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  • 14 Sep 2011 11:31 AM | Kathleen Loehr
    After years of giving, giving, giving as a non-profit leader, I found myself drained and in self-doubt. I regularly gave up my exercise to deal with frustrated volunteers, gave up strategic planning to meet with staff members in meltdown, gave up vacation time to meet a funder’s changed proposal schedule. Any one day I would have a clear set of To Do’s, and by 30 minutes into the day I’d be pulled off center by the unexpected.
    I went to as many time management seminars as any other leader, read the same books about highly effective leaders. I heard over and over the saying “Put your own oxygen mask on first”, and would nod my head.  And then BAM, the day would start, and I’d be running again – never enough time to connect to my wisdom and highest priorities as a leader.  As each day ended I’d feel the same – “I’ve not done enough to achieve the mission.”
    Sound familiar?
    In 2009, I found my way to a program that allowed leaders to practice together – it was only then that I broke my cycle. I was able to practice declaring and rigorously committing what I care deeply about, practice having the hard conversations and embody the moves to hold my ground, practice taking baby step after baby step to achieve my commitment. I slowly reshaped from being an anxious manager scuttling around putting out fires to being a calm, strong leader that others organized around confidently. And I was able to teach others what I was learning. Together there was more available in each of us to move the strategy forward day in and day out.
    This is the same transformative experience that Heather and I have designed into The Leadership Sanctuary – to help YOU re-ignite your full leadership potential by actually practicing rigorous commitments.  Starting with your commitment to self.
    The Leadership Sanctuary is about creating breakthroughs in a leader’s resilience and ability to tap into inner wisdom and calm to deal with today’s hairy challenges. The biggest leadership breakthroughs can only start with a commitment to change within yourself.  
    This blog will follow our progress and provide leadership tips once a week.  Follow us by:
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    Next week we’ll talk about our key requirement: your commitment.

  • 15 Apr 2011 5:13 PM | Kathleen Loehr
    You see, when weaving a blanket,
    an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving
     of that blanket to let the soul out.
      ~Martha Graham

    One of my guiding principles is connection–connecting to myself, to family and friends, to colleagues, to donors and partners in the world. Being authentic, listening to my instincts, and building trusted relationships with many of the incredible people that flow through my life makes my heart sing. I'll confess I didn’t always lead this way.

    I grew up in a family where the mantra was "Be the best." Getting A's in schools, working hard, pushing through obstacles and crises were all part of my DNA. I strove for perfection, and was always trying to figure out the "right" way–to write the best grant, to fix complex problems, to implement new programs. I moved fast, and achieved a lot.  Everyone admired me, and I kept getting assigned more and more responsibility because they knew that "Kathleen can do it."

    And yet, my striving for "the best" left me unconnected to my own core essence. I recognized that while people wanted to work with me, no one "knew" me. I didn't really know myself–my dreams, joys, how I wanted to have fun. I gave little time to myself, or to my family and friends. Staff who were closest to me admitted they found me a bit aloof. My body was always tight, my speech always fast. I found I was breathing only in my upper chest and was always leaning forward. I was intent on "doing" the business of leading nonprofits, rather than "being" in relatedness.

    With thanks to the many mentors and teachers that entered into my life at that time, I discovered the wonder and power of "we"–that true connection to myself, others and to a wisdom larger than any of us. Of deep inquiry, listening and reflection. Of recognizing that there was power in just BE-ing a leader by simply providing trusted space and compassionate guidance so others could find answers. I learned to be authentic, to show my feelings, to admit my insecurities. I practiced asking for help, and accepting it without guilt. I found that slowing down and building partnerships with others actually produced the desired results with less effort–more donor dollars were flowing, staff was more deeply connected to each others’ work.

    I had to learn the hard way that authentically showing my own soul to a supervisor, colleague, sponsor, donor, or friend unleashes another's generative spirit and support, and keeps me whole. At The Leadership Sanctuary, we create trusted space so we each can reflect on and practice how to increase our own "BE-ing." Together we weave strong connections to support our human-itarian work of leading nonprofits.

  • 18 Feb 2011 2:28 PM | Heather Kaye (Administrator)

    Step Up!

    At this moment it's impossible not to be aware of a common desire bubbling up for new things to happen, new paths to open and a new vision to unfold. We seem poised on the brink of possibility and yet uncertain about the future. Everyone is looking for leadership, but my message to you is - step up! - each of us is called to be a leader in our own life and to commit to our own vision for the future.

    I've learned that we, as human beings, desire the feeling of commitment and are more fulfilled when we find it. We are seldom committed to just one thing in life, but we easily recognize when heart and mind are aligned and we are drawn towards a course of action or a cause that speaks to who we truly are. We feel complete. This feeling of completion and satisfaction is just as important in organizational life as in our personal lives.

    This is why I have been committed for almost two decades to guiding my clients in articulating and awakening their deepest nature. I have repeatedly witnessed their greater sense of self as a result of living from their authenticity. They gain confidence when their daily contributions show tangible results. And, I see them fully engage to further their vision in concert with the organization they are serving.

    Even though the results may be very positive; the feelings associated with initially making the commitment are complex. We often feel both exhilaration and fear. We can experience both clarity and even feel overwhelmed. We may wonder, "What will be asked of me? Can I really do this?" "Will this be too much for me to handle?" and/or "Am I prepared to take this on?"

    The leader's job is to find a place of poise where calmness can counter- balance the inevitable anxiety that walks hand-in-hand with going full-out. No actor can give a good performance without adrenaline pumping, but no one wants to be paralyzed by stage-fright.

    My message to you is that without commitment, without that spurt of adrenaline, without the sense of completeness that true commitment brings - without that - magic is also missing from life. The goal is to make commitments to what matters to you and manage the conflicting emotions and expectations that arise. It has been said that once you commit, things happen that you wouldn't believe possible. I know this is true, and I invite you to experience it.

  • 15 Sep 2010 3:32 PM | Heather Kaye (Administrator)

    "No." Simple. Clear. Direct. Effective. At times, it can be hard to hear and even harder to say. We set up cultures where saying "no" is not welcomed, but this makes saying "yes" meaningless. When we are told "no," we can feel offended, rejected and discouraged. And, we anticipate others will feel the same way. When we do offer a "no," we often beat around the bush or offer lengthy explanations. "No" helps us to set boundaries, get back on course, or finally let go. It communicates where we stand and what is acceptable.

    Set Healthy Limits

    How many times have you been sitting with a client, found yourself listening attentively, nodding with encouragement and wound up agreeing to additional work you won't or can't deliver? In this economic climate it is especially difficult to turn work away or set limits with a customer. Don't make the mistake of saying yes, too quickly. Take time out to reflect. It may take more time, money, talent or ideas than currently available. If you can't deliver, you lose credibility. Enter into a negotiative stance and be willing to walk away if the additional work is not in your best interest. Not being able to say "no" to a client can also have cascading effects on your organization. As you know, taking on unproductive or unprofitable work often results in greater burdens on your team and a loss of their respect and productivity.

    Making an Excuse Does Not Help

    Sometimes we say "no" and feel a need to justify ourselves. We tag on an excuse to ease the blow. "Kelly, your new program is great for our department, and I know you want other departments to use it, but it's just not the right time." If Kelly is the go-getter that you know she is, she'll keep the conversation alive because you left the door open. Excuses or rationalizations can prolong the inevitable, can be confusing and send the wrong message. When you know "no" is the answer, be clear and skip the explanations. Otherwise, you waste time and energy in needless conversations which may leave everyone feeling frustrated and diminished.

    Saying "No" in a "Yes" Culture

    It can be a shock to hear "no" from your boss, peers or team members. You are a good leader and have built a synergistic team in a positive atmosphere. You have a great new idea and want to share it. As a leader you might expect everyone to be your cheerleader. You certainly want to hear, "yes, yes, yes!" But, if a solid new idea is to be successfully received, give it a short test drive. Sound out the key players, enlist their buy in, and incorporate useful feedback. Securely engage others before your big reveal or you might not get out of the starting blocks.

    Own your Part

    Saying "yes" too quickly can be a sign of a lack of awareness and thoughtfulness. Saying "yes," when you want or need to say "no" is a form of dishonesty or may highlight your inability to let go. Offering excuses to try to be the "good guy" is disingenuous. Always expecting to hear a "yes" to your own ideas is not realistic and may leave you feeling disgruntled.

    Take a good look at your behavior in these areas.

    1) Notice what you are feeling. When you feel a twinge of guilt, or feel a familiar resentment begin to build because you couldn't set a limit.

    2) Stop and reflect take a few moments of solitude and find your truth. This may take time, patience and a dash of humility, but it's worth it.

    3) Think it through. When you find it, put words to it; say it out loud to yourself or to a trusted colleague.

    4) Honesty breeds trust. Practice saying what is true for you even though others may not be comfortable with it. As you develop mastery in this area, you will learn how to speak with clarity and confidence.

    Knowing when to say no and how to say it is essential in maintaining successful relationships with both clients and your team. You may also enjoy similar benefits in your personal relationships, and that is beneficial for everyone.

  • 15 Mar 2010 3:30 PM | Heather Kaye (Administrator)

    Successful leadership is a challenge in the best of times. It seems the news cycle is stuck in a repetitive loop of reporting economic disaster. A dash of anxiety can be motivating, but we are being fed heaping helpings of fear, resulting in immobilization and inner stress. Now we have to ask, how do we best lead in the worst of times?

    Few of us have been challenged with wide spread survival scenarios in business. As business sectors shrink, along with our workforce, how do we galvanize employees and keep them focused and engaged in creative and productive mission oriented solutions?

    Start where you are.

    It's time to get real. No matter what business you are in or what challenges you face, the simple fact is, it's best to understand the situation and accept what is - right now.

    You may question your ability to stay clearly on course and be able to move through this period with fluidity, stability and a feeling of trust. To extend your strengths to others, you must be yourself: honest, and open to listening to concerns and ideas. Being honest these days means owning up to not knowing the answer to every question.  It's better to share your own uncertainty than to put on a false front of bravado. Your honesty and integrity show up in your fierce adherence to what you believe in your principles, your people and your ability to adapt to changing circumstances. No matter what you say, remember your presence is what communicates the loudest, not your words. As a leader, you are called to stay steady in the eye of the storm.

    Open up to possibility. Stick together.

    A good place to start is with what is working and allow that to be your jumping-off place for creativity. Make it a practice to share this with every member of your team.  Resist closing down, and keeping secrets. Encourage fresh thinking to find innovative solutions and possibilities. You may uncover problem areas in the process, but now is the time to put everything on the table. Use this challenging time to discover what can be done together. In times of stress, we are more prone to err. To "err is human, to forgive divine" wrote Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism. Let the simple mistakes go easily. Use the bigger ones as teachable moments. We all need to be accountable, but no one benefits from blame or ridicule.

    Get personal. Show compassion, generosity and forgiveness.

    Stay present, know your people and connect with them every day. Find out what's going on in peoples' lives. Brain scans now prove people are endlessly scanning their environment for connection - they can tell viscerally if they are being listened to. Show your compassion by actively listening.

    Expressions of personal caring mean the world to people and will go a long way in building trust and maintaining loyalty. Don't be reluctant to approach a struggling employee and ask what's going on in their life. If there's a personal issue blocking their ability to show up 100%, give them the time, support or resources needed to bring them back to their full potential. Your generosity will be repaid multifold.

    Focus on the intangibles (what is motivating, engaging, trust-building) and you will get tangible results.

    News Flash

    Take time out.  Be with your family and friends just to unwind and talk. It will help you relax and maintain your creative edge. Of course time management is a perennial problem. Stay clear about your priorities. Get your wants and needs met. And you know if it's not on your calendar, it's not happening.  Remember to always find ways to give back; consciously be of service to others. It will enrich your sense of self and strengthen your connection within your community.

    If you find you need additional support - get it. You deserve it. That's what a good coach is for.

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