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How to delegate effectively in the non-profit sector

One would think, given the human-centric focus of most nonprofit organizations, they would be great examples of post-industrial leadership styles. Rather than a top-down management style they would exhibit the best traits of current, collaborative leadership. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.

There may be a couple of reasons why this is so:

One suggestion is, nonprofit organizations tend to be more collegial, have flatter management structures, and have a kind hearted approach to their employees. Therefore, leaders in these organizations are reluctant to burden staff and volunteers with delegated work.

Another suggestion says, the type of personality, drive and ability it takes to become a nonprofit leader often adds up to “control freak” (I can relate).

However, the inability or unwillingness to delegate is one of the biggest problems managers face. Delegation is one of the most important management skills for managers and leaders. The benefits are substantial, both for the leader, for staff, and for the organization.

Delegating:

  • Saves time for the manager to focus on things only they can do.
  • Ensures tasks are assigned to staff with skills to do the job.
  • Gives staff opportunity to develop.
  • Motivates and engages staff.

So, how do we delegate effectively?

  1. Plan – know what needs to be done, and be able to explain it clearly to the one receiving the task. Understand the skills required to complete the task, the outcomes expected, etc. Nothing is worse than setting-up someone for failure by giving them a job that is not clearly defined, and not matched to their skill-set.
  2. Define – Ensure the person receiving the task understands what is to be achieved with specific and measurable results; how they are responsible for producing the required outcomes; the deadline for completing task/project; what their level of decision-making authority is.
  3. Monitor don’t micro-manage, but provide enough oversight to enable the job to be completed: schedule regular progress meetings; make yourself available to provide clarification; communicate effectively.
  4. Be patient – If delegating is not currently an active part of your management toolbox, it’s going to take time for it to work fully. The first time you delegate a task, staff may lack confidence in the process, and come to you more frequently, or proceed carefully, taking more time that might be necessary. Stick to it, be consistent. The more you staff gets comfortable with the process and results, the more confident and efficient they will be come. Don’t dismiss delegation at the first hiccup, but support the process to see more effective results.

When you invest the time and energy to delegate, you increase personal and organizational effectiveness.  You improve communication, build skills and competency, and strengthen employee engagement. Effective delegation makes others better and ensures that even when you are absent your leadership impact is still present.

Christmas Carols Song Lyrics With Guitar Chords – Off-topic

A few years ago, I compiled a list of links to Christmas carols and song lyrics with guitar chords. Since that time, these lists have proven to be popular posts during the holiday season. I know it’s off-topic for a productivity/personal development blog, but because of it’s popularity, I like to refresh the list each year to keep it active.

If you stop and think about it, carol singing with a guitar is an inexpensive and easy way to enjoy the holiday season. Theguitar is probably one of the most popular musical instruments around and in any group of people, there will be someone who can play.

If you’re looking for a simple way to spread Christmas cheer, grab some guitar-playing friends and:

  1. Have a carol sing in someone’s home
  2. Go caroling in the neighbourhood
  3. Visit care homes and have a carol sing with the residents
  4. Get the kids away from the Wii and sing some carols

If you’re planning a holiday sing-along, here’s a good collection of Christmas carols and songs to get you going:

5 Advantages of a To-Do List

One of the fundamental tools for time management is that list of things you need to get done. It consolidates all your tasks in one place. From there you can prioritize them and tackle the important ones first.

There are 5 key advantages to maintaining a to-do list:

A to-do list doesn’t forget

Your brain is not the most efficient memory tool and will only trust systems that it knows works. Good memory recall is as simple as finding those things that will jog your brain at the time it needs to remember. Having a written list helps us remember when things have do be done so we do not miss anything.

A to-do list helps you set priorities

Making a to-do list is an important first step but prioritizing that list ensures that you focus on the most important items rather than giving in to the temptation of working on less important items because they may stand out more or because they are easier to do. Once you have a list of the things you need to complete, set priorities and decide which jobs should be done first.

A to-do list lets you coordinate similar tasks

A to-do list helps us to avoid repetition of labour. For example, if we have to deliver a document at an office and collect a document from another office which is on the same block, both these tasks can be done together.

A load of time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save time by performing like tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time; organize your errands into a single run; reply to e-mail; etc. You will find this a more efficient use of your time.

A to-do list tracks your progress

Using a to-do list enables you to mark off the tasks you have completed. At the end of the day, when you look at the list, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It might also have the effect of waking you up if nothing has been marked completed.

A to-do list makes it easy to carry-over tasks

If anything remains incomplete at the end of the day, it can be carried over to tomorrow’s list. This is an easy way of preparing a to-do list for the next day; by examining the to-do list of today and carrying forward any task that is incomplete.

When we talk about preparing a to-do list, there are a couple of helpful points to remember:

The to-do list should be realistic.

Don’t include more on your list than can be accomplished in a day. Projects that will take weeks or months to complete should be organized and tracked in a different way.

Prepare more than just daily to-do lists.

Regular tasks can occur on a monthly cycle: e.g., paying bills. You can create date-based lists that will remind you to complete task which are regular, but not frequent. A calendar is the easiest place to track such a list.

A to-do list can be as simple or as complex as you need. Write down the tasks that you have to complete, break large tasks into component steps, assign priorities to each item and get to work.

RecommendedZen to Done Productivity eBook The Ultimate Simple Productivity System

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How to Communicate Effectively

Communication
Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

Communication between people is a process in which everyone receives, sends, interprets, and infers all at the same time; there is no beginning or end. Taking into account your own internal states, how can you ensure effective communication of your ideas and feeling?

  1. Use “I” statements. Using personal pronouns when speaking creates influential statements. They contribute to direct communication. Simply state what you think or feel about something. “I feel frustrated when people are late to meetings” versus “Some people may think that people who come late to meetings are passive aggressive“.
  2. Describe behaviours without using subjective statements. “You interrupted me several times during our staff meeting” versus “you are an attention-seeker and don’t care for others“.
  3. Acknowledge and describe your feelings. We tend to suppress the emotional part of our message even though the emotion colouring the message. State it so that others can understand the basis of your message. For example, “I felt angry when you cut me off during our staff meeting.”
  4. Match your verbal and non-verbal messages. Saying, “I enjoyed your presentation to the board….” while rolling your eyes, will confuse the person and most likely decrease trust and limit communication. Your body language accounts for a large part of your message. Matching your body language to what you are saying will build trust and clarify your intent.
  5. Get feedback on your communication skills. For most people it takes practice to become an effective communicator. Ask for feedback around the clarity, delivery, and timing of your message. It might feel risky but each small risk will build your confidence and increase trust in those you communicate with.
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Leaving a Lasting Impression

I attended the funeral of a friend yesterday afternoon. She died at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer.

The service was tinged with sadness at the loss of a family member and friend. However, it was also a celebration of a life well lived: a life that left a lasting impression on those who knew her.

In listening to the tributes to her life, and reflecting on the years I’ve known her, three traits signified the quality of her life.

  1. She had a strong spiritual faith. It’s a good place to start. This was the foundation of her life. Everything she did came from her spiritual beliefs. It wasn’t a cloistered faith, practiced for an hour on Sunday, but practiced and lived every moment.
  2. She loved her family. She was one of seven children and had six of her own. It was a big family and she was devoted to them all. When the final throes of of her illness came on, she was down in Ontario visiting with her sisters. One didn’t have to watch the family for too long to realize they were important to her.
  3. She gave to others. This lady had arthritis in her hands. It was the kind of arthritis that made her fingers look like a bird’s claws. Despite that, she spent considerable time knitting clothing that could be donated to others in need. One of the last things she did was go through her store of knitted items and indicate who was to get what.

As I sat listening to the tributes, I wondered what kind of impression I am making with my life. Are my core beliefs and practices important and are they making an impression on those around me?

How will I be remembered, after I am gone?

How about you?

Five Keys to Developing the Heart of a Champion

There are two major league sports teams in Edmonton: the Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and the Oilers of the National Hockey League. In 2005, both teams achieved considerable success in their respective sports. The Eskimos won the Grey Cup and the Oilers took the Stanley Cup series to seven games, before dropping to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Stanley Cup, on display at the Hockey Hall of ...
Image via Wikipedia

The following year, neither team achieved anything of which they could be proud. The Eskimos missed gaining a playoff spot for the first time in 35 years and the Oilers finished tenth overall in their conference.

How is it teams can be so successful one year and go nowhere the next? How is it in life that some people regularly meet and exceed goals, while others have trouble just showing up?

As I look at sports clubs, at all levels, that are consistent winners, or examine highly successful organizations and individuals, I see five traits that are the hallmarks of a champion.

  1. Character

    Champions have character. That is, they have defined values, ethics, ethos or standards. Whatever you want to call it, all they do, and how they do all, is driven by the quality of their character.

  2. Conviction

    Champions have a drive to win. They know what they want to achieve and how to create goals to get them there. Even when they don’t win all of the small victories, their focus on the big win carries them forward.

  3. Control

    Champions take charge of circumstances. They constantly prepare and hone their skills so they can meet whatever challenges come their way. They also know the importance of developing new skills to be able to handle change.

  4. Composure

    Champions are even-tempered. In game five of this year’s Detroit – Calgary series, Calgary players showed their frustration by slashing and cross-checking in the final minutes of the game. Goalie Jamie McLennan ended up with a five game suspension for his slash. Needless to say, the Detroit Red Wings moved on to the next round, while the Flames packed and went home. Champions know that the only way to maintain or regain control in a difficult situation is to remain calm and focussed.

  5. Consistency

    Champions do the right things over and over again. A winning football team brings its A-game to the field week after week. The best-selling writer sets time aside each day to write. A successful fundraiser works her prospect list regularly. Champions know achieving success involves consistent execution of their best moves.

We’re all “competing” for different kinds of prizes; the rewards that make our lives meaningful. If you want to have success in reaching your goals, you need to develop the heart of a champion.