Before cell phones, when I was in graduate school, my car was in the shop. My new husband lent me his boat-towing station wagon to make my fifteen-mile trip across town to class. On the Interstate, the back of the car began to shake. I slowed down, pulled off, crept onto campus, and ran to my class.
Afterward, I called my husband at work. “Oh, yeah,” he said stepping out of a meeting, “it’s been doing that. I’ll deal with it when we get your car back. Go ahead and drive it home.”
I got in the car and began to drive. The whole vehicle shimmied. A mile down the road, I spotted a phone booth.
“It’s really bad.” I said, after pulling him from his meeting, again. Same response. Drive it home, dear.
Perhaps you’ve been in this situation, only instead of in a car you’re meeting with your board. You outline a pending crisis, but instead of help you get clichés and advice not to worry. At times like this, it’s tempting to forget what you know and accept the guidance. If you listen to others when you know better, you’ve forgotten your power.
I turned to face the car. It was my husband’s vehicle, but I was the driver. I called AAA. They towed the car to a shop where the mechanic put the car on the rack. He called me over to watch as he twisted one of the back wheels, with his hands, like a loose jar top. “Yup, he said, “She was about to fall off the car.”
Seek help. Listen to answers, but never forget you’re on the frontline. Remember you’re one of your organization’s leaders, too. Remember your power and use it.
Dear, when it needs to be fixed, don’t drive it home.
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Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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