Category Archives: leadership

A day may come when the courage of the nonprofit sector fails. Today is not that day!

[Image description: Three sleeping puppies inside a black shoe box. The puppies have their heads resting on one edge of the box. They are all white with brown markings. The puppy closest to the foreground has one front leg dangling over the side of the box.]

Colleagues of the nonprofit sector. My sisters and brothers. I see in your twitching eyes the dread of returning to work today. Scarcely a moon ago we looked forward to a time of relaxation. A few days where we could binge on some episodes of Black Mirror without guilt. An innocent, optimistic time where we resolved to clear out our fridge or otherwise take care of some household projects that we had been neglecting. A period of time that seemed so boundless, but that is now no more.

The dread you feel is pervasive, hanging over all of us, over me as well. It takes this heart of mine and squishes it in its calloused hand. Like you, I stand before the writhing tentacles of my to-do list, staring into the bottomless abyss of my email inbox, shuddering and cowering and clawing at my face in despair. Continue reading

7 agreements for productive conversations during difficult times

tied-up-1792237_1280Hi everyone. It’s been a really rough week for many of us due to the election results. For me, I also had an 8-month-old baby who was sick and who stayed up all night for three nights crying and projectile-vomiting on everything. It was seriously like The Exorcist. But cuter. Luckily, just when things were getting bleak…my wife also got sick with fever, chills, and other less pleasant symptoms. During one of these sleepless nights, I hallucinated that the election results weren’t the way they were, and we all woke up to a bright and sunny morning where the world is the way we hope it would be, and everyone is happy and inclusive, and my favorite brand of soy ice cream is on sale. And I have six-pack abs.

Unfortunately, that is not our reality. Many of us in the sector are still going through the stages of denial, anger, and sadness. Everyone is on edge, and it’s been manifesting in various ways. Luckily, I’ve been seeing an increase of support and community, with many colleagues checking in with one another, validating feelings, and creating space to process.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been seeing an increase in hurtful and divisive interactions between colleagues who are on the same side. Normally collegial conversations become heated. People become defensive and accusatory. Emotions are intense. I’m not immune to it myself. I got feedback from a colleague that my post last Wednesday was uninspiring and possibly even making things worse. And I thought, “WTF! Oh hell no you didn’t just email me that! Someone hold my sick baby!” Continue reading

Disbelief, disappointment, and fear, and why our work is more important than ever

Hi everyone. I usually don’t post except on Mondays, but I can’t sleep right now and I need to process the feelings of disbelief, disappointment, and fear that are swirling. I know just this week I said that things will be OK, that the Apocalypse is not coming, that no matter who is elected president, we will continue to do our work to build a stronger community. But I can’t feel those words right now. I just feel awful. And I don’t know how helpful or even coherent this post will be.

How did this happen? How did we get here? I am in a state of bewilderment. This is mixed with sadness and a profound sense of loss and grief. I know many of you are feeling the same way. We as a sector fight on the side of justice and inclusion. We are all invested in the kind of ideal world we want to build—many of us dedicate our lives to it—and because of that we feel things more deeply. To see our nation choose walls, divisiveness, xenophobia, sexism, and demagoguery over love, hope, diversity, and community is devastating. Continue reading

Leadership styles, part 2: Have you flipped your iceberg lately?

pegacorn_stickerHappy Monday, everyone. Due to requests, here is some new NWB merchandise based on the mythical creatures leadership styles I wrote about. Now you can proudly proclaim that you are a Dragon, Phoenix, Pegacorn, or Griffin. I changed unicorn to Pegacorn to distinguish from the general nonprofit unicorn, and Lion-Turtle to Griffin because I didn’t want Nickelodeon to sue me. Thanks to the ever-brilliant Stacy, who designs this website, for creating these mugs and t-shirts.

Just to recap, Dragons are decisive and action-oriented and would rather run into traffic than talk about their feelings. Phoenixes have lots of energy and vision and are great communicators, but they’re easily distracted. Pegacorns bring harmony and consensus and are great listeners but are often indecisive. And Griffins ground everyone in processes and data and are great analyzers but can be too perfectionistic and slow to action. Continue reading

Why we hold on to bad employees, and why we need to fire people faster

game-animals-334334_1280Hi everyone. This post a little tough for me to write. Because, I love the people in our sector, 93% of whom are amazing, dedicated, wonderful individuals. Getting a chance to work with you every day is one of the biggest reasons I love doing what I do. Knowing you are out there makes it easier for me to get out of bed each day, put on deodorant, wet down my cowlicks, eat a handful of Fudgee-Os, and tackle injustice (not always in that order).

This post, however, as you can tell by the title, deals with challenging staff situations; specifically, why we hold on to people who are ineffective or even harmful to our organizations, what that does to our team and mission, and what we need to do about it. I am not an HR expert, and recommend you go to people who are (Ask a Manager is one great resource). So take my words with a swig of Pepto. But having been an ED for a while now, and being in various venting sessions with colleagues, whom I’m quoting in this post, I’ve been noticing some patterns. Continue reading