How can a non-profit leader reduce stress and re-engage?

By Danielle Rocheleau

Over the last year, we’ve been fortunate to connect with hundreds of non-profit leaders and managers. As a result of working with such a large number of leaders, we’ve noticed different trends. One of the trends I’ve been reflecting on is a seeming shift in the non-profit sector’s collective pace around change and decision-making.

Many of us are grappling with big questions. Are we still having our intended impact? How can we make sure we prioritize a team culture that continues to retain great people? Do we have the capacity we need to meet the growing demand for service?

In a lot of ways, we’re tired and we’re focused on the immediate needs of our organizations, often at the expense of the big picture. It’s understandable; leaders and teams have been running for what it feels like a 4-year marathon. They’ve been navigating one change after another, which has felt daunting and isolating.

Yet, these moments of pause are important. They are chances to regroup and re-evaluate our core missions and impact.  In these moments, it’s crucial to address the anxiety that often creeps in, clouding our ability to think and act with clarity.

Decision-Making Mindset: Beliefs and Anxiety

We recently came across a concept developed by Dr. Gustavo R. Grodnitzky, in his insightful work on organizational culture, which we found useful in understanding and processing anxiety around decision-making.

Overestimating the threat of the unknown, external pressures

Sometimes, we perceive external challenges or threats as more significant than they actually are. These perceived threats can create anxiety and hinder effective decision-making. As a leader, consider whether you might be unintentionally overestimating certain external pressures facing your organization.

Underestimating our own abilities, creating internal doubts

We often doubt our own capabilities and underestimate our capacity to navigate change and overcome challenges. We can ask ourselves: might these doubts be stemming from personal limiting beliefs, rather than fact? Reflect on your past experiences and successes with navigating difficult circumstances – there is probably a lot more there than at first glance. When you take stock, what past successes can you draw on to quiet the internal doubts?

At Laridae, we’ve seen firsthand the resilience and dedication that drive our sector. Yet, I also recognize the overwhelming nature of the challenges we face.

Taking time to objectively assess your current position can reduce anxiety and help you regain control of your focus. Dr. Grodnitzky suggests the following steps to help us reflect and move forward.

Four Steps to Clearer Decision Making

  1. Assess Your Anxiety: Start by acknowledging your feelings towards the decisions at hand. It’s okay to feel anxious; recognizing this is the first step towards managing it effectively.
  1. Identify the Source of Anxiety: Is it the looming threat of funding cuts, or perhaps a concern about delivering on your mission? Pinpointing the root cause is crucial in devising a practical response.
  1. Centre Yourself in Purpose and Values: When we reconnect with our core purposes and the values that define our organizations, we reduce emotional responses and enhance our decision-making capabilities. This alignment is not just comforting—it’s empowering.
  1. Detach from the Outcome: Understand that no decision is perfect. By accepting that you can adapt and respond to outcomes as they unfold, you free yourself to make choices with confidence and flexibility.

It’s important to remember that we’re not alone in these struggles. Our sector thrives on collaboration and mutual support. Let’s continue to engage in open, honest dialogue that strengthens our community and enhances our collective impact. We might be facing tough times, but together, we can move towards a future marked not by uncertainty, but by the assurance that we are making a difference, step by step.

We’re always ready to be a sounding board for your concerns and aspirations. Let’s talk:

  • Getting clear on your impact
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  • Coaching (for you or your team)
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