January 28, 2022

5 Leadership Habits for Your Amazing New Year

This year is going to be your year, you know it. How can you practice excellent leadership habits to make your fabulous New Year even better? And ones that don’t leave you exhausted and worn out? Employ these best practices as your leadership habits.

1. Ask, How Can I Do this Task More Easily?

Most of us feel like we have too little time and too much we want to accomplish. When you look at a new job or task, ask this magic question: How can I do this task more easily?
How does asking the magic question work? It interrupts the plowing-ahead habit. Stopping this automatic habit allows you to find easier ways to approach tasks, opportunities to delegate, and most magical of all, jobs that don’t need doing.

Take Away to Use in This Year and Beyond:

Before you start a task, ask, “How can I do this task more easily?”

2. Say “No” More.

Nonprofit leaders are especially vulnerable to requests for help. You receive a call. “Please, will you do this?” You say yes, and afterward, you regret it.
How can you avoid this grief? Say no more often.
How? Establish criteria for spending your time based on two or three standards. Use them to evaluate requests to separate the wheat, opportunities you want, from the chaff, those you’ll regret. For example, you pick: supports our mission, meets my personal goals, and sounds like fun and evaluate pop-up requests against them.

Take Away to Use in This Year and Beyond:

Besides your criteria, make an index card with the word “no” printed on it to keep with you. While this may seem flakey, the card serves as a simple prompt to remind you to listen to yourself. Use it when you feel social pressure to say yes, but your criteria tell you no.

 3. Get Help.

If you can’t get something done in 30 days, you’re not going to get it done without help, whether it’s cleaning the garage or writing. I don’t mean something crazy, like ‘write a book.’ I do mean, ‘write two chapters in a book.’—Alan Weiss
I get it. Funds are tight, you’re frugal, or you love doing things in-house. Whatever the roots of your resistance to getting help, after 30 days, conquer it. You’re doing things the hard way. Think of it this way: What if you invested the time you’re wasting into building relationships with your donors?

Take Away to Use in this Year and Beyond:

Identify three things you didn’t accomplish last year. Get help and do them.

4. Stop Putting Out Fires.

You want to be strategic, but you’re using all your time putting out fires. If this is you, a fantastic leadership habit will be to create time in your calendar for strategic activities.
It’s not operating fires that are keeping you from thinking strategically. It’s you.
When philanthropist MacKenzie Scott calls for an appointment, you’ll find the time. Isn’t your strategy worth the same commitment?

Take Away to Use in this Year and Beyond:

Fires or not, dedicate at least one hour per month to develop and begin a strategy to align your organization to sail smoothly to your vision. (To include your board and staff in this thinking, see Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together, p. 211)

5. Put Your Needs First.

Surprised? While it seems contrary to being a servant leader, putting your needs first is consistent with caring for others. You can only help others get their oxygen mask in place after you’ve secured yours.
Lisa Firestone explains putting your needs first well in Psychology Today
…when we lose touch with the grand passions and tiny quirks that make us who we are, we diminish the quality of our lives. It’s all too easy to categorize certain pursuits as selfish rather than fighting to maintain the things that make us come alive. However, when we do make time for our wants and needs, we are more alive to the world around us, more available, and more giving of our fullest selves. In effect, we are our least selfish, while still honoring our sense of self.

Take Away to Use in this Year and Beyond:

As you create your daily schedule, ask, “Have I prioritized my wants and needs?”
You can make this year be your best year ever. Practice these five leadership habits to make your year more awesome than you even hope and let me know which you find most useful.
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Karen Eber Davis

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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