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Pages tagged "Leadership"


What I’ve learned from three years of leadership breakfasts

You might be familiar with YNPN’s Leadership Breakfast series where a different nonprofit leader hosts a group of 20 YNPN members to talk about their leadership journey and share some of the lessons they’ve learned. If you aren’t, you’re missing out!

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It is hard to be a good supervisor: But worth it!

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Regional Director of Party Bus Coordinators, but if you have four folks who have to send you their time cards every one to two weeks, you are supervising someone.

In my previous blog, I shared all of the ways it is easy to be a bad supervisor. It’s easy to put your schedule first and demand things be done your way. It’s easy to give limited feedback and just expect your employees to “Make it work!”

Working in the nonprofit sector, people are quick to look at other factors for the reason why people leave their organization and the sector. They can point at the low wages, compassion fatigue, or the need to live up to representative community leadership and ignore that Gallup finds that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. We need to accept that the nonprofit sector is not immune to having bad supervisors… if anything it is worse.

So what is a supervisor to do? It is hard to be a great supervisor. It is challenging to be open to feedback, to truly listen, to put in the time needed to prepare for check-ins, to stand by difficult decisions, and to give critical feedback in a constructive way to those you supervise.  All of that is very true; in this blog, I want to share some ways it be a great supervisor, and I want to assure you, while it may not be easy, being a great supervisor is worth it.

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It is easy to be a bad supervisor

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Associate Director of Regional Bouncy Castle Rental Logistics, but if you have 3 folks who have to send you their time cards every 1 to 2 weeks, you are supervising someone.

It is easy to be a bad supervisor. No seriously, it is way easier to use the positional power to make your supervisee’ lives harder, your organization’s results down, and your staff turnover high and team morale low.

The nonprofit sector has trouble already with competitive wages, compassion fatigue, and the need to live up to representative community leadership, so it can be easy to blame those factors as the reasons folks leave their organization or even the sector. While those are all are real reasons for why folks pop on Linkedin on their lunch break, Gallup finds year after year that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. The nonprofit sector isn’t immune from this, and, if anything it can be even worse.

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Noticing now: Musings on mindfulness

main.jpgI firmly believe we are new in every moment. We have never lived this long in these bodies, with these lives, on this earth, with the myriad and cumulative experiences we have had prior to this second. Or this one. Or the next.

What a thing to behold. And yet, in our fast-paced, externally-focused culture, it is something we are rarely trained or encouraged to regularly behold. Especially for young nonprofiteers, pouring so much of not only our heads but also our hearts into our work, it is essential to find ways to pause, reflect, and nurture our individual human capacity and the resulting resources we seek to share with our communities.  

So if we are to act based on identity-driven leadership and in accordance with our mind, body, and spirit, how might we invest in and cultivate these instincts and wisdom? The answer to our modern-day challenge, fortunately, is timeless and old as the ages: to practice.

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Excellence, top dogs, and underdogs

main.jpgI consider myself progressive, but in an attempt to understand opposing views, I read Science Left Behind by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell. Instead of placing politics on a left-to-right spectrum, the authors used a triangle to distinguish between liberals, libertarians, progressives, and conservatives. The three points on the triangle were Freedom, which liberals and libertarians most value; Equality or fairness, which progressives most value; and Excellence, which conservatives most value.

Excellence, they said, was made of self-determination and personal initiative. Conservatives want people to be able to excel if they choose and think the best should win. They oppose too much regulation and like competition. At one point, the authors stated that, "We might even begin to make the case that progressives are engaged in an undeclared war on excellence itself."

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Does your boss have your back?

main4.jpgLife in the nonprofit sector is challenging. The pay is often low, the challenges are high, and burnout is a real and serious concern. Many people come to YNPN looking for insight about how to succeed in this challenging field. Proactive workers looking for ways to excel can have an especially difficult time accepting that they don’t have total control over their own destiny in an organization. The reality is that your boss or supervisor holds the keys to a prosperous or painful path, and they need to want you to succeed if you’re to shine.

As the person who dictates your duties, evaluates your performance, and has the final say on whether to pursue the ideas and projects you propose, your boss is a critical figure in your professional life. It benefits you to do what you can to encourage a positive relationship. But sometimes it can feel like you’re on different teams, despite both of you working for the same organization with the same mission.

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You, among the universal

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Quotations enthrall me. The pithiness of the statements. The motivational, instructive, and validating natures of the strings of words. The sense that the somebody quoted is somehow larger than life, made infinite by their sustaining message that was gloriously earned the hard way. There is a timelessness to this stated wisdom, and we are reminded that our human experience isn’t quite so different from what others before us saw, learned, and shared in the course of their journeys around the sun. 

What endlessly fascinates me is how quotes are, in precisely the same moment, universal (in that they evoke a sense of shared resonance for myriad people across time and space) and unique (they spark something entirely different and specific to each person based on their life experiences and circumstances). Much like a river, I’d wager that no one experiences a quote in exactly the same way.

To test out my theory, I’ll share a couple of quotes about leadership below from which I have drawn inspiration and insight, and you let me know in the comments how you experienced the quote and the particulars of how it resembles your life. Here goes!

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The path less taken

Path in the WildernessWhen I heard we were going to do a session on non-linear career paths as part of the EPIP-YNPN Leadership Institute, I was super excited. I’m a pro at this; I’ve spent the last six-ish years having absolutely no idea where my career was going.

I graduated in 2009 with a double major in International Relations and Arabic and a concentration in Middle Eastern studies, so I had one very clear career option: becoming a spy. (Or, you know, going into international business, working as a translator, becoming a diplomat, etc.)

Unfortunately for me, none of those careers panned out, and it was the height of the recession. There were no jobs for recent college grads, so my career focus had to shift from dreams of shaken martinis to attempts at gaining job experience and building my resume.

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Design in the hands of experts

main.jpgWe all love pulling our new phone out of its box, feeling the radiant glow as it turns on for the first time. Over time, we develop an intimate relationship with it; we give it plenty of attention, and, in return, it gets to know us so well it begins to predict our behavior. Sometimes we take for granted how much an electronic device knows us better than some friends or family members.

But how did its producers know what we needed? How did smart phone gets so smart? How could its designers make a product that meets our needs so well?

The answer is: because they asked us.

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What it means to lead

Thinking at sunsetI recently read an article on LinkedIn by Justin Bariso about the downside of being called a leader. At first glance, I thought this was totally counterintuitive. We've all heard the phrase, "Be a leader, not a follower," right? Exactly.

But once I actually read the post, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I agreed with his insight. And a big reason why comes from a resource one of my first bosses shared with me to help us identify how to work well together: StrengthsFinder.

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