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good to great

Your greatest asset: the power to inspire

I’ve been talking to colleagues lately about the “trance of scarcity” we sometimes see in the social sector. You know, when you’re at an event and people start complaining about there not being enough money, time, political capital, and on and on until you wonder why they go to work in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t lack sympathy for the constraints nonprofits face. In fact, I probably would get a lot less work were it not for the challenges of fundraising, attracting and retaining skilled staff, staying focused on mission, etc. And when your mission is to solve a seemingly intractable problem like homelessness or global warming or child abuse, its tough not to get pessimistic.

In Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Jim Collins says that one of the greatest resources in the social sector is the ability to offer people a sense of meaning and connection. When we lament about what there’s not enough of, we’re not just bumming ourselves out – we’re depriving potential donors, volunteers and other supporters of the opportunity to join us in making a difference.

So, I would posit that not only is it a heck of a lot more fun, as a leader with a mission its actually your responsibility to stay inspired and inspiring.

Some quick tips to get your perspective back:

  • Focus on three things you are grateful for. Picture a volunteer, co-worker or donor you really appreciate, for example, and really let yourself feel how gratitude can expand your sense of what’s possible.
  • Take a break! A real break – go away for the weekend, or better yet two or three weeks to somewhere beautiful with lots of trees, water and/or mountains. Shouldn’t be too hard in the pacific NW, and doesn’t have to be expensive either.
  • Ask a friend or colleague to remind you of what you have accomplished. I bet there’s a long list, and that you’ve achieved these feats despite the same odds that now have you trembling in that scarcity trance.

Feel better? I thought you would. And I bet you’ll find it a lot easier to tackle that enormous to-do list now, too!