decision making

Counteracting Burnout

Counteracting Burnout

Counteracting Burnout by Rob Fitzpatrick

The first appearance of the term Burnout was in the mid 1970’s related to the helping professions (doctors, nurses, social workers, etc). As is often the case, in the time since then there has become a long list of terms to describe more specific situations. For the purpose of this article, I would like to separate these into two categories: Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. While the end results look quite similar, the path to these feelings is quite different and as such the solution is equally different.

Is It Burnout?

In the case of Burnout, the cause is generally linked to dissatisfaction with an organization or its practices. For example, the way work is divided or the process of promotion in a company. The individual feels as though no matter what I do, I cannot get ahead or my voice is unheard and therefore meaningless. In this case there is a feeling of disconnection and isolation and these trigger a number of other behaviors. A common theme would be taking more time off than ever before, low output and lack of interest in connecting with co-workers (even though this is the core issue). An employer’s first instinct may be to take something off the worker’s plate or suggest taking a vacation, with the hope that the employee will return to work the following week with a renewed vigor. The fact is, one of the most common times for people to quit their job is upon returning from vacation. When an employee is losing touch with their job and workplace it is off most importance to engage the individual and pull them back in to the fold.

Or Compassion Fatigue?

On the flip side, Compassion Fatigue takes place when an employee becomes too invested in the consumer and their needs. Particularly in a helping field, employees are at a risk of crossing boundaries in the name of going above and beyond. Sometimes we see a part of ourselves in a particular client or we have a long term relationship that crosses from professional to shades of friendship and familiarity. In contrast to an employee feeling burned out, an individual with Compassion Fatigue tends to overwork, picking up extra shifts or putting more effort into certain roles or clients, because they feel as though more needs to be done and that particular employee is the only one capable of executing the role. This category of difficulty is in need of separation from a job before an ethical or even legal boundary is crossed. For an employer, this can be a difficult call to make as the employee is a star on paper, but for the long term health and vitality of a company that professional space is necessary.

Questions To Ask Yourself

For individuals, we must be aware of the reasons for our actions. Are we working harder from a place of health, or is it to cover the feeling of ineffectiveness that comes from feeling Burnout or Compassion Fatigue? Is our passion at a healthy level, or are we trending toward obsession that is having an effect on ourselves and our loved ones? For companies, is there health and wellness in our policies and practices or are there expectations that leads to employees feeling overworked and under-appreciated?

I want to invite you to the Non Board Board’s November 13th meeting to explore Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and related issues that face workers today. I will be talking about organizational and personal characteristics that put one in danger of experiencing Burnout, how to deal with symptoms as they arise, and of course how to prevent issues in the first place. (http://nonboardboard.com/speakers/)

READ PART 1 HERE: Burnout by Rob Fitzpatrick

Rob Fitzpatrick is a Masters Level Counselor for The Refuge Center For Counseling in Franklin, TN.

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Can Development Directors Save The World? by Emily Carroll

2015 Nonprofit Communication Trends Report Infographic by Joel Widmer (Our #1 post of the year!)

How To Evaluate Nonprofit Marketing Opportunities by Joel Widmer

 

Burnout

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Burnout by Rob Fitzpatrick

During the seasons of life, seemingly everyone has to deal with feeling burned out. That moment when you and those around you know what you need to do, but for some reason you cannot muster the strength to cross the next hurdle. For some, this may look like putting off a phone call even though it is a guaranteed sale that just needs to be finalized. For others, it may look like lying in bed in the morning dreading going to work at a job just months, weeks, even days ago brought you joy and fulfillment.

When it’s a problem…

Now these feelings are natural to many of us, and at certain times we are going to feel spent, I think of a teacher at the end of the school year, an accountant just before the end of tax season, and any number of examples that fit any profession. A problem arises when the feeling of being burned out, transforms into a more permanent case of Burnout. When long after the deadline, presentation, or missed promotion passes the resentment and bitterness still remain, there is a need to refocus and reenergize to move forward.

The Origin

The origin of the term Burnout came from Dr. Herbert Freudenberger, who felt a similarity to the feelings he experienced as an overworked Psychologists and the images of the burned structures where houses used to stand. What were once strong structures built to perform well in many circumstances, now stood without use and as barely a reminder of what they once were. While a professional may do his or her best to cover the effects of burnout, underneath the surface they are just as ineffective as the metaphorical burnt out structure that Dr. Freudenberger described.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

In a more recent trend, there seems to be a disconnect between efficiency and effectiveness of the actions that individuals take. The first time that I was introduced to this was in comments from Rickson Gracie, a legendary Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete and forefather of what is now known as Mixed Martial Arts. In the context of martial arts, efficiency would measure how quickly you can perform a task or move, while effectiveness dictates the result. Being efficient in one particular move is nice, but at the end of the day, how well does it protect you from an opponent or help you to perform in a stressful situation? In many clients, I see a clear connection to this principle in everyday life. While people are becoming more efficient every day, how effective are we truly becoming in our work, our roles as friends, family and so on? The first misstep in counteracting Burnout generally focuses on becoming more efficient, focusing on one tiny step and doing it over and over again. Often an individual needs more than anything else to step back, remember the goals and desire to become more effective overall.

Why Wait?

While Burnout is an all-encompassing group of symptoms, the fact is we can get through the problem on our own, but why wait to see how bad the effects become? There are a number of ways to prevent ourselves and our employees from dealing with the feelings of exhaustion, low motivation and ineffective work on an organizational level. On a personal level developing awareness and resilience toward these feelings will help not only with job performance and satisfaction, but also with overall satisfaction in life. I invite you to read the next blog post that will highlight ways to identify and counteract symptoms on Burnout and related conditions such as Compassion Fatigue, and also join me on November 13th when I will be speaking with the NonBoardBoard (http://nonboardboard.com/speakers/).

Rob Fitzpatrick is a Masters Level Counselor for The Refuge Center For Counseling in Franklin, TN.

nonprofit marketing opportunities
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How To Evaluate Nonprofit Marketing Opportunities

“An opportunity that doesn’t align with your goals is a distraction, no matter how lucrative it is.”

I wrote down that piece of advice for my future self a few years back after I took advantage of a few “opportunities” only to find I was even further from my goals after pursuing them.

I love a good opportunity, but sometimes, in the moment, it’s hard to evaluate how valuable it will be. I’ve found I can’t trust myself to distinguish between an opportunity that will truly move move me closer to my goals and the blind justification that comes with being ecstatic about a new idea.

So how can you keep a level head when you’re about to say YES to a marketing opportunity that could be a game-changer for your nonprofit — but could potentially derail it as well?

Of course, surrounding yourself with wise people helps immensely, but I’ve found that these few questions are great to ask yourself and your team when faced with a new opportunity. Whether you’re starting a new social media strategy, an Adwords campaign, or a strategic partnership, these questions will help you evaluate any marketing opportunity that comes your way.

Who is my target audience for this opportunity?

Before pursuing a marketing opportunity, you should know two things: Who is your exact target audience? And are you using the best channels to reach that particular audience?

Resist the temptation of saying “everybody” is your target audience. Create a customer persona for the audience you’re going after. Look at your past marketing campaigns for any data that might help with the target audience. If you haven’t targeted this audience before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting. Just be sure to measure and evaluate whether they’re worth pursuing.

Will this opportunity move me closer to my goals?

What are your goals for this marketing project? Make sure you clearly outline what a win looks like for the project and what you’re willing to do to reach those goals. In the days of Don Draper, all clients had to do was approve sketches and new ads. Today, effective marketing takes more involvement and resources from the client.

What resources will it take to execute this opportunity and is this the best place to focus those resources?

If your team is executing this campaign internally, make sure you know what resources will be required. If an outside marketing company is working on the project your team won’t be tied up, so it just depends on what’s best for your situation. Look at the timeline of the project and everything else you have going on and decide whether to keep the project in-house or hire an outside company.

Are there other ways to get more out of your goal?

Now that you have your end goal in mind, how can you get even more out of it? If you look at the pieces of the marketing campaign, you may find you can get even more out of your individual marketing assets.

For example, if your goal is to write 3 e-books to use for educating prospects and building your email list, you have two choices. You could simply write those e-books, or you could use your blog to share excerpts of them and get people interested in the subjects, while also stretching your content much further.

How can we predict the outcome of this opportunity?

Find companies who have done similar marketing campaigns and do your homework. Research what their audience’s reaction was to the campaign, how much of an impact it had, and any mistakes they made that you can avoid. If they aren’t a competitor, it’s even worth giving them a call to ask them directly.

How does this opportunity fit into the rest of my marketing strategy? 

Does it compliment or compete with it? Your new marketing opportunity should complement, and even enhance, your current marketing. It should also fit in with the other stages in your marketing. For example, if you see that most of your marketing falls in the early stage and this is an early-stage opportunity, you may want to hold off until you balance it out with middle and late stage marketing.

Use these questions as a guide to quickly evaluate each new marketing opportunity. Your answers will tell you whether each opportunity that comes along is worth your time and investment.

How To Free Up Time to Think “Big Picture” for Your Nonprofit

Time managementWhen you work in a nonprofit, you know what it’s like to have a mission that drives you to work harder than you thought possible. It’s incredible what the power of a clear, compelling mission can do.

But it can also be dangerous if you don’t take time to step back and look at the bigger picture.

When was the last time you truly stepped away from your day to day tasks and took time to think about your nonprofit’s big picture? Have you made sure you are headed down the right path?

Proactive vs. Reactive Tasks

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
-Greg McKeown

It’s easy to do one ‘big picture’ planning session. But doing it consistently is much more difficult.  To think about the big picture consistently, take a step back and look at your day.

Do you know how much of your day is run by you and how much of it is run by others? If more than 50% is reacting to others, it doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, because other people are controlling your day.

This week, take time to record how much time you spend responding to others requests. No matter how important the request is, it’s still reactive time. This includes answering phone calls and emails, people stopping by unexpectedly, requests for help etc. Basically, anything that you didn’t plan for.

Here’s why it’s important: Taking time to think big isn’t just a problem of finding the time. It’s a priority shift.

You will never ‘have’ the time to grow your non-profit if you are always putting other people’s needs -no matter how urgent- ahead of your organization.

A Practical Approach to Planning Your Time

Before you can choose a strategy, you need to believe you can do it, and make it a priority. Planning your time starts with your mindset, before ever choosing the way to go about it.

My advice is to start small –  maybe just 15 or 30 minutes a day or a week. Decide on a time right now. Schedule that in your calendar, and guard it with your life! I like to schedule time at the beginning of the day because I know having that clarity will energize me the rest of the day.

Another helpful thing to do is keep a journal of your thoughts so you know exactly where you left off. But no matter how you go about it, if you don’t schedule the time, it won’t happen. And if you don’t make it a priority, something else will take its place.

Set Yourself Up for Success

It’s tempting to check your email or phone during your 30 minute “thinking big sessions”. But that first buzz or notification could derail all the progress you’ve made so far. Don’t let it!

Instead, do yourself a favor. Turn off your phone and put it in the other room. Turn off your wifi or better yet, close your computer and stick to good ol’ pen and paper to organize your thoughts.

Then you can transfer them onto the computer, if needed.

If you aren’t comfortable with disappearing for 30 minutes during the day, tell the most important people what you’re doing. Let them know that you’ll be doing this every week, at this time, and ask them to help you by making sure you aren’t interrupted.

Take the Challenge

Try taking 30 minutes for yourself just twice this week, to think big picture. Are you up for it? Let me know in the comments!

Should You Consider Arbitration?

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 5.31.52 PMIn a perfect world, executive directors and boards would always be on the same page, but serious differences can arise, and sometimes the best way to find reconciliation is through third-party mediation.  A breakdown in communication and trust can lead to feelings of desperation, frustration and helplessness. “Score-keeping” is not healthy in any relationship. At that point, or sooner, someone neutral needs to go in and help both sides focus on the future.

Through mediation, the board/board chair and an executive director can agree to set new rules, new clear expectations and discuss what they need from each other to be successful and ultimately set the terms for mutual benefit.  It’s partially a Personal Improvement Plan and partially strategic planning.  The goal is to strengthen the organization– it isn’t personal.

The most delicate relationship a CEO or Executive Director has is the one with his board.  The board is responsible for ensuring sustainability for the organization.  The challenging part is with each change in board leadership, there is a shift in how the organization runs.  The staff must adjust.  The part no one wants to talk about is this- if the personalities clash, the board is ultimately responsible for making the decisions.  This relationship has to be approached the same way you approach a boss in Corporate America.  The board is the boss……… it’s part of the ego-check.  It can be hard for staff to admit because we are in it everyday, but this is the current structure of nonprofit organizations.    Mediation may be the last option, but we must always remember it is an option.

– Beth Torres is the President/CEO of Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee, and former Junior Achievement VP and Reebok Marketing Manager.  She can be followed on twitter @_beth_torres

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