[VIDEO] How To Lead And Manage In Our New Nonprofit Work Reality
Steven: You’ll hear a robot voice.
Kishshana: Go ahead.
Steven: All right, Kishshana. I got 2:00 Eastern or is it okay if I go ahead and get this part started officially?
Kishshana: Yes, we can.
Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Sorry for the early start or the late start, but we’re going to get going here. We are here to talk about how to lead and manage in our new work reality. You want to get rid of all that burnout if we can. Thanks for being here. I know it’s a short week for some of you, but I really appreciate a full room. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating as always.
And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, I just want to let y’all know that we are recording the session. So if you have to maybe leave earlier or maybe get interrupted, don’t worry. We’re going to get that recording to you later on today. You should already have the slides, but in case I missed you, we’ll send all that good stuff later on today. But most importantly, please do use that chat box on your webinar screen, on the Zoom screen. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A, and like Kishshana said a minute ago, we’d love to hear from you. We’d love for these sessions to be interactive. So use the chat, the Q&A. We’ll see those. You can tweet us. We’d love to hear from you. Say hi if you haven’t already in the chat. Introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from, how the weather is, anything funny you want to tell us. But we’d love to hear from you is the bottom line.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every single Thursday. This is kind of the kickoff to the second half of the year. And we love doing these webinars. You know, we’re approaching, I think 1,000 sessions, which is kind of unbelievable. But if you’ve never heard of us beyond the webinars, Bloomerang is a provider of donor management software. So check that out of you’re interested, if you never heard of us, got all kinds of good stuff on our website. You can learn more about us. But don’t do that right now because one of my best buddies, Kishshana Palmer, is here for beautiful Washington, DC by way of New York City, normally, right, Kishshana? How’s it going?
Kishshana: That’s right.
Steven: You doing okay?
Kishshana: I’m doing great.
Steven: This is awesome to have you. You are super busy for a couple of reasons why that I’m going to mention here in a second, but it’s awesome to have you back. It wouldn’t be the webinar series without Kishshana joining us. Y’all are in for a super awesome treat over the next hour or so. If you don’t know Kishshana, you got to check her out. She’s the CEO over at Kishshana & Co. She’s also the founder of The Rooted Collaborative, which I think she’s going to tell you more about later on. They got an awesome event coming up here in just a couple of weeks. So she’s knee deep in and planning, and we’re going to share some more information about that because it’s not too late to check it out even though it’s only a few weeks away. And I don’t know how she has time for all this stuff. I mean, she’s a CFRE and she even teaches a CFRE class. So it’s like, dang, she’s a, you know, AFP master trainer and is super involved in other conferences. You’re going to North Dakota, what, next week for just a keynote?
Kishshana: Oh. Monday.
Steven: Just like a normal thing to do, you know, go keynote.
Kishshana: No. Just keynote.
Steven: All the time. So it’s I say this because it’s very special to have her here on the webinar, and she’s really gracious with her time for us. So I’m going to put it down, especially since you’ve been waiting an hour to hear from her because you’re awesome, Kishshana. So I’m going to stop sharing and I’ll let you pull up your slides here. Let’s see if we can get to work. Hopefully it’ll work.
Kishshana: Absolutely. Okay, y’all. If you have the slides already, I’m going to ask you to try to not read along because you can only either listen or read, not both. Okay? I know we’re all gifted fundraisers in the house for the most part. Some of us are like, “Am I though?” But I want to make sure that y’all are interacting with me here and that if you need to write notes, that you can do that later.
So one of the things that I’ve talked about a ton over the last year has been about wellness and wellbeing and what it means to lead in a changing time. My first time in really understanding what that meant was in 2008. How many of y’all remember the housing bubble bursting in the U.S. and how many of y’all were like me who bought at the top of the bubble?
Oh, my gosh. My house that I loved so much that I’m sure that I overpaid and was a fundraiser at Big Brothers Big Sisters at that time and really had to learn to navigate some really choppy waters around what it meant to help folks understand investing in their community in trying times, investing in young people, investing in our staff. And so I am not new to the idea about what it means to lead when the tide has shifted, but what I really had to come to understand over the last several years was what it means to really lead and manage your time and manage your team when your reality continues to change and the only thing that feels constant is change.
So I figured we’d spend some time today really kind of talking through that. And so at any point, if you have a question, a comment, you want to just co-sign, give me a plus one, please keep your chat up so that we can keep talking and I’ll be looking at it while I’m going through my slides.
Steven, thank you so much for that introduction. I am always so humbled to be with my Bloomerang family. Y’all don’t know this about Steve, but he has backed every harebrained scheme I’ve ever had since day one and continues to encourage me as a professional and thereby encouraging all of the communities that I influence as professionals in our sector to just show up and be ourselves and do the darn thing and do the best work we can. So just always have to give him props. But I spend most of my time as a trainer and a strategist as a coach and I help organizations and the people that lead them, just like you, grow your skills, your teams, and your results. And so I’ve been so grateful to be able to help thousands of folks through my classes, through my courses, through one-on-one work, through training, conferences. And so you can find me just about anywhere from the church house, to the school house, to your company’s house.
And as Steven mentioned, my baby that I released into the world is The Rooted Collaborative. When I started in the sector right after grad school, I realized that there weren’t a lot of folks who I thought looked like me who were in leadership roles. And I ascended into an executive role pretty early in about three and a half, four years into my career and I spent almost all of my career in the C-suite. And so I was always an only in that sometimes mean an only a woman, sometimes the only woman of color, sometimes the only black woman and had to really understand how to navigate leading when I was always being othered and what that meant. And so I started this community because I realized through my travels as a speaker and a trainer that lots of women globally have had some version of this experience and that we needed to be able to have a place to regroup and that professional development is awesome, but if your personal development is not together because personal development is professional development, and you aren’t going to thrive in your career.
And so we offer this as an opportunity for you to build community, for you to build your career and your personal development skills and develop financial fortitude so that you can actually thrive in the work that you have been called to do. And our conference, The Rooted Retreat is in two short weeks, and you can just head over to therootedretreat.com. We have an awesome, awesome three days plan, or if you identify as a black, indigenous, or women of color globally, and if you are one of my faves, one of my ally folks who are like, you know, “I still could use a thing or two or three,” we have a dope co-conspirators track where our trainers will work with you on what is now and next in activating your allyship to co-conspiratorship. And so I invite you to join us for our retreat, which is in two weeks. It’s virtual. We are mailing out dope boxes today, y’all. They are so good and delicious. So invite y’all to check us out.
And if you have not heard, I have a podcast, “Let’s Take This Offline,” and you can go ahead and binge listen while you do your running, or your walking, or you’re sitting lakeside this summer, kind of decompressing from a really hellish year. And if you know somebody who should be a guest on my podcast, I would love to know. So please make sure you just drop me a note.
So I can tell y’all that stuff, y’all, but I’ll tell you my most important job and how I really, really learned to hone my leadership skills was as solo mama to this teen who, my friends, she has the mack daddy of all summer jobs. Do y’all know what that is? What is the mack daddy of summer jobs for young people? It is the best job that a young person could probably have ever. Can anybody to tell me in the chat? What is the best job you could ever have as a teenager?
Let’s see if y’all can guess it, and I’ll give y’all a second to see if it comes in. Come on. In the house. Jessica. True, Andrea. Yep. Ooh. Man, that’s a good one. Oh, I love that. These are good. What else do we have? Let’s see if we can get a couple more in. What is the best possible job? Ooh. Yes. Camp counselor. Oh, am Myesha’s sleeping. Camp counselor, amusement park employees. Ooh, lifeguard. Lifeguard.
Keep it coming. Keep it coming. What else do we have? Doing nothing and getting paid. That’s right, Felicia. Ice cream shop. These are good jobs, y’all. Tour guide on an island. Ooh, Manly. I love that. Volunteering. That’s what I did. Camp counselor. TikTok influencer. True. They make the monies. Movie theater attendant. Did y’all know that popcorn at the movie theater is free but the container is not? So if you go there with your own container, they’ve got to give you popcorn for free? Walt Disney World. That’s amazing. Lawyer’s assistant. Snowcone stand. Y’all have some really good jobs.
So Sinai is a lifeguard this summer. Last summer, her first job was working for me. She quit me and now she is a lifeguard living her best possible life this summer, working at a community pool and having the best time of her life. It’s the funniest thing ever. Ben, isn’t the popcorn thing blowing your mind? Absolutely. Popcorn is free as are drinks. Okay? Angie did a lifeguard. I love that. So listen, keep it coming in the chat. I love getting to know y’all.
And because I love getting to know y’all so much . . . Ooh, supermarket attendant, Ivene. I love that. I didn’t do that job. I worked for a publishing house in high school. Okay? And also for Old Navy, when the flagship store opened in New York City, I got one of the first jobs at the cash register. I was super excited about life and I was fresh to death in my Old Navy gear in the ’90s. And so I remember that so fondly. Ooh, y’all had some great job. I’m jelly.
Okay. Please make sure you stay connected with me at Kishshana Palmer across all social media. Let’s keep the conversation going. Anybody who follows me knows I follow back, I talk to y’all and so let’s stay connected. Natalie, you were like me? You worked at Old Navy? Come on, we go together.
Okay. Let’s jump right in, y’all, because I could chit chat with y’all all day. You’d be like, “We loved it, but we didn’t learn a thing.” So let’s get some learning in now. Y’all, no company can build a coherent culture without people who either share its core values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values. I saw that in an article I paraphrased, a part of an article I read about resilience in leadership in the Harvard Business Review probably six or seven months ago. And that really stuck with me because we have this idea, not everybody, but lots of us, that we got to focus on the organization’s goal and then we just get the people to fill in. And the reality is that it is not sustainable over time to burn the people to get to the goal.
And so one of the things that has been such a big lesson, and an aha, and also a gift is when I started putting people first and then getting to the goal once I understood how to get my folks motivated, activated, interested, and owning the work that they did, like the sky opened up.
So I have a question for y’all. How many of us had the experience at some point during the pandemonium, as my daughter says, that folks were like, “Oh, I’m just home resting. I’m just resetting my life. I’m just trying to slow down.” And you were like, “I have not worked this hard in since ever.” How many of us worked more and felt like we did more during the pandemic than we did when we were going to the office, including our commute even if the commute was trash money for the ’99 and 2000? It’s coming in Julie, Will, Cheryl, Pena, Natalie Haley, Anna. Okay. Ben, Kaleen, listen, Leanne, McKenna and listen, working ourselves to the bone.
Some days I would say, “Did I remember to eat today?” I mean, literally if it wasn’t for the fact that I was trying to do squats every day, my booty would be flat because I would be sitting on it all the time. Y’all, I had to get a standing desk just to ensure that my ankles didn’t get weak because I wasn’t wearing high heels anymore. And Rose, you had to go remote overnight. Whew. And Andrea, adding childcare provider to my job. First of all, these children have taught themselves. And for all of us who are parents who had privilege of teaching these children, just be glad you’re still like those little people. And if you don’t, it’s okay. There is a whole group, a support group for us. And Paris, you are so right. Some late hours at different times, for sure. And as an essential service, we had to go every day. Oh. And it was scary. Okay. So shout out to you and props to you for being able to do that. I so imagine that.
And Lissa, you also became a teacher to four kids too. Let me tell you what, they would’ve just been children of the world because what would they have learned in the last year while we would try to work these jobs. And you had to make crazy schedules, Leah, to limit people in the building and then you went remote. Whew, listen, we all have had a time of it and what I saw over and over again, and so I’m no different from you. I thought that I was going to power down a little bit. Oh, no business increased, coaching increased, the amount of change management exercises I had to take organizations through increased. And what I found was that many of . . .
Steven: Hey, Kishshana, we lost your audio. I don’t know why. It doesn’t say you’re muted though. That was weird. No. I think they heard me, Kishshana. I don’t think we can hear you yet. That’s weird.
Steven: Oh, there you are.
Kishshana: Okay. I’m just going to close the AirPods and just, hopefully, it will be . . . [Inaudible 00:15:08] okay. Can y’all hear me and see me?
Steven: Yup. Yup.
Kishshana: This is what happens when you’re on the road, y’all, and it becomes a whole situation. Okay. I’m selecting. I’m just going to change it on the . . . Great. Okay. We should be good now as long as y’all can hear me.
Okay. So here’s what a day in the life of a trapped superhero looks like. Okay? Because we were trapped through last year. I’m just going to call it what it is. The rest of you can feel like you were doing some noble stuff. I feel like we were trapped. Okay. So has this happened to y’all in last year, you jolted awake and you went, “Holy moly, my to-do list?” How many among us have jumped up at 3:00 a.m., frantic as something you forgot to do the day before, even though you were test rooted to your desk for at least 12 hours? Holla if you hear me. Ben, Michael, Aaron, Wendy, Sam, Melania, Kate, Alyssa . . . Y’all know what I’m talking about. So many times, right? And you were like, “There has got to be a better way than this.”
Okay, try me on this one. You were immediately exhausted by just the thought of your to-do list. Just keep it coming. Keep it coming. Immediately exhausted. What about this one? Even though you used to love your a.m. routine, now you find yourself dragging yourself through it, tired all the time.
What about this one? You get yourself some kind of together and you kind of meander and find your way to your laptop. You know, did you forget to put things on? Did you forget to do stuff? Did you forget to make a smoothie? You’re just forgetting stuff. Just slow and off. Okay? And then you power up. So all of a sudden, you’re like, “Okay, well, I’m on, let’s do this.” And then what ends up happening, y’all? Y’all are in Zoom hell. Oh, my goodness. Okay? Leah, you hold the 24 notepads? What? Zoom hell. Then somewhere in there, there might be water. Somebody might get water in there. But then there’s more Zoom hell. And then there are other children. Okay? And then laptop because, you know, work, right? And then what keeps happening? Your nighttime routine which goes straight to hell because you fall flat on your face until tomorrow.
Julie, you said, if you have water and lunch, that’s a great day. And there you go. So y’all understand. So we ended up being these sort of trapped superheroes in this really weird cycle that had us feeling like we were living in the Twilight Zone, kind of like this cat. How many of y’all have had this face at least once or twice a day? You’re like, “What?” On camera, trying to stay awake. You don’t mean anything by it.
Look, Manly, absolutely “Black Mirror.” So I started to wonder, “Does everybody work this hard?” Because that list I just gave y’all, actually what was happening to me. And so that’s what I wondered. And the answer is and what I’ve received from y’all, is absolutely yes. Rose, your face is permanently frozen that way because people will shock you on the internet. Oh, my gosh. Can I tell you? We have been shocked by our colleagues who we never wanted to know that much about, by our teams who we really had hoped that we would never find out more about than we know right now. Okay? You could tell so much about folks by their darn background and it’s so funny.
And so the question then comes into play, is it really time to go back? Because for many of us, even though it is stressful and the time seems to run together, I still have to check what day of the week it is. I oftentimes forget because I used to know when I was going to be on the road. And even though we want some semblance of what we remember as normal, we all know that things have shifted in a way that we’re not sure that we are going to get back again. And for some of us, we don’t want to go back to where it was before.
But let’s talk about it. Is it really time to go back? So when I think about back to work as a manager, these are some of the things that comes to mind for me. So one, I want y’all to think. It’s going to be four things I’m going to go through, y’all. So one, planning before you move. The next thing is, I call it assess before you act. The next one is place and time. And our last one is going to be rest before you rush to reset.
So let’s jump into that. So, first, when I think about planning before you move, a lot of us had to just move. We had to just make it happen when we pivoted out of our normal routines, being in the office, whatever those routines were. So there were organizations who were super antiquated in the way they ran their businesses. Every team member had to meet with their manager face to face each week. Facetime was hugely important. You had to do a lot of like people to peopling, and for those of us who don’t like the people, we were like, “Ooh, we don’t have the people with you every day, this is great.” But you can’t just return back to the office the same way that we left the office. And so I think about planning as our return.
So that’s the what. Here’s my how. So, number one, I want you to think about, it is about your people and not your institution. It is really tempting to think about what the institution needs as you plan your return to workplan. Evidently, outside, there was one hell of a fire because there’s been on so many ambulances and firetrucks. And forgive me, y’all. It’s about your people.
And so when you think about your people, what does that mean for me? For me, that means that I want to make sure that I’m involving all levels of the team in my planning. Now, for those of us who are on massive teams in big organizations or you belong to organizations that are small, but are hierarchical or even more tricky, flat, because flat organizations actually have secret hierarchy with a lot of people like, “No, they don’t.” So you have to involve all of the team in the planning as you’re going back, which means you’ve got to be clear about roles. And, for me, the roles show up as who gets to have input. That should be just about everybody. So maybe you have a form that you use to have input, a survey you use for input, you have small digital groups that you have input, a Slack channel for input. So however it makes sense to move information within your organization, that’s how I would take your input in and aggregate it.
Who gets to be involved in consultation? And so who is helping you to be objective in the things that you may be thinking about, and maybe even in some things that you’ve missed as you begin to plan how you’re going to approach working in your organization in what will be your new normal.
And then who has decision making rights? So here’s where a lot of us get it all twisted in the game. Someone has to have decision-making rights and someone has to have veto rights. Oftentimes we believe that the person who was in charge is the person who has decision-making rights. And that’s not always true. The key to being able to plan well is as you are setting up your project plan, you identify who has what part to play at each point and what does that function allow them to do, so that folks are not throwing a monkey wrench in your planning at the end of the line.
How many of us have been involved in something where we’ve gotten all the way to the end of a process? I can think about it as it relates to doing like salary recalibrations, or reviewing PTO, or thinking about a new campaign that’s going to come online and thinking about a new event you want to do, and you get all the way to the end of your event planning and then somebody on the executive team goes, “I don’t like that.” That is not helpful. So being able to establish who does what from the beginning, including team members who feel like, “You didn’t ask me for my input,” being able to establish who does what upfront goes a long way in avoiding some of those pitfalls.
Yes, Bonnie, planning a virtual conference for the first time, I am sure that there were so many things you were like, “What in the entire bleep, bleep, bleep?” Haley, absolutely. Flat structures have hidden hierarchy. Absolutely. And you find out where the hierarchy is and who is in the group chat. Bet y’all didn’t think about that, because decisions have to get made somehow. And so there’s always a core set of folks who are actually pushing, and prodding, and pulling the decisions even when the hierarchy seems flat. So definitely, if we had more time, I would jump into that a little bit more, but I want to just leave you with that top line thought.
Okay. The next thing, I want you to assess before you act. So it’s not an either/or. It might be an and. And so for some organizations, going to a hybrid model, which I’ll talk about for a little bit is going to be most advantageous to the health of your organization. And if your people in your organization are healthy, meaning they are doing the work that they are best designed to do, if they got a little extra, that comes with the job. They are doing it in an environment and with a set of tools that allow them to operate with excellence and there’s opportunity for stretch and growth within your organization. Even if there’s not room for compensation growth, there’s room for growth in their skillsets and being able to understand how they’re able to add value to the organization.
And so you’ve got to be able to think about how will it look to go all the way back into the office and what does it mean to have a choice and be hybrid and what does it mean to stay completely virtual? And to be able to have those conversations separate and apart from making the decision, you want folks to be heard. And then release the pressure to do.
What I see from a lot of my clients and from folks who come to me to talk about the change management exercise that you’re about to go through in getting back into the office is, “We got to do something.” Do you though? So I want y’all to really slow that desire to act down just a smidge to really understand like in order for us to be successful as an organization and action our mission powerfully, what needs used to be true from the team we have and potentially from the team we have to hire and, for me, as a manager who has to be responsible for folks and responsible for my own body of work, to do that in a way that does not make me want to flip the table?” Okay? These are really important questions to ask for releasing that pressure to do will allow you to do that.
So, Gabriella, you said it’s so hard to be given a deadline and then be sidelined by the person that set it. Absolutely. Which is why it’s very important, if you are the person that is a designer for a workplan that you preemptively suggest in your workplan, opportunities to step back. You might be like, “Kish, what’s a step back?” That’s an opportunity to pause and go, “Let’s look at where we are in the project, what is going well, what’s not going well, based on what we thought we should be by this time, who needs to weigh in at this point so that we don’t get derailed?”
If you know you have a manager who is constantly changing their mind or they go with will-o’-the-wisp, build in opportunities for them to be able to poke their head in, to be able to give an opinion, a question, or comment that won’t throw you too far off course so you don’t get all the way to the end and then you’re like, “What the beejesus is going on?” So I want you to realize that you have power in being able to navigate that, Gabriela, and for others who are experiencing that more than sometimes we believe that we do.
And then I want you to assess your assets, and I mean, your hard assets. Are you renting or are you owning? Do you have hardware that is outdated? Are you using systems that require lots of personalization that could be automated? This is a really good time for you to think about bodies of work that will allow you to be able to be more nimble and to free up your team members to be able to work on the things that will actually help to achieve mission without stressing everybody all the way out.
Okay. Look at the comments. Yes. Schedule of hidden meetings. Secrets aren’t fun. Okay. Definitely working on a hold on my power. I love that. Love that. Okay.
And then the next one, place and time. So the two things that we think about the most when we think about going back into the office right now, whether we’re going all the way in or thinking about hybrid are the place that you do that in and how much time on task people need in order to be able to get their job done. And that differs based on the type of role that folks have. So what I’ve been seeing is that folks get very, very twisted in the pretzel when it seems like some folks get to work remotely and some folks don’t. And when I probe a little bit more, I realize there’s not clarity around roles and responsibilities such that people understand why a particular type of role needs the interaction of more in-person time and another type of role doesn’t need that in the same way. And that it’s not clear in terms of overall roles and responsibility who does what and why and why one thing needs more facetime than another. So really being able to focus on that place in time are going to be important.
So when we think about place, for me, it’s thinking about lowering your footprint. Do we need as much office space as we have? Do we actually need to be in the building we’re in? Are we able to navigate the building and the physical space and the items we have differently in order to be able to get to goal? And then around time, what are we thinking about in terms of flexibility? Are we looking at flexible hours? Potentially we’re looking at flexible days, maybe even shared responsibility? This is an opportunity to look at work differently. And if you look at work from the perspective of, I want to be able to get to and meet and exceed our goals but I want to make sure that I do that by holding our folks central to what needs to be done because people are our most important asset, then it starts to have you look at your work differently and I’ll give you a very specific example.
And so right after the real estate bubble bust and the banking bubble bust, I worked for a different organization about a couple of years later and I had a very junior team. That year we had to raise a ridiculous amount of money and also we had to do a rebrand of the organization. I was the chief external affairs officer and so responsible for marketing, communications, development, and policy. Big job, right? There wasn’t anybody on my staff that had more than five years’ experience doing any one of those particular verticals. Yowza. I was off. And so we had a big, big mighty, mighty task ahead of us and not necessarily on paper, the core competencies to be able to get it done.
So I used StrengthsFinders. I fell in love with it all the way back in 2009. I used StrengthsFinders to be able to recalibrate the set of responsibilities and tasks associated with those responsibilities on my team to get to goal and I just basically did the job responsibility shuffle. So I was the lead for that team, right? I sat on the executive team, so I had the power of position to be able to make some shifts within my team so that I was able to get us to goal in a healthier way. So the grants manager was actually amazing at relationship development and relationship management period, and so she also ended up managing all of the partnerships we had because we didn’t have that person on staff to do it, and she could do it in her sleep.
And so releasing myself from that confine that year, I also made a promise to that team and to my team at that time, that once we hit our stretch goal, that I would compensate them appropriately. So everybody got a bonus. Everybody got a hotel room stay, everybody got something so that we were able to have a little extra boost to work toward, but it took me releasing myself from the confines of a job description to be able to do that.
And so when you think about time, think about releasing yourself from what you’re used to and going, “How can we get to the goals our organization strategic bets, where we put our stakes in the ground in a way that keeps our team members healthy and keeps this an attractive and awesome place to work?” Everybody is not motivated by money, my friends. And so sometimes making me shifts and learning from what we’ve seen the best of and the worst of in this last year will go a long way in you setting up the road to getting back to work in your organization’s new normal.
Okay. Emily, yes. You use StrengthsFinder with every new hire. Look, I’m biased. I am a StrengthsFinder coach. And so I’m a Gallup coach. So, yes, I love it. I think it’s important to be able to be used. It has been a game-changing tool that I have used on every team I’ve ever run, on my own team. I use it in my family. I also use the five love languages, but we don’t have time for that today. On every team I run. And so there’s a lot to be done there, but it’s all about leading with people first.
Okay. Then I’m going to introduce one more thing to y’all. I’m looking at my time. Rest before you rush to reset. Uh-oh, I know somebody just looked at the computer and just rolled your eye. I know you did. I know you did. You were like, “Rest when? I have 9,245 things to do.” You better rest.
PTO and priorities. Let us discuss, my friends. I would like to see, if your organization does not have unlimited PTO, which is a whole different conversation, I would like to see every manager who is on this line, take all your PTO and encourage every staff member and insist on taking PTO.
Here’s how I do it. I look at all of the work that we have to do for the year, which means I get very clear on my departmental workplan. So we know what’s coming down the pipe, we know when we have to do and when, and then let me tell you what I do. Before we release that workplan to the organization, we have a conversation, an honest conversation as a team about time off, and I will move deadlines for when things need to be due if I realize no one has gotten any time off.
We have gone too far without people taking breaks. No one has taken a break, we don’t have coverage, etc. And I will work my team’s PTO into that workplan so that when you look at our workplan, we have healthy sprints where we work and we have healthy rest stops that take into account how people live and how they work, which means there are some folks who have young children and they have to be able to navigate their summers differently or breaks differently and I make sure they get a little extra for themselves too, because I’m a mama and we are not on break when the children are on break. Okay? There are those of us who do not have children who may be caregivers for parents or for siblings or have other responsibilities or pursuits.
And so you take all of that into considerations, which means you’ve got to have a relationship, which I’ll talk to in a minute with your team. Yes, Lisa, amen. And then a soft restart. So if your organization has a September 1 back-to-workplan, my expectation and suggestion is that for the two weeks prior to that set that September 1 restart, that everybody has had an opportunity to take some manner of PTO. So all this should be PTO staggered across the board.
And in your soft restart on your first day or two back to work, all everybody really needs to do in the office is reset their emails, make sure things are clean, make sure they know where everything works, clean the cobwebs, reset your signatures, all the good things. Then maybe there’s some staff training or staff . . . maybe not training, comradery time, you know, some facilitated group time together where y’all get back your rhythm. You know, like you get back your working rhythm. You go to the bathroom, who puts the soap in the bathroom, who brings the flowers, all that kind of good stuff, right? Back into your office, but also, that you reassert your organizational values as you think about what is necessary in order for folks to get grounded in being in this reality moving forward.
So I love a soft restart, which means that first week of work and we are not over-scheduled, we are not putting our foot completely to the metal. We do not have an event plan for that first week back because we want to make sure that folks are able to ease back into their routines to shake the cobwebs off of how they used to get to and from work so that they’re able to start powerfully.
And then I would say understanding both team and individual value. So here’s what I know I’ve seen. And tell me if you’ve seen, y’all. Natalie, I see your question come and I’ll answering in a second. I’ve seen lots of folks go back to the well and re-examine their personal values between the ridiculous amount of loss that many of us have experienced over the last year. I know very few people who didn’t have COVID touch them or their family in some way, shape, or form. And so the loss of work, the loss of families, there were a lot of loss, so much that we can’t even comprehend it. It has caused lots of folks to reassert their values and what matters to them. So this is a time for you as a manager, if you’re really thinking about being healthy, coming back into the office, to understand where you are and to also understand where your team is. Super duper, duper critical.
Okay. So what do organizational leaders do? What’s an organizational leader to do? Okay. Natalie, what do you think of some places are fearful of unlimited PTO? Here’s the thing. I wish I knew the statistic origin by heart, so I can give you the attribution. Studies have shown that when places have unlimited PTO, people don’t take PTO. They take less. And so the reality is having a unlimited PTO policy does not guarantee that people are actually going to take PTO. Most people actually take less PTO when they have unlimited PTO than more. I’ve worked in two different places that had unlimited PTO and I never had time to take PTO. It was ridiculous. I had to like force myself to take PTO, but when I did, I was gone. And what also happened is when I left the organization, I didn’t take anything with me.
And so we had our . . . because I think our PTO policy included, whatever was mandatory, but for the state that I lived in around sick time, but you didn’t take your PTO when you left. And so it was a cost-saving for the organization over time based on our size and people did what they needed to do. There were practices that were in place around unlimited PTO, you know, kind of like what was acceptable, what was not acceptable for how much time people took off and it was predicated on being able to get your work done, which is why that workplanning was so important. So I’m happy to talk more about that, Natalie, but that’s that topline, that’s what I got for you.
Chris, I hear you. You are definitely grieving right now and expected to work. And my heart is with you on that one.
So what are you supposed to do, my friends? So I’m going to give y’all some questions to consider. So in your slide deck, this is the one that I want y’all to like pull that slide, this slide out. I want you to print it if you can, write the sticky notes, put it on your computer screen because I want y’all to think about these questions. As a leader and as a manager day-to-day, particularly if you’re a people manager, not a process manager, but I think this question applies to process too, what other roles, responsibilities, and tasks you’ve had to adjust to in the last 16 months? Notice I didn’t say in the last year.
The second question I want you to think about is has the work actually gotten done and at what pace? I want you to also consider, is there someone actually focused on strategy? If you were the lead for your team, and that is a part of your job but you spend most of your time operationalizing that work, you actually aren’t focused on strategy and will probably have to really do some work around delegation and around roles and responsibilities so that there are folks who can operationalize the work and that you can free up to have some more thinking time. There’s got to be somebody who is driving that strategy.
Are you as a manager focused on clear, consistent, and inclusive communication? Y’all, some of us are not clear. If you’re like me, you might also have half the conversation in your mind before you have it out loud. So you like to start conversations in the middle and then your team’s confused. And so making sure that you have both written and verbal communication that’s clear, consistent, and inclusive is important. So are you focused on that?
Alison, that’s you 100 percent. Oh, my gosh. It’s the worst. My daughter’s always getting on me, “Mom, were you talking to yourself first?” And I’m like, “I was.” Oh, Steve, that’s you too? He said, “It’s me.” Yes. And then I’d be upset like, “Why don’t you know what I’m talking about?” Fool, they don’t know what you’re talking about because you were talking to yourself. Okay? Rose, I do the same thing and I actually have to send emails that say some version of, in my mind I had already replied because it’s true. Oh, my gosh, we all go together. No, Becky, Lisa, you are not the only ones.
Okay. Then I want y’all to ask, how are you coordinating your time? And that’s time for check-ins, that’s time for breaks. That’s time for meetings. That’s work block time, particularly for those of us who are people managers, but also have big responsibilities individually that you’ve got to get done too.
And then the last question, how have your team members’ home circumstances shifted how work gets done and then what are the expectations around work because of it? One of the things that I have as a core belief as a manager is that you don’t have to know your team members’ private business, but if you are building relationships well and relationships matter so critically, then you should have a personal relationship with your team members such that you would be able to name what is happening even if you can’t give me the details. So I might not know that grandma has colon cancer, but I know your primary care for grandma and something has gone left. That’s important to understand when you were trying to understand how people’s time would have shifted over the last year so that you can set realistic deadlines that get the work done, but also don’t burn the people.
No, Juliana, you are not alone. So let’s look at the work real quick, y’all, because we got about 20 minutes and I want to make sure we get to it and keep it . . . If you have questions, y’all, now’s a good time to start dropping I’m in for me, okay? Because I’m picking them up as I see them. So I want you to focus on only a few things so that you can think about successfully transitioning and also staying healthy and sane while you do it.
So, number one, I know this is like a dumb moment, but I have to say it the way that you work for before may not actually have been working. Many of us have habits of doing things because we’ve always done it. Okay, Laura. I’ll see you. Because we’ve always done it, but it doesn’t mean that it actually worked. And so I want y’all to be able to be honest, with yourself to take this moment as a manager to be introspective, to think about what really worked well before and what did not work and just did it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.
This is a good opportunity to just like you take things to the Salvation Army when it’s time to clean house, clean house in your workflows network. So I have three specific questions I want y’all to consider. Screenshot that. What can be automated and why won’t we invest in it? Ooh. Let me tell y’all, a lot of times it’s not the money. There are too many programs out there, not the money. What is redundant that we do right now and can we reimagine where we work? Not just how, but where we work? And then who is leading the work. And it doesn’t have to be you. That’s my pro tip. Doesn’t have to be you. It doesn’t have to be you. I’m saying it again. Doesn’t have to be you. Okay? I want us to let go of the superhero complex that we’ve been carrying, that we got to do everything ourself. It doesn’t have to be you.
And I believe that so much that time management is my next big, like Kish said it. I want y’all to lead with wellbeing. And what I mean by that is when you are unhealthy, not eating well, not drinking your waters, run down, not sleeping because of life, because of work, etc., you are not leading well as a manager. You are like a rubber band that is pulled taut and at any moment you are going to pop. And so if you start out with what is best for me as a leader so that I am clear headed, I am pleasant to be around, because some of us don’t even like ourselves, and I can lead from a place of trust, and of belief and not a fear and disbelief, that is the ticket. Yes, Feza, it is so hard to do sometimes, which is why pro tip, I don’t start my day with meetings with other people. I start my day with meetings with myself. Okay? Oftentimes my first time block is checking in on where I’m at because I can use music to change my mood, I can go for a quick walk before my first meeting if I know I’m not quite right. I will do the aromatherapies and the incense, whatever you need to change your environment, which is why your environment is so important to get you in that right frame of mind as a manager. So, Feza, I know it’s hard.
Understanding the business flow. Like I think that is so important. And being able to name how the business in your organization actually flows and where things become a bottleneck, which will allow you to be able to put urgency in its rightful place, except for those of us who are first responders or who work in organizations that are first response organizations and you are on the frontline.
Most of us do not have jobs that are urgent. We are not medical doctors saving lives. We’re not medical professionals helping to save lives. We are not firefighters putting out fires. We are not coming to save the day. I just want y’all to know. So, for the most part, everything that we’re doing is a matter false urgency. And so being able to put things in their rightful place will allow you to be able to go, “This is important, but why is this urgent? And can it not wait until 9:00 when I get there?” So doing the things that allow you to be able to put some boundaries and expectations, that’s my last tip around time management. Boundaries are for you. They’re the things that allow you to be able to create healthy relationships with others. Expectations are critical for healthy relationships and so being able to be clear on those two things as a manager will also give your team members freedom and agency to be able to create boundaries and to be able to articulate expectations they might have because that’s the relationship aspect around time management.
You have team members that will go hard in the paint for you if they believe that you respect them, that they are seen, you have their back, and being able to have healthy boundaries and expectations, believe it or not, is one of the ways to do that. Angela, I love to see that your first hour was your focus hour. That’s what I like. That’s what I like because you come into things with more clarity and it’s really, really healthy.
Okay. I wouldn’t be Kishshana if I didn’t talk about DEI, but here’s how I like to flip it when I talk to my people managers with the time I have today. So when I think about diversity, equity, inclusion, I also think about access. And when I think about our return to work and to being able to lead team members in this new normal, I’m thinking about the fact that fairness is underrated. You know, sometimes we tip fairness and you were like, “We want to be equal.” That’s necessarily fair, okay? Because we’ve take into account folks’ life circumstances. But when you manage with clarity around how your decisions preference certain team members over others, whew, all of a sudden being fair tends to just bubble right to the top. And that means being able to be clear on who gets the plum assignments, who has your ear, who do you have confidence in? And I like to talk about this as who is at the table.
And what I mean by that is we have a tendency as humans, particularly when we’re stressed to confuse dependability with capability. And oftentimes people who are dependable, they get all of the lion’s share of the work rightly and wrongly because we think that because somebody is dependable, that also means they’re capable. And you could have team members who you’re putting a lot of responsibility on who they’re working in their zone of confidence so they know they can get it done. But I mean, maybe not their zone of genius or excellent, and that’s where you want your folks to be. And so being able to be equitable in that way means that you are spreading the love when it comes to folks’ ability to be able to try new things, to be able to speak up, to be able to make decisions, to be able to fail forward and fail fast and then be able to be successful.
It is your responsibility as a manager to create an environment that allows your team member to do that. And in order to do so, everybody can’t be the same at the table because you want that friction. You want that ability to agitate. You want that ability to have different opinions, and backgrounds, and lived experiences. And that shows up not just in life experience, but also in how we look, how we experience the world, how we identify. All of that is important.
Yes, Chris, the curse of competence, you’ve been stuck in that zone before, that is the HOV lane to burnout. And when I think about it from the perspective of DEI, I think oftentimes many, many, many, many professionals of color are seen as subject matter experts and in essence, get the sort of like the grunt work of the work that needs to be done and not as the forward-thinkers and the strategists and the folks we want to give the stretch projects, etc. You are so welcome, Lindley.
And so I want y’all to be really thinking broadly as people managers when you think about this particular slide. So I like to employ a lazy Susan management technique. So if y’all think about the lazy Susan that people put the seasonings on in your household or you put the bread on or the fruit on and it just turns and turns, when I think about roles and responsibilities and how those need to come to being for my team, I use a lazy Susan approach that everybody gets a turn.
And the social issues of the day continue to plague us. So you cannot unsee what you have seen. It is our nature to be able to go, “Whew, we dodged that bullet. Okay, can we get back to normal?” Actually, we will never be the same again. And so ensuring that you do not ignore the day-to-day lived experiences of your team members who are different from you and in actuality, you can step boldly forward into being sympathetic and actioning on that sympathy to create space for folks to be able to express their lived experience and also to make sure that you have policies, procedures, and practices that reflect that, critical as a people manager.
Okay, y’all. Is your head spinning yet? Woo. Because I gave you a whole lot of stuff. So let’s chat. I would love to be able to stop here really quickly and get some questions in. I’m going to put this next slide up really quickly, Steven, because I think I’m going to stop screen sharing in a second so that we can just chit chat for our last 10 minutes or so on what questions or comments and I can go back in any slide, if y’all want on what we talked about so far today because I’ve given y’all a bit of stuff. So it is Q&A time. So what do y’all want to know? What do you want to pick my brain about, how do y’all want to dig in a little bit more with me while we have our time together? Oh, Steven, they can’t talk, huh? It’s just in the chat. Darn. I forgot about that.
Steven: Yeah. Just in the chat. I’ll keep going off if you don’t mind, Kishshana.
Kishshana: I don’t mind at all.
Steven: Oh, I’m hearing myself echo. [Inaudible 00:50:08] Okay. I’ll just ignore it. Kishshana, I don’t know if you’ve seen the articles that have been coming out like every day, it seems like about a lot of people are going to be leaving their current job, like this mass. What’s your take on that? I feel like maybe we should embrace it a little bit, you know, if people want to move on and it seems like maybe we would be on the receiving end of a lot of great talent who’s also leaving and coming to us. Well, what do you think about it?
Kishshana: I mean, I think that the attrition that we’re seeing now is an indication that folks were trapped or felt trapped in their jobs for a long time. The number of people who have come to me for spot coaching, so, you know, Steven, I’ve done some one-off, two-off sessions where folks who needed advice or they needed to make a career move. What they talk about is feeling trapped because of their own life circumstances and the last 15 months have magnified the level of dissatisfaction, or unhappiness, or moves people need to make in their personal life. And so their job is a reflection of that. So they’re like, “I’m not about to take this at home and at work. I got to do something different.” And so I think that there’s a lot happening there. Also, I think that there are many, many organizations that have really rested on their laurels, organizational leadership around how they treat their people.
We don’t have any money. We’re really small. We don’t have the resources. I need y’all to get creative. You know, like if you live in small town, USA, if you live in a small town in Canada, you live in a small town in UK, whatever it is, there is something fun and funky and festival-ish about where you live, whether it’s the onion festival or the this or the that, like you have to be able to create the environment that folks are excited to be with your organization and that they see themselves in that growth. And so folks are jumping because they don’t see themselves as more than a cog in the wheel and because of the massive amount of death has happened because of COVID, folks are like, “Yo, life is short. And so I’m going to just do the thing that’s going to make me happy because I might not be tomorrow.” Like it’s become very, very real for folks.
So I think organizations who recognize that and who really take a step back to look at their people practices are going to see themselves really attracting the kind of talent that will take them into the next phase of their organization and organizations who flounder or who wait and stall are going to be just like the folks on “Downton Abbey,” y’all. I’ve been watching this for weeks. I’m late. I didn’t start watching it until two weeks ago, but I’m on season four. And just like all those wealthy barons who waited till the last minute to get their properties together and make sure the folks were their partners and not their serfs and then the families had to sell their house, it’s going to be exact same thing, Steven, with organizations who do not get it together.
Steven: I did not have “Downton Abbey” on my bingo card for this webinar, but I’m so happy that it came up.
Kishshana: Yes. For me, it’s never too late. Okay. And I see more questions coming in. Thanks y’all for all the questions.
Steven: Oh, yeah. There’s good ones.
Kishshana: Let’s do this. And if y’all have to drop off, drop off, but I’m going to keep answering them, so y’all at least have them on the recording. What’s your best advice for managing up? Okay, Bonnie, first of all, you just unloaded the whole clip like Bonnie and Clyde on the last five minutes of the session. So managing up for me in a nutshell is understanding how people work and understanding what motivates folks. For all of us who are fundraisers on this line or you’re marketing folks, comms folks, your job is to understand the behavior of people and to get people to move and to act in ways that get a result, right? Like fundamentally, that is your job. It ain’t no different with managing up, okay?
If you know that you have a micromanager, micromanagers at their essence are typically insecure people who do not trust themselves or their decisions and therefore they need lots of information. We can nice it up all you want, but that is at the heart of their therapy sessions. And so if you know that micromanagers need information, that you cannot wait till the last minute to do stuff so you have to set up your life so that you’re providing levels of overload so that you can get that person to come along with you, will it make them micromanage less? Hmm, eventually. But will it make your life easier because you would have had a track that you’ve codified how you do things, how processes work, how people can step in, etc., to make your life easier? Absolutely. So when you manage up, it’s about really understanding, what does this person actually want and need and am I in a position to be able to action on that thing so that I can get what I want.
I wish I could tell you something fancier, more PC, perhaps, but at the bottom bottom line, it is about understanding the dynamic and the relationship with you and that person and what really is driving them into decisions they’re making now. Now, all of us have worked for someone or been that person who we keep our feelings and emotions close to the vest, but everyone has a tell just like in poker. People have tells. And so managing up effectively requires understanding your manager’s tell. And if you’re able to do that, then you’re able to decide when you are going to step closer in or step further away on how you act on what you know and understand. That’s the best I got for you in my little three minutes snapshot.
Okay. Aaron, how do you fix it when two team members have different expectations of each other’s roles or work? Okay, Aaron, I’m going to come back to your question because the question I want you to answer is are they peers or do they have a manager team member hierarchy.
Okay. We have a small team of three people and boundaries, duties, and responsibilities get very blurred easily. How do we restructure and make sure everyone’s needs are met? Awesome. Okay. So, Jessica, the way that I would do that is first, what are your organization’s goals? Period. How do your individual goals map to those organizational goals? No one should have goals that don’t easily map across. And it might map to two things like my three main goals for this year maps the five organizational goals we have. That’s what I’m responsible for. Then what are the tasks that roll up to those responsibilities and are those tasks time-bound because of the quarter, because of the week, because of the time of year, etc.?
And then in your team meetings, y’all should be looking at your overall organizational goals against your individual goals. And then y’all should have, you have to have individual workplans that you’re looking at yearly, then quarterly, and then monthly so that you’re not missing things in the shuffle. And if things blur easily, that means there are probably things that fall outside of folks’ stated responsibilities more often than not and that might be an indication that you are one team member short or there are things that are on the nice-to-have but y’all keep making it must-have that might need to go back to the bike rack or there’s a resource allocation thing that you might need to shift.
But the best thing I can say for that is codified that, get that thing on paper so you can look at it, you can touch it. Data is your friend. And talk about it so that there are no hidden agendas and there are no things that get dropped, no sticky notes on people’s desks that we forget to do, etc. So that’s the best I have for you in my 60 seconds. Steven, what you think? Because I know you deal with people all day.
Steven: This was awesome. They were so many good nuggets. I feel like you were just talking directly to me because I do. I make somebody’s mistakes myself. So I personally appreciated the webinar. I think everyone else agrees, but this was awesome, Kishshana. Thanks for doing this. I know you’re super busy, and I’ll . . .
Kishshana: No. Steven, you know what I’ll do, Juliana, and Charity, and Jessica came back with a thing. Felicia, they have some good questions. So we just grab these questions. I’ll drop the video . . . Listen, y’all, it won’t be until maybe next week. Okay? But I will answer these questions so that we can post them because I haven’t written a blog in a long, long time for y’all. So maybe I should.
Steven: Yeah. That’s a good idea. Yeah.
Kishshana: But I can just answer these questions and this will be really good and y’all will be able to get that too.
Steven: Okay. Yeah. I’ll get you the questions that we didn’t get to. And definitely reach out to Kishshana. You know, we’re going to send those slides and the recording, of course, but the podcast, the collaborative, y’all got to check it out. So we’ll connect you with all that good stuff. But thanks again, Kishshana. I know you’re literally surrounded by moving boxes right now, so.
Kishshana: It’s all good. Any time. Any time. Listen, we only had 10 boxes left last night that we could give out. And so I saw some pings this morning, so if you’re not looking on my Instagram stories to see what we’re doing on The Rooted Collaborative stories, you’re missing out. Okay?
Steven: There’s some good stuff on there.
Kishshana: And thank you, Bloomerang for being our retreat sponsor as you are awesome. Well, thanks, y’all.
Steven: Yeah. Thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know we started late. That was my bad, but I’m so glad y’all could make it. And thanks for being here. We got a great webinar coming up next Thursday, our buddy Sherry Q. T. is going to talk about maybe you could be getting a little bit more money from out of your asks than you currently are. If you think that could be happening or if you never thought of it that way, come anyway because it will be a really good session. Sherry is awesome. She’s one of our buddies and totally free and we’re going to record it. So if you can’t make it, register anyway and you’ll get the recording. You won’t take anyone’s spot. No big deal.
So we’ll call it a day there. Like I said before, keep an eye for an email from me with the recording and the slides and hopefully we will see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay cool out there. Stay healthy. We need all of you. And hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Kishshana: Absolutely. Bye now.
Steven: See you.
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