When I was a child my father would say, “Nneka, the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.” I can remember as a little girl thinking hard about this and struggling with that part of me that is indeed a talker. As a teen, I often rolled my eyes (out of eyeshot of course!) and allowed his wisdom to run through one ear and out the other. As an emerging adult, I saw this adage as a practice and a way of creating enduring relationships with others. But as I sit amid my middle-aged adult life, I find myself returning to the contemplation of my childhood. I am learning that to listen well to others, I must first be able to hear and listen to myself. Turning the act of listening inward. And as I explore this new truth, I am surprisingly finding deeper wisdom, a rhythm and rest. [Read more…]
Embracing Mindful Self Compassion
I’ve been practicing mindful self-compassion for a while now. It’s a program based on: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.
This work could not have come at a better time for me. For most of my adult life, I had a strong inner critic that was harsh and judgmental.
At one point, I labeled this voice “Sledgehammer” because sometimes it felt like I was beating myself up with one.
As a result of some work called Positive Intelligence and the exercises in the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, I’ve turned down the volume on that harsh voice.
The Alchemy of Trust Based Philanthropy
Transformational growth and change are topics du jour in the nonprofit sector, and especially in the context of a much-needed shift underway towards trust-based philanthropy: a movement to create authenticity in the relationships between donors and nonprofits, to address the power imbalances inherent in them, and to build mutual partnerships between them. Due in large part to the donors with extraordinary wealth who have signed The Giving Pledge, and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in particular, it seems that so much of the focus is on the “holy grail” of giving in particular — the mega gift, the transformational gift, the gift that will deliver us and everyone we serve from the struggle.
Surfing the Uncertainty: Lessons about Leadership from the South Pacific
Back in 2019, when I still believed in planning and intention setting, I choose some words for 2020: potent, tender, and raw and real.
Those were good and beautiful words – and ones I still try to live by – but I didn’t bother choosing intention words heading into 2022. (The word for that turns out to be “prescient.”)
But because I am a word person, I do have a word that I want to embrace starting now.
I don’t surf, personally, because I have a deep aversion to getting water up my nose and drowning, both of which seem inevitable when I consider paddling myself out into waves. Yet, there is something about the metaphor of it that feels pretty helpful right now. Sometimes we miss a wave we meant to catch. Sometimes we grab it and get an incredible ride that fills us with lightness and aliveness – even if it threatens to take away our footing. And sometimes, the wave clobbers us. And, then we blow the water out of our nose and climb back onto the board to try again.
And the question is, as leaders and humans, what do we need to reach for to go seek that next wave? [Read more…]
The End Game to Creating a Culture of Belonging on Nonprofit Boards
“I don’t want to play with them. They’re mean.”
(My five-year-old son about seven years ago when playing on the playground)
I remembered my son’s declaration last week while facilitating a board retreat in Alabama. A Black male board member sat in his seat fidgeting and looking extremely uncomfortable while I and my white counterpart, Dr. Renee Rubin Ross (The Ross Collective) facilitated a conversation about the racial tension their board was experiencing. About one third of their board had been visibly absent for most of our training over the course of three months. Those missing in action were white men. Only two out of eight were participating.
We had created a safe and brave space and had all heard the agreements for the conversation and meeting. Stan’s (not his real name), apparent discomfort drew attention to him. He was invited to speak. At first, he seemed reluctant but then he blurted out “I don’t want to work with white people and try to convince them to get along with me.” The room grew eerily silent. We all sat looking at him and at one another. Stan continued, “I can be at work or making strides in my own community where I know I belong and can make change.” [Read more…]
Vulnerability in Uncertain Times
In this new year, I’ve been thinking about vulnerability as a strength. About the vital role it plays in emotional intelligence and good leadership.
My Grandma passed away just before Christmas from COVID. She meant a great deal to me and may have had the single most impact on who I became as a person. I spent many hours at her home when I was young. We read Dr. Seuss books. We sang Burl Ives songs together and worked on puzzles. She bought me mini loaf pans and taught me to make bread. From her, I learned how to plant, harvest, and put up food.
Grandma was strong, smart, tenacious, kind, diligent, committed, thoughtful, and deeply caring. She was also afraid to be vulnerable much of her life. She could be hard, unbending. She always needed to be in control to feel safe. She taught me these things, too. [Read more…]
Great Leadership Means Less Doing, More Being
[This post is an excerpt from the book Leading Beyond Change by Michael K Sahota and Audree Tara Sahota]
Many leaders hold the false belief that all we have to do to create success is to learn the right model, concept, skill, or technique. The basic premise is that we are fine and that new information or training will help create the success and impact that we want.
In this mindset, we see people (including ourselves) as black boxes where we don’t need to concern ourselves with what is inside the box. We can create success by focusing on the boundary of the box: the actions or doing.
When we examine the ways of business-as-usual, they are almost entirely about external measurable actions and behaviors. The whole of the human experience is relegated to the rational, logical, and measurable.
The trap of traditional organizations and leadership is to focus on the external aspects of action and doing. It’s rather a waste of time since we are trying to fix the external effects rather than the inner causes. For example, the surface-level external problem of responding angrily to an email is ultimately caused by the internal challenges with emotional regulation and conditioned behavior patterns. Addressing challenges at the surface level will only lead to temporary superficial change. [Read more…]
Beyond Perception: Unmasking Wholeness in Diversity
What is it that defines our innate humanity?
Growing up with what many would consider severe Cerebral Palsy, great emphasis and attention was placed on my speech, or more precisely, how to make my speech understandable to others.
This was a perspective taken by many of my doctors, therapists, teachers, and even parents. But nothing catalyzed this purview on life more than an admonishment by my first martial arts teacher after earning my black belt in Budo Taijustu.
“You must be clear and understandable to others if you want to be successful in this world,” he insisted.
As a college student in my early twenties, I had already spent years in pursuit of transforming my voice from what others often perceived a spastic set of disharmonic tones into a cohesive, crisp, and “normalized” pattern of speech.
It was as if my manifestation of language was somehow incorrect and, simultaneously, it was my sole responsibility to transform it into a format that was understandable to others. Only years later did I realize that my persistent effort toward striving to fit in was ultimately the same effort that not only minimized my humanity but undermined my natural capacity to support others in their own learning. [Read more…]
Bringing Indigenous Protocols to Your Organization
Have you asked yourself what reconciliation means to you? What does it mean to your organization? Your family? For many, reconciliation has a deeply personal meaning, borne from our own history and knowledge.
I am a professional fundraiser and, in the fall of 2021, I opened a virtual fundraising school called The New School of Fundraising. It was very important to me to consider how my school could participate in the reconciliation movement that is happening within Canada but my drive for that came from a deeply personal connection.
My Grandmother attended residential school from the age of three until she was eighteen. She did not leave at all during that time. I once read an excerpt from an interview where she spoke about watching the birds outside and wishing that she had wings so that she could fly away. The only thing is that even if she had wings, she had nowhere to fly to, nowhere to go. She spoke very little of those years and our family always respected her privacy and wishes.
As a result of the extended time that my Grandmother spent in residential school my family had absolutely no connection to our culture, everything had been lost. It has taken me a long time to realize and fully appreciate what has been lost to myself and my family. I have spoken a lot about my own journey of “finding my way home” and as such, created a workshop for the school, titled Indigenous Protocols for Fundraisers, that would help myself and others on the journey. [Read more…]
2021 Year-End Thoughts and Musings: What Just Happened?
Brought to you by the Fundraising Leadership Team
Margaret: Can We Stop Talking About “The New Normal”, And Try Instead To “Live in Liminal”?
Last month, I celebrated the American Thanksgiving with my two sons and one of their friends. Since the end of my marriage two years ago, I have been deeply resistant to holidays. Ours is a family that loved and valued traditions – and I couldn’t quite let go of the tradition of the four of us all being at the table. So, for the past two years, we’ve found a way to combine forces.
This has had the positive effect of no one needing to have a major holiday without our sons. However, as anyone who’s ever had a relationship end also knows, it’s had many tick marks in the “negative” column, too. My kids have reported – with accuracy – that it has felt tense and awkward. One of my sons even said it felt like there was something decaying in the room – the decomposing space of a marriage that hadn’t been allowed to burn fully to ash so that something new might (or might not) be possible.
This year, my ex-husband wisely said: let’s not. And he resourced himself with other family members, and I got to spend the day cooking and enjoying a meal of gratitude with my grown sons.
And I realized, the morning after Thanksgiving, as I finished putting away the wine glasses and reflected on a great night, what I had been missing out on by holding onto the comfort and familiar of what’s now the old. We had a lovely night, in which I got treated to my sons’ culinary talents and adventure (deep fried turkey!), as well as a way we danced together during cooking and cleaning that was as delightful as it was oddly unexpected. This is a new way my family looked this year, and even though it is likely to change without notice, I loved it. And I have taken years to be open to this delightful new version. [Read more…]
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