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By April 4, 2017No Comments

By: Daniel Doucette, Founder, BraveShift

So, you’re a little restless. You work for a nonprofit, foundation, government agency, or social enterprise. You’re interested in strengthening your own or your colleagues’ ability as a leader contributing to the greater good. My guess is you’ve already read lots of advice about leadership, gone to workshops, and listened to webinars. Yet, you’re reading this because you think something’s still missing and you hope for even better!

Here’s what I find I say over and over in conversations with colleagues, clients and friends about being a great leader in the social sector. These ideas have become a regular part of my work as a leadership coach and organization development consultant. That’s because over the years as a supervisor, a manager, a trainer, a coach, a mentor and a consultant, I eventually realized I’ve been constantly repeating myself. Despite the different circumstances people face, different talents and abilities they possess, and different challenges they perceive, I find the same advice so often applies.

1: Your staff shouldn’t be grateful to have a job.

Despite your good intentions, you probably don’t do all you can for your people—and you probably resent hearing that whether from me or from them. Sometimes you feel so beset by urgent problems you wish your team would quit asking for more pay, more learning opportunities, or a clearer career path. You think about how they should be highly motivated by mission, and if that’s not enough, well, plenty of others out there would be glad to be in their place. Watch out for these impatient and judgmental feelings and keep looking for all the ways to keep your people engaged.

2: Millennials (or any other group) are not to blame.

The world, we know, is changing, including how people approach career and their relationship with the workplace. Instead of blaming young professionals for being “entitled” and “needing too much validation,” understand that we’re living in a time of fundamental change in how organizations thrive, and look for ways to accept it and be part of that change. Take full advantage of the fresh perspectives that each of your team members may bring. As a leader, the most important thing you can do is remain open to learning and change.

3: You’re over-thinking systems and procedures.

While it’s true that you need sufficiently clear policies, procedures, and systems that support your work, you’re tending to over-design them. Chances are equally likely that instead of creating MORE procedures and adding MORE features to your systems, you need to eliminate and strip away some of what’s already there. If you identify something that truly needs to be added, then force yourself to find something else to take away, otherwise over time you’ll bury yourself and your people in layers of complexity that hinder you.

4: Technology is not a magic bullet solution.

I repeat: Technology is not the solution. Instead, the changes in our thinking, our practices, even our relationships are the solution. Technology facilitates those things. Technology is a tool. It’s secondary. You get distracted with the “bright shiny object” of a new technology itself, and you stop focusing in on the ever-evolving needs of the people using that technology. If you’re not careful, the tail is soon wagging the dog.

5: The unwritten rules matter most.

You’re probably like most people who understand intellectually that the culture of an organization affects its success. There are all sorts of articles written about the world’s most successful companies, and how their unique culture contributed to that success. But have you taken very many deliberate steps to intentionally shape the culture as a leader in your own organization? And why not? Those unwritten rules about “how stuff gets done around here” make a big difference. So, the next time you think you need your team to get more training, or you need to write better policies, or you need to upgrade your technology, stop and ask yourself whether what’s truly needed is deliberate attention to the shared values and norms that are quietly driving your collective efforts every day.

6: Being a leader is not a burden.

Probably the one most important piece of advice I repeat about leadership is that you shouldn’t consider it to be a great burden. Being a leader does mean you have lots of responsibility, because people are relying on you and looking to you for results as well as inspiration. But leadership is a wonderful opportunity to share big ideas and draw upon your unique talents to achieve aspirations you share with others. This is what people want from their leaders: someone who gives their best and brings out the best in those around them. Rather than seeing it as a grave responsibility and a burden, look at leadership as a distinctive honor and a joy.

WEBCAST: The Nonprofit Leadership Cliff

We all know there a succession crisis looming across the nonprofit sector. In the next 5 to 10 years, a wave of executive directors and other senior managers will transition on. We also know that many of our middle managers right now are technically solid but need to grow as strategic players. And we also know our millennial colleagues keep clamoring for professional development opportunities. You know you need to be more focused on leadership development, yet you’ve failed to act. You’re not sure where to start, worried about the cost and time, or unconvinced the effort will pay off. Join the author of the above article, Daniel Doucette, on this webinar and address these urgent problems presenting a practical approach for integrating the development of leadership into the fabric of your day-to-day work.

Continuing Education Credit: 1.00 HRCI and SHRM 


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