Encouraging Personal and Organizational Health
M any people in nonprofit organizations are workaholics. That makes the balance between personal life and work life difficult. The physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects are always a challenge. But I like to say that the leader’s number one job is to care for his or her own soul. I’ve got to make sure that my soul is healthy. If my soul isn’t healthy, then I can’t be an effective leader who brings life change in the lives of others. When I’m traveling, it’s particularly difficult, but when I’m home, I’m hitting the gym five days a week. I know that if my physical energy drops, then that’s going to impact my emotional energy, which is going to impact my spiritual energy, and it just sets off all these bad, negative chains of events. I find that I need to be operating in a healthy manner. When I’m going to the gym, I’m going to be more balanced, and balance is the goal. Health is the goal. There will be alarms going off in my spirit when I’m saying yes to things I shouldn’t be. Others are influenced by what you do as much as by what you say in this area, more so than not. I try to model my healthy lifestyle. The people in my office know my eating habits. I follow a program where you eat six small healthy meals a day, a fistful of protein and a fistful of carbohydrate six times a day, and you work out at least 20 minutes five days a week.
All of my employees are aware that, on my schedule, I leave here at 4:00 every afternoon to go to the gym. They see me eating apples, celery, and carrots. And so, I can tell them to eat healthy foods. I can tell them to only work so many hours a day. Sometimes I chase them out of the office – I tell them to go home, because I don’t want them to resent this place. I don’t want this place to burn them out. You know, life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We have to pace ourselves in a way that we can do our good deeds over the long haul. A friend of mine says that, with the pace you’re currently going, can you do nonprofit work for decades? If not, you need to change your pace. Every organization has a small handful of model leaders that exemplify what it means to lead well.They have the right skill set, they’re admired by others, and they handle situations with maturity and wisdom.They are the ones you wish you could replicate over and over. Odds are those model leaders didn’t learn their leadership acumen from your organization’s quarterly four-hour turbo training. While they may have enjoyed it or appreciated it, that’s not where they gained the leadership character and competency that’s so evident today. If you ask them (and I would encourage you to do so), you will likely find they attribute their development to one of two things:
1. An individual who believed in them and poured into them over an extended period of time. 2. An opportunity they had to lead that stretched them. Isn’t that true of most of us? You don’t have to stop offering your quarterly turbo training. But I would certainly entertain the ideas of having your existing leaders pour into your potential leaders over a period of time, and giving potential leaders stretch assignments that will challenge them to grow. When you do, you’ll find more model leaders emerging within your organization. No one would question that leadership development is a wise investment. Time spent developing new and better leaders has a long-term payoff for the individual as well as the organization. But if this fact is so obvious, why is it so few of your existing leaders engage in the development of new leaders? Why is it they default to doing the work rather than developing others to do the work? What can you do today to champion these new leaders? • Speak life into their giftedness. I’m constantly amazed at how few people have had their leader speak significant or specific encouragement into their souls. Our words of confidence in them will expand their confidence in their own
8 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
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