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.
Choice points. You have them, but are you using them to be a better leader?
Choice Points 101
🟪 A choice point is...
A choice point is an opportunity to choose what you are saying or not saying, what you are doing or not doing, and, most importantly, who you are being in the process of making that decision and acting on that decision.
Choice points are critical for leaders to develop strong character
Nonprofit leaders that lead with integrity, authenticity, and strong character lead with confidence and competence and feel in control of what is happening inside and around them. When you lead with that strength of character, you create an engaged team with meaningful relationships who do impactful work. Therefore, developing our character is fundamental to good leadership.
Developing your character is multifaceted. However, one aspect that is often overlooked is the art of decision-making. Throughout your days, you encounter numerous choice points that shape how your day goes, the development of your relationships and the impact of your work. However, more often than not, we remain unaware of the existence of many of our decision points.
To lead with authenticity and integrity, nonprofit women leaders must cultivate awareness of their choice points and embrace decision-making intentionality using criteria aligning with their values and goals.
How unaware of your choice points are you?
Far too often, you default to not really making a decision. Your decision points often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of daily responsibilities while running your nonprofit. They may appear inconsequential at first glance, but their cumulative impact can be profound.
🟧 The decisions we default to:
We often make decisions by default. Rather than making a decision, we put our attention, focus and resources into reacting to:
When we aren't making choices...
We tend to follow this path: If A happens, I do B.
That's not a decision
👉🏻 Just because you get invited to a meeting doesn't mean you need to attend it.
👉🏻 Just because it came into your inbox doesn't mean you are the one to deal with it or you need to deal with it today.
👉🏻 Just because someone asks for "just a minute," you don't have to say yes.
We say we are making a choice, but really we aren't deciding anything. So, when we say the choice is either I do the work or the work doesn't get done, that's not a choice. That is a victim mentality.
Or if we say, either I stay late or do it in the morning. What were you deciding? Which punishment to take?
It's an either/or, with neither option being optimal. They're both sides of the same coin.
You've given your power away!
What often happens is we're not really making a decision. Instead, we are making excuses about why we're doing what we're doing or why we are doing it. We are pointing fingers (the funder needs it), resigning to martyr syndrome (I'm the only one who can do it) or getting caught up in survival mode just running around the hampster wheel (another day...)
By neglecting to recognize these decision points, we as leaders miss opportunities to cultivate our character and steer our organizations and teams in the right direction.
🙋🏼♀️ It's time to cultivate your awareness of decision points
Leading with authenticity and strong character requires a shift from reactive to proactive decision-making. Instead of simply reacting to circumstances, intentional leaders make conscious choices that align with their beliefs, core values and long-term vision.
🟨 Decisions drive character development
But they must be:
✅ Done deliberately
✅ Made intentionally
✅ From a place of consciousness
To unlock the power of decision-making, cultivating awareness is paramount
Taking time for self-reflection and introspection via The Inner Guidance Cycle allows leaders to identify decision points that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks. You can seize these pivotal moments and harness them for character development by heightening your awareness.
Using The Inner Guidance Cycle to make intentional decisions
When you intentionally make a decision, you must first PAUSE, slow down and then PONDER. By contemplating the paths ahead of you, you will PIVOT, realizing it is not an either/or approach, but you will see the options, opportunities and outcomes you can create. Finally, after purposefully deciding, you'll PROCEED back into action.
🟦 A choice point is an opportunity for you to choose:
✔️ What you are saying or not saying
✔️ What you are doing or not doing
✔️ Who you are being in the process
🔀 You need to develop a decision-making framework with decision-making criteria
To make more intentional decisions, you need to construct a decision-making framework. This framework serves as a guide, offering a structured approach to navigating complex choices. This way, you can ensure that your decisions align with your beliefs, values, goals, and the greater purpose of the nonprofit you are leading.
Your framework will include considerations to ponder when making your choice. You'll want to run your options around criteria like your beliefs, values, time, resources, strengths, interests, team pressure points, etc. Using these filters will help you choose wisely with a better sense of your current and future perspectives.
🆘 In the Decisive Decision-Making course in The Training Library, you'll find a framework you can use.
Questions to ensure you are making decisions with your strengths of character
When you are pondering your options, you'll want to ask these questions:
Is this action/decision a statement of
It's all about the Inner Work!
Learning to lead with authenticity and strong character is a transformative journey for you as you lead your nonprofits. It's a personal development journey that will profoundly affect your leadership. It requires you to grow from the inside out!
By recognizing the power of choice points, cultivating your awareness of where they show up, and embracing those decision points intentionally, you can navigate your leadership with purpose and integrity.
Developing decision-making criteria based on values, time, resources, interests, skills, and expectations provides a solid foundation for making better choices that align with your character and foster your growth and that of your team and organization.
P.S. If you want the decision-making framework worksheet, you'll find it inside The Training Library in the course Decisive Decision Making.
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.
Are you a nonprofit leader who loves learning but doesn't have much time? If so, podcasts are a great way to get snack-sized bites of wisdom during times when it's "ok" to multitask. There are many valuable podcasts for nonprofit leaders. If you have a favourite, comment below so we can all learn from each other!
Did you know that I produce a podcast? I do! However, it's been on hold for a few months, but guess what? The latest episode of the podcast is out 👏🏻
It's been seven months since I released the last podcast episode. I certainly did not expect to take that long of a pause. However:
The first lesson I learned is that things often take longer than expected. I, of course, thought it would only take a couple of months, but it did take a little bit longer 😉
There are four other lessons I take away from the extended pause that I share in this week's episode of the podcast.
🎙 To hear those four other lessons, tune in here.
Catch up on the faves
If you are new to my work or have yet to listen to other episodes, below are some that you might be interested in.
Podcast Episode Favourites
One of my favourite conversations was with Elizabeth Bishop
# 45 - How to regain your passion for your nonprofit work
One of the top listened-to episodes is
Episode # 42 - How to have brave board conversations with Heather Terrence
And another favourite of listeners is
Episode # 33 - Permission for Ambition with Anna Gordon
If you are having a crazy day, try this one:
Episode # 26 - Wellness Tips for Overloaded & Overwhelmed Women Leaders
The most listened-to series of episodes:
I'd also love to hear what you would like me to share in future podcast episodes.
And in the meantime, happy listening!
p.s. Don't forget to share your favourite podcasts below
As a nonprofit leader, you've probably struggled with your emotions during a meeting. And, you know that feeling of being about to lose your composure is not fun! I've been there too, and it sucks!
When we are out of control, we are often reacting to what's going on:
All of these are examples of losing control. In these situations, we feel powerless to hold onto our feelings and behaviours. We simply react.
Are You Playing the Blame Game?
Many of us blame that reaction on other people around us or the situation. Those darn Kleenex commercials always make me cry. My daughter tells me it's my fault that she cries. If I cry, it makes her cry.
We do the same in business settings.
We Give Our Power Away
When we hand our thoughts and feelings to other people or the bigger "world," we give our power away. So, in essence, you are saying. I am not in control of my emotions, or I am not in control of the way I act.
It's that belief that makes you feel powerless.
When you feel powerless, you certainly don't feel confident!
Who's fault is it?
It's not anyone's fault, but we look to lay blame somewhere. Really, is it the rain's fault that you feel sad? No. Nor is it your boss's fault that you feel overwhelmed. And it's not the employee's fault for questioning something in a staff meeting. I know it sure feels like it. But hear me out for a moment.
Regain Your Sense of Control
When you gain access to what is going on inside of you, you can regain your sense of control and power.
We can see rain as a pain in the butt or a blessing. We can enjoy the sprinkles as we take out our umbrellas or grumble and groan at how it's wrecking our plans. It's up to us how we see it. In the same way, when we do self-reflective work, we can begin to feel grateful for the disgruntled staff member. They are growing our conflict resolution.
Take Back Your Power With This Tool
Here is the tool to gain back that control and increase your confidence. Using the Inner Guidance Cycle, you can shift from giving your control away to taking your power back.
There are 4 steps to the Inner Guidance Cycle: Pause, Ponder, Pivot and Proceed.
Let's use the example from above to see the Inner Guidance Cycle in action.
🛠 The Tool: The Inner Guidance Cycle in Action
PAUSE: Stop and take a deep breath.
When your boss hands you another task, and you begin to feel overwhelmed, then PAUSE. Often, our first reaction is to direct frustration and anger at our boss. That gives power to them. They are in control of how you feel if you let them be.
When a team member asks a pointed question at the staff meeting, you may feel triggered and put on the spot. You know they said it to make you look bad. Your automatic reactionary response is to lash back at them. Before you react, pause!
Take a deep breath and begin to tune into yourself.
PONDER: Reflect on what is going on inside of you.
Take time to check your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. These are the parts of your Inner Guidance System. Just like a compass, they can guide you. Take time to PONDER and reflect. They help you identify your triggers.
Do you think your boss is a jerk? Perhaps you are wondering how you will ever be able to handle the workload. You might be thinking that you have to do it immediately. But, on the other hand, you could be telling yourself how unfair this is.
Do you believe this employee is trying to get you fired? Do you want to squash them, quiet them or put them in their place? Just notice the thoughts.
Are you experiencing a sense of overwhelm? Anger? Frustration? Despair? Incompetence?
3️⃣ Body Sensations:
These are often the clues that tell you what you are feeling. They help you become smarter about emotions and better able to name and tame them in the future.
Start to reflect on what set you off. You're still PONDERING at this stage.
🤔 What was the trigger?
Take time to consider what caused you to react strongly and quickly.
When a team member asks you a question at the staff meeting, and you immediately feel your composure slipping, consider the trigger.
Example of triggers
Our triggers are often around "not enoughness."
You may also be triggered by
💭 What mistaken beliefs do I have?
"I have to do this now."
Do you really?
"I have to do it perfectly."
What does good enough look like? What is the real expectation versus my own "perfectionist" expectations?
"I can't say no."
"I need to have an answer."
"They are out to get me."
💜 What values are not being honoured here?
Perhaps your value of family time is being squashed because you will now have to work late. Maybe you feel that you will have to rush this project or another one now, and that impedes your value of doing good work. Perhaps you are not feeling respected or appreciated.
This whole reflection piece in the PONDER stage of the Inner Guidance Cycle serves to awaken new insights. This awareness is what allows you to take back control.
As you sift through all of the stuff inside you, you'll see the mess of thoughts, feelings and body sensations begin to settle, and you'll often be left with a clearer picture. It is that clarity that can make you do a bit of a shift in your thoughts and feelings. That is the PIVOT stage.
PIVOT: Shifting how you see things
When you see things in a new light, you shift your perspective. PIVOTING allows you to head in a different direction. Perhaps instead of feeling out of control and angry with your boss, you take a deep breath and ask if you can have a moment of their time.
PROCEEDING back into action
When you are proceeding, you are taking your finger off the pause button and PROCEEDING back into motion. You might ask if you can renegotiate the deadline. You might suggest splitting the task between you and another person. You might say no. Any of these actions put you back in control and feel an increase in confidence.
By moving through the steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle, Pause, Ponder, Pivot and Proceed, you begin to take back your inner power. Instead of feeling out of control, you begin to regain a sense of power. But this time, it is internal power.
It isn't your power over the situation or power over another person. Instead, you've found your voice. You've connected to what is truly important and discovered your strength from within. That's the true meaning of being in control. This inner power is your inner confidence.
To be in control of yourself, do the inner work. Connect to your Inner Guidance System. You'll be glad you did!
We've all been to a nonprofit staff meeting where there are items that shouldn't be on the agenda. And often, it makes for a painful and long-drawn-out meeting. We wonder to ourselves or text our colleagues, "Why are we even talking about this?"
Often that's because nonprofit leaders haven't learned what belongs on a staff meeting agenda. Without training on how to run a staff meeting, we are left to follow what our predecessor did. If they did it for so many meetings, it must be the right way, no?
Learning what goes on your staff meeting agenda will help you feel more confident, competent and in control.
Ask yourself these questions:
Let's start first with what's on your staff meeting agenda.
Your staff meeting agenda should be prepared and provided to those who will be in attendance several days before the meeting. They need to know what to expect. Therefore, they may need to prepare. Additionally, if you are running an engaging and collaborative meeting, your team members may have items to add to the agenda.
So what should go on a staff meeting agenda? Here are 10 questions you can ask yourself when you prepare for your next staff meeting
Does this belong on your nonprofit team staff meeting agenda?
1) Does everyone need to know it and discuss it?
If it is an item that only certain people need to discuss, either put it on a different meeting agenda or put it at the end of their agenda so that those people who the topic is not relevant for can leave early
2) Can it be done as an email update?
If you were providing information, an email update might be fine. If you need a discussion around something, you may want to give the email update first so that people have time to prepare before the meeting. It's important to be clear on the agenda item what the agenda item is. It's not information sharing.
Instead, the agenda item becomes
3) Is it the right time?
Often we start talking about things before we have all the information, knowledge or information, and it can create anxieties, tension and confusion. Or we talk about things that aren't yet resolved, and really people shouldn't be privy to yet.
Be cautious and trust your gut when you ask yourself, "Is it the right time to talk about this at this meeting?" Your intuition will know best.
4) What is the point of sharing it?
Are you sharing information because it's something employees need to know, because it will help them somehow or because they need to prepare for it? If you can't figure out the point is for sharing it, don't share it.
If you do know the point, be clear on what the point is. Please don't assume that everyone knows why you're sharing it.
5) Is everyone there that needs to be included to discuss this item?
It's annoying to have a discussion that can't be resolved because the key stakeholder isn't at the meeting. When this happens, we often go around and around, but no one can make a decision or answer a question because the person with that power, authority or knowledge isn't at the meeting.
Be sure the key players are at the meeting for that particular item if you put it on the agenda.
6) Do we have time for that discussion?
Some discussions take time. When an agenda is crammed full, and we throw a topic in there and expect to brush over it, that often causes frustration for the people in attendance. They won't have time to explore, ask questions, provide suggestions and dig deeper.
Brainstorming, for example, cannot be done well in three minutes. If an agenda item needs more time, create a separate meeting for it.
7) Is this the most efficient use of our time?
Pulling a team together is costly and takes significant organizational time and resources. So make sure you're using that time and those resources wisely.
8) If this is a sensitive conversation, is it the right time to discuss it?
Even though some topics are relevant for everyone, sometimes those conversations are difficult. It's not always the right time to discuss them. That may have to do with what's going on organizationally, in the world, or someone's family. Remember to be sensitive about the topic you put on your agenda.
9) Consider the urgency of the matter.
Even though everything may be relevant to the agenda, that doesn't mean it needs to go on the agenda. If it's not an urgent topic and the agenda is already full, hold onto that topic for a future meeting. Give time and attention to the most pressing things, not just for you in the organization but also for your employees.
10) Is this the right place for this agenda item?
Lastly, once you've decided that it does go on the agenda, be considerate of where you place it on the agenda.
Things that need more discussion and focus should be done earlier on.
Additionally, things that need more composure for a difficult conversation should be done earlier.
You want to end on a positive, uplifting note. Therefore ensure the last item will make people feel good as they leave the meeting.
Running an effective and engaging staff meeting is much easier when you are more conscious and intentional about creating your staff meeting agenda.
1) Schedule a few minutes into your calendar to prepare your agenda.
2) Consider what belongs on your agenda, running potential items through the above list of questions.
3) Feel confident, capable and in control as you run your next team meeting.
Preparing is one of the first steps to feeling more confident running a staff meeting. When you prepare your staff meeting with intention, you will feel more confident, and your team will find it much more valuable and engaging.
3 leadership things to do this summer to lead your nonprofit organization better
Even for nonprofit leaders, summer feels different for most of us. The sun is shining, the weather is warmer, and kids are out of school. That, however, for most of us, doesn't mean we don't have to work.
We still need to get things done. It's just a different pace for most of us, and that slower pace gives opportunities to do other things.
Last week we talked about 4 easy steps to keep your nonprofit productive on projects over summer. This week we are going to cover three things to do this summer that will make you a better leader.
Three things to do this summer that will make you a better leader
1 - Clean your desk
Often the clutter gathers, the piles grow taller, and the sticky notes begin to blend together. The physical clutter creates mental clutter.
👉 DO THIS: Set aside a half hour to sort through what's on your desk.
This time doesn't have to be a deep dive into everything that's there, but we orient yourselves to what is there. You may create piles for these 3 areas:
Creating physical space will create mental space. If you need more mental space, read this: 3 tips for helping you create thinking moments.
2 - Read a book
Whether you're a regular reader or not, make sure that you set aside some time in summer to read at least one leadership book and one nonwork-related book. Both will help you come up with new ideas, grow yourself and relax. In addition, this list will help you find some books if you're interested.
👉 DO THIS: Schedule a few minutes to order a book, borrow a book or ask for a book recommendation from someone.
Here are some suggestions: Read these 6 impactful books this summer | Feel your leadership confidence grow
3 - Ask for feedback
Sadly, leaders rarely get specific, helpful feedback. Summer, when it is potentially a bit quieter, is a perfect time to set up some one-to-one time with some of your employees to solicit that kind of feedback.
👉 DO THIS: Schedule some time with a few of your employees. Perhaps it's a walk in the park, sitting at the picnic table or an online call where you're both on your decks. When you create the space for a relaxed chat, it's the opportunity to ask for some feedback in a more friendly way.
Here are three questions you can ask your employee to get valuable feedback:
If you are looking for more tips for feedback, this webinar may help: Gather input to reach your potential
When you take time this summer to do something different to focus on your leadership development, you'll find yourself growing both personally and professionally.
What else do you try to get done over the summer to help you be a better nonprofit leader? Add your ideas below so we can all inspire each other!
Are you anxious about losing momentum over the summer on some key projects and initiatives that your team is working on? As employees move into summer mode, the ability to keep things rolling can be challenging and trying for leaders.
Fear not! Here are 5 ways to use summer to gain momentum rather than lose it.
I'm distracted before holiday time
When I am getting ready to go on vacation, the final working days are focused on tying up loose ends so that nothing unravels while I'm gone. My mind is on red flags and potential hotspots. I am not focused enough to be able to sit down and do the deep thinking that is often required on larger projects.
I'm trying to get caught up when I get back
Upon returning from vacation, the following days are dedicated to putting out any fires that arose, catching up on the office happenings and trying to clean out my inbox. Unfortunately, once again, I am not usually in the right frame of mind to be able to dig deep on a project.
The day or two before we leave on holiday and certainly the days after
we come back are often considered write-offs for most people. Combine everyone's time off, and it seems like a lost few months.
Therefore when someone is away for a week, it feels like you've lost two weeks to focus on a project. Add to that the sunshine, ice cream cones and the kids being out of school as distractions, and it's even harder over summer to get anything done at the office. So it's easy to see how we can lose momentum in team projects as people alternate being away for summer vacation.
A leader can choose to see summer differently
As the leader in charge, it can be disheartening for you to see a project come to a standstill. However, projects do not have to get derailed over the summer. When you step back and see the gift in this shift of office rhythm over summer, you can put it to good use!
Summer schedules can allow more focused project time
The truth is you can accomplish a lot over summer because there are fewer distractions in many ways. In summer, there are fewer people in the office, fewer meetings and generally a slower pace. Use this to your advantage to get ahead on some of the components of the project.
5 ways to use summer to gain momentum
rather than lose it
1️⃣ First, break the project down between group
and individual tasks
A meeting between two people can be more effective than a large group meeting.
👥 A duo can:
🙋♀️ Individually, you can:
2️⃣ Block off time to work on the project
Our role as leaders is often mentoring. Therefore, summer is an excellent time to show how to get things done despite the season. Typically our calendars are less scheduled in the summer. As a result, it's easy almost to get almost lazy as we go through days.
📆 Schedule time into your calendar
When you block off a set time to work on a project in your agenda, it gives you the ability to focus during those 2 hours.
🗣 Communicate your intentions
Tell those around you that you are unavailable and not to disrupt you. Treat the time you have identified as if it were a meeting with another person. This not only keeps others from chatting with you but adds in the layer of accountability. By clearly identifying to others that we are working on a project, you tend to feel more motivated to stay on task. After all, if you say you are working on it, you should have something to show for it after.
🙋♀️ Get others to participate
Ask participants on the team also to identify a block of time or times when they are working alone on the project. Have them identify what precisely they will be doing during that time. Ensure they commit to their part by a specific date.
✅ Keep everyone accountable
Hold each other accountable for what you say you will be working on. Set conversation times with others for the afternoon when it is easier to get derailed. Perhaps meet out at the picnic table or do a walking meeting. Getting outside will infuse creativity and innovation into your conversation and give you some time to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
3️⃣ Set realistic goals for summer
Start by looking at a calendar and people's schedules to determine how much time you have to work on the project over the summer period.
🖥 Put the summer plan and targets in a place everyone has access to. Having identified targets to work on keeps people motivate and on board.
4️⃣ Build in frequent review systems
Review is a critical component of goal achievement. It keeps people aware, engaged and interested. Listed below are some ways to develop a review system for your team.
Get excited and lead your team to a productive summer
Please don't throw up your hands now and say it's useless to get anything done this summer. Instead, give yourself a knowing smile as you:
What will you do to keep the momentum going in your summer project? Hit reply and let me know!
Is it time for you to work on you?
Is summer a time when you want to recommit to your learning journey, set your personal and professional goals, and get started on the next steps? You may be interested in this series of training in my membership site The Training Library
"Can I interrupt you for a second – do you have a minute?"
This is the sound of productivity being shot through the roof. However, every day, we need to decide how much time we want to spend focusing on our work and how much time we want to give to our nonprofit staff.
The other morning I had an interruption just as I started my workday. I bet you've had that happen to you. Just as you begin something, there's a knock at the door or a text or phone call.
How do you know when to deal with or ignore the interruption?
Consciously deciding when to let interruptions in and when not helps you focus on what you need to focus on when you need to, set clear boundaries, and be there for people when they need them. Learning to balance your people and your projects is a balancing act for most leaders.
We need to get stuff done. We have reports to write, emails to send, applications to fill out, preparation for meetings, and all the other stuff that goes along with achieving our mission-driven work.
Effective leaders learn to balance the "task work" with being in relationship with (aka being there for) the people who do our organization's client and community work.
The question is:
How do you know when to let the people side of your work interrupt the task side of your work and, conversely, when to stay focused on the task?
My interruption this morning was from my granddaughter. School is out now. When I see my granddaughter's name pop up on my phone, I know that she's likely looking for some attention or that something is wrong. She's ten years old and home alone in the morning for a couple of hours. I answered my phone to discover she wanted to borrow some eggs so she could make herself French toast.
For you, it may be a staff that needs to look over their work, a crisis that has blown up, or somebody who wants to pick your brain. You may have a good idea of who the interruption is from and be able to use that information to help you make a decision.
How I dealt with my interruption
In addition to wanting to borrow eggs, my granddaughter wanted to know when I was going for a walk, and I could tell she was bored. So I told her to come over and get the eggs, and I would look and let her know when my break was later in the day so we could go on a walk together.
How you can deal with your interruptions
Learning how to deal with interruptions in a way that feels good to you starts when you build a framework around decisions making. Here are 3 steps to consider to help you make decisions about interruptions you can feel good about.
STEP # 1 - Start by being clear with what's on your agenda
While I didn't have calls scheduled for that early in the morning, I did have a project I was working on slotted into that time frame. Awareness of your agenda items is one of the critical factors in deciding whether to allow yourself to be interrupted. Scheduling in non-meeting tasks creates a meeting with yourself, a commitment and a tool for determining if you will let the interruption in.
🤔 Ask yourself these questions:
STEP # 2 - Set clear boundaries
I told my granddaughter she could come over and get the eggs, but I didn't have time for a long chitchat. However, even though I set that boundary, she lingered when she showed up, and I had to nudge her out the door after about nine hugs!
You've been there, right? You answer the question or deal with the issue, and then you do the typical nonverbals to suggest that the conversation is over. You even may say something like, ok, I better get back at it and yet they still stand there, ask more questions, hem and haw etc. Here's the tricky part about allowing interruptions. It's creating a time frame boundary around the interruption.
🗣 Try using these phrasesYou will need to be extremely clear on the timelines upfront and continue to communicate those timelines throughout
Here's an example
The clearer you can be with your boundaries, the easier it is to hang up the phone, end the chat, or shut the door at the end of the interruption.
As much as my granddaughter wanted to linger, I knew it was time for her to go as I walked her to the door. I followed up, ensuring she knew what time I had a break later and that I would message her to go for a walk with her then. I didn't brush her off. Instead, I scheduled time to connect with her when I could give her my undivided attention.
STEP # 3 - Know what's important to you
I had to know what's important to me, what I value
Finally, it's essential to know and understand your values. Family is incredibly important to me. My granddaughters mean the world to me, but I'm also committed very deeply to the work I do for you. Balancing connection to family and deep, meaningful work has been a lifelong challenge. It's not something that comes easily, there is no quick formula, and the parameters will continually change.
You, too, need to be clear on what you value
My advice to you here is to be as transparent in your mind as possible. Try these two questions.
❤️ Start with verifying your values
Through the Values Verification course exercises, I recognized that my top value is not family. Instead, my top value is excellence. That clarity around what is ultimately important to me helps me make these decisions more clearly.
How can I provide excellent quality to you and, at the same time, be an excellent grandma? The answer is by giving quality time and attention to the project that I had scheduled for that morning and quality time and attention to my granddaughter.
I had to be "excellent" in both areas
If I had let my granddaughter interrupt my morning for any longer than I did, I would not have been an excellent grandma; I would've been a distracted grandma. Letting her interrupt the time I had scheduled for the project would have made me feel edgy. I would have been thinking about what I "should" be doing. I would have been trying to end the little visit multiple times, but discreetly, so she didn't feel like I was finishing it. It would have come across as icky for both of us.
I honoured my value of excellence in two areas of my life by setting and communicating clear boundaries and scheduling time for both areas.
3 questions to help you feel good about the decisions you make
Making decisions about interruptions like this doesn't come easily or quickly.
It takes time to understand how to make these decisions more quickly. That time often comes through after-the-fact self-reflection.
✏️ Take a moment to think about your decisions in the last 24 hours.
Engaging in ongoing self-reflection helps you prepare for future decisions, communicate boundaries, and apologize when you get it wrong because we likely will more than once.
Sometimes it is worth letting someone interrupt you, and sometimes it isn't
Time, or lack thereof, is the biggest bottleneck for most nonprofit leaders because there are so many other demands on your time and attention beyond your core mission. There are always more things that you need to do. However, we also learn to balance what time we give time to our people and when to use it for projects.
Being clear with what's on your agenda, knowing what's important to you and communicating clear boundaries will help you be both productive and create engagement with your nonprofit team!
READ THIS NEXT:
3 Decision-making mistakes you may be making and quick the fixes
Episode # 58 - Learn a decisive decision-making hack and how to use it - For women leaders
Nonprofit Leaders | 10 important questions you must ask before your next decision
PLAAs a nonprofit leader, you need more time to think! But how much time does it take to be a better thinker and leader? Read this blog post for the surprising answer. HINT: Not very much time!
When I'm talking to clients and suggesting that they book some time in the calendar for thinking, they expect me to tell them it will be an hour or maybe even 30 minutes.
They're often surprised when I suggest anywhere between two in 10 minutes.
Overcome this challenge first
The challenge is that most of us are not present in this moment. Instead of being mindful, we are thinking about either the past or the future. For example:
✦ We may have anxious thoughts circulating in our minds about what's coming up in our schedule.
✦ Alternately we may be ruminating about what happened at the last meeting.
Then you'll be able to be intentional with your thinking quicker
To be intentional with your thinking, you need to be in this moment so you can think about only what you need to think about. When you give yourself the gift of a moment or two, I call them thinking moments often, and the thinking happens really fast.
3 tips for helping you create thinking moments.
ONE: Take your hands off the keyboard when you finish a call, meeting, or dealing with your inbox or project. Put them on your lap and take a deep breath.
TWO: Ask yourself:
When you give yourself the moment to connect to what you need to process, purge and plan, I guarantee thoughts will come into your head.
THREE: Either in your head or grab a piece of paper and make a quick note.
Then ask yourself
You may come up with answers like these:
Once you have been mindful of what you need to think about, you can head on to the next thing on your agenda.
Giving yourself the gift of just a few moments to regroup and identify where you need to plan, process and purge will help you move forward.
The thing is, I know you spend most of your days running around, chasing fires, dealing with crises and solving everyone else's problems. I know because I did it too for way too many years!
I learned that getting intentional about creating thinking moments made an incredible difference. Will you do it too?
Extra resources to help you think "better."
Over the last few weeks, I've been writing about different kinds of thinking. I've linked those thoughts up below. Each of these links is a blog post with more information about different thinking necessary for leaders.
NOTE: I've added some of the courses inside my membership site, The Training Library, for those of you who are members.
Nonprofit Leaders – Are you doing the right kind of THINKING today?
Possible courses/lessons to look at
Nonprofit leaders, you need to stop wasting time rushing your thinking!
Possible courses/lessons to look at
Nonprofit Leaders | 10 important questions you must ask before your next decision
Possible courses/lessons to look at
Be a wise woman leader with these 10 reflective thinking questions
Possible courses/lessons to look at
Join the membership
Listen to the podcasts
Read the book
Available on Amazon
Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.