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'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!
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.
Jennifer recently came to a coaching call infuriated with her boss. Jennifer was a middle manager and found herself entangled in a triangle of sorts with her boss, herself and her team.
Often her boss would undermine Jennifer in meetings. Without knowing all the facts, he would make a decision and announce it before conferring with Jennifer.
By the time we got onto our coaching call, the above scenario had happened numerous times. Jennifer noticed how it triggered her anger and prompted ineffectiveness in the team. The team didn't know whom to believe anymore. It was all a big mess, and Jennifer felt undervalued and unsupported. However, Jennifer hadn't had the courage or understanding of how to address the issue with her boss. Therefore, she'd been avoiding it.
Have you ever avoided a tough conversation?
We have all done it, but avoiding tough conversations does not resolve them. On the contrary, it only worsens them and often leads to deteriorating your team's effectiveness. Jennifer had realized that. It was why she'd brought the issue as a topic for our coaching call.
Jennifer started with why it was important to figure out
Through coaching, Jennifer was able to get reconnected to why she needed to engage in this potentially intimidating conversation with her boss. She was passionate about her staff members being supported and wanted them to have solid supervision. In the end, addressing the conflict with her boss would be better for her and her team. Even though it would be difficult, it was worth figuring out.
Take the first step to resolve the issue
Jennifer realized that in a "perfect" situation, her boss would recognize incongruences in messaging and deal with them himself. However, life isn't perfect. Jennifer knew she needed to be the one to tackle the problem head-on. She did just that. Jennifer took the first step and arranged a time to meet with her boss and then shared her concerns.
The result isn't always perfect, but it's a movement forward
Now, of course (remember, this isn't a perfect world), he didn't quite see the story like Jennifer. He did, though, become more aware of checking with Jennifer before he issued new standards of practice. As a result, Jennifer felt more confident and sure of herself. By stepping into the difficult conversation, Jennifer discovered she could fight her own battles rather than hoping they would magically disappear.
What is the tough conversation you need to have?
Perhaps you've found yourself in a similar situation, sandwiched between frontline staff and management. Other times you may have found it is the supervisor who isn't dealing with their team, and you see the mistakes happening. In that place, the tough conversation needs to happen with your subordinate, encouraging them to handle their reports more effectively. It could also be peer-to-peer where your co-worker is stirring the pot, causing havoc on the team.
When you realize a storm is brewing and know it's not going away, it is probably time to wrestle the tough conversation yourself. Below find the steps that will assist you in moving through the challenge.
Your 3 step plan to help navigate your nonprofit leadership challenge
1) Identify the issue
Notice that you may have been avoiding or hiding from the issue. Perhaps you push it away, praying someone else will deal with it. You've probably noticed, unresolved, that the issues continue to rise again and again. Each time you become aware of it, you probably tense up, get a knot in your stomach or feel anxious. By noticing when something is off, you help identify the problem that needs to be dealt with clearly.
Jennifer recognized the challenge was when her boss skipped over her role and function and did her job. She would have preferred that here and her boss discuss the issue before communicating them to the team. But instead, she identified the problem as feeling undermined.
This step is about getting clear on what precisely your challenge is so that you can communicate it.
2) Take responsibility for moving things forward
Stop pushing the problem away and blaming others for not fixing them. Instead, recognize that it is your job as a leader to resolve the issue. No, it may not be your problem but acknowledge that it is your responsibility to lead your team into a more effective, cohesive working environment.
That may mean that you need to be the one that grabs the bull by the horns. Jennifer did just this when she initiated a conversation with her boss.
3) Create your plan for dealing with the challenge
When you realize the problem is not going to go away and no one else will deal with it, it's time for you to address it. The best way to move through the muck is to be clear about what you will do it.
Dealing with challenging exchanges is not always easy but worth it
Even though they are tough, I encourage you to take the initiative to have tough conversations. You will find your confidence and courage increase the more often you tackle them. As a result, your team will be more effective, and you will also discover that you can enjoy your work more.
If you need more help planning for your tough conversation, try this.
Do you wonder how to be the best leader you can be? One who makes a difference, has a great team and finds some balance in life?
Unfortunately, it's not the easiest thing to do. One of the reasons we struggle is that we don't see a lot of other women doing it, so part of us doesn't believe it's even possible. We need more women mentors. I keep looking for them and sharing them with you so we both have more inspiration.
Let me introduce you to Yvette Vargas.
I was listening to an interview with Yvette, Head of Development at Citizen's Bank in the states. Yvette was part of a Women in Leadership conversation series for LHH, an organization that focuses on recruitment, assessments, coaching, and career transitions.
I found Yvette's story, persistence and intentional personal and professional growth as a woman leader inspiring. So many of the suggestions she made for women in leadership had me thinking of the four fundamentals I teach leaders.
Let's dive into them together.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
Lead with Authenticity - Be yourself
On Citizen's Bank website, Yvette is quoted as saying, "I used to have separate selves — mother to my children, wife to my husband, caretaker to my parents, employee and friend. I thought that compartmentalizing my 'different selves' would help me manage each relationship better," she said. However, it's only by working to integrate her selves — and finding a job that allows her to bring every aspect of herself to work — that she's found true meaning in her career.
This quote speaks to the authentic nature that we need to lead with. We are not separate people in different aspects of our lives. We are one person doing various things. The more authentic you are, the more confident and comfortable you will feel, and you'll make a more considerable contribution.
To help you lead your best, I encourage you to identify your strengths, gifts, and personality traits. Then, do the work to figure out who you are and authentically be who you are daily.
Continue to grow yourself personally and professionally - Develop yourself
Intentionally developing yourself is critical to becoming the leader you want to be. Yvette spoke in the interview about being very intentional about this. She indicated you need to develop your growth plant and intentionally spend time working on yourself.
"The amount of time you spend on something is a manifestation of what you value."
If you value your growth and development, you'll put time into growing and developing yourself.
Be a balanced leader - Take care of yourself
4️⃣As I listened to Yvette, I could tell she has drive. That's different than being driven. When the work drives you, it becomes a problem. When you drive the work, you do that with intentionality. You also need the energy to do that! That means you need to take care of yourself.
But Yvette wasn't always that way. She tells the story of needing to shift from being driven by her career to intentionally creating her life and career simultaneously—that required intentionality and self-care.
Taking care of yourself it's not something you do just outside of work. It is something you do all day long. Start by adding teach micro-moments of wellness into your workday.
Be a leader, teacher, mentor and coach - Teach others to do the same
I love Yvette's story of supporting other women to grow and pulling them up as you advance. She learned this early on from her mother and sisters. She's been clear about continuing to do it throughout her career. She sees a large part of her role is developing others.
When we teach others to be themselves, develop themselves and take care of themselves, we do this through mentoring, guidance, coaching and leadership. Our job as a leader is not always correct and fix employees. Our job as leaders is to help our employees reach their full potential.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
What strategy, suggestion, or idea will you begin with today? Hit reply and tell me where you are starting and what you are inspired to awaken in yourself after listening to Yvettes' story.
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:
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
Summer is kicking off; for many of us, this means extra reading time. If your reading list and maybe it's lacking in the leadership department. Here are a few suggestions I have for you to add to your summer reading list:
Summer Reading Book Suggestions
📚 Digital Body Language by Erica Dhawan
Some of us are still virtual, some hybrid. However, even if you're in the office full time, my guess is many of the meetings you have are virtual. On top of that, much of our communication is often via email, messenger or text. This book helps you understand the body language of digital communication. It's fascinating and beneficial.
p.s. the PDF file that comes with the audio version is phenomenal!
Find the book here
📚 Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown
This book is not a book to read from front to back. Instead, it's a reference book you'll hopefully return to regularly. So take some time to skim through it and dig deeper into the parts that pull you in. This book helps you understand emotions and feelings and expands your emotional vocabulary. Developing your emotional vocabulary is extremely helpful if you want to increase your emotional intelligence and be a more composed and emotionally in control leader.
Find the book here
📚 The Five Levels of Attachment by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr
You'll recognize the author if you've read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. However, this book is by Don Miguel's son. He goes through how we attach to ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Recognizing how tightly you've grasped your view helps to loosen your grip so that you can see others' points of view, develop new awarenesses and grow yourself.
Find the book here
📚 The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Oh my goodness! No, this is not a leadership book. Today it is rated #1 in Literary Graphic Novels, #4 in Happiness, and #5 in Ethics & Morality
But so many life lessons and reminders help put our lives into perspective. I listened to the audio version, which is less than an hour long and beautifully read by the author. I have replayed segments of it when I need those little reminders.
Find the book here
I thought about doing a book club on this book. So if you read it, let me know if you'd be interested in that.
📚 Think Again by Adam Grant
Much of our thinking is unconscious. I'm often encouraging you to be more conscious with your thinking. In this book, you learn ways that thinking can help us and some of how it can get in the way. The ideas open your eyes to how you may want to engage in conversations with different people differently, explore other people's thoughts, get their input and work together.
Find the book here
📚 Mastering Confidence by Kathy Archer
Yes, I am also recommending my book. In in, I provide you with a framework for managing your thoughts. When your doubt, hesitation, and fear of imposter syndrome get in the way of leading, presenting, engaging in difficult conversations or running a staff meeting, it doesn't feel very good! This framework helps you rein in those thoughts and gives you structure you can return to when your thoughts begin to get the better of you again.
Find the book here
What books would you add to the list? Comment below so the rest of us can add to our reading list too!
There are plenty of ways to brush up on your leadership skills this summer. Picking up one of these six books is a good start and see how a new perspective, idea or strategy can boost your confidence as a leader.
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.