time, energy and curiosity. The work will be reflective, thinking and pondering. It will be emotional work as you explore memories and possible scenarios.
You won't fully understand your values in one chunk of time but over time. So come back to the process of verifying your values again and again. Each time you do, you will deepen your understanding of what your values really mean to you and why they are so important.
The steps to identify your values
1️⃣ List your top values
2️⃣ Define what your values mean to you
3️⃣ Determine how your values show up in your leadership and life
4️⃣ Create a system for knowing if you align with your values or are off-kilter
5️⃣ Rinse and repeat
🟡 Step # 1 - Identify Your Values
There are no right or wrong values. Remember, they change, and how you define them may change. Also, this is the first glance. You will be going deeper, so how you name and describe your values may change as you do that.
🟪 Review the list of value words found here
To confirm that you have nailed your values, look for an emotional connection.
Reminders about identifying your values
🟡 Step # 2 - Define what they mean to you
Now it's time to take a deeper look at your values. Those words you circled are just that, words. But what do those words mean to you? Consider these questions:
An example of how values show up
For example, you may know that it is important for you to keep the peace. You value cooperation and collaboration. So despite differences on a team, you have a habit of smoothing things over.
Over time you may notice your underlying irritation building with one team member as you work together on a project. You keep trying to collaborate, cooperate and keep the peace but feel frustrated each time you walk away from that conversation.
This agitation may be because your value of harmony keeps you from addressing a conflict with that peer. But now, that conflict has morphed, and you feel anything but harmonious!
Maybe you come from a long family of fighters. Yelling matches at the supper table was the norm. Over the years, you became the peacemaker working to create harmony wherever you could.
Now that pattern of behaviour is showing up at work. And it's not always helpful. What's more, you don't even realize how that one word that means so much to you, harmony is actually what is causing you grief! Until you unpack what harmony really means to you NOW, you won't be able to use it effectively to live.
You don't have to go to counselling or therapy to move forward. Although, please, if you need it, get help. There is nothing shameful about resolving your unresolved childhood or adulthood stuff! The bottom line is that you need to become more aware of how that value creates belief and ways of engaging now and consciously decide what you want to do about it.
The verification process
You must explore different facets of your values to help you flesh out what you mean. Remember, this is exploratory work, reflective work and emotional work. As you explore your values, here are some questions to consider:
🟡 Steps # 3 - 5
● Determine how your values show up in your life
● Create a system for knowing if you align with your values or are off-kilter
● Rinse and repeat
Determining how your values show up in your leadership and life and creating a system for knowing if you align with them or are off-kilter takes more time and intentional self-reflection. Stay with it, and over time you'll become clearer and find your values are guiding you more and more.
🆘 Extra help to verify your values
In Values Verification, I walk students through exercises to identify their values and create a working definition of what that value or word group of values means to them. We explore how you use your resources to express your values (i.e. time, money and energy) and how to live and lead aligned with values. The course is one of many courses in The Training Library membership site.
Do the inner work and use your values as your guide
Values are the glue that holds us together, the things that we hang our decisions on, the place that we get furious when they aren't upheld and the thing that makes us feel at peace and content when they are really honoured. But again, values are not simply a word. Instead, values are deep-held beliefs etched into our lives over time and through events.
Aligning priorities: 2 powerful questions to help you achieve work-life balance
Stop striving for work-life balance. It doesn't exist. Nor should it. Balance is nothing more than society's way of laying guilt on working women.
Cindy was seeing her kids for less than an hour a day
She arrived home and spent only a brief time with them before apologetically tucking them into bed. Each night, she vowed silently to change things. It was the same promise she'd whispered to herself for months. But the work demands were strong.
Cindy tried to make up for it on weekends
Cindy found herself exhausted and with little patience left. Most of what she had for energy, focus and compassion was used up in the day-to-day grind at the office. Cindy craved balance. She wanted to divide her time between work and home and not have them interfere with each other. Yet she could never find a way to do that.
Work-Life Balance doesn't work
That is because there isn't a way. You are not alone if you, like Cindy, have wondered how to juggle everything better to find more harmony in your days.
Women are tugged at constantly
Working women, especially leaders, feel pulled in all directions. It's not just work and kids. You also know you need to pay attention to your health and well-being. Likely you have some community groups that you feel a responsibility to. Your marriage, parents, and renovation projects all scream for their share of your priceless time.
Dividing things equally is impossible
The point is that it is impossible to equally divide your calendar and your energy to each task or area in your life. You can't spend 1.75 hours with your kids, 8 hours at work and…you get the point. There are weeks that you must work more than 40 hours, in fact, a lot more. But, just the same, there are times when your family requires more attention.
How do you find more alignment without the guilt?
The answer has been presented in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They call it counterbalancing. There are some key things to know about this strategy.
Priorities are the things we need to focus on. Everything else must be put on the back burner when we focus on that priority. This recognizes that we can't answer the phone when working on a report that you ranked at the top of your list. It also means we shouldn't be reading emails at the supper table.
Prioritizing goes deeper than that
In our work days, we chase everyone else's priorities. As a result, often, our own meaningful work never gets done. For example, many indicate relationships are key. Yet, we may plan to talk to an employee for days but have yet to get to that conversation.
Prioritizing isn't about ordering the tasks on our to-do list
It is about looking within and determining why we do our work. Then, it is about looking at the bigger picture and having a vision for how to get there. Another great resource on how to do this is the book Essentialism by Greg McKowen.
Lean way out
Counterbalancing recognizes we can't always walk along a path that is straight. There is no state of being completely balanced. We are constantly in motion. The approach is to sway back and forth. We will need to lean heavily into work some days. Other times life will draw us strongly into it.
Let yourself lean
When you allow yourself to lean in or out fully, you will find more enjoyment and meaning in what you are doing. Imagine being on a beautiful Caribbean holiday and checking your email. That sucks, right? Now imagine being on that same beach, completely shut off from work and simply soaking up the sun. You would find a more gratifying experience.
Stop feeling guilty
The same is true in projects at work. For example, you aren't completely focused on the task if you feel guilty about missing supper. Therefore you won't be doing your best work, and it will take longer.
It takes a bit of getting used to
Keller and Papasan acknowledge it can be bumpy. However, when we put our focused attention on a priority, it means we are going to lean away from other things.
When you put time and attention towards these priorities, naturally, it will take the focus away from other things. This will put things out of balance, which is okay if done for the right amount of time.
Engage in Counterbalancing
The key is for the right amount of time. Leaning way out isn't bad. In addition to a particular work project, your health and your family are priorities. If you stay at the office until 6 pm, it's not the end of the world. Counterbalancing the long day is when you head to the gym after. You further counterbalance when you immerse yourself in reading to your child at bedtime, fully present to him and the story, and leave your cell phone in a different room.
Think of counterbalancing as your umbrella
Tightrope walkers carry something to counterbalance them. They have a weight that pulls them back the other way. Your weight is your other priorities. It might be your health or family. By identifying it as a priority and then giving fully there, too, you will find more of the sway back and forth, just as anyone who appears truly balanced is doing.
When you are out of balance, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I currently focusing on my priorities or someone else's?
If you are focusing on someone else's, can you stop? Yes, you have a job to do. But are you doing someone else's work because they didn't do it? Are you chasing the stats that you have sent already? Are you solving a problem that staff can solve themselves? Are you having a conversation that might become a non-issue if left alone for a couple of hours? If so, step back, pivot and move toward your priorities.
2) What can I do to counterbalance the effort, time and energy put in here to pull me back toward my other key priorities in life?
We each have an internal bucket that only has so much within it. Everything continually dips out of that bucket. Conversations drain us. Work exhausted us. Chasing appointments, kid's activities and a mile-long to-do list deplete our reserves. What puts back into your bucket? It might be a massage, reading a book, having coffee with a friend or quality time with your family. Do something to put back into your bucket.
Counterbalancing can save your life
Getting good at swaying back and forth will be the trick to being able to "do it all." But you must not get stuck on one side for too long. Know all of your priorities. Acknowledge that your umbrella is there to support you.
Rather than freaking out, you will find a more controlled and comfortable sway back and forth. And while it may look to the naked eye that you are in balance, you will know you just got good at counterbalancing.
Take a moment to write down your top 3 priorities in life and your top 3 priorities at work. Put the list of priorities somewhere that you can see them often. Then, when you are out of balance, look to them to get back on track.
If your emotions frequently hijack you, you need to learn this
Do you sometimes find that your emotions sneak up on you suddenly, and you're afraid of losing them?
You are not alone!
Many women leaders have had the experience of being hijacked by their emotions. But here is the thing,
👉🏻 The problem isn't that you EXPERIENCE emotions.
👉🏻 The challenge lies in being unable to control how you EXPRESS your emotions when they appear.
To prevent this, you must first learn to recognize your emotions as you experience them and then manage how you express them. Another way to say that is you need to develop your emotional intelligence.
It's not wrong to experience your emotions at work.
Instead, when you become a more emotionally intelligent leader, you choose how and when to express your emotions.
⭐️ Just because you experience an emotion does not mean you need to express that emotion.
Become aware of and then manage your emotions
Emotionally intelligent managers kick butt over their unaware and emotionally incompetent peers. That sounds a bit harsh, I know. But you are emotionally unskilled when you are unaware of your emotions, cannot regulate your emotions, and have difficulty understanding and communicating feelings effectively.
👉🏻 Therefore, you are in a much better place when you are a leader who is aware of what emotions you are experiencing and able to manage how you express your emotions. That means you control how you express what you feel rather than your emotions being in control of you.
Emotional Intelligence increases a leader's effectiveness
An individual who is high in Emotional Intelligence rarely has their emotions hijack them. Emotionally Intelligent Leaders don't lose it when someone says something that sparks their anger or annoyance. A leader in control of what's happening inside them will be aware they are irritated but can catch themselves before they roll their eyes, sigh or have a sarcastic comment slip out.
How to increase your emotional intelligence
Individuals that have high Emotional Intelligence are incredibly self-aware.
Two Steps to Emotional Intelligence
Step 1 – Recognize emotions 🤔
Step 2 – Manage emotion 😙
Here's what happens:
🟪 Antecedent - An event happens
🟪 Thought - You have a thought about that event.
🟪 Feeling - You then experience an emotion
🟪 Behaviour - You then react
Emotionally Intelligent managers learn to get a handle on their thoughts to control their emotions and subsequent behaviour. They learn to respond rather than react unconsciously. So rather than snapping back, writing an unnecessarily pointed email or rolling their eyes, they pause and choose how they want to express that emotion before they act.
Do you know what your thought was?
We want to drill deeper into the thought part and see what's happening there. That thought is directing your emotion. We want to get to the point where you are aware of the thought and can change it if needed.
Getting clear on your thoughts
You have to slow down time to understand better what you are thinking. Slowing down widens the gap between the stimulus and the consequential feeling. It is like putting a magnifying glass on the event and your emotion and seeing if you can see between the thought and subsequent behaviour. You want to detect what thought was there in between the event and the emotional reaction. That way, you can change the thought and thus manage your emotional response.
It starts with a reflection
It's hard in the moment to learn to increase your Emotional Intelligence. You must practice the skill first by looking back at what happened and reflecting on it. Increased awareness of what happened between the event and your reaction to it requires intentional thinking and slowing down the events so you can notice things you didn't see at the time.
To learn to manage your expression of your emotions in the moment, you must create a routine of rewinding events and looking back to see what caused you to react in the first place. You must build in time to PAUSE and POINDER, aka go through the Inner Guidance Cycle.
Start with writing
Becoming more emotionally intelligent requires ongoing self-reflection and a commitment to personal growth. That starts with pondering events and reactions.
The best way to get the slow-motion replay effect is to write down what happened. When you set aside a few minutes to let your thoughts and emotions flow on paper, you'll see more of what is there. Doing this writing without judgment is critical. You must let your pen just flow. The point is to see what's there that you may have missed, got hooked by, or overreacted to.
✏️ Mastering Reflective Journaling: 5 Proven Techniques
1) PAUSE: Set aside 10 minutes daily to engage in self-reflection
2) Eliminate distractions.
3) Take a moment to become present.
4) PONDER: Set a timer and write down what happened, including:
Use journal prompts such as:
5) PIVOT: To wrap up your time, see if you can identify a summary of what happened, why and what you'd like to do differently next time something similar occurs.
Learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle here
Pause - Ponder - Pivot - Proceed
Do the INNER work!
Working on bringing awareness to your emotions and feelings can be hard work. We don't naturally go there. Initially, it will feel weird and awkward. But, the more you do it, the better chance you will have in becoming more aware of the emotions bubbling inside of you and choosing how you want to express (or not) that emotion in a way that feels more appropriate to you and the situation.
Gradually you'll regain control and learn to manage your feelings and responses to people and events. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. You'll find it worth the effort and commitment when you do.
P.S. If you don't like journaling, just call it self reflection 😉
Resources in The Training Library to help you learn effective self-reflection to develop your Emotional Intelligence
✏️ How to prepare for a tough talk
✏️ Managing Your Emotions at Work
✏️ Emotional Control Via Emotional Literacy
✏️ Quick Journaling for Effective Leadership
✏️ Staying Composed During Meetings, Conversations & Challenging Times
🙋♀️ Join The Training Library
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!
Do you often struggle to get everything completed on your to-do list? Unfortunately, there is always too much to do, and many nonprofit leaders, perhaps you included, feel overwhelmed, overworked and overextended.
NOT HELPFUL: Just learn to manage your time better
Most of us blame this on our workloads, jam-packed calendars and the crazy amounts of external stimuli around us. There's always another meeting to attend. Something is always being added to our to-do list, and the notifications keep reminding us that we have another message, email, or request.
How on Earth is anyone supposed to get anything done with all of that going on?
The solution to this always comes back to being better at prioritizing and time management. And while these are essential strategies and tools to learn, there's an underlying reason why they are often less than effective. In truth, prioritizing and time management can help, but they may not be enough!
HELPFUL: Learn to manage your emotions that are sabotaging your productivity.
In truth, it's our thoughts that slow us down. Our mental chatter 🤯 often encourages us to procrastinate and distracts us from what matters most. Our thoughts keep us distracted!!!
The word "distracted" has its origins in the Latin word "distractus," which means "drawn apart" or "divided."
For most of us, this means being unable to pay attention to the task at hand, focus on what we should be doing or concentrate on the job in front of us. As a result, we feel divided and wish we could clone ourselves to get more done!
Perhaps we need to become inDISTRACTable, as Nir Eyal advocates in his book "InDISTRACTable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life."
Eyal explains that being "distracted" is not just a product of external factors but also internal factors such as our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
Eyal defines distraction as "the action of derailing attention from what we intend to do" and argues that becoming "indistractable" requires understanding why we become distracted in the first place.
Eyal identifies four primary triggers of distraction:
It's time to gain some TRACTION
I want to focus on the words traction and distraction to help you become more aware of how your thoughts are getting in the way of your productivity. Consider how Eyal describes the difference here:
The Opposite of Distraction is Traction.
Gaining traction with your leadership tasks
We can apply this concept to daily tasks like supervision meetings, strategic thinking, and building relationships with our board of directors.
Consider your responsibility for regular 1-1 supervision meetings with your staff. If you had traction, you would do this regularly and be up to date on them all.
But when you are distracted, they linger on your to-do list or, as one of my clients said, they become a sticky note that gets moved from week to week in her agenda.
I'm not talking about the annual strategic meeting where you put things into some formal document. Instead, I mean thinking strategically about how you're going to approach current challenges where you create a plan to deal with that difficult employee, the budget cuts that are looming or what to do with staff turnover in one particular program. These challenges get lodged in the back of your head and keep you up at night.
If you have traction on this, you will have regular time in your calendar to think. But being distracted means it never happens intentionally. Instead, you just pray something good will come to you in the shower!
Effective leaders work closely with their board of directors, including attending meetings, providing regular reports, and seeking input on key decisions. But I know a lot of leaders who mean to develop stronger relationships with their boards but run out of time, are distracted, and continually push it down on the to-do list.
They need more traction on the relationship-building piece but only realize this when sometimes, it's almost too late, and the board is ready to implode!
You must identify what thoughts, beliefs and emotions are distracting you
I know you're short on time, and the list of to-dos is long.
⭐️ But the reason you aren't getting these things done is deeper than that.
Here's what might be going on for you
Since, as Eyal says, you can't call it distraction unless you know what you're being distracted from, let's look at what distracts you from the above list.
I believe it's the emotional connection to that task.
At that one-to-one supervision, you know you need to address how they regularly come to work late, and you don't want to do that.
Get clear on what the emotional connection is
If you struggle to get things done, it's time to look at what is distracting you. The emotional connection to a task may be what's holding you back.
Work through the Inner Guidance Cycle to identify what is going on
How do you deal with emotional distractions?
You work through The Inner Guidance Cycle!
You PAUSE and do self-reflective exercises.
You take time to PONDER, exploring those thoughts and beliefs and the connection they have to what's on your to-do list.
When you ask yourself what am I being distracted from, go deeper than the task you see at the surface level. Ask yourself:
When you explore these thoughts, feelings, emotions and triggers, you'll figure out why you've been avoiding them. That's PIVOTing your perspective.
That shift in thinking helps you to take the action that moves and allows you to gain traction and do what you know you should do, aka PROCEEDing.
Unpacking thoughts, emotions, and beliefs in action
Listen to this podcast if you want to hear a beautiful example of this in real life. Brene Brown is being walked through the Immunity to Change Model by Lisa Leahy.
In the episode, Brene discovers her blind spots and hidden biases that she wasn't aware of until she went deeper.
Immunity to Change Podcast, Part 1 of 2
Immunity to Change, Podcast Part 2 of 2
Do the inner work to become more productive
It is absolutely true that we all have too much to do and will never get it all done. We must learn time management strategies and be excellent at prioritizing. ⭐️ But to go along with that, we also need to learn to manage what's happening in our heads.
PAUSE to do the inner work.
PONDER and explore what's going on inside your head
When you do, you'll find shifts in your perspective, allowing you to PIVOT
Then you can PROCEED with courage doing what you know you need to do most.
Learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle here.
Do you like to read? The ladies whom I recently finished a six-week Mastering Confidence book club with were a group of leaders who, readers or not, wanted increased confidence. They read the book and worked through additional exercises to build their confidence over the weeks.
At the end of the final session, I asked them to come up with three summary points of what they had learned. Here is what they came up with.
How to master your confidence in 3 steps:
Step # 1 - AWARENESS
Step one is to become aware that you need to build confidence in a particular area of your leadership.
Without awareness, you keep settling, putting up with and feeling uncomfortable. Increased awareness of what area you need to grow confidence in starts you on the journey.
Answering those questions gives you increased awareness.
Step # 2 - Pause and Ponder
The second step to increasing your confidence is to pause and become self-reflective because confidence is not about what other people think you can do. It's what you believe you are capable of.
You need to examine your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, values, and perspectives to shift your confidence. Therefore, the second step to building confidence is to change what you're thinking and experiencing inside you so that your behaviours change outside of you.
One of the reasons the book club members identified pausing as a critical step is that it starts the process of examining your thoughts. It's the first step of the Inner Guidance Cycle, which I teach in the book.
What do I believe about my capacity, competence and confidence levels?
Answering these questions will help you feel more competent, capable and lead with confidence.
Step # 3 - Build your support team
The ladies in the Mastering Confidence Book Club quickly realized how similar their challenges, stories and solutions were.
The final point that the Mastering Confidence book club members identified is that you need to create a support network. You are not the only one who has struggled or is struggling with your leadership. Leaning into others on the journey or who are a few steps ahead of where you are can be incredibly helpful in navigating the journey.
When you connect with others, you can share a human experience with many striking similarities and learn from each other.
When you create your support team, you will find confidence-building becomes easier.
BONUS Step - Teach what you learn
Watching these leaders grow over six weeks is a powerful experience for me.
I experienced a lack of confidence in my leadership multiple times in my career. As I learned and grew, I taught others. First, it was my team leads and my program managers. Now my students and coaching clients. As I teach confidence, I learn more about it, become more confident in new areas and expand my comfort zone.
Mastering Confidence is about the journey to mastery. Masters know they are never really masters. As I said in the book:
Mastering your confidence is a transformational journey. You will realize that, in many ways, there is no endpoint to your trip. You won't "get confidence" one day and be done.
Instead, you will continually strive to find this place.
Then, just when you think you have, you will find that something happens, and you lose balance, feeling unsure again. As you go along, you'll discover an inner process, the Inner Guidance Cycle, to keep you growing as you move forward and bouncing back each time you get knocked down.
Inside the book, you get access to a free course. You can join it now!
Join the free Mastering Confidence Course.
What makes a world of difference is when you turn around and teach what you know. Teaching others helps you grow even more, and your confidence builds exponentially.
When you find the answers to those questions, not only will you be helping someone else build their confidence, but you'll also be mastering yours!
📙 If you want additional help that, grab Mastering Confidence.
👭👫 If you'd like to build confidence in your leadership team and would like to do a six-week book club with your team, message me, and I will make the arrangements. It might be good to do before summer hits, and it might also be a great Summer experience for your team.
✏️ ☕️ If you want to join The Training Library and join us for the monthly Coffee at the Library calls, you can join here and find more details about the Zoom calls here.
You've got this!
Confidence for you and your team is yours!!! Become aware it's time, and then do work to make it happen!
p.s. When you grab Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system, you get access to a free online course!
Nonprofit work can be incredibly fulfilling and impactful, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming, and lead to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Sadly burnout is far too common in the nonprofit sector, where overwork and lack of resources are common challenges.
The problem is many of us continue to work through burnout, either not recognizing it or not feeling we can take a step back to deal with it. That's not ok for you, your team, your clients, or your family, and it's certainly not ok for the nonprofit sector!
It's important to note that burnout is a gradual process and doesn't generally happen overnight. It's essential to pay attention to warning signs and take action before you hit burnout. Robert Cole, an American psychologist, wrote The Call of Service, which discusses the path to burnout.
The first step to prevent burnout is to increase your awareness of what it is and recognize the warning signs of when you might be headed there.
According to Cole, we move from weariness to cynicism. Next comes despair and, following that, bitterness. We then slip into depression before we hit burnout.
I remember the first time I was on antidepressants. It was right before I almost quit my job. I'd hit burnout and had trouble even remembering what I'd once loved about the work. I'd become so embroiled in conflict, toxicity and negativity.
Looking back, I now see that the weariness, cynicism, despair and bitterness were all there before that. I just tuned them out, assumed black humour was part of the job, and every leader is exhausted. I didn't know that those were not the mark of strong leadership. Instead, they were signposts along the way to burnout.
Look at the following stages on Cole's pathway to burnout. Do any of these sound a bit too familiar to your daily experience?
If so, stop and acknowledge that. Just pause and be aware that while this may seem "normal" in our sector, that doesn't make it "right." It's not ok, either. There is another way. It begins with choosing a different path.
I want to insert the original version of the serenity prayer here.
Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.
Notice that the prayer asked for courage first. And that courage was for things that MUST be changed, not things that simply can be changed. I believe we MUST change how we experience leadership in the nonprofit sector. But there is another way, and it will take courage from you, me, and a few other brave souls to start the tides of that change.
When I was aware I was burning out, I went to the doctor, who prescribed antidepressants. That isn't the path for everyone, and I don't know if I'd take that path again now. But it was the best I could do at the time.
I also did several things that boosted my confidence (You can find 4 of those confidence boosters here). The confidence boost helped me return to leadership with my head held high and ready to reengage intentionally and with passion.
It started with awareness, then took courage.
If you are on the path to burnout and want to rekindle your passion for nonprofit work, you might be interested in the 5-day challenge I created to help you rediscover your passion and purpose in your work.
Join the 5-Day Challenge: Conquer your love-hate relationship with your job.
March 20 - 24th
Are you tired of feeling stuck in a job that no longer excites you? Join the upcoming 5-day challenge and shift your mindset to reignite your passion for your nonprofit leadership role.
It's time to shift your mindset and reignite your passion for your job.
How it works:
When you sign up, you'll be invited to join each day to gradually make shifts that will rekindle your passion for your job.
If you've written down your nonprofit leadership goals, congratulations. Many never even get to that point. If you are one of the leaders determined to grow this year, you've also devised a plan to accomplish those goals. Now what? Now, you need to take action, and you need to keep taking action throughout the year!
But rather than steadily moving towards your goal, if you aren't careful, you'll join the 80% of people who abandon their goals by February.
What, then, is the trick to sticking to your goals? Instead of floundering, forgetting and failing - you successfully achieve your goals by reviewing them regularly.
Build a systematic review process
Positive thinking, believing you can achieve your goal, is the first step. However, positive thinking alone does not equal success. You actually have to do something!
Habitually reviewing where you are on your journey as you progress toward your goal will make you more successful. Being determined, even though adversity will always hit, is how you achieve your goals and become a strong leader.
Review your strategy for achieving your goals
The actions you take on the journey to achieve your goals make a difference. However, it's consistently taking action that is the hard part. In truth, many of the steps you need to take to achieve your goals won't be easy or enjoyable. That is precisely why many people don't achieve their goals. They stop when it gets tough or they come up against a barrier.
Remember that adversity strengthens you
Here is the thing, though, you NEED those roadblocks! The difficult parts are the essential parts. By going through the struggle, we learn, grow and become better versions of ourselves. It is during the challenges that we become better leaders. Therefore, getting through the trying segments of the journey is necessary for reaching the goal.
The truth is for you to get to the next step:
You need to learn something
You must increase skills in some area
You are required to come to a new awareness
This more difficult part of goal attainment is the portion that many of us resist but, sadly, it is also the part that will keep you stuck and unhappy.
Your plan keeps you moving
To keep moving forward when challenges hit, you must have a plan that includes
Your plan might incorporate coursework
You must keep reviewing your plan
Once your strategy is in place, you must regularly review that plan. That way, when you hit a roadblock, feel overwhelmed or want to quit, you can reconnect to your goal and strategies to get over the hump. In addition, reviewing your plan will remind you of what you can do if you feel overwhelmed, confused, apprehensive or stuck.
Make the review time effective
Create a habit of reviewing your goals to make the review time effective. The following steps give you a process for the weekly review of your goals and your strategic plan to achieve those goals:
The 10-minute framework for your weekly review
Each week, set aside 10 to 30 minutes to review your goals and the plan you have for achieving them. During this time, create the habit of doing the following:
1. Write out your goals
Don't just read them over. Rewrite them. Writing your goals down creates new pathways in your mind that activate the desire to achieve your goals. It keeps them alive and real.
2. Visualize achieving your goals
Close your eyes and imagine what it will be like when you reach your goal. Connect emotionally and viscerally to it. Feel the excitement, pride, and sense of accomplishment. Let your tummy get jumbly, and your heart swell and your eyes water.
3. Identify the overarching steps needed to achieve your goals
Remind yourself of the steps you identified in your strategic plan that you need to take to achieve your goal.
4. Visualize yourself moving through the steps
Close your eyes and see yourself navigating the steps you need to achieve goal attainment. As you do, notice challenges that may pop up and envision yourself overcoming them. Then, as you see yourself moving towards your goal, notice what it takes for you to progress through the difficult times. It may be your determination, increased patience or ongoing persistence.
5. Identify the next step you need to take
As you review your plan each week, identify what you need to work on to keep moving towards your goals.
Next, write that action step down.
Then, schedule it in your day timer and commit to doing it.
The ongoing review will help you achieve your goals!
To be a better version of yourself this year and, thus, a better leader, you need to set goals. Then, you must have a strategy and a plan for how you will achieve those goals. But from there, the next crucial step is regularly reviewing your goals and plans. Creating the habit of regularly reviewing your goals will help you be the best leader you can be.
If you want to feel more competent, capable and sure of yourself in your leadership, you need to increase your self-confidence by learning to manage your thoughts.
To bounce back time and time again when the $#!t hits the fan 😩 you need a system that will help you regain your whirling thoughts and, thus, your confidence when you falter. We've been covering that system the last few weeks as you've been learning about pausing, pondering, pivoting and proceeding.
Leaders who can navigate the busy, stressful and difficult times AND come out on top rely on something inside of them. Their inner wisdom 🦉provides strength, insight, and stamina, not just to survive but to thrive.
Successful and confident leaders access that inner wisdom
by consciously tuning in to it.
The problem is we aren't taught this stuff
Unfortunately, many of us are too busy or have never learned how to tune into our inner wisdom. As new leaders, we learned about scheduling shifts, what forms need filling out and when and how to do cover off.
We were not taught what to do when we were uncomfortable addressing something going wrong or how to deal with our emotions during a team meeting when everyone seemed to hate us. And many of us assumed it was something wrong with us. We weren't cut out for leadership, were doing something wrong or alternately blamed it on the crappy staff we had.
❌ None of that was probably true, not completely.
We need to learn how to access our inner wisdom
What may be more accurate ✅ is that we have yet to learn how to communicate effectively as a leader, what to do with the voices in our head that doubt we can handle it or what to do with the anger when a comment at a staff meeting triggers us.
To help us learn that, we need a system to allow us to access our inner wisdom.
☑️ When you are about to enter a tough conversation and want to maintain your composure, your thoughts will help you do that.
☑️ When you struggle to get your work done and feel pulled in many directions, your inner wisdom will help you focus on what matters most when it matters most.
☑️ So you can convince yourself it's ok to walk away from work and find balance with your life.
If you want to learn a system to help you tune into your inner wisdom, something you can use anytime and anywhere, then keep reading 👇🏻
It's time to find your internal compass
Leaders that learn to tune in and manage their thoughts and emotions develop courage, strength and skills to leave effectively and impactfully by accessing their inner wisdom or The Inner Guidance System.
Your Inner Guidance System is your internal navigational structure. Think of your Inner Guidance System as your personal GPS or as a compass 🧭
Know Your Leadership Destination
But where are you going? Leadership is about taking people someplace. It is about moving your organization from here to there. That is your vision or destination. The destination could be something like:
Your destination is about who you are becoming
More than organizational goals, your direction is about becoming the type of leader you want to be.
The difference when you use your Inner Guidance System
👎🏻 Without tuning in, accessing your inner wisdom and using that internal compass to guide you, sadly, you'll be stuck on completing your to-do list, attending meetings and returning emails instead of being your best self while doing all those things.
👍🏻 But when you tune in and access your inner wisdom, using that internal compass to guide you, you'll be your best self 🙌🏻 when you complete your to-do list, attend meetings and return emails.
Follow the steps of your INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE
To access your Inner Guidance SYSTEM, follow the steps of the Inner Guidance CYCLE. The four steps, when repeated again and again, help you to make use of your internal wisdom. The steps of the INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE are as follows:
When you do the steps repeatedly, they provide insights that you need to move in the direction you want.
The Inner Guidance Cycle at work:
To begin getting acquainted with your wise inner self, PAUSE and start paying attention to what is happening inside you.
Consider or PONDER what thoughts and feelings you have about people, challenges or outcomes you experience.
You'll also notice that those thoughts and feelings may be accompanied by certain sensations in your body, for example:
Your thoughts, feelings and sensations are signs of your Inner Guidance System at work. They are clues🕵️ to what is going on and how to regain your composure and become your best self.
Accessing the wisdom inside - An example
By tuning into what's happening, you can shift how your thoughts or perspectives about the situation, how you handle it and how you feel about how you handle it.
👉 For example, perhaps you have a tough conversation coming up.
When you paused and tuned in (pondered), you may have noticed:
But that isn't the end of The Inner Guidance Cycle
The next step is the PIVOT step.
This step is about shifting your perspective. You shift your perspective by getting curious and asking yourself questions. You may ask yourself questions like:
The answers you come up with could be something like:
This new insight helps you move forward or PROCEED
Accessing your inner wisdom via The Inner Guidance Cycle will help you navigate your to-do list and relationships while you manage your emotions and be your best self. To learn more about each step in The Inner Guidance Cycle, dive deeper with this article.
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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.