Fear, anxiety and anger seem to be swirling lately. These are dark times for our country, there is no doubt. And perhaps particularly in the social change sector — a sector built on creating a more equitable, loving, and connected society — these dark times are particularly hard to take.
But the true danger in these dark times is thinking that we are in it alone.
As I have written many times before, nonprofit leaders are expert in many things, and perhaps chief among them is going it alone. This is because the incentives in the nonprofit sector often encourage a me-against-the-world mentality. Nonprofit leaders often lack funds to hire the number and expertise of staff truly needed to accomplish the social change they seek. Board members are typically less present than they could or should be. Professional development, coaching and consulting funds are often thought of as a luxury. And the inherent competition in the sector sometimes makes it difficult for leaders to reach out to their peers for support.
It is a pernicious norm in the nonprofit sector that the nonprofit leader must, more often than not, go it alone — that true nobility comes from carrying the weight on your own. Indeed, this is the very savior complex from which so many nonprofit leaders suffer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Because it is in the act of asking for help that magic happens. I’ve seen this with my clients, observed it in my peers, and witnessed it in myself.
Yes, even consultants need help along the way. I have sometimes made the mistake in my own life of thinking it was all up to me. I am very familiar with the tension in my chest, the weight on my back, the pressure of feeling it was all up to me. But when I release the yoke, when I ask my husband, my business coach, my friends, my colleagues, even my kids for help, it is transformative.
And the help you so desperately need can arrive in various forms.
It can come from the board member who suddenly realizes (with your guidance) that they have more to offer, or the funder who (after you explain things to him) realizes that he can fund you in much more effective ways, or the staff member who steps up to take on more responsibility once you admit you can’t do it all alone, or the author whose book helps you realize that your own limiting beliefs are getting in your way, or the friend whose own relaxed approach to life helps you develop a more joyful perspective.
The point is recognizing your own vulnerability enough to admit that you can’t go it alone.
Because I am here to tell you from experience that the work is infinitely more doable, more productive and more joyful when you realize you are merely part of a team. A team of people who, like you, want to see a better world.
So give it a try. Reach out. Ask for help, find your team, and open yourself to truly receiving that help when it arrives. Because I promise you it will. Help is always around you, you need only ask.
And I’m always here to help, too. So if you want to talk about how I can support you, let me know.
Photo Credit: J W