Challenge #5: Burning Out

Contrary to popular belief, you are not, in fact, a superhero. The demands of leading a nonprofit are plentiful, and you are only human. Feeling overwhelmed or stressed out is inevitable. However, your nonprofit relies on you for your leadership. It is important to stay alert and engaged so that you can offer your guidance and expertise when it is needed. The final Common Nonprofit Challenge in our series deals with this exact issue: 

5. “I am so worn out. How do I protect my time and myself? How do I avoid becoming burned out, overwhelmed, or lost in all the details –  yet remain engaged, helpful, and reflective about all that is happening at the agency?”

Here are some important thoughts for you to consider when solving this challenge:

• Do you feel comfortable tapping in to one or more of your directors for feedback or to brainstorm ideas informally? They can help you remain focused on the top priority issues and ignore all the “noise” that can surround a leader.

• You may have recruited an Advisory Council to help you think through ideas and brainstorm complex issues. It is their job to be available to you for confidential discussions. Are you using them? Should you create an AC now if you do not have one?

• Would you like access to a safe place where leaders like you, and who mutually care about each other’s success, participate in confidential conversations about their agency? Leaders have few places to go with their concerns, so many choose to join a MasterMinds Group or have an executive coach to help them.

• Are you hiring the very best candidates you can afford? While top candidates can cost a little more, they usually bring so much added value that they more than pay for themselves. Hiring above yourself in certain skill sets can make the life of a leader a lot easier. Some leaders feel threatened by highly competent subordinates; successful ones look to hire them all whenever possible.

• Look at your calendar for the last 2 weeks. Did you invest your time in the right activities? Did you only do those things that only you should be doing? Are there meetings, tasks, etc you could have delegated to others? 

• When is the last time you took a 1-2 day sabbatical to look at things from a 50,000 foot perspective? Getting out of the office for a day or two so you can think uninterrupted is important As a leader, it is your job to be looking out and thinking big picture. Most everyone else are the implementers of strategy, you are the one who weaves it. Plan to get away for periodic reflection. Try working from home periodically and see how it goes. Your subordinates may embrace it because it allows them to grow in ways they could not if you were hovering over their desks every day.

Well, that concludes our week-long series of 5 Common Nonprofit Challenges and How to Fix Them. These posts are on some of the most frequent questions I get from nonprofit leaders, and some of the responses I offer them. Did I address any of your concerns? Comment below or send me your questions. Check out our blog for my previous posts on Common Nonprofit Challenges. 

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