What becoming a mom has taught me

When you become a new parent you get a lot of advice:

  • Nap while the baby’s napping (but what about that mountain of laundry?)
  • Don’t offer a pacifier for at least 3 weeks (oops)
  • It’s never too early for tummy time (um, I think my baby is suffocating in his blanket…?)
  • The secret to getting your baby to sleep through the night is … (still not working, thanks)

The list goes on!

Now don’t get me wrong – some of the pieces of advice I’ve gotten over the past few months have been lifesavers. But nothing has been more valuable than the times when friends and family have held back on the advice and asked a question instead.

  • What does your gut say?
  • What’s going to work best for you and baby?
  • What do you really want to do?

When I’m asked one of these questions I’m immediately reminded of an important lesson: There isn’t one right way to do things. There is no such thing as the perfect mom / Executive Director / nonprofit leader / anything. We all get to choose what’s going to work best for ourselves in every situation.

That’s the beauty of a question -- it gives you the space to connect to yourself and the things that are most important to you, and find your own way. Questions (not advice) are what spark our most powerful insights. Questions (not advice) are what create those energizing moments when we jump up and say, “YES! I discovered my answer and now I can move forward.”

So over the past two weeks, as I’ve been thinking about how I can use this blog to best support you as a leader, the answer became obvious: Give less advice, ask more questions.

Because let’s be real with each other: there is no MAGIC BULLET approach to nonprofit leadership. There are no 5 MUST DOs that will ensure you success in strategic planning. There is no ONE SECRET STEP to building a healthy and effective team.

You, your team, and your organization are unique, and “best practice” advice from others will only get you so far. Deep down, only you know what’s needed to move you and your organization forward, and when you can get in touch with your own answers, the results are pretty damn powerful.

Here’s the problem: we are constantly overworked, distracted, and “too busy” to press pause, get quiet, and make space to uncover answers to our biggest, most important questions. Tell me, how long has that really-important-but-not-so-urgent thing been hanging out on your to do list? If you’re human, it’s probably been a while.

Thankfully, there’s good news. You don’t have to wait until your next retreat … or that upcoming strategic planning process … or until you have hours and hours of free time (that’s never going to happen!) for deep thinking, reflection, and conversations about how you can make changes to become a stronger leader and organization.

Starting next week, the emails I send you will include a question. This question will point you to search inside yourself – and at times inside your team or organization – to seek the answers that will propel you and your nonprofit forward.

My hope is that with each of these emails you will step away from your desk, put away the to-do list, shut down your email, and make the space to reflect and take action. It will take practice and intention to disrupt your habits and prioritize the important over the urgent, AND it will be worth it. I hope that you’re up to the challenge – there’s too much at stake right now not to be.

I’m excited to explore together.

Best, Jen

P.S. – I promised many of you that I would send an announcement when I had baby Teddy in November and I didn’t do that (“too busy” – guilty as charged!). Thanks to all of you who sent your love and well wishes! Here’s a picture of the three of us from Easter. :-)