The leaves are out, the flowers are blooming and just this morning I noticed the bugs are biting. So, summer must be just around the corner! And with summer comes the inevitable slow-down of the nonprofit organization. There are few reports or proposals due, people take their holidays, and for the most part, galas and fundraisers are over (save for golf tournaments!). It’s a good time for many nonprofit folks to take some time to reflect on our year, identify some successes and recognize some growth opportunities.
It’s also a good time to think about our leadership – how have we been doing? Where have we had some progress? Where could we improve? Whether we’re aspiring leaders, or we’ve been in an ED or CEO role for many years, we can always grow our skills and abilities.
Below you’ll find some tips to make the most of those lazy, hazy summer months.
1. Take stock
Reflecting on our year can help us identify our best and our not-so-great moments. And once we identify them, we can begin to understand why, how and when we’re at our best so that we can build on our strongest attributes. Take out a calendar (using the calendar we use all year is best) and go month by month to help trigger the memories of what the year brought us. When did we have some great moments? What were the circumstances? How did we feel and what was the result? Can we identify times when we felt our leadership had a strong impact on our teams, our boards, our clients or others? When we write down our successes and the circumstances, actions, decisions and other influences that may have contributed to that success, we can build on them; we can identify the factors that help us in our leadership and grow from there. What about some moments that where we weren’t at our best? What factors were in our control? How can we mitigate those in future?
Once we write out our highlights and lowlights and what brought us to those moments, we can understand ourselves better. And as our understanding of ourselves deepens, we may be able to recreate our best state of mind for leading our teams and organizations, and subvert or counteract the conditions that undermine our best selves.
2. Talk to people
This can be a slightly uncomfortable activity. But talking to the people with whom we work about our performance, our leadership and our impact can provide us with invaluable feedback and information. Self-reflection is important but hearing how others feel about our leadership and performance can also uncover strengths we hadn’t realized we possessed. It can also shed light on some negative impacts we didn’t know our leadership was having on our organizations.
As mentioned, requesting constructive feedback from our co-workers, especially our direct-reports can be difficult because it may leave our teams feeling vulnerable and unsure. They may not feel safe enough to be honest and provide unhelpful (read: solely complimentary) feedback. But there are ways we can cultivate a culture of openness and candid communications. Check out this article, “Get Feedback to Get Better: 5 Tips for Leaders Seeking Feedback” to learn how.
Did we take any leadership courses this year? Did we attend any trainings, seminars, conferences, workshops or other opportunities where we learned something about leadership? So often we attend these trainings and learn so much throughout the day – we take notes, we talk to people, we make plans, set goals and leave feeling excited and motivated. Then Monday happens. We put away our notes and folders and never revisit them because work gets in the way. Now is the time. Pull them out, dust them off and review. Make new notes, let’s see if we have, in fact, applied some of our learnings. What was it that got us excited? How can we start implementing those learnings now and in the future? Did we get business cards from people with whom we wanted to have coffee? Email them! Follow-through with what got away throughout the year.
4. Take a course
The summer months can provide a great opportunity for learning something new. People go on holidays, many programs, meetings and services go on hiatus, and, many of our organizations slow-down in July and August. As a result, it’s a great opportunity to grow our skills. There are many courses and other opportunities we can find locally, though they may slow down over the summer as well. However, if we have some time and access to an internet connection, we can still learn some new skills. From MIT graduate courses, to a treasure trove of leadership development learning bits, there are places all over the internet we can improve our leadership skills for FREE. Check out this list from Inc. to get started: “9 Places to Learn Leadership Skills for Free”.
5. Set goals
This activity is the culmination of the above tips. Once we’ve reflected, received feedback, reviewed, and started to learn something new, we can set some personal leadership goals for ourselves. Setting them during a slower time of the year (rather than the typical time in December/January when our organizations are usually quite busy) allows us time to think them through thoroughly, tweak them over a few weeks, and set solid intentions to follow through. We even have the time to set up the habit of checking in with them and measuring our progress. If we put this in motion during the summer months, our habits and intentions are set when we start to get busy again once fall rolls around.
Though summer tends to be a slower time of year for nonprofits, we don’t have to check-out completely. July and August provide the perfect time of year to look inwardly and see where we are doing well, where we can improve and plan to become even greater leaders.
Until next time,
This week’s blog was written by Tina de los Santos. Tina brings a diverse mix of nonprofit and business leadership to her role at PLC. Throughout her career she has been passionate about creating engaging learning experiences that support and inspire people’s professional and personal growth. Tina is our chief knowledge sharer and enjoys digitally connecting with other leaders in Peel to help them find great resources and learning tools.