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.
From Guilty to Empowered: Overcoming the Guilt of Taking a Sick Day in Nonprofit Leadership
Last week, I came down with a nasty case of the Norovirus and yet...
How can I take time off?
My first thought was: I've just got to get through this, and then I can get to work.
My second thought was: I'll just pretend I'm OK. I won't let anyone know I'm sick.
My third thought was: Did you just think that?
Is that the kind of person I want to be when my body clearly tells me I should not be at my computer? I will pretend I'm OK and not let on that I'm about ready to fall over. Seriously? I can barely walk from room to room, and I can't stay awake for more than an hour, and I'm going to pretend I'm OK?
That realization quickly urged me to clear my day's schedule and let myself be sick! Sometimes it's "easy" to decide that. However, at other times, taking time off because you are sick isn't always such a clear choice.
👉 As leaders, we can't always take a sick day when were are not feeling our best. Sometimes you must work with a headache. Sadly, you can't always stay home when your menstrual cramps are killing you. And if we all took time off when we had the sniffles, work would never get done.
So how do you know when it's OK to take time off and when it's not?
1️⃣ First, you need to pause, stop and perhaps sit down.
2️⃣ Then with intention, ponder your dilemma. You won't make your best decision with unconscious thoughts whirling in your head.
Let's go through some considerations, and I'll provide you with questions you can mull over to help you make a decision you'll feel better about.
🤔 What kind of workplace culture are you creating?
The obvious question is, are you contagious? But we all know that even that won't stop many of us from working. Instead, we'll rationalize it to either I'm working at home, I'll keep my distance, or they've probably already been infected.
But what if you took that question a step further?
Does that change your perspective a wee bit?
What's the impact of your taking time off?
Leaders carry different responsibilities that often have a trickle-down or ripple-up effect. Your work, or lack of it, can impact others. And by work, I don't simply mean returning emails and attending meetings. But more so, it's your decision-making skills, problem-solving abilities, accountability responsibilities and resource delegation roles.
By taking sick time off, you may prevent things from happening, create a bottleneck or further complicate issues. Your absence could mean missed deadlines, loss of funding or risk of failing to meet contractual obligations.
All that is not to make you feel guilty. You already know this. That's why I say it. Worrying about this in the background only creates guilt and anxiety and may cause you to work when you really shouldn't.
So what to do? Again, I'll encourage you to pause. Stop and sit down without your laptop and phone for a few minutes, then ponder. Consider the following questions.
❓ Would my absence cause significant disruption to my team or clients?
❓ Have I ensured my team has the resources and support they need to continue working effectively in my absence, such as clear instructions, updated contact lists, and access to necessary technology?
❓Do I have any important deadlines or projects that could be impacted by taking a day off, and if so, have I made arrangements to mitigate any potential setbacks?
❓ Would my absence create excess workload, pressure or morale issues for my team or organization?
❓ What needs to be reorganized?
You're entitled to sick leave. Taking time off when unwell is not something to feel guilty about. The more intention you put into creating a plan for your absence, the easier it will be to let go and take care of yourself.
🤔 Are you risking burning out if you don't take care of yourself?
As a nonprofit leader, your work is incredibly important, and you're likely passionate about the cause you're working to advance. However, there are times when it's important to take a step back and prioritize your own well-being before it's too late!
What makes it so hard to make a choice to look after me?
If you are feeling unwell and you think taking a day off would help you recover more quickly, it may be worth taking a sick day. Taking care of yourself and getting the rest you need can help prevent your illness from worsening and help you feel better faster.
🤔 What about your family?
When illness hits, it often hits an entire household. So while you need to consider your work responsibilities, you must also consider what's happening at home. Gallup's research has found that members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work. That means when their families need them, they are passionate about being there for their families. You are a better leader when you do.
Ideas for using the questions:
While you probably aren't going to review this entire list every time you get sick, it is a place to come back to on occasion to ensure you are being your best self and, thus, the most positively impactful leader you can be.
As a nonprofit leader, your work is important, but so is your health and well-being. By using this framework to help you decide when to take a sick day and keep these reminders in mind, you'll be better equipped to care for yourself and continue making a difference in the world.
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.
If you are like most leaders, you spend a lot of time running. We go from one meeting to the next with barely any breaks! As a result, we never have time to go to the bathroom, eat our lunch or let everything catch up with us.
The problem is that it is hard to do the work of great leadership when
you don't have time to PAUSE, slow down and tune in.
Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. However, many resist pausing, stopping, or taking a break despite being overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed.
Most of us say it's because we don't have time to take a break. Yet, pausing is essential to developing confidence and becoming a stronger leader. You can't wait for time to pause. You need to make time for it!
Learn to access your Inner Guidance System
In this series of blogs, I'm introducing you to the steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle, which gives you access to your Inner Guidance System. Your Inner Guidance System is your inner wisdom. If you've been around for a while, you've heard me talk about the steps often, but it might be a good time for a review.
There are four steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle. They are
The first step: PAUSE
By taking the first step, PAUSE, you'll start to awaken your Inner Guidance System. It's that wise part of you that helps you to get a hold of your thoughts and then move forward with a conscious response.
From reacting to responding
Most of us are so stressed that we react to whatever shows up. However, because of our stressed state, we can't think clearly. As a result, we don't take time to choose how we want to respond, engage or the kind of leader we want to be at this moment.
Pausing is stopping, pulling back or taking a break. When we PAUSE, our brain and body begin to relax, allowing us to get out of stress mode and think more clearly. Being more relaxed will enable us to respond and make conscious choices instead of reacting to every fire that pops up.
Pausing is part of journeys
Think for a moment about a road trip. Often when you are travelling, you take breaks. You pull over to the side of the road and stop. That might be a roadside turnout so that you can stretch. You might pause on your trip to stop for fuel. The point is that you can only way to refuel, stretch, or go to the bathroom if you stop.
Leaders need pauses too
In leadership, when we pause, the pause allows us to become mindful and present to what is happening. Rather than being present, most of us have a ton of racing thoughts whirling about in our heads. Those racing thoughts are usually about a future worry or passed incident that we are still stewing about.
Pausing settles your racing thoughts
When you pause, you are not in the future or the past but in the present moment. At this moment, you will find access to your Inner Guidance System. When you mindfully tune in to those thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you will find the inner wisdom that helps to guide you forward.
You won't always remember to pause when you need to
Learning to make pauses a regular part of your routine takes time. Eventually, you may get to the point where there is a trigger that reminds you to pause. That trigger could be when you're feeling:
Those might be signals to go for a little walk, take a deep breath or spend some time trying to figure out why you are so agitated. But often, we ignore those triggers. We push them aside because we have too much work to do. So, for now, don't wait for the trigger. Instead, schedule the time in to pause.
You'll need to prompt yourself to take pauses
You need to schedule your pauses in. Creating breaks in your schedule will help you to build a habit of pausing. So that you get used to responding to the triggers, it is important to start with establishing a routine of stopping and pausing. Remember, it's this first step of pausing that is going to allow you to awaken your Inner Guidance System.
Plan to make these kinds of pauses
Look through your day and decide how you can add these types of pauses:
??♀️BODY BREAK - Having a physical break to go to the bathroom, for eating and move your body
? SOUL BREAK - A mindful moment to take a few breaths, meditate or sit in peace
? MIND BREAK - Time for self-reflection. Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. Self-reflection is the time for leaders to ask themselves:
Scheduling your pauses in
It's time to schedule those breaks in. I recommend adding triggers to help you remember to do them, even when busy.
? Block time off in your schedule or day-timer. If you think you'll remember to do it, guess what? You won't. Schedule it in.
?️ Set reminders to notify, encourage and motivate you.
Reminders about WHY you must schedule the pauses in
? Because you will only do it regularly if you schedule it.
? Because even though you mean to, you'll get busy and forget
? Because it takes longer than you think to establish a habit
? Because it tells those around you that you value balance
Awaken your Inner Guidance System: Step # 1 - Pause
Start accessing your inner wisdom and allowing it to guide you by pausing. By awakening your Inner Guidance System, you will be learning to get control of your thoughts and feelings. That internal control will help you become confident in your leadership abilities, bounce back when adversity hits and be your best self. Begin to awaken that Inner Guidance System by scheduling pauses throughout your day.
P.S. If you are ready to dive into all four steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle and use it to boost your confidence, grab Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system
Do you wonder how to be the best leader you can be? One who makes a difference, has a great team and finds some balance in life?
Unfortunately, it's not the easiest thing to do. One of the reasons we struggle is that we don't see a lot of other women doing it, so part of us doesn't believe it's even possible. We need more women mentors. I keep looking for them and sharing them with you so we both have more inspiration.
Let me introduce you to Yvette Vargas.
I was listening to an interview with Yvette, Head of Development at Citizen's Bank in the states. Yvette was part of a Women in Leadership conversation series for LHH, an organization that focuses on recruitment, assessments, coaching, and career transitions.
I found Yvette's story, persistence and intentional personal and professional growth as a woman leader inspiring. So many of the suggestions she made for women in leadership had me thinking of the four fundamentals I teach leaders.
Let's dive into them together.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
Lead with Authenticity - Be yourself
On Citizen's Bank website, Yvette is quoted as saying, "I used to have separate selves — mother to my children, wife to my husband, caretaker to my parents, employee and friend. I thought that compartmentalizing my 'different selves' would help me manage each relationship better," she said. However, it's only by working to integrate her selves — and finding a job that allows her to bring every aspect of herself to work — that she's found true meaning in her career.
This quote speaks to the authentic nature that we need to lead with. We are not separate people in different aspects of our lives. We are one person doing various things. The more authentic you are, the more confident and comfortable you will feel, and you'll make a more considerable contribution.
To help you lead your best, I encourage you to identify your strengths, gifts, and personality traits. Then, do the work to figure out who you are and authentically be who you are daily.
Continue to grow yourself personally and professionally - Develop yourself
Intentionally developing yourself is critical to becoming the leader you want to be. Yvette spoke in the interview about being very intentional about this. She indicated you need to develop your growth plant and intentionally spend time working on yourself.
"The amount of time you spend on something is a manifestation of what you value."
If you value your growth and development, you'll put time into growing and developing yourself.
Be a balanced leader - Take care of yourself
4️⃣As I listened to Yvette, I could tell she has drive. That's different than being driven. When the work drives you, it becomes a problem. When you drive the work, you do that with intentionality. You also need the energy to do that! That means you need to take care of yourself.
But Yvette wasn't always that way. She tells the story of needing to shift from being driven by her career to intentionally creating her life and career simultaneously—that required intentionality and self-care.
Taking care of yourself it's not something you do just outside of work. It is something you do all day long. Start by adding teach micro-moments of wellness into your workday.
Be a leader, teacher, mentor and coach - Teach others to do the same
I love Yvette's story of supporting other women to grow and pulling them up as you advance. She learned this early on from her mother and sisters. She's been clear about continuing to do it throughout her career. She sees a large part of her role is developing others.
When we teach others to be themselves, develop themselves and take care of themselves, we do this through mentoring, guidance, coaching and leadership. Our job as a leader is not always correct and fix employees. Our job as leaders is to help our employees reach their full potential.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
What strategy, suggestion, or idea will you begin with today? Hit reply and tell me where you are starting and what you are inspired to awaken in yourself after listening to Yvettes' story.
As you go about your day as a nonprofit leader, something may happen, and you may feel your body tighten. For example, your stomach knots up, your chest feels heavy, or your throat tightens or feels dry. Perhaps you overreact or shut down. This physical response may be a sign you may have just got triggered.
We often get triggered when something threatens our values. This response results when we feel something important to us is at risk.
Here's how I got triggered this weekend...
Let me give you an example. I value order. I like things to be in their place, and I like to have things tidy. However, this weekend I was triggered multiple times by mud on the floor and the result from when someone in my house who didn't think it was a problem not to clean their feet before they came in. (Can you guess who?)
We're in the middle of backyard renovations. Unfortunately, with this weekend's rain, my backyard was a mud hole. Each time my husband, the dog, or I came in, a pile of mud and dirt came with us. Because a sense of order is important to me, I would take my shoes off outside, ensure the dog's feet were clean before he came in and immediately sweep up any chunks of mud.
This is what triggered me...
On the other hand, my husband sees the mess as part of the process, so the mess doesn't bother him. So it's not a problem for him to walk around barefoot outside and come into the house. He values freedom, ease and relaxation. He likes to be barefoot, and walking around in the grass and mud doesn't bother him. The house will get cleaned eventually, so what's the big deal?
Which camp are you in?
This is how knowing my trigger helped me
Knowing that I'm triggered by disarray helps me manage my emotions and be somewhat humourous about my incessant need to clean. Aware that the tightness in my chest is building, I can manage my frustration with my husband by managing my self-talk, taking some deep breaths or distracting myself with something I enjoy.
During a coaching call the other day, my client Jenessa became aware that when others aren't accountable for their actions or in-actions, or their responsibilities etc., she is triggered. Jenessa feels her chest tighten, purses her lips, and sometimes clenches her hands. She laughed at the memory of pounding out a response to a chat message when she was annoyed with someone shirking their responsibility.
Does either of these feel familiar to you?
This is why identifying your triggers is important
Identifying triggers is part of working with and understanding our values to help us be more emotionally intelligent and confident in our abilities. When you know what's important to you and what it feels like when that thing (i.e. order, accountability) is being threatened, it's easier to choose a response than react in a way you may regret later.
Below you'll find steps to help you find the clarity around your value to help you be more intentional instead of reactionary.
5 steps to use your VALUES to be more emotionally intelligent
Here is the process to help you find the clarity around your value to help you be more intentional instead of reactionary.
1 - Identify your values
2- Get an understanding of what your values mean to you
3 - Determine how your values show up in your life
4 - Pinpoint what's going on when you are aligned with your values or not
5- Get clear on what triggers show up when things in your life aren't in line with your values
This deeper understanding of your values helps you to manage your emotions, navigate tough conversations and focus on what matters most when it matters most!
One more example...
If you are trying to wind down a conversation at a meeting, you may value timeliness or efficiency. Your annoyance with those who are dragging the conversation out is triggering that value.
That's why you are:
Conversely, your peer may be
See how that all works together?
Need some help?
This month inside my membership, I added a worksheet to the Values Verification course, helping members identify their triggers. If this is part of what you need, or the five steps listed above, check out the course here and if you think it would be helpful, join the membership here.
When you join The Training Library membership, you'll become confident in your leadership abilities, learn to bounce back when adversity hits, discover how to be your best self and find a place to belong!
Becoming emotionally intelligent and confident in our leadership abilities takes time and requires skill development and increased awareness of what makes us tick! To do this, take responsibility for where you are and where you are going by creating your own personal and professional development plan. Intentional development is your path to success in both your leadership and life.
Read this next:
The 8 most overlooked definitions in leadership and why they matter
I bet there are times you wish you could be involved in an engaging leadership experience? Not a one-off course, webinar or conference session, but an experience, over time, that deepens your learning!
In 2012 I did that. For 10 months, about 20 other leaders from around the world and I learned together, online and in person. Four times we met for a week at a time in California. Between those sessions, we met online and had partner projects that required us to meet in person with our partners. It was an incredible experience. It was also one of the most transformative things I've ever done.
Not everyone can do something like that, but we can create learning experiences for our teams. Not training per se, but an experience where you learn, grow and develop over time.
I am blessed to be working with a large group of nonprofit leaders for nine months to help them become inspiring leaders. Inspiring leaders motivate and engage their teams, so they enjoy their jobs and do meaningful work together.
One of the first things I covered with the participants of the Inspiring Leadership group was the four fundamentals of leadership. They are the base for the future of the work we do together.
Even though you may not be involved in a group program, you can benefit from these fundamentals and use them over the next several months of your leadership journey. I'll give you a brief overview and share some suggestions that you can do to work on yourself! Then you can create your strategy and plan for growth.
The 4 fundamentals of leaders
As teenagers, we spent a lot of time figuring out our identity, answering the question, who am I? But as we mature, we have spent more time conforming to what's expected of us than who we are and are more focused on; how do I fit in? As such, we've often lost touch with who we are.
The first thing I do with individuals or teams is help them identify their strengths, values and morals. Understanding what makes you tick, thrive, and the triggers that make you react is fundamental to inspiring, motivating and engaging others.
Suggestion: Take time to consider:
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Ongoing personal and professional development is critical. For example, when I was in the ten-month leadership program, we had a list of required reading, each had a coach, and we learned A LOT about leadership and ourselves. At the end of the course, I committed to continue learning to be a better speaker and joined Toastmasters. I'm still involved!
Suggestion: Create your learning plan
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is critical for effective leadership.
Suggestion: Commit to wellness
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Teach others to do the same
If you want the best for and out of the people you work with, they need to be themselves, develop themselves and take care of themselves. Teach, role model and mentor these habits to them.
Suggestion: Coach your people
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Starting the journey of mastering these fundamentals is critical for you to BECOME confident in your abilities, BOUNCE BACK when adversity hits and BE your best self!
Some days are hard
Sometimes many days in a row are hard.
Just a few days ago, my husband and I attended the funeral of a colleague of his and a father of three daughters, two of which are friends with our girls. That's the second of my one daughter's school friends that have lost their fathers in the last month.
Yesterday I learned that a colleague of mine lost her adult son, the father of my colleague's grandchildren.
On a coaching call this week, I spoke with a client who had just lost their father-in-law and, within a day, found out that their mother may only have a few days left to live.
On social media and in conversations, I listen to stories of the ongoing war and the rising costs of everything. I hear references to so many "isms," inequities, injustices and downright stupidity.
This week there was mass destruction in a storm that ravished eastern Canada and many deaths.
And there was another school shooting this week.
My heart aches—the tears flow. I wonder why. I sob
What do I say to you this week? How do I create hope and optimism for you? What words can I offer that can make any difference? I don't know the answer to that.
What I can tell you is how I make my way through it. If what I do can offer you any hope, I offer it to you also.
One fundamental belief I live by is that I can't change anything other than myself.
I wish I could impact everyone, but I can't touch everyone in the world. But I believe that the way I positively impact others through any connection I have can have a ripple across the globe.
I remind myself my purpose here on earth is to bring the light.
So after reading the latest news this morning and feeling my heart drop once again, I had a choice to make. I could go down the social media rabbit hole and get angry, scared and depressed, or move through the pain and shift my energy.
So I played Let the Light In and, through my tears, reminded myself that I must do that.
What's interesting, though, is that letting the light in with you or for myself is not just shifting our focus to the positive. Instead, before we can move to the light, the positive or the joy, we must stay in the dark for just a little bit longer. We need to stay where we are and experience this hurt, pain and sorrow before we can let it go.
I was coaching a client this week, and through her tears, we talked about how lonely Leadership can be. When coaching another client, we talked about the anger and frustration with the organization she works with. In a third coaching conversation, we stayed with my client's irritation long enough to name it and identify the trigger.
We stayed in the dark, the yucky and uncomfortableness, each time, rather than hop over it.
I learned a long time ago that numbing out pain, hurt and darkness does not work. Numbing out the "bad" emotions also numbs joy, contentment, inner peace, and happiness. We need to experience the full range of our feelings to experience the full range of our emotions. Otherwise, we feel more flatlined, which does not feel good either.
To let my light in and let my light shine and help you do the same, I must crumble to my knees in moments like this and fall apart. I must pray through my tears as I feel my heart breaking wide open. It is only when I experience those cracks that I can then allow the light to shine in
When I can feel the whole range of emotions, what hurts like hell, can I then experience what feels so good!
Last week I went for a walk and crossed paths with a young boy walking home from school. We had a little chat. The conversation was nothing crazy, nothing miraculous. We talked about his day at school, where we lived, and who we knew in common. Yet, when I walked away from that moment, I realized I felt immense joy. I'm sure my heart was glowing. Such a simple, ordinary, inconsequential encounter had such a profound impact.
But, here's the thing, I can't feel that joy without feeling today's deep sorrow and pain.
I can't feel the softness of my granddaughter leaning into me for a hug and telling me she loves me, and stay there just a little longer, soaking in love, contentment and pure bliss, if I hadn't cried in sorrow earlier in the day.
I can experience the awe of an eagle soaring over our family picnic for several moments, lost in his freedom, ease and grace, and feel that wash over my body, calming me and bringing me peace. I can feel that because I also let tears fall when I read another news story of loss, devastation and hate feeling just as profoundly in that moment, at the bottom of the arc.
If you're interested in my advice about dealing with all that is "wrong" with the world, it is this: Feel the full range of your emotions.
Let yourself experience whatever you're experiencing.
Life and leadership are about ups and downs. There's no way around that. If you don't want to get stuck in the mundane, the rat race, the flatline of feelings ebb and flow with everything.
Here are 4 resources to help you
LeAnne Rimes - Chant Album
This is my go-to album when I need to feel — Feel joy, sorrow or just feel whatever I can not name.
Atlas of the Heart - Brene Brown
A reference book for 87 emotions
I come back to it repeatedly to understand, feel, and make a bit more sense of what I am feeling.
Unlocking Us Podcast Episode Atlas of the Heart, Audience Q&A, Part 1 of 2 with Brené Brown, Ashley Brown Ruiz, & Barrett Guillen
At minute 20, they answer a listener's question on compassion fatigue and secondary trauma
It's easy to think that we have compassion and empathy for the world around us, but we are often creating secondary trauma in ourselves, which is not helpful either.
Brene's answer to this question helped me understand why I felt so incredibly distraught after the funeral I attended on Saturday. I had gone into secondary trauma, imagining what would happen if my husband died and how our kids and I would cope. I was reliving the experience, having climbed over the metaphorical fence as Brene talks about.
Note, Brene references the Sandy Hook shooting :-(
Permission to Feel - Marc Brackett
While the subtitle is Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive, the book is full of learning for adults. Mark provides tools to help develop your emotional intelligence, including his RULER framework and Mood Meter. I use these with clients frequently.
I won't tell you that it's easy, but this is the only way I know how.
Feel free to show your other strategies with me so that we may all learn together how to navigate this world we live in.
I am sending you much love, hugs and light today!
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!
As I walked into my office, my administrative support, Wendy, asked me a question. I turned and glared at her. Then, as I turned back and kept on walking, I answered Wendy through my teeth! I certainly didn't have the patience for her BS right now.
But....why didn't I have the patience for Wendy at this moment?
Was it because she had done something wrong?
** Possibly, but the way I handled it was all on me.
Ok, let me start by saying I do not like that word at all! If you can give me another word that we all know and understand to describe what I mean, please message me and tell me a better word. It's not merely being rude or being cranky it's more than that. And we've all been there.
I've had my fair share of staff challenges, and I bet you have too. We have staff that don't get along, stir the pot on the team, mess up with clients, neglect their paperwork, or in general, are somewhat incompetent at their job. And we need to address those issues.
How are you addressing the issues?
Instead, you probably want them to say something like, "That was a tough conversation, but I feel like she's supporting me and wants to help me out."
What gets in the way?
We are women leaders. There is a lot that can get in the way that has nothing to do with the work, the person we are dealing with, the sector or the issue at hand.
▶︎ It might, however, have to do with that time of the month.
▶︎ It might have to do with that time in our life cycle.
▶︎ It could also be that our hormones are off due to our diabetes or thyroid issues.
▶︎It might result from a lack of sleep because our toddler kept us up, we fought with our partner or dealt with night sweats half the night.
Hormones, emotions, burnout
How you respond to a challenge with your employee is less about the words you use and more about how you deliver that message. Hormones, emotions and burnout all factor in. They are all things you need to be aware of, manage and, yes, at times, workaround.
3 strategies to help you manage your reputation
1) Be mindful of your body, mind and soul
2) Be in control of your schedule so you can adjust when needed based on mood and energy levels.
3) Be honest
We respect vulnerable leaders
Most of our nonprofits are full of women, all of whom are likely going through similar emotional, hormonal and energy roller coasters. When you acknowledge where you are at, it makes you seem more human and permits others to do the same. Humour is useful in these kinds of situations if that's a strength of yours, but so is self-compassion, kindness, honesty and bravery.
For those of you in The Training Library, here are some resources you might want to check out to help you ditch the bitchiness and lead with confidence!
You are human! Don't forget that
Remember, it's not what you do as a leader that counts. It's how you do it. And you are a human being. You have emotions, hormones and a life outside of work that factor into how you lead. Don't forget to take that into account. When you do, you'll ditch survival mode and learn to thrive in both your leadership and your 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.