How do you deal with your inner “Non-Profit Possibility Girl”?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a recent post (a very short but powerful post), John talked about “Possibility Girl” and the paralysis that comes with expectations, especially expectations that are very visible. 

As I read John’s post, a number of non-profit questions formed in my mind:

  • I wonder how many non-profit boards (collectively) feel the same way as Possibility Girl?
  • I wonder how many board volunteers (individually) feel the same way as Possibility Girl?
  • I wonder how many non-profit executive directors feel the same way as Possibility Girl?
  • I wonder how many non-profit fundraising professionals feel the same way as Possibility Girl?
  • I wonder how many donors (individuals as well as organizations like foundations) feel the same way as Possibility Girl?

As you can see, John got inside my head this morning. LOL

Once I got past these questions, it became very clear to me that the bigger question that needs to be asked is:

What can/should a non-profit executive director do with their board volunteers , staff and donors to help them get beyond this paralyzing ‘Possibility Girl effect’?”

I used to struggle with this question when I was an executive director (not that I had framed it in quite the same way prior to reading John’s blog post). With that disclaimer in mind, I will share with you a few things I think worked for me:

  1. I liked to clearly set expectations well in advance. I used written volunteer job descriptions during the recruitment process, and I used a management by objectives system when it came to staff performance management plans. I really think clarity and transparency “right-size” expectations and put Possibility Girl in perspective.
  2. I tried to celebrate and recognize big and small accomplishments. I really think celebration and recognition shrink the doubts that people have in their heads, and it provides proof that you aren’t “fake” or “bluffing your way through something“. Success breeds success and builds confidence.
  3. I tried to integrate a sense of mission-focus into everything. I think this approach helps because it serves as a reminder that none of this was about me. It is about something bigger. This approach always allowed me to compartmentalize personal feelings, put them in their right place, and focus on the bigger things. It was a crutch that helped me and the groups of people I supported to “push past periodic feelings of inadequacy“.

Enough about me. What about you? How do you personally deal with you inner “Non-Profit Possibility Girl“? How have you helped your board, fundraising committee, and staff deal with her? I would love to hear a few tips from your corner of the non-profit world! We can all learn from each other and Fridays are great days to invest a minute or two in such an activity. Please use the comment box below to share.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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