Avoid Burnout? Why yes I’d love to, what do you suggest?

Avoid Burnout? Why yes I’d love to you and I imagine we all would.

Rich Tips is a newsletter I receive, a recent issue had a wonderful succinct list ten tips to avoid burnout. Richard Male and Associates is an international non-profit consulting firm and produces a weekly newsletter targeting non-profit organization. As written these 10 tips are for Executive Directors or persons in other leadership positions, but there is wisdom in these tips that can be used by all of us. My additions are in italics.

Tips on How to Avoid Burnout

Executive directors easily get burned out. What with the conflict situations that arise between staff and board, the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from, and the general sense of stress that comes with being the leader of a non-profit — it’s no wonder executive directors lose their sanity from time to time.

This week, let’s take a look at how an executive director or other leader of a non-profit can preserve his/her sanity amidst the ups and downs of running a non-profit organization.

  1. Don’t take everything personally. For example, when you get turned down for a grant, don’t let it get you down on a personal level. Instead, learn from the experience and vow to do a better job at securing the grant next time. When you don’t get the response you immediately expect from some at work, home or play, step back and consider is the response really about you or is it more about what is going on for the other person?
  2. Stay focused on the goal and don’t get crazy dealing with the every day details of what you have to do. Keep your eye on the bigger picture.
  3. Anticipate rather than react; plan ahead. People have a tendency of driving through the rear view mirror. When you anticipate your future and plan ahead you will prevent many of the roadblocks in your path to success.
  4. Build a team. It is important to have a team of people who share the same vision and mission and are willing to take on the appropriate responsibilities and workload. This is as true for your family life, as well as, at work, in your social life, volunteer work, etc. Some times your load will be heavier than others. Sometimes you need to call in reinforcement. Sometime you need to clearly, politely call attention to an unfair or untenable imbalance. Be clear headed, calm and focused when you do.
  5. Minimize internal conflicts. I have seen very healthy people get burned out almost overnight when there was an internal conflict with the staff or board members. Bend over backwards to support your staff, make them look good, and give them credit when they earn it. It is the team — not the superstars — that will win the games. Again, this is as true for your family life, as well as, at work, in your social life, volunteer work, etc.
  6. Be proactive with your board. Your board members are critical elements in your drive toward success. Make sure you are spending adequate time with them in between board meetings. Being proactive period can do a lot to blunt the effects of stressful times, and I some cases circumvent a stressful event.
  7. Take a vacation. Make sure you take time off each year to rejuvenate yourself. This will help you deal with some of the insanity of the non-profit. Reminder folks and this is one I say all the time, ask any of my clients, colleagues, friends or family “the world will continue to rotate on its axis if you are not at the office.” Really it will. And if it won’t there are much bigger problems at hand that you can not address alone, so might as well take a breather
  8. Hire a coach to work with you to provide the emotional support that will help you succeed. A coach can help you navigate the swells in life and work, they may provide emotional support, but more importantly they will create a space to purposely reflect, support you in charting a forward route, help keep you on course, so that you may succeed.
  9. Realize that everything in NOT a crisis. Learn to differentiate between an urgent and non-urgent situation.
  10. When you feel overwhelmed, try to stay calm. If you always over-react to situations you will lose control over what you should be doing and your staff will lose confidence in your ability to deal with problems. We all get stressed out. We all get overwhelmed some times. There are numbers ways you can check and changes your reactions. Here are just a few, a coach, mentor, or counselor can help you discover and uses techniques that work for you.  Try a two part assessment, first what is really or is this really a threat and second; if it is what can I realistically do about it? Explore how mindfulness can help you be calm and present.  Breath, deeply, consciously when you feel overwhelmed.

What is your best tip for avoiding burnout?


Coming Attractions

Things are really beginning to pick-up speed here, almost as fast as the leaves are falling on my front yard. Things happen when you put focused effort behind your intentions, wisdom from my parents being proved yet again. There several upcoming events and happeningst that I’d like share with you.

Coming in November

Knowing and Living Your Values: From Self Awareness to Meaningful Action

Would you like to live, work and get results with peace and confidence in this turbulent world? Position yourself for success by making decisions rooted in your values and taking proactive steps to achieve the results you want with a sense of peace, even in a chaotic world.  This dynamic 4 week program will help you get clear, get into action and start getting results. Participated in a previous Values workshop? This course will help you take things to the next level.

  • Get crystal clear about your values
  • Set and take action on goals grounded in your values
  • Get support where you get stuck and begin to
  • Get the results you want at home or at work.

When: Saturdays, Nov. 7, 14, 21 & Dec. 5;  10:30 am – 12:00 pm

Location: Inner Wisdom, 31 N Kellogg St, Galesburg, IL

RSVP by Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 at (309) 343-8806, Inner Wisdom

There is a minimum of 4 people and a maximum of 12 people for the course

Investment: Readiness to make lasting change, openness to possibilities and $225

Benefits: Clarity, Focus, and Results

Coming soon

Where the Stress Things Are: A Workshop to Start Taming Your Stress Things

A hands-on workshop to clarify and prioritize what stresses you most, identify practical and personalized strategies to tame your stress and create a plan of ongoing attack

A short series on personal and professional Values will be featured in November on my blog. Values are foundational brass tacks and clarity about your personal brass tacks allows you to purposefully deploy this knowledge create a personally successful and satisfying life. Attention to your values affords you great strength and serves as a powerful bottomless resource.

November 9th I begin a Wellness Coach certification program through Wellcoaches, which is setting the gold standard for wellness, health and fitness coaching, with a strategic partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine. One of my goals in life is to help increase access to health and wellness services for all people and so I will be accepting a limited number of new clients who are interested in making lasting changes in their well being at a discounted fee for my services. If you know of people who would benefit from some support in building their self-efficacy and making lasting positive changes regarding their well being or other aspects of their life, please feel free to refer them to me.

As ever I invite you to visit my website as well as my blog. I welcome your feedback comments and suggestions.

All my best wishes,


Five Simple Steps to Change- they really do work!

When we last left our dancing heroine she was undertaking part 5 of her Gremlin Taming Plan on the dance floor at the 46th Annual Harvest Moon Championship Ball; in front of God, Jose Dechamps and Joanna Zacharewciz (current undefeated US Rhythm Champions) and everyone else in attendance. To recap: she choose option B) Not. Not to do the same mental steps over and over, letting the jitters best her, but to instead create new choreography to better suit the rhythms of her life and stretch her capacities as a dancer and as a person.

So how did our heroine do? Beautifully. None of her worst fears and Gremlin’s favorite tall tales came true. She did not miss a spiral turn and do a face plant. She did not run from the dance floor, on the verge of tears because she blew the routine. No one said, “What the heck do you think you are doing? Do your REALLY think you belong out there on the floor?”

Did the steps always flow beautifully? No, but that is okay, because they moved across the metaphorical floor of life with a positive energy.  Better yet when she did miss a grapevine or spiral turn, she just kept moving into the next pattern of steps. Each pass on the floor, each heat became easier. Practice makes perfect, right?

Change, lasting change, is about cultivating new habits. Conditioning yourself, to think, act and ultimately live differently than in the past. Change takes time, and practice and sometimes not reaching your mark.  When you don’t reach your mark easily that is an opportunity to try a new tact.  When you do reach you mark that is an opportunity to do it again, again and again until it’s just the way to do “It”- whatever “It” is for you. These new habits become the familiar steps in your life’s choreography. You can always choose to rearrange them or incorporate new ones into your dance.

Was the experience interesting and beneficial? Yes. So, the jitters remained for our heroine but were transformed into positive stress propelling her and her partner across the dance floor. Reinforcing self-efficacy. Igniting the deep sense of gratification of accomplishing a personal goal. When our dancer was awarded high honors for an Argentine Tango routine and told she would be performing the routine as part of Saturday night’s events – events that included rounds of professional competition and performances by Jose Dechamps and Joanna Zacharewciz, she did not pass out cold. She got her game face on eventually, took some very deep breaths, straightened out her big girl panties, headed for the door and danced her heart out in front of a crowd. She was humbled and thrilled to hear people clapping and grateful for the opportunity to take a risk.

Crossing the Finish Line: Job Well done Team

Some months ago I posted an entry about the Tour de France as a metaphor for how support networks help us to reach our personal finish lines, our goals, especially those goals that are a stretch. Each member of the team offering their unique strengths and gifts to help propel you towards your end goal, celebrating each individual’s efforts and  achievements along the journey as well as the exultant relief of crossing the finish line- job well done. And what’s more so discovering that you can do something hard and long, that you can discover new resources of ability and drive and radiate in gratification from the experience. Gosh talk about a good win. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a.k.a The Yarn Harlot had a post about completing a 5 K race to raise funds for breast cancer research that illustrates this with humor and grace. Below is a snippet …

“The delightful creature on the left in this shot is my sister-in-law Katie’s friend Lexa, who is an actual distance runner and some Canadian Version of Sporty Spice.  (After the run she went to yoga and then to play vollyball. It didn’t even touch her energy level)  and Lexa did Kate and I the favour of pacing us for the race.   When she said that we were all going to stick together for the race, I was mortified – and not at all sure it was a favour.  All I could think of was that I was not only going to hold them  all back with my pathetic wheezing and molasses like speed, but that I also wasn’t going to be able to let my failure be a secret. Like most people,  I prefer my humiliations pretty private, so it was all I could do not to insist that they leave me to my fate.  She insisted, and it turned out to be wonderful. She’s the best kind of encouragement.  Cheerful, kind, and firm as bloody concrete.”

I encourage you to look at her 10/6/06 post to read the entire story. If you are not a knitter scroll past the knitting  photos until you see the one of 4 women ready to run and read on.  Be inspired. Set yourself a stretch goal, gather your strengths, guts and team and get into action. Keep going, when you are winded take a moment to collect your breath and then keep moving forward, you might just be surprised by how close the finish line is on the horizon.

Five simple steps to change: You’re the Choreographer for Your Life.

The big girl panties, professional weight tights, performance shoes, rhinestone festooned dresses and an alarming amount of foundational garments are unpacked and spread around the hotel room. This weekend is the 46th Harvest Moon Championship Ball and I am  competing prepared to tame some Gremlins on the dance floor again. I am off to the Ball with my glass slippers and nerves of steel, well almost.

Today, I put on my rhythm dance armour, to Cha-Cha, Swing (East and West Coast), Rumba, Mambo, Bolero and Argentine Tango my way through the nerves I inevitably feel when performing.  Yes, I will most likely always have a strong feeling of jitters about performing, but how I choose to interpret and react to the sensation of the jitters is entirely under my control.  I am giving myself two options… sometimes its best to narrow down the options of ourselves like we do for kids: You can pick which pants you want to wear, the red ones or the purple ones, but you are going to wear pants… to help with making decisions, but I digress.  I can a) let them over run me, or b) not. Now the second option which is the one I am choosing is not as simple as “not” implies. “Not”, option b, is the what, not the how of my Gremlin Taming Plan. My “not” is changing the normal choreography I  would have followed and changing the steps and quality of movement I bring to the experience.

Let’s unpack the how my Gremlin Taming Plan, there are 5 parts.

Part 1:  Acknowledge that what causes me concern – the jitter, nerves, performance anxiety whatever you want to call it- exist.

Part 2:  Examine what story I am telling about them and look for evidence about why my concerns are founded and unfounded. No one likes to make mistakes, and it can be very disconcerting to make them in public, and YIKES! there are current and former professional national champions here, watching , glup… What am I nuts for thinking I can get out on the floor and look as if I belong here… Heavens to mercury what if I catch my heel and do a face plant instead of a spiral turn… blah, blah, blah.

Part 3: Weigh the consequences I get from my story. Well if you focus on what might happen, especially what bad things might happen you’ll never get to see what good things might happen.

Part 4: Retell my story in a new more positive, proactive voice. You have trained. You have practiced. You have some skills and more importantly you LOVE to dance. You like to watch other people dance and they in turn like to watch you to dance and we all want to do well here. The better I am the better they are, so really this is a win-win. And if for some bizarre reason you do a face plant in place of a spiral turn it will become a memorable cocktail story.

Part 5: Live out my new story and see how my energy shifts. I’ll let you know, but I think it will be something along the lines of this. I whirled and twirled, smiled, cha-cha’ed and contributed to a day filled with excitement, joy and encouragement for many people. It was a success and really gratifying and dang it a lot of fun.

There is no magic formula here and many other folks have outlined in their own words and ways how to begin shifting your normal patterns of thinking and doing. I offer the metaphor of choreography for your life and that you as an adult are the primary choreographer for your life. You can choose to do the same steps over and over, or you can choose to rework your movements to better suit the current rhythms and stretch your capacities. Will it always flow beautifully? No, not likely. Will the experience be interesting and beneficial? Yes. So go find your rhythm, listen to the story is offering and tell your best story now as well as you can.

Flying Along the Edge of Chaos

This is a time of great creative vitality in the air.  Some folks are tapping into their creative vitality because necessity is the mother of invention.  Others because they have had of enough of going through the motions, or doing what they think they are “supposed to do” and ready to take risks to craft a better life. The people who really impress me are the ones like my sister R, and two friends M and T all of whom making big career changes, but are dreaming responsibly. Each of these women has made calculated decisions to actively pursue their careers in a new way. All are educators who felt the need to grow professionally in ways that support a positive environment, stretch them, align with their values and adds to the richness of their whole lives, including their families. Two are actively pursuing Graduate studies while working full time in new roles; as an assistance principle and as librarian. The other has elected not to pursue tenure at the college where she’s been employed for the past 5 years, because the environment feels poisonous to her. Each woman is taking risks, working hard, facing the unknown courageously and focused on gratification. Long term, lasting gratification born from exploring, exploiting and building on their innate strengths, exercising their personal agency to craft their lives to suit their most important needs, make the most of their abilities and position each for long term authentic happiness.

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 was my first day of fully committing my working time to my Coaching and Consulting practice. This is an exciting adventure; this new chapter in my professional life is one I have been working towards for many years. The overwhelmingly positive responsive I have received regarding this new chapter in my professional life has been and will continue to be a great boost. Thank you. While I have the plot line and characters outlined in great detail and in some cases fully realized, there are additional possibilities for me cultivate and others unknown to be open to as well. I am fortunate to have many sources of information and wisdom from which to draw:  my mentors, my family, friends, colleagues and clients to name a few.  It is time for me to be on the “Edge to Chaos” and fully attend to creating a better future for my husband, my family, my friends and my community, and consequently myself as are R, M and T.

As I talked about in my Crafting a Future on the Edge of Chaos post “Edge of Chaos” is a concept explored in complex adaptive systems and is a place for growth.  Defining features of complex adaptive systems is they form entities that are greater than the sum of their parts and the parts that make them are whole systems in their own right (Dimitrov, 2003).  My family, my clients, my colleagues, you my readers and all the elements in the varied networks that intersecting in my professional and personal realms make up the larger complex adaptive system of my life.  Each adds a unique dimension and opportunity or challenge, for growth and change along the Edge of Chaos.

There are four broad areas of activity associated with Edge of Chaos:

  1. Setting vision
  2. Creating boundaries
  3. Ensuring adequate communication flow
  4. Empowerment

Couple these areas of activity with reality-based hope, openness to possibility and you can create a vision for your future that becomes real. In the coming weeks and months I plan to share with examples of how I and other people I know who are also making big changes are living these areas of activity out. I also invite you to share with me and the readers of this blog examples of how you are/have done the same.