At a recent Nonprofit Roundtable, executive directors discussed how to stand strong against the winds of distraction, stay out of the weeds, and focus on getting the important things done. Afterwards, roundtable facilitator Maddy Shear wrote up a few helpful tips and suggestions.
Executive directors are always leading, which means people (community, staff, board members, donors, volunteers) want to follow. They see your vision, passion, depth of knowledge, confidence, humility, and ability to listen, engage them, coach, train, and empower. Remind yourself that your job is to draw a picture for them, connecting the dots—sharing the big picture, telling the story. Do it often, more than feels necessary. It is what makes people feel the mission, feel part of something bigger, and inspires them to join you.
Make sure that you are allocating the necessary time for:
- Board development, including your current board members and the pipeline for the future.
- Building your staff leadership team—hire, coach, delegate, empower.
- Managing “money/mission battle”—establishing a strong foundational infrastructure is critical and your responsibility (people,technology, place); don’t talk yourself out of it for more programs.
What are some signs you are too often in the weeds? When you focus too often on:
- Now vs. Later.
- How vs. What.
- Information vs. Insight: Your team has a tendency to give you lots of detailed information without analysis and recommendations.
- Specific details vs. Important.
- Going from Meeting to Meeting to Meeting.
So what can you do about it?
After digging into the Why, the What usually becomes clear and includes remembering to: coach, advise, empower, delegate (resist temptation to do it quicker or even better yourself), support, define clear expectations, boundaries and check-ins, provide clear feedback, provide training and professional development, and determine when you need to consider hiring additional staff to ensure you and your team don’t burn out.
Own your calendar—it is a game changer! Only you can do this. It is not a luxury. Continually tell yourself it is a good, necessary, and appropriate use of your time to block your calendar to do your work. See some great tips in this two-minute read from blogger/nonprofit consultant/author Joan Garry: https://blog.joangarry.com/manage-your-time/.
And two additional 2-minute articles on leading and staying out of the weeds: