It’s been nearly three years since I stopped being a nonprofit executive director. My skin looks healthier, my eyes less sunken and haunted, and I’ve started reverse-aging and now look like my kids’ father and not their grandfather. Best of all, I only wake up once or twice a year screaming “Cashflow! Payroll! NOooOOOO!!”
Being a nonprofit ED/CEO, or any other high-level leaders, can be rough. The systems and norms we have put in place often place unrealistic amounts of responsibility and stress on leaders. Combined with a capricious funding system that forces everyone into default survival mode, and we can understand how leaders burn out and why few younger professionals want to assume leadership roles.
Hi everyone. This post will be longer than normal, so to keep your attention, I’ve added pictures of pandas. The pandas have nothing to do with the content of this post. They are just pandas.
Some of you may know, if you are on our mailing list, that I am stepping down as Executive Director of my organization Rainier Valley Corps by this December. RVC is in a great place, thanks to our team, board, partners, and supporters, so it is a good time for me to take a break from being an ED. It’s been 12 consecutive years of that; I need to rest and recharge and spend more time with my family and Netflix.
I am not sure what I’ll be doing exactly when I am no longer an ED. This blog will continue as scheduled (heck, with more time on my hand, the spelling and grammar might even improve!). Likely I’ll focus on writing and speaking, maybe work on another book. Possibly develop Nonprofit The Musical in earnest instead of just joking about it. Or maybe I will found a business or apply for to be CEO of a major corporation. I mean, if colleagues from the for-profit sector naturally assume they can run nonprofits, I don’t know why I shouldn’t be hired to run a Fortune 500 company.
My friends of the nonprofit sector. For many of you, this is your first week back at work after a much-deserved but all-too-brief period of rest. It is not a fun feeling, and not helped by the perky morning people in the office who probably should not talk to me until noon unless they want to get their faces splashed with lukewarm coffee. I don’t even drink coffee, but I will make some coffee and keep it nearby just to splash on perky morning people. I don’t care what your resolutions are, Neal!
Hi everyone, before we launch into today’s post, my friend Oz recorded my Guided Meditation for Nonprofit Professionals. Check out Oz’s soothing voice as he guides you to the Land of Sustainability in this free 12-minute relaxation exercise. “Breathe in and out […] Your desk is completely clutter-free and not a coffee-stained dumpster fire of chaos and broken promises.” (Original written meditation here)
One of the things EDs and CEOs have noticed is that we get “decision fatigue,” and one way it manifests is in our frustration at having to make even small decisions when we’re at home. The other day, for example, my partner (who also directs a nonprofit) was hungry and asked which of two packages of ramen I recommended she eat. I was unable to answer. “I’m torn!” she said, “Just make the decision for me!” I stared at her for several more seconds before hissing like a cat and scampering into the living room to hide behind the couch.
Decision fatigue is real, y’all, and it has sometimes led to fights and arguments in our household over the most ridiculous things. (“Which movie should we see?” “Hisssss!”) It is also symptomatic of the weakness in our society’s default decision-making philosophy. This philosophy is basically top-down and hierarchical, where the people who have the most power have the most decision-making authority, even in areas where they have the least amount of knowledge and experience. The ED/CEO makes the final decisions on everything. Staff who challenge the decisions get into trouble. And the board sometimes vetoes the staff’s decisions. Continue reading “Our default organizational decision-making model is flawed. Here’s an awesome alternative!”
Hi everyone. As usual I procrastinated in writing this blog post—look, House of Cards season five is not going to binge-watch itself while eating an entire container of vegan chocolate ice cream. I don’t know how this blog post will turn out or whether it will include pictures of wombats for some reason. (Update: It definitely includes a picture of wombats).
Since the beginning of time society has had a bias toward the Type-A individuals, they with their to-do lists, and their “bullet journals,” and their “inbox zero,” and their “daily flossing.” We tend to look down upon the disorganized, equating cleanliness with godliness, and having other sayings related to being neat and orderly. These messages have been pushed so hard that those who are disorganized in their work and personal lives are left feeling like crap. Continue reading “Disorganized colleagues, stop feeling bad and own your chaotic brilliance!”