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.
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
If you've been dealt another blow like staff shortages, funding cuts, dealing with disciplinary action, or general overwhelm, you might start to feel negativity wash over you.
You know that negativity can spiral if you don't catch it so you might be wondering:
How can I stay positive?
Questing how to stay positive is the theme of my clients this week. They want to know how to stay positive and motivated, and move towards their goals when they feel tired, overwhelmed and challenged.
One client is working on a certification process. She is studying for the next level exam. Yet, time is already running away from her. She is quickly becoming stuck in not-enoughness.
Another client is in the process of starting a new program and isn't sure if she can pull it off within the deadline. Self-doubt has crept in and is robbing my client of her confidence.
A third client was dealt a nasty blow at work. She's feeling insecure about her future. It's hard not to be negative and sarcastic. "Why bother trying so hard?"
The message we hear is to keep our chin up.
Social media posts, motivational books and well-meaning peers tell us:
Heck, I preach positivity too. I am constantly working with my clients to help them see the positive, be confident, and believe it is possible. However, how do you do that in the face of so much challenge?
The secret isn't to focus on what we are experiencing.
It's to focus on what we are thinking.
You can learn to focus on the positive
It is not what you see that makes up your reality but what you think about what you see. We all experience similar events but react to them differently.
Suppose you have a message to call your kids' teacher because of missing assignments.
Think about the thought accompanying each of the above parents' emotions.
Our inner voices are powerful. They impact our emotions and our experiences. The messages we tell ourselves about our events create our reality of the event.
Our inner dialogue controls our outer experience.If I tell myself leading my team is hard, I will notice all the hard things I experience daily.
If you tell yourself the day started bad, is getting worse and going to be a gong show, guess what you'll experience?
The secret is getting control of what is going on in your head.
You can use The Inner Guidance Cycle to get control of your thoughts.
Here's how 👇🏻
Step back from what you are doing, take a deep breath, or grab a piece of paper to write on.
You'll never shift your thoughts if you stay stuck on the hamster wheel.
Start becoming aware of your inner dialogue.
When you are frustrated, unenthusiastic or cynical, start to notice what is happening in your head.
Notice your thoughts. Becoming aware of the constant stream of thoughts helps to manage them. You'll likely notice a running commentary of your day going on in your mind. Most times, it's rambling on, and you aren't controlling what you are thinking.
Try consciously listening to your inner dialogue rather than having it run in your subconscious. The more you notice it, the more aware you will become of what you are telling yourself.
Start to shift your thoughts by examining them.
Perhaps you think, "This is the worst thing that could happen."
Is it? My guess is it could be worse.
Maybe you repeatedly say, "I don't know if I can pull this off."
Notice how that allows doubt to creep in.
Once you consciously shift your thoughts to the ones you want to be thinking, you can get back to "work."
Shifting thoughts isn't necessarily easy. It takes practice and discipline.
For example, changing "I don't know if I can pull this off" to "I can do this" isn't a one-and-done process. However, when you slip back to "I don't know if I can pull this off ...
You can learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle in
Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system
Staying positive requires willpower
Positivity isn't a magical pill. It's work. It's choosing what you think, what you focus your thoughts on and learning to manage your thoughts. That process all takes willpower.
Willpower is also known as self-control or discipline. Using your willpower to train and control your thoughts requires the same energy you would use to resist the donut and stick to your workout schedule.
It's also the same energy you use to stick to responding to an email you've been avoiding, staying focused on the annual report despite your cell phone notification calling you or biting your tongue when someone irks you.
Willpower is a powerful tool for leaders. It's willpower that helps you stay positive, productive and poised.
If you want o learn more about using willpower in your leadership, check out the Willpower Essentials course here.
Shifting thoughts is a lifelong process. It's called Inner Work.
Learning to choose thoughts, managing thoughts and changing thoughts IS the inner work of a great leader. Do the inner work. It's worth it!
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.
Perhaps as a nonprofit leader, I'm guessing you can relate to my challenge. I was nattering along in my head the other day about something not going right, as we all do at times! Suddenly I stopped myself, and out loud, I said, "Thank you. That's not part of the vision."
My negative mind chatter needed to change fast!
The direction I was going with my mind chatter was definitely not the direction I wanted it to be going in my head or my life. Swirling down with negativity was not going to help my situation. Instead, pausing, expressing gratitude, and then reminding myself of my vision was much more helpful.
I shifted my mind with this powerful statement.
The statement "Thank you. That's not part of my vision" comes from the book The Ant and the Elephant, which I read last week. In this easy, quick read by Vince Poscente, he encourages us to realize the enormous potential of our unconscious mind and how that can help us lead ourselves and others.
I totally recommend this book to any leader who wants to inspire and motivate their team.
Don't get caught up in this trap.
What happens for many of us is that we tend to focus on what's wrong and try and fix it. But unfortunately, focusing on what's wrong makes us pessimistic, which leads to frustration, bitterness, anger, resentment etc. You get the picture.
It won't help you create an engaged team.
Feeling negative, bitter and frustrated doesn't make you feel any better, and it certainly doesn't motivate and inspire those around you to do better. Furthermore, that kind of attitude will not engage your team; it also helps to make your employees feel connected, inspire loyalty and thus encourage retention of good employees.
Instead, when you can pull in towards the vision with inspiration, you'll get a whole different response.
Gratitude makes the important shift in attitude that will create engagement.
Starting with gratitude is not often thought of as a tool to lead well. Sure it's a happiness booster and something we like to add for feel good extras but using gratitude as a staple in leadership is not something many of us have been taught or currently practice. But it is.
Now, back to my learning from The Ant and the Elephant. Why is this statement, "Thank you. That's not part of the vision," so powerful for leaders? Let's break down each component.
How to use gratitude to be a better nonprofit leader in 3 easy steps
First, we have to pause
First, we have to pause.
Pausing helps us get out of a negativity cycle, reactionary mode and brings us back to the present moment. In addition, it evokes mindfulness, something we all need a bit more of.
Second, we express gratitude.
Second, we express gratitude. Thank you.
The trick is that you can't be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can't be bitter, frustrated and annoyed and feel a sense of appreciation inside of you.
Expressing gratitude recognizes that, while maybe we are where we want to be, there are lessons to be learned about how we got here. Perhaps we are grateful for the reminder to get out of the negativity cycle. But gratitude turns us around.
Finally, we redirect our thoughts.
Finally, we redirect our thoughts. That's not part of the vision.
Do you have a vision? This statement reminds us that we need a vision individually and as leaders. It's an opportunity for us to reconnect to that vision and connect those around us to the vision.
Remember, if you don't know where you're going, any path will get you there. Leading your team around aimlessly is not going to help you generate engagement, motivate people or inspire loyalty.
So you need to know where you're going!
When you pull all these three together, you can see how important each piece is.
Pausing and starting with gratitude is not always easy. Gratitude seems too easy or too fluffy. But, gratitude is more than that.
Gratitude isn't a thing. It's a feeling.
It is not just an attitude of gratitude. Nor is it simply to practice gratitude. It starts with a feeling of gratitude. When I say feel, I mean that literally ⬇️
We need to feel the transcendent sensation of 🙏🏻 gratitude in our bodies.
We need to feel it inside of us before we express it verbally.
We need to feel it viscerally before the expression of gratitude can be genuine.
And when we do this often, we create a culture of gratitude that pulls our team in, engages them and inspires them.
Here is an example of the 3 steps in practice
Let's imagine the employee it's a negative comment under staff meeting. You've just shared a slight shift to the new procedure. One way to respond is to get defensive and explain it again, this time a little bit louder with more emphasis. We all know how that's gonna go!
Another way is to say:
"Thank you for sharing your views. Your frustration shows you care.
I know changes aren't always easy. However, the vision I have is that once we get through the sticky parts of the change, and yes, we may still have to make some amendments, but once we get through all of those, I'm expecting that we'll find it makes a big difference for our client's outings."
Thank you! That's not part of the vision! But let me tell you what is part of the vision...
Extra resources for leadership gratitude
This month in The Training Library, my students are receiving a new lesson on gratitude for leaders.
As a member of The Training Library, you'll receive a video lesson giving you strategies for implementing gratitude as a leader. Additionally, the worksheet students receive will take you from simply expressing "I'm grateful for..." to a whole other way of thinking about gratitude each day and applying it to your own life and your leadership.
Inspiring your team - 3 steps:
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
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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.