Another chapter begins…

I am finally beginning to feel it.  It’s a subtle shift inside.  On the outside not much changes for me, but everything is different.

My husband Ned, whose job was eliminated on November 1, begins a new chapter in his work life on Monday. And I, happily, cease being the sole wage earner in the family.

cover.finalThere were some changes – not so much in “what I did,” but “how I did” – that I deliberately made when we knew that Ned was going to be out of work.  We learned of his job loss two weeks after I published The Can Do Chronicles, and I was just coming to terms with being an author, and seriously thinking and planning and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the whole Can Do “thing.”

I quickly put that planning on hold to pay full attention to my grant writing and development consulting work.  My Can Do decision was to “pull myself in” and keep an intense focus on my work and on my health. I was afraid of getting sick, very afraid as colleagues, friends and neighbors coughed and blew their noses all through the holidays. Because I am a contractor, I only get paid when I am working. Getting sick was just NOT an option!  Neither was allowing the little black cloud of depression to creep back in.  So, when I had breaks from my work, I gave myself permission to relax (well, sort of!) and watch HGTV, movies and TED Talks rather than write blogs and begin making the revisions to the book and calling publishers. (I CAN DO those things now – and I will!)

Last night on my plane ride home from Dallas, I reflected for a bit about how different it feels to be in a position to do what I want to do rather than what I need to do, even when they might be the very same thing.  The journey of last few months felt like I was shutterstock_113245282driving when I was very tired or when it was raining REALLY hard – actually like driving when I was tired and it was raining hard.  Focus is paramount and the amount of effort and attention needed and stress levels increase as each mile passes, with little relief about any progress made. The only question that kept going through my head is the one we all asked incessantly as children, “are we there yet?”

In the coming weeks, I have several major projects due for both of my clients, so my workload will not change.  But my approach to it will.  While it won’t be like a drive in the country on a bright summer day with the top down, I will be more relaxed at the wheel, able to listen to the music, take in some of the scenery, and think about where I am and where I want to go.

McKA final note.  While this “ride” was a tough one for me, it was tougher on Ned.  He was the one who lost his job, the one looking for work and being disappointed when he heard “sorry, not you,” or sometimes heard nothing at all after extensive interviews.  His new job as Director of Development at the Father McKenna Center in downtown DC is a phenomenal opportunity that brings him full circle in many ways, combining his strong fundraising skills with his ministry background in service to those most in need.  Congratulations, dude!

During the 90 days of job search (him) and job intensive (me), our Can Do held together – and held us together.  We took very good care of each other in getting to this new chapter though the miles and miles of rain and fatigue. This journey has shown me once again that Gratitude + Hope are a powerful, strong and enduring combination.

The Can Do Chronicles Continue….stay tuned!

Nonprofits’ Need for CAN DO at All-Time High

shutterstock_62827624The great recession has dealt a double blow to the nonprofit sector. Funding has become much more competitive at the same time that the demand for services has surged. Non-profit leaders, both Board members and executive staff, are challenged to cut costs without cutting corners, often feeling trapped by what feels like fewer and fewer good options.

The staff feel trapped, too. Money gets tighter and stress goes up. For many staff who work because of their dedication to the mission and the clients, this has meant minimal, if any, pay increases and/or having hours cut. Staff and clients are forced to use and reuse supplies and outdated equipment and technology; and important services, such as transportation and meals are too often eliminated. Outcome measures drive success, but many staff lack the training needed to track the data in effective ways. Morale suffers and staff turnover is high.

Keeping a positive, CAN DO culture with so much stress on the organization is difficult – shutterstock_87804784but far from impossible. By combining and communicating the Three Questions with the CAN DO Core Beliefs, staff at all levels feel included and more empowered.  The Three Questions create an organic framework to keep the communication going across departments to help with planning on an ongoing basis; course corrections are less difficult because there is a Plan B already defined. What some see as problems, with some brainstorming and hard work, can become opportunities.  It’s not easy – but neither is feeling stuck!

In The Can Do Chronicles, I outline my 10 Core Beliefs of CAN DO. The 7th Belief is the one that I believe helps teams function during stress: CAN DO works to stay positive, proactive and responsible in all areas of the organization. This means:

1) collect and connect the dots, always looking farther, harder deeper;connect dots

2) no blaming, whining or name calling; and, 

3) ask the hard questions when looking at what is wrong, what needs to be change, and then looking hardest for what is right.

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I have learned some of these lessons from remarkable CAN DO leaders that have led nonprofits to success during the hardest imaginable times. MANY of these lessons I have definitely learned “The Hard Way!”  Some of them multiple times!

One of my goals for the CAN DO Blog is to help you and others avoid having to learn lessons “The Hard Way” too.  

Are these ideas helpful?  Leave a comment and let me know!