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March 29, 2017


Leading a team can be tough, here's some advice on building your resilience.


Carla Miller

Leading a team can be tough. There's a lot of pressure to reach and even exceed your targets. There's always more work that could be done and sometimes your hard work doesn't turn into the results you'd like. And that's assuming all your team are happy and performing well. 

Whilst all that is going on you have to lead your team through the ups and downs with optimism and positivity. The more resilient you are, the easier it will be to keep yourself and your team positive in tough times.

Managing your energy

It takes physical, mental and emotional energy to be an inspiring team leader who is on top of everything. And your energy is a limited resource. If you keep expending more energy than you have then you'll end up feeling exhausted and demotivated and may even get sick. This is known as burnout and is surprisingly common among senior fundraisers.

The secret to being able to keep your energy levels high is to find ways to top up your energy and commit to making them part of your daily and weekly routine. Make sure you're doing some physical exercise and find out what works for you when it comes to stress relief and recharging your batteries. It might be going for a run, taking a yoga class, or if things are really bad, punching your frustrations out at a boxing class.

It's also important to eat well and not fuel yourself with the constant supply of sweets and cake that seem to begin most fundraising teams. Make sugar a treat or you'll end up relying on it to get past 4pm everyday. Why not pack healthy snacks or have an office fruit bowl instead?

Find some things to do that make you feel like "you". Whether you love to draw, dance, hang out with your kids or write poems you will feel happier and more grounded if you prioritise making time for yourself.

I also suggest making a list of things that make you happy or that you'd like to try and scheduling them into your diary so that whatever is going on at work you always have something to look forward to.

Setting boundaries

Be clear with yourself on what hours you're going to work as standard and how often you'll go beyond that. Your job is endless and you could be there all night, every night if you don't set some limits. It can be hard when your CEO is sending you midnight emails but lead by example and focus on getting your job done well in working hours rather than constantly burning the midnight oil. And don't send emails and texts to your team out of office hours unless you truly need to - it makes everyone feel like they are constantly on call and should be working.

Managing your emotions

Believe it or not, it is possible to care too much about your job. If you emotionally over-invest in your job then it becomes more than a job, it becomes part of who you are. Which motivates you to work harder but when it's not going well then it can feel like your whole life isn't going well. And if your job come under criticism it becomes difficult not to take it personally. Placing too much of your self worth in your job can mean you lose perspective and perspective is a very useful skill for a team leader to have. You need to lead without being swayed by your own emotions and you can only do that if you are able to take a step back and see what's actually going on.

Fundraisers, being great relationship builders, are often quite intuitive and make decisions based on their gut instinct and experience. And there is definitely a place for that but you also have to be able to look at decisions from another perspective, particularly when you're managing income streams that are new to you. Make sure that you are gathering all the relevant information, actively seeking opinions which different from yours and taking an analytical approach if that doesn't come naturally to you. You'll benefit from that and so will those that work with you.

Mindfulness & perspective

Mindfulness, or meditation which is at the heart of mindfulness, is becoming increasingly popular in business as well as for individuals. Scientific studies show that regular meditators experience less stress, more creativity, are better at focusing and staying on tasks and communicate better during conflict. That's a lot of benefits for spending 10 minutes a day just sitting and breathing.

It's particularly helpful if you lead a team because it creates perspective. If you have trained your mind to recognise that your thoughts and emotions come and go then you are less controlled by those thoughts and emotions. Most of us, if we were wronged, would dwell on it, get angry about it, second-guess how we dealt with it and carry it with us for the rest of the day. Regular meditators have trained their mind to notice "I'm angry" or "I can't stop thinking about what happened", which removes them from some of the strength of those thoughts and emotions and they've also trained themselves to drop unhelpful thoughts and emotions. So they can feel it, let it go and stop revisiting it.

There are non-religious apps like Headspace which train you to meditate or you can find your own way of gaining a bit of space and perspective when you recognise your emotions are running high. Perhaps go and get some fresh air or look at photos that make you smile or think about the case you're working to support.

Getting support

If things feel too much, make sure you get some support. It is a sign of strength to say that you are struggling, not a sign of weakness. Some organisations offer employee helplines, if not then have a chat to your HR manager or line manager. Getting a coach can also help you prioritise, manage your time more effectively and offer a confidential place to discuss your challenges.

Further reading.

Find out more about Headspace If you like what you see then we've got a special deal for a 25% discount on their annual subscription. Enter "GETSOMEHEADSPACE" which can be redeemed here.

About the author

Carla Miller is a coach, consultant and facilitator, who works with charities and companies to create growth and develop happy, high-performing teams.


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