YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Are You Stuck in a Self-Care Double Bind?

I'm not here to convince you why self-care is important.

Because I think you already know. You know that if you don't take care of yourself, then you won't be able to help anyone else. Put your flight mask on first, and then help others. It's just that simple.

You also know that as advocates and do-gooders, we are the worst culprits of not taking care of ourselves. We slap on that “martyr” sticker and give everything we have to others even when it feels like we have nothing left to give. And then, fatigue and burnout ensue.

So, we're not going to spend any more time on the why.

Rather, I am much more interested in talking about what actually makes it so hard to practice that self-care all the time.

You know you should take a break, set a boundary, go to sleep earlier, get to that yoga class, or eat something that isn't a carb. Your head knows it.

But sometimes it feels like there is about 10,000 miles between what you know you should do and what you actually feel capable of doing.

This is what I like to call the "Self-Care Double Bind," and it's a sneaky little trickster.

The Self-Care Double Bind is the running feedback loop that tells you to "take care of yourself" in x, y, or z ways, and then makes you feel terrible and guilty when you aren't able to do it. 

 

For example, here's a narrative that I hear from clients pretty frequently:

"I really should get to that meditation class today. I know that it will make me feel calm and centered. Today is busy but I have to put myself first, right?! Right!”

Cut to later in the day:

"I didn't get to the class. I must not be trying hard enough to take care of myself. It’s my own fault that I feel so exhausted and scattered."

 

Now, your narrative might not sound exactly like that one, but I bet that a lot of you have similar rolling thoughts, keeping you feeling like some kind of failure, or guilty for not "doing something right” or "being enough" in some way.

That is the Double Bind. And it is anything but a true expression of compassion.

Especially right now, as the events in Baltimore are unfolding and crowds are rightfully taking to the streets, the last thing any activist needs is to question their commitment to their own livelihood. Our drive to stay alive is, in fact, sometimes the only thing we have.

So, what would it look like if you pulled yourself out from that tangled Double Bind? 

 

Well, I like to call that process: self-love.

If "self-care" is your nagging neighbor who is always ready to pounce with judgment, then self-love is your sweet dog who thinks you are the best person in the world know matter what.

Self-love is the lifelong journey that all of us are on.

 

With every decision you make, every relationship you start or end, even with every fight with a co-worker or with your mom, you are learning something new about what does or doesn't work for you.

And that process—that sticky, gooey, sometimes yummy process—of learning how to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t, is self-love. And, it’s the key to feeling the alignment and contentment that we all crave.

Self-love might mean taking that long hot bath or showing up at that meditation class. But, it could also mean forgoing both of those things when what you really want to do is misbehave a bit or throw a tantrum for a few minutes. Self-love will remind you that it's all okay.

So as a starting point for getting untangled from that self-care bind, I invite you to ask yourself the following question:
What do I need in this moment?

Whatever the answer, accept it and follow it.

Following through on your core instincts and desires is what leads to a deeper understanding of yourself, and how to find your way back to that center at any moment.

And when you find yourself getting down on yourself, the broken-record of shame starts playing, or you’re heading towards burnout, tune in and ask “what do I need in this moment?”
Your mind, body, and soul will all thank you.

 

 

Alicia Rabble HeadshotAlicia Jay is a certified transformational coach and the principal of Rabble Up (www.rabbleup.com), a coaching practice designed to help emerging leaders in the social change sector find sustainability and alignment in their careers and lives. She is also the Managing Director of Make It Work, a national campaign promoting economic security for women and families. With a background in leadership development, philanthropy, and gender justice, she has a deep understanding of how being an activist on behalf of others doesn’t always translate to advocating for your own needs, as well. She is out to change that.

Self-Care and the Nonprofit Sector

We came to this work with a simple goal in mind: create social change.

Unfortunately, social change is not easy to bring about. The hours are long, the pay is little, and some days it can feel like time, energy and passion are being wasted. So we push ourselves further - staying later, working weekends, and never slowing down. After all the cause is noble, and sleep is a luxury we can’t afford. But sooner or later our “honorable” self-sacrifice catches up to us and we are left feeling exhausted and burnt-out.

But this is not the way it is meant to be! Somewhere between young idealistic intern and martyr for the cause we lost sight of a very important thing, self-care. Self-care is intentionally taking time to attend to our physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs. Despite popular belief, it isn’t selfish to make our own needs a priority. In fact it makes us better at our work! Like any flight attendant would tell you, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can think about helping someone else.

As simple as caring for ourselves sounds (I mean, who could know our needs better?), it is a task that eludes many of us. The concept is great, but how to we translate it into practice? After all, the emails won’t stop just because we decide to go to a yoga class.


CC Image Courtesy of Mike Rastiello via Flickr

CC Image Courtesy of Mike Rastiello via Flickr

It begins with intentionality. We have to be aware of our needs and ready to implement new strategies to meet those needs on a consistent basis. And it can start small. Perhaps with a commitment to go the gym 3 times a week, not check your emails on the weekend, or go to bed at a decent time each night (and actually sleep, not lay in bed and browse Pinterest). It will look different for each person but making a commitment to start is an important first step.

And remember self-care is a process. You won’t get it right all the time and that is ok! There will be times when it comes easy and times when it is hard. Have grace with yourself and stay devoted to finding balance.

And that is exactly what we at YNPN are committing to this May. Together we will explore what it means to practice self-care and provide practical tips to help keep your work and life in balance. And we want to hear from you! Follow the conversation at #npbalance and let us know how you make self-care a priority. The ultimate goal is still social change - we just have to start with ourselves to achieve it!

The World of Tomorrow: Independent Sector's Threads

The other day I was reading about a social sector initiative that aims to accomplish its goal of solving an intractable social problem by 2020. I immediately thought to myself, “Sure, anything’s possible in the distant future!” Then I realized that 2020 is actually not so distant. In fact, I probably have canned foods in my cabinet that expire around that time.

Aside from forgetting what year it is, when it comes to the future we often assume, like I did, that anything is possible. And we take for granted that it will be accomplished in some mysterious way that we don’t understand now but surely will by the time we’re using our Apple watches to remote start our hovercrafts (which everyone has, because poverty has been eradicated!)

It’s somewhat understandable that we often take this approach; many of us are so busy working to eradicate poverty and any number of injustices in our day-to-day work that we don’t often have the time to lift our heads up and think about what our work will look like in 2040 and what will happen between now and then.


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One organization that is doing that thinking is Independent Sector, a network for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Recently they’ve been convening a series of events across the country to start a dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that will define the social sector and our work in the next twenty years.

They’re calling these conversations Threads, and chances are that one of these events is coming soon to a town near you. I recently had the opportunity to attend their Threads event in New York where we had the opportunity to provide feedback on their work and discuss how we see the sector and the context we work in changing over the next two decades.
With the input of their members and other stakeholders, IS has identified nine trends that will affect the social sector in profound ways. They are:

  1. Disruption from inequality and environmental degradation
  2. Greater ethnic diversity and new generations of leadership
  3. Technology transforming learning, gathering, and associations
  4. Swarms of individuals connecting with institutions
  5. Business becoming increasingly engaged in social and environmental issues
  6. New models for social welfare and social change
  7. Uncertainty: Will there be a resurgence of the public’s voice in policymaking?
  8. Uncertainty: Will the primary focus for policy development be at the local or national level?
  9. Uncertainty: How will government balance competing priorities and revenue pressures?

To learn more about how they see these forces playing out, you’ll have to check out their reports and resources that explore these trends further. I recommend spending some time thinking about where you’ve observed these forces and how you see them affecting your work.

Have you noticed leaderful movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter swarming institutions and applying pressure for social change? Did you know that many young people believe that businesses are more effective at making social change than nonprofit organizations are? Where have you seen young leaders stepping up and bringing new models of leadership to the sector?


 

 

We at YNPN would love to hear your thoughts about the future of the sector, and we know our friends at IS would as well. Tweet at @ynpn & @IndSector and tell us what you think about these trends and the future of the sector.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The YNPN Path to Success


The YNPN National Board recently gathered in New York to spend a few days thinking big and going deep on our vision for the network. In this post, board member Kim Walker discusses insights from the retreat on YNPN's diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.
 

 
How do you create success? Not revenue or profits - the success that we crave as nonprofit leaders. The success that means we've solved a problem, improved lives, created a better world?

Fortunately, I've gotten to work on a social issue on which we've made significant progress: homelessness. Despite the recession and rising housing costs, homelessness is decreasing: there were 11% fewer homeless people in 2014 than there were in 2007 (more data here). Here's what I've learned about success from my day job:

1. You need big goals. The federal government has set a timeline for ending - that's right, ending - homelessness, which you can read more about here.  And you know what? It's working (see above).

2. You need good partners. Much of the progress we've made on homelessness can be credited to partnerships and new collaborations between Administration staff, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the other agencies that participate in the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).

3. You need to create the right environment. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, passed in 2009, requires communities to adopt proven best practices in ending homelessness, and also shifted the field away from focusing on activities to measuring our progress using data and outcomes.

4. You need to measure your performance. See above. Outcomes! Data! Way important. Homelessness providers use a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to keep track of their progress, and they report that data to HUD and to Congress each year, who holds them accountable for it.

5. You need to be open to change. As a current student of organization development and a consultant, I love change. But whether you love it or not, it's going to happen. Success means that you can embrace it, roll with it, and respect it. In homelessness that means being willing to adapt new evidence-base practices, work with new partners, and collect data in new ways.

So how does this relate to the YNPN National Board? In many ways, but there's one goal in particular where we're reaching for success: becoming a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization that leads a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive sector.

This is what we spent all of Day 1 of our latest (and my first ever!) National Board retreat working on. It turns out we're taking some cues from the success of homelessness:

1. A big goal: to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable YNPN and  social sector. No big, right? Everyone already loves diversity, of all kinds; understands what these concepts mean; believes in inclusivity; and is working toward equity.Well...no, unfortunately not. But that's why this is such a great BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) - because we're not there yet. But we know that we can be.

2.  Partners: our chapter members, plus some! We've already been working with you, our chapter members, and getting your feedback on how we can create a more diverse/inclusive/equitable YNPN and social sector. At our retreat, we added to our team by including two great consultants, and you can bet that our network of mentors and partners will be increasing as our new EDI Board Committee comes to life.

3. Environment: YNPN and the U.S. - Our board retreats, and our chapter meetings, are great environments for generating new ideas - brilliant people in amazing spaces, having the time and the mandate to do something good. Some may say that the larger enviroment is more difficult - the wealth gap seems to be increasing, the U.S. feels as divisive along different boundaries as ever, etc. But we've seen huge gains on issues like marriage equality that just a few years ago seemed impossible. Maybe this environment is conducive to change after all.

4. Performance measure(rs) - NationBuilder and Elana! We're planning on building metrics into our new chapter OS, NationBuilder that allow us to track EDI in all of its forms. The data will keep us honest about how well our EDI initiatives are working.

5. Openness to change - Here's where we have an edge - YNPN thrives on change. Our youthful energy keeps us restless, looking at how we can grow, advance, do better, be better.

We think we're on the path to success to shaping a stronger organization -  an organization that can be at the forefront of not just welcoming people from a variety of backgrounds with a diversity of experiences, but ensuring our leadership and our sector reflect that diversity and are built on the concepts of inclusivity and equity. We hope you believe in our success as well, and continue to be our partners, our data collectors, our change managers. Especially when you're talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, success for YNPN means success for all.


Kim-Walker_YNPNBoard-266x300Kim Walker is a devoted non-profiteer currently living in Ann Arbor, MI. In her professional life, she serves as a Senior Program Manager at CSH, a national non-profit organization devoted to housing society’s most vulnerable individuals, including people experiencing homelessness. Kim’s expertise lies in providing training and technical assistance on best practices related to ending homelessness and developing excellent supportive housing to communities across the country. Prior to her work at CSH, she served in a similar role at the National Alliance to End Homelessness for four years. She also served as an AmeriCorps member in Philadelphia. She received her Master’s of Urban Planning from UCLA in 2009 and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Organization Development at Bowling Green State University. She’s a proud alum of the College of William & Mary and a native of the amazing Cleveland, OH.

Tying Knots: How Collaboration Builds Networks

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Warm Memory, view from inside 36' x 11' x 21' 40,000 linear feet of string, aluminum conduit & hardware *photo by Justin Vaughn Photography 

Amie Sell, a Chicago-based artist whom I got to know through our work advocating for affordable housing in our Chicago neighborhood, recently held an art show where she constructed an installation made of 40,000 linear feet of string to "create an experience for the audience that allows them to feel the community networks and connections that anchor individuals to a neighborhood."

Thinking about the different networks that I am part of, I marveled at the structure, seeing visible ties and knots represent what usually is invisible. I think about all the different work I've been doing, and how my connections are strengthened through the work I've done with other people.

Read more

The New Chapter OS: Supporting a Growing Network

When last we left you, dear readers, YNPN had achieved a critical understanding of who we were culturally but were struggling with how to manage our explosive growth.  We knew we needed greater cohesion across the network, but the models that were recommended to us seemed to rely on creating cohesion by force instead of by choice.
In late 2013 and early 2014, we underwent a Theory of Change process that helped open our eyes to this false dichotomy.  We learned through that process that there is already an incredible amount of cohesion throughout our network.  As a network, we share a common vision, mission, and values.  We even had a remarkably clear sense of the roles chapters should play versus the national organization.

What the process also revealed was that we lacked the basic infrastructure to be able to work collectively within our roles towards our shared vision, and that whatever that infrastructure would be, it would have to be incredibly dynamic.

So this year, we went back to the drawing board with this question in mind of how you harness the power of an incredibly dynamic network without killing it.  Before we actually started referring to the plan as this officially, I was calling it “the Chapter Operating System” in my head for two reasons:

  1. First, like OS X or Windows, we knew that what we were looking to build a platform, not a program.  We wanted a base that chapters could use to create what worked for them locally not a distribution channel for a single set of ideas.
  2. Second, we knew that what we were rolling out was the 1.0 version of whatever our ongoing relationship with chapters would be.  We knew that we would need to openly embrace the fact that our system would have bugs that would need to be fixed. And we also knew that this iterative process would leave room to shift and adapt as new opportunities (aka features) came up.

So what does it look like?
Like any good operating system, it focuses on providing the very basics that our chapters and chapter leaders need in order to thrive, and leaves the rest open for chapters to build on their own.  Our core components:

  • Clear affiliation structure - With the support of National, chapters acquire their own tax status and affiliate formally with the network via a clear, Chapter/National-developed agreement which lays out shared standards and expectations for the relationship.
  • Upgraded direct services for chapters - By focusing on peer learning platforms and by providing key infrastructure, our goal at the National level is to show our value to the network by building capacity for chapters to be able to do for themselves.  In addition to building capacity we will leverage our numbers to bring critical direct benefits to chapters at a better rate such as D&O and liability insurance.
  • Shared platform - We chose NationBuilder because it is a fully integrated platform (website, communications, events, and donor management) that will also allow us to gather and compare data across our growing network.
  • Shared membership and investment - Our structure has always been that members join individual chapters directly.  Knowing though that we want our members to have access to the fullest network benefits and connection to the nationwide movement in addition to their local benefits, we’re moving to joint national/local membership so we can leverage our members across the network for advocacy, research, and momentum for change. And all of this will be supported in part by a nominal chapter investment in the national network.

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A few elements, we believe, point to the inevitable success of the Chapter OS:

  • Most importantly, as we’ve mapped out this system, we’ve chosen to focus A LOT of our time and energy on creating a vision for what’s possible and only a little bit of energy building systems that keep chapters from going rogue.  That’s how big of a bet we’re making on building a new kind of network that makes it clear that we’re better together.

"What does this mean for you?" Realistically, most of this will be happening behind the scenes--just like an operating system updates, you don't see the changes that happen in the background. And to continue the OS metaphor, there may be a few bugs. No grand endeavour comes out perfect the first time around.


What you will see is a national membership program, increased programs and services for members, and a stronger network that can change the sector for the better.  

Onward.
 

From Play-Doh to Building Blocks: Supporting a Growing Network

Over the last three years, the number of chapters in the YNPN network has grown by 60 percent. This exponential growth at a time when most membership organizations are in decline tells us that there's something special about YNPN. As we work to support this incredible growth, our National Director Trish Tchume did some thinking about what exactly makes YNPN so unique.

Last year as part of a grant proposal, I was put in the position of having to put into words for the first time not only what made YNPN unique in general, but specifically what made YNPN different from other membership associations.  I knew what it was.  When you talked to our chapters leaders, they knew what it was.  But putting it into words was still difficult.

After a few days of mulling it over, I finally found the words to capture the essence of what makes our network unique:

Unlike the traditional “association” model where bringing a chapter to your community is essentially like opening a franchise that would look and operate the same whether it was in Boston or Little Rock, YNPN is an intentionally creative space for developing and connecting the next generation of social change leaders. We like to think of our network-building model as the equivalent of offering a pile of blocks, a lump of Playdoh, pipecleaners, and pickup sticks to the most expansive, young minds in the country.

Then we leave them with the very basic instructions that they should build something with it that awakens a diverse cross-section of young people to their potential to create change in their communities, provides them with the skills and experiences they need to meet that potential, and allows them to build connections across differences.

I remember feeling so satisfied after writing that last paragraph, like I’d actually figured out a way to communicate to the rest of the world what all of us involved in the network knew.  It was magic.


Magic felt like this.

YNPN doesn’t work in spite of our open structure, it works because of our open structure.

We had named the secret sauce and it was good.  But the self-satisfaction wore off pretty quickly after that because a looming question remained:

So how do you harness the power of something so open without killing it?

This is the struggle that has plagued YNPN almost since the earliest days of its national charter 10 years ago. I’ll be the first to admit, we’ve gotten the answer to this question wrong a few times. There was the brief period in the mid to late 2000s when we thought 30-page legal agreements were the way to build cohesion.  Or the time we thought a really expensive, super-technical online membership platform would bring us all together.  And of course there’s the decade-old belief that the only way for us to do anything as a network was if we had a shared 501(c)(3).

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Although we were a forward-facing, intentionally creative space in all other ways, our first instinct was to adopt familiar structures instead of seeking out new models that might better fit our organizational culture.

So what did we decide to do? You’ll have to wait for Part 2 of this blog post to find out.

Network to Know: FoodCorps

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To help our members find opportunities to more strategically network, we’ll occasionally be featuring organizations that we think are doing interesting work that would be of interest to YNPN members. This week, we're introducing you to FoodCorps, which works within local communities to connect kids to healthy food in schools.

We spoke with Tiffany McClain, FoodCorps Recruitment Manager, to learn a bit more about their mission and ways YNPN members can connect and collaborate.

You were founded in 2011. Can you tell us a bit more about the mission of your organization, and how you achieve that?

Together with communities, FoodCorps serves to connect kids to healthy food in school. We are a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. Through our partnership with AmeriCorps, we recruit, train and place emerging leaders into limited-resource schools for a year of service implementing our three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids. During their year of service, members engage in the community and advance our mission by providing:

  • Knowledge: food and nutrition education that gives kids the information they need to make smart choices
  • Engagement: hands-on activities like gardening and cooking that foster skills and pride around healthy food
  • Access: lunch trays filled with nutritious meals from local farms

In what ways do you see FoodCorps having a lasting, sustainable impact on the local communities you're working in?

As a result of the efforts and achievements of our service members, many schools and nonprofits are recognizing the value of having a full-time school garden coordinator or educator on staff and are securing funding to fill those roles, often hiring our alums!

What energizes individuals to participate with FoodCorps, and why might others seek to connect with you?

  1. We are planting seeds that will bloom a healthier generation of children who know what healthy food is, how it grows, how to prepare it, and have access to it every day.
  2. We are building an impressive national network of emerging professionals who have a passion for food, farming public health, nutrition, and education, tied together by their desire to improve the food chain.
  3. We eat really good food! (good for you, the environment, and your taste buds!)

Alright, we're sold -- we love good food too! How can YNPN members who are interested further get involved with FoodCorps? What are some ways we might collaborate and help more kids get access to healthy food in schools?

A local YNPN chapter might be interested in hearing about farm-to-school/food systems/food justice work from our allies via presentation at a chapter meeting.

YNPN could connect with our alums or outgoing service members in a particular region as a resource for expanding their professional networks post-FoodCorps.



To learn more about FoodCorps and potential collaborations, please contact Tiffany McClain at tiffany.mcclain@foodcorps.org. You can also find them online at their: Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram.

Hiring for Culture Fit: When was the last time you examined your culture for myths?

When it comes to hiring new board members, everyone wants the right people on the team. Dozens of resources focus on how to probe a candidate’s qualifications as well as their willingness to make the time commitment. Yet cultural fit often remains a mystery.

Earlier this month, YNPN National began onboarding eight new and talented Board members. Every year we work to improve our board recruitment, onboarding, and engagement. We want the right people on the team, which means we focus on qualifications, motivation, and cultural fit. We talk about our culture openly in our outreach, interviews, and calibration process.

Culture has become a bit of a buzzword lately. The idea of “cultural fit” became popular during the development of organizational psychology in the 1970s, but many myths about organizational culture remain.

As we kick off 2015, let’s take some time to examine a few of the most common myths around hiring board members for cultural fit and how YNPN approaches board culture.

Myth 1: Your mission statement defines your culture.                               

Mission, values, and vision statements can mirror culture, but organizational culture is based on shared attitudes, unwritten rules, and even traditions developed over time.

At YNPN, we talk consistently and formally about our board’s culture during every board meeting and informally through our internal communications. We talk openly about the behaviors we believe in, model, and articulate externally.

During the recruitment process, we look for leaders who successfully develop collaborative remote relationships, who listen thoughtfully during strategic conversations, and who stay flexible and resilient when uncertainty exists. And we ask directly about these behaviors in our recruiting outreach, interviews, reference conversations, and our candidate calibration. But we also look for endurance, which brings us to our next myth.
 
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Myth 2: Urgency trumps everything.

Many of us have worked in cultures where “bias to action” was encouraged at all costs. Yet often that leads to reactive tactics fueled by adrenaline and shortcuts. The conventional wisdom about interview questions encourages us to ask candidates about working under pressure, making quick decisions, and re-prioritizing goals on the fly.

We see things differently at YNPN. We want someone to articulate a passion for our mission that translates into a strategic sense of urgency. In addition to urgency, expanding our national movement requires endurance. Endurance is inconvenient when you’re focused on short-term goals and quick turnaround, but a strategic sense of urgency for our mission that prizes being around for the long haul is what will sustain us through the ever-changing challenges we face.

 
Myth 3: Teammates who fit will hit the ground running.

In many industries and organizations, leaders prioritize “hiring for fit” so that new employees immediately impact short-term financial results. Investing in anything but a short onboarding is seen as low ROI. I often hear from managers who argue that when you hire for fit, you can speed through onboarding and move to revenue generation.

And as on any strong board, YNPN National Board members are responsible for growing revenue and supporting financial sustainability. Rather than speed through onboarding, we are intentional about our new board members’ First 90 Days. We create space for new relationships to form, both with peers and with Board leadership, and for the content and format of each new board member’s engagement to take shape. We believe that this is how we’ll maximize the value of each board member’s unique contributions.


Myth 4: Ask a candidate about her idea of an ideal culture.

“Describe the working environment that enables you to work at your best,” is a commonly recommended question to probe for culture fit. The thinking is that people who describe something similar to your existing way of working are a good cultural fit. But evaluating candidates in this way can lead you to select people who might not be able to bring fresh perspectives that will help keep your culture healthy.

At YNPN we’d rather hear about what stops you from performing at your best, or what teammates can do to hold you accountable when you’re feeling overwhelmed. A successful culture can encourage people to work together across differences in preference and style. Which brings us to our final myth...


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Myth 5: Board culture is one-size-fits all.

We aim to tell board applicants who we are and what it’s honestly like to work alongside us, but we must balance fresh perspectives with existing board culture.

Why? Because we look for people whose primary motive is to advance our mission and sometimes that requires changing and adapting. Great leaders are learners and listeners, and as we strive to lead this crucial national movement, we surely have many more organizational myths to bust along the way.

What are some myths (and truths) about organizational culture that you’ve seen?

 


 
 Kate Capossela, Board Development Committee ChairKate Capossela, Board Development Committee Chair

Kate Capossela, MBA serves on the YNPN National Board, where she leads the Board Development Committee, which oversees several board functions, including recruitment. She is a passionate advocate for strengthening nonprofit management, especially talent development, and she has served in leadership roles at national nonprofits, grassroots organizations, and the private sector. She lives in San Francisco.  
If you're interested in exploring organizational culture further, Kate recommends The Psychology of Behavior at Work
 

Embracing Change Leadership

With the start of a new year, everyone's talking about "change." Individuals set personal resolutions for change, and many organizations start applying change with new strategic plans, goals, and even new hires. As a leader, how you react to change is a key component of any long-term project or organization success. Below, YNPN Birmingham Board Chair Vanessa Stevens shares key tools and lessons she learned through participation in the AmEx Leadership Series about embracing change leadership.


As young nonprofit professionals, we face many changes at the beginning of our careers. We may move for a new job, decide to go to graduate school, or face organizational challenges like a new boss or a major new role within our organization.  Often there is that bittersweet emotion with change--that energy and anticipation mixed with some hesitation and anxiety. As emerging leaders at our organizations and YNPN chapters, we must also continue to adapt to necessary changes to overcome the many challenges the nonprofit sector faces.

At the American Express Leadership Academy, I learned how important it is to understand one's own change style and what people need from a leader during change.  All of the Academy participants completed an assessment called the Change Style Indicator that placed everyone along a spectrum from Conserver to Pragmatist to Originator. Each of these styles comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. For example:

  • A Conserver gets things done on schedule and respects the rules yet may be perceived as rigid, discouraging of innovation, and delaying action by overly reflecting.
  • An Originator understands complex problems, provides future-oriented insights, and is risk-oriented, yet to others may appear impulsive and not understand how to actually get things done.
  • A Pragmatist fall in the middle. They can organize ideas into action plans, build cooperation, and are flexible and adaptive. They may seem indecisive, compromising, and trying to please too many people.
Because of the different strengths and pitfalls of each change preference, it is valuable to build teams with individuals across the spectrum. Moreover, understanding one's own tendencies helps you appreciate what others bring to the table, adapt your style to what may be necessary for the particular decision at hand, and understand why you may be frustrating the Conserver, Pragmatist, or Originator at your organization (or likewise why they may be frustrating you).

As leaders, we not only need to understand our own change style, but also what change is and how to lead change successfully. At the Academy, the trainers emphasized the distinction between change and transition. Change is the beginning of something new, and it is experienced externally whereas transition is the ending and letting go that we experience internally. It is important to remember that change begins with an ending. Many people may struggle with this ending by demonstrating signs of grief, such as anger, denial, and disorientation.

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Leaders must guide others through the ending towards a point where they begin to gain clarity and accept and manage change. If a leader provides no vision, then others are confused. If people feel they lack the skills to adapt to the change, they experience anxiety. Similarly, if they feel they lack the resources, they will be frustrated. Through clear communication and composure, a leader can ensure that an organization has vision, skills, incentives, resources, and a plan for action to lead change. Whether you are leading a new chapter like YNPN Birmingham, or an established chapter facing critical points in your growth, decision-making and change are constant parts of your work. Take steps to increase your own self-awareness of what you experience internally when facing a decision or going through a change and what perception others may have of you. Likewise, pay closer attention to what others might experience as a result of your decision and ensure they have the necessary tools to adapt to the change. As we learn to embrace change leadership, we hopefully will see less conflict, more innovation, and increased effectiveness and efficiency in carrying out our work and meeting our missions.



 
VanessaHeadShotVanessa Stevens is the Community Engagement & Education Program Coordinator at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, a nonprofit dedicated to the social, civic, and economic integration of Hispanic families.  Previously, she was the Resource Development & Communications Director and an AmeriCorps VISTA. She is the Board President of the new YNPN chapter in Birmingham.  Prior to moving to Birmingham, Vanessa studied International Relations at American University in Washington, DC.