At Fundraising Leadership we are passionate about supporting nonprofit managers and leaders in their growth. We are equally passionate about continuing to grow ourselves. In fact, the Fundraising Leadership team came together as a result of our love of learning. We all connected as a result of completing a 10-month leadership program offered by the Co-Active Training Institute.
Like many leaders we love to learn by reading (see our favourites).
And our love of experiential learning led us to create our own workshops and courses for nonprofit leaders.
We also wanted to share five ways that we know are crucial to continued growth.
When we are doing well in our careers it can be tempting to keep doing things the same way. So I would challenge you as a first step to pause and take stock of what you are doing well as a leader. And how can you build on those strengths. Then be honest about where you are failing as a leader and create a plan to improve in these areas.
Based on our combined experience in the nonprofit world, the Fundraising Leadership Team identified 9 essential qualities that make nonprofit executives extraordinary. So step one is to take the assessment and see where you stand.
Ask (and Keep Asking) for Feedback
Now that you have assessed yourself it is time to seek feedback from your team , your leaders and your colleagues.
One of my favourite approaches to feedback comes from Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor. Feedback can include praise, which when delivered in a specific and sincere way can help us do better. And feedback can also include criticism, which also helps us do better – although it might not feel as fun.
Scott’s idea of radically candid criticism emphasizes being both kind and clear. As a leader it is imperative that you create a culture where everyone is giving and receiving feedback.
The first step to creating this culture of feedback starts with you. First of all you need to ask for feedback and you may have to keep asking. I encourage leaders to seek feedback from their team with a specific question like, “What is one thing that I could do to make it easier for you to do your job?”
When you receive feedback listen attentively and remain silent to allow the person time to share all their thoughts. Then repeat back what you heard to make sure you understood.
Once you receive feedback, then you need to demonstrate that you are taking it seriously. Thank the person for their candor and certainly don’t defend yourself. Take time to think about the feedback and what you will (or won’t) do differently and then go back and discuss these revelations with the person who gave the feedback.
Finally, I always remind my coaching clients that feedback can be like a sweater from your aunt. You receive it graciously and try it on. And then you can decide that it doesn’t suit you. Now this can be tricky to navigate as we sometimes don’t want to admit a shortcoming. So pay attention to the feedback you get from your team and colleagues. If everyone keeps giving you a similar sweater, then you need to pay attention.
Tame a saboteur
Now that you have looked within and asked for feedback from others, it is time to go deeper into your limiting beliefs.
At Fundraising Leadership we align with the work of Shirzad Chamine, a coach, Stanford lecturer, and author of Positive Intelligence. Shirzad has created an assessment that allows people to easily identify their key saboteurs.
Saboteurs are patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting that cause us to self-sabotage. Recognizing your unique patterns is the first step to changing your behaviour. One of my key saboteurs is Avoider, which means which means I can avoid difficult tasks or conflicts. I personally renamed this saboteur “comfort zoner” as it can keep me stuck in a place where I am doing things I like and know I am good at.
Once you recognize and name your saboteur you can be more aware of, and ultimately change, your default patterns. You can also share this information with your team and colleagues. They can support you by pointing out this saboteur and challenging you to make a decision from the place of your best self. I know that David and Silvia support me in calling me out of my “comfort zone.”
Take a Risk
I had a quick exchange with a friend this week about how the best things we do in life are usually a combination of exciting and scary. Think about the last time you felt that magical combination. If it has been awhile then I would say to you “it is time to take a risk.”
This winter I had been feeling like life was a bit routine – although in some ways being an entrepreneur is always risky. Suddenly I was asked to step back into the leadership program I mentioned above, but in a new role as an assistant. This means I will be supporting the two program leaders and the participants who are embarking on their own journey. I know this program is life changing and intensive. And I know this new role will require me to show up in new and unexpected ways. So yes I am in the place of excited and scared and feeling very alive.
Look around and see where you can create this feeling. It could be pursuing a promotion, taking on a big project, learning a new language, or signing up for an improv class. Decide and jump in. See what you learn from your successes and failures.
Give Of Yourself (in the Right Way)
I suspect as a nonprofit leader you don’t need to be convinced of the power of giving and volunteering. And it is important to make sure you give of yourself in the right way. Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take explores the idea that people fall into three categories – givers, takers and matchers. And givers, who give to others without expectation of getting anything in return, can be both the most and least successful.
Grant’s research shows that in the long run givers are more successful because they build relationships, find motivation, and learn from others. On the flip side, giving too much can lead to burnout or leave you open to being taken advantage of.
The key to giving is to engage others in the fun. Personally throughout my career I have always chosen to join professional associations and often to hold a seat on the Board of Directors. One of my favorite outcomes is that I am able to build a wide variety of relationships and this allows me to make introductions between people who I think could help each other or collaborate together. This gives me joy and builds my community.
Think about your network and community. Make it a priority to support people and to connect people who can support each other.
So those are the five ideas. We would love to hear what action you take and how that impacts your growth.
Are you a top-performing professional who was recently promoted (or hired) to lead a team but you were never trained to manage? The transition from sole-contributor to manager can be extraordinarily challenging. A misstep can be particularly harmful to the organization and your career. Our self-paced You’re a Manager! Now What? course was designed just for you.
Janice Cunning is a Leadership Coach who is passionate about partnering with fundraisers to help them create an inspired vision that transforms lives.