L3: Balance Self-Sacrifice with Self-Care

I am currently participating in a writing residency to focus my attention on Limitless Loving Leadership. The first few days were highly unproductive, because I arrived physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhausted. During the previous months, I worked full time in a demanding job, took two classes in a doctoral program (for which I expect to receive As), taught two undergraduate classes, did some consulting work, and tried to be a reasonably attentive friend and family member. Not long before my arrival, I experienced a 17-day menstrual period. As soon as it ended, I started to feel the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. I realized that I had stressed myself to the point of literally throwing my body off of its natural rhythms.

While my expectations for the residency were to produce a great volume of exceptionally well written and profoundly influential pages, I now know that the most helpful outcome of this residency will be the opportunity to reconnect with my inner harmony and rebalance my life. I have chosen to pay attention to the warning signals my body sent out when it knew it could not reason with me intellectually. My soul compassionately whispered to me, trying to tell me to take it easy (as were my friends and family), but selfish me refused to listen. If I did hear anything at all, I did not honor my basic needs by changing my behavior.

As leaders, we are responsible for other people. We want to cherish them, support them, and nurture them so that they can succeed. But if we do not do the same for ourselves, our reservoir of love and compassion will be depleted. We may even grow to resent offering tenderlovingcare to others. If helping others is no longer a joyous and enriching process, this may be a signal that you need to pay more attention to your own wellbeing. Taking care of our self at least as well as we take care of others makes us more effective leaders – and happier, healthier people.

Regularly check in with yourself to make sure you are living a balanced life. If you are not, do not wait to make changes that will improve your quality of life and therefore your ability to lead. Neglected health leads to the accumulation and condensation of negative energy that becomes progressively more difficult to expel.

There are a lot of ways that we can improve the balance in our lives. Regularly reward your hard work with enjoyable activities – or even the opportunity to do nothing. Don’t let your work overshadow your other life commitments. Pay attention to negative feelings and respond by making changes in your life. Allow others to extend their care and love to you. Integrate fun, healthy, exciting activities into your daily routine.

Charity Police

Philanthropic organizations are increasingly demanding that grantees measure impact. It is not the measuring of impact to which I object, it is the way this expectation is unidirectionally communicated and enforced. This paternalistic practice is an abuse of power that emphasizes control and containment over partnership and possibilities.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is an amazing example of trusting philanthropy (and I hope to be one someday!). Grantees are selected according to their contributions and are then trusted to make decisions about the best use of the funds; reports are not required. As a teacher, I take a similar approach with my students in the community or online setting. I expect students to take what we learn in class and to use it to the best of their ability in their context. My hope is to inspire change that can’t be captured in numbers or even words, and to provoke changes that are multiplicative.

With trust and freedom, great things will happen. Let’s share with each other out of love rather than fear.

Community Cooptation

The nonprofit/community benefit/social change sector has coopted much from business organizations, and the pressure to do so is increasing from many foundations and professional associations. In my experience, the business models that are appropriated are outdated and a poor fit for our sector. We are victimizing and marginalizing our community organizations through this practice; we are also limiting our ability to provoke meaningful and sustainable change. Rather than us borrow from business, I think business should listen and learn from us. Not because we demand it, or because we attach contingencies to it, but because there is an opportunity for mutual learning and growth. Perhaps by coming together intentionally we can envision new models of organizations that will truly transform our world.

Manage Things, Not People

As leaders, we often also have management responsibilities. I think it is important to remember that we should manage things rather than people.

We can manage money, time, processes, and projects so that our goals and objectives are achieved.   Interactions with other people on the team should consist of guidance, support, encouragement, and access to information and resources. It is not usually necessary to tell others what to do or how to do it; however, agreements about behavior can be developed through dialogue. Shifting management from people to things keeps us focused on our goals; it challenges us to always think of process and project outcomes rather than the minutiae of specific activities. It also creates space for freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation.

I have also found that some people have been conditioned to desire specific direction in their work. Others may not be a good fit for their job or the organization and therefore detailed instructions, if not termination, are required. By getting to know each individual employee, we can determine how to best support and lead each person so that they can realize both their human potential and organizational goals.

The People Pages: Business Planning

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

A business plan is a formal document that is prepared when a new organization, program, product, or service is started or when an existing program, product, or service is expanded.  It is used internally as a guideline for accomplishing goals, assigning tasks, and monitoring spending.  It is used externally when seeking financing to justify the financial, administrative, and programmatic capacity and integrity of the organization.

A business plan’s length can vary according to the complexity of the organization or project; a typical plan might be about 15 – 20 pages long plus appendices.  It should be neatly presented with a cover page that includes complete contact information and a table of contents.  Each page should be numbered and section headings should be used to make the plan easy to navigate.  The language used should not be superfluous, but concise and to the point.

A business plan should be presented in the following format:

  1. Executive Summary – This is a brief introduction that summarizes the content of the plan and states the amount of financing being sought (if applicable).  It should capture the reader’s attention and entice them to read on.
  2. Situational Analysis – This section analyzes the internal and external environments and describes the presenting situation that substantiates this new or expanded project.
  3. Organization Description – This section states the organization’s vision and mission statements.  It describes the organization’s ethical and cultural values.  It states and explains organizational goals and objectives.
  4. Products and Services – This section lists and describes each of the organization’s products, programs, and/or services, including the qualities and benefits of each.
  5. Marketing Plan – The marketing section describes your organization and the project’s uniqueness, or distinctive competencies.  It identifies target markets and projects levels of service to each.  A comparative analysis of similar organizations or programs should include your organization’s areas of differentiation.  This section also describes the communications and promotional campaigns that will be used to inform your target market(s) about your program or service and incite their interest in participation.
  6. Human Resources – This section should describe the education, experience, and skills of your board of directors and executive staff.  It should include a description of the staff that needs to be hired in order to achieve your service goals.  Human resources policies should also be included.
  7. Operations – This section describes management of facilities, quality control measures, and manufacturing and distribution processes (if applicable).
  8. Finance – Three years of projected financial statements should be included in the appendix.  This section should explain the anticipated income and expenses and describe the organization’s fiscal management policies.
  9.  Legal – This section explains the legal or regulatory restrictions and requirements that need to be fulfilled.
  10.  Conclusion – This is a brief summary of the entire plan.
  11. Appendices – These might include financial statements, resumes of key staff, job descriptions, promotional pieces, or results of marketing research.

 

The People Pages: Budgeting Basics

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

A budget is used to plan and monitor an organization’s income and expenses over a period of time.  An operating budget shows income and expenses for your entire organization.  A program budget shows income and expenses for one specific program or service.  A project budget shows income and expenses for a one-time project, which might be a special event or capital campaign.  All budgets should be realistic as their purpose is to guide and monitor your organization’s actual financial activity.

Budgets are usually developed on a yearly basis.  The budget process should get started at least two or three months before the year that is being planned for.  The process of collecting and analyzing information and making informed decisions is a collaborative effort of the Executive Director, board of directors, program staff, and accountant/bookkeeper.  The progression of events should be as follows:

  1. Review the previous year’s budget.  Compare last year’s actual income and expenses to those that were projected.  If there are any large discrepancies, figure out why this happened and how you can plan better in the future.
  2. Analyze spending habits.  Determine if there is anything your organization could spend less on without sacrificing quality of service.
  3. Review financial statements.  Get a good understanding of your organization’s current financial situation.  Identify areas of financial weakness that need to be addressed in the coming year.
  4. Review program goals.  Your budget will be based on your anticipated levels of service for each program.
  5. Analyze your resources.  Determine if your current facilities, equipment, and staff are adequate to support your program goals.  Decide if any of these items need to be changed.
  6. List your fixed expenses.  These remain the same regardless of your level of service and may include rent, utilities, administrative staff, and equipment leases.
  7. List your variable expenses.  These are directly dependent on your level of service and are computed per unit.  Variable expenses might include transportation, office supplies, program staff, or computer software.
  8. Develop a fundraising plan.  Identify sources of revenue that will meet your expenses and enable you to achieve your program and service goals.

Each month, your actual income and expenses should be compared to your budget.  By actively monitoring the budget, you will discover and be able to manage discrepancies as they occur.  Budgets are usually revised half way through the year to account for unexpected circumstances beyond the control of the organization.

All of your expenses should be categorized as program-related, fundraising, or administrative – you’ll see this on the 990 (IRS tax return) form.  Fundraising and administrative expenses should be kept to a minimum.  Expenses can be split among the three categories.   For example, office supplies that are used directly in programs can be classified as program expenses, even though it might be derived that ‘office’ supplies are an administrative expense.  Staff salaries and benefits can be split according to the amount of time spent in each type of activity.  The amount of spending in each of these three categories should be monitored throughout the year.