Happy Boss, Happy Life

This post comes to you with thanks to Liz Kislik, organizational consultant extraordinaire (and my dear friend).  Liz writes about how a happy work environment can affect workers' level of engagement in their jobs. Good leadership starts with a smile! Read "Leading with Laughter" here. And pass it on!


Feed Yourself First

While flying home from a business trip last week, I heard the familiar line from the flight attendant, "If you are traveling with small children or someone who requires assistance, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on the other person." Since I was looking for an idea for a blog post, I mulled this over, considering how it could be a metaphor for leadership.  Here we go...

Before you can lead others, you have to learn to lead yourself.  You have to learn to feed yourself before you can nurture others.  You have to learn how to grow before you can help others grow.

You are sometimes your own worst enemy. You forget to take care of yourself-  physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually- and both you and those you are trying to lead suffer.  Feed yourself, then you'll be able to encourage others to become the best they can be.

I'd love to work with you on developing your leadership abilities. You can reach me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

Did You Have A Good Year?

It's December. It's almost the end of the year. Now is the time to look back at the year and evaluate where we are, how we got there, and to start thinking about what's coming up in the next year. However, some people get stuck in what didn't happen, how they didn't reach their goals, make enough money or make an impact. Shannon Kaiser wrote a great piece, "20 Signs You Had a Good Year (Even If It Doesn't Feel Like It)" for MindBodyGreen that can help shift the focus from what may not have happened to all of the great changes and progress you've made this year. Here are a couple of my favorites:

~ You're capable of celebrating how far you've come.  

~ You enjoy spending time with yourself. You're working on becoming your own best friend.

~ You can appreciate the moment. You're more patient than you used to be.

~ You believe in your future self and are proud of the direction you are heading in.

~ You know your dreams matter and the world needs what you have to offer.

I encourage you to read the entire post and make your own evaluation of 2015. There's a lot to look forward to in 2016, too!  I want to help you find the right path. Please be in touch with me for more insight into how we can work together, ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

Happy Holidays!

Listen to Me

I've been told that I have a tendency to interrupt, which has led me to try to improve my listening skills.  So I went looking for some guidance... Julian Treasure is a sound consultant.  He teaches companies how to best utilize, filter and channel sound to enhance customer experiences.  In his 2011 TED Talk, "Five Ways to Listen Better," he raises the red flag that we are losing our listening.  We generally only pay attention to about 60% of what we're listening to, and we retain far less- about 20%- of what we hear.  Conversation is being replaced with public broadcasting on social media, and too many people are insulating themselves from sound via headphones and other forms of isolation.  Treasure says we're missing the subtleties of life when we don't listen to what's going on around us.  This "conscious listening" is what helps us understand the world.

So how can we improve our conscious listening?  Here are some of Treasure's suggestions:

  • Observe silence: 3 minutes a day of silence can help you focus on sounds around you. If total silence is unachievable, try to find a quiet place to be for that time.
  • Unmix the sound: if you are in a noisy place, practice separating and identifying the many different sounds you're hearing. This increases the quality of your listening.
  • Savor everyday sounds: listen closely and appreciate even the mundane sounds around you- washing machine, water running, cars driving by- Treasure calls this "the hidden choir" of sound.
  • Change your listening position: move from passive to active (or the other direction), or from critical to empathetic in how you listen to another person. See how this changes your perspective.


Finally, Treasure suggests that you listen for the "rasa" (Hindu for "the agreeable part of something") by:

Receiving: take in the message and really hear it

Appreciating: nod, respond, or otherwise acknowledge that you are listening

Summarizing: repeat back the important parts of the message so others know you are listening

Asking: ask questions about what you've heard


LISTEN CONSCIOUSLY, LIVE FULLY! Wish me luck as I endeavor to master this skill.

When Autumn Darkness Falls

When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.      ~Jens Stoltenberg


What Exactly Do You Do?

My mother used to tell people that I was a sociologist. I wasn't. I was a health educator. But I did have a degree in Sociology, so that's where she got the idea that I was a sociologist.  Oh well... As time went on, she told people I took care of breast cancer patients.  I didn't. I worked for a breast cancer organization that provided information to women with breast cancer. Which, I guess, means that I took care of breast cancer patients...

Now I'm a consultant, and I think it's easy for my mother to say, "She's a consultant" when asked.  But when they follow up with, "What kind of a consultant?" it probably gets interesting.  Because, sometimes, even I have a hard time answering that question.

Nonprofits, especially smaller organizations like the ones I have often worked with, have diverse needs in a variety of categories: capacity-building, leadership, governance, development, and many other areas of growth and change. There is no "one size fits all" approach to what I do, because the needs change from organization to organization, and even during engagements, things can change.  It's never boring!

So, Mom, please tell your friends that I'm a consultant who helps organizations reach their potential, by providing them with guidance and support as they grow. Because that's what I do best.

You can reach me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. I'm looking forward to speaking with you!



The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit is Coming!

I attended the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference in Portland, OR at the beginning of October.  It was my first exposure to the organization, and my intentions were to make some new friends and contacts, learn something, and see some of Portland.  I'm happy to report that I was able to attain all of my goals (special shout-out to the incredible food trucks of Portland!). The highlight of the conference for me was a keynote presentation by Beth Kanter, an amazing thought leader and author of the award-winning Networked Nonprofit books.  I have seen Beth speak several times, and she never disappoints. Her stated topic was, “The Nonprofit Work Ethic Reinvented in An Age of Hyper Connectivity: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout," which included a preview of her next book, The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, which she is writing with social media guru Aliza Sherman.  This power duo is taking on the challenges that nonprofits and the people who love them face regarding organizational culture and personal habits for sustainable impact.

Many nonprofits operate with a "scarcity mindset": everyone feels compelled to work long hours with limited resources and without encouragement or investment in self-care (sound familiar?). This work ethic is not only outdated, it's not sustainable. It leads to burnout and dissatisfaction and turnover and so many other not-great things. But what if things were different? What if nonprofits took a more people-focused approach to how they do their work? What if there was a culture of replenishment and abundance?

As social media has taken hold in the nonprofit sector, the constant need to be "connected" is contributing to the feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed that are so common. While being connected can help nonprofits engage with practically anyone to achieve their goals, there are human limits and costs to connectivity. Beth and Aliza's book promises to address these challenges and set us on a course of renewal that can lead to even more productivity and impact for all.

I'm really looking forward to it! Check out Beth's blog where you can also see the beautiful graphic illustration that was  done at the Alliance conference during her presentation.



Talk Less, Smile More: A Lesson from "Hamilton"

In the first act of the hit Broadway musical, "Hamilton," Aaron Burr's advice to the young Alexander Hamilton on how to be more successful is: "Talk less. Smile more."  Upon reflection, I realized that I give the same advice to the CEOs I counsel on leadership. Being a good listener (talking less) is essential if you want your staff to feel comfortable with coming to you for feedback and guidance.  Being approachable (smiling more) is an asset in cultivating relationships with donors, board members and others important to the growth of your organization. Both work in tandem with other important qualities (integrity, humor, confidence and strategic thinking are just a few examples) to create a well-rounded leader who is capable of managing people, programs and growth.

If you would like to learn more about leadership, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

You can download the original Broadway soundtrack to Hamilton on iTunes.  It's wonderful!


Welcome to the New Year!

“For last year's words belong to last year's languageAnd next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."

T.S. Eliot

For those who celebrate the Jewish New Year, this is a time for reflection and atonement. Many people approach this period as an opportunity to set a new direction for themselves, or to set intentions to work on aspects of themselves that might need adjustment in the coming year.

Change is always difficult, but refusing to acknowledge that you need to change is worse in the long run.  I wish all who are celebrating a joyous and healthy New Year, and an easy path to change.

Learning to Be a Leader

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.  Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter I've been thinking a lot lately about leadership. Many organizations are led by people who are not born, or even trained, to be leaders. There is often a profound lack of self-confidence about leadership ability, and- even more scary- a real lack of ability.  This doesn't mean that leadership skills can't be taught, or learned.  But having a leader who is unsteady in his or her role can create a huge void in an organization as it grows.

Of course, it is the responsibility of an organization's board to select, guide,  support and evaluate its leader.  If there are gaps in a leader's skills or abilities, it is the board's job to provide opportunities for learning and growth.  And, if such growth is unsuccessful, the board bears the onus of making a change.

If you are a leader or aspire to be one , you might be asking, "What does a leader actually have to accomplish to be effective?" There is no specific recipe for success, but here's a few tips:

  • Make sure your staff is happy
  • Ensure that your organization is fiscally sound
  • Inspire your team to think about the big picture (mission) in everything they do
  • Encourage your staff and yourself to grow as individuals and learn new skills
  • Endeavor to work collaboratively with your board
  • Be open to feedback on yourself and your organization
  • Maintain a sense of humor


I'd love to hear your thoughts on leadership, or answer your questions.  You can reach me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.



Listen and Learn

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.  But when you listen, you may learn something new.    Dalai Lama In a previous post from 2014, I wrote about my intention to Listen and Learn. How coincidental that the Dalai Lama has a quote relevant to that!

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and pay attention. You might learn something.


It's All In Your Mind(set)

I recently watched a TED Talk by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and researcher in the field of motivation, entitled "The Power of Believing That You Can Improve."  While the focus of her talk was on changing the culture around educating children, I was intrigued at how her premise could be applied to nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits. Dweck refers to how different mindsets can lead to different results.  In her view of a fixed mindset, basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are traits that define everything. People with a fixed mindset document their intelligence and skills instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone can lead to success—without effort.  They are frustrated and stymied by their mistakes. I've seen many organizations try to succeed with this attitude, and never quite get there.

In contrast, with a growth mindset, basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. They learn from their errors and adapt as a result. This view creates a drive to grow and improve and a resilience that is the key to great accomplishment. Most great people (and great organizations) have these qualities.

Simply by adopting a growth mindset- the belief that you can improve- you can create a culture where problems or obstacles are viewed as something that hasn't been solved yet.  In fact, Dweck proposes that we use "not yet" as a measurement (or a grade, in the education arena) along the continuum of readiness to grow or adopt new abilities.

Organizations need leaders who can not only grasp the "big picture" but be able to respond to it in an open way. Having (or developing) a growth mindset can be integral to growth and success.

To learn more about great nonprofit leadership, please email me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. I want to help you and your organization be the best!


Summertime and the Working is Easy

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.              John Lubbock I've done my fair share of listening to the ocean and watching the clouds float by this summer, but I haven't neglected work: I've spent some of the slower days catching up on webinars, podcasts, TED Talks and reading so I can be at the top of my game. And I've made plans for even more professional development before the end of the year. I'll be heading to Portland in October for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference.

What have you been doing this summer for your professional growth?  Email me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com and let me know!

How to Be the Best Board Member Ever

One of the things I enjoy most is assisting organizations in building a great board of directors.  This is a challenging job, because the chemistry has to be the right mix of dedication and responsibility. People who are looking to contribute their skills, experience, and expertise as  volunteer board members often don't know what questions to ask before joining a board. I suggest using the following checklist to evaluate the organizations you might want to serve:

  • Is this a cause I feel passionate about?  Whatever the cause- animal rights, education, cancer advocacy, social policy- for any of the thousands of organizations that need guidance, really caring about the mission is a key element to being a good board member. Think carefully about what excites you, or what areas you might want to learn more about before committing yourself.
  • What will I actually be asked to do as a board member?  The needs of an organization that is just starting out are very different from those of a more mature organization, and the same is true of what the expectations are for board members. In addition to the time commitment, you should assess how your skill set fits in with what the board's needs are.  Ideally, there should be a written job description that details a board member's role and responsibilities.
  • What will be my financial obligation?  All organizations should have a written policy regarding board members' contributions.  Some have a "give or get" policy, and some work on a sliding scale depending on ability or tenure, but you should be prepared to support the organization financially if you join the board.
  • Is there a strategic plan?  Even organizations that have not gone through a formal strategic planning process can have a good idea of their road map toward growth and success.  Make sure to ask where they see themselves in a year, three years and five years down the road. This will give you an idea of how well the organization is equipped to face the future.
  • What are the organization's biggest challenges? Ask this question of the board chair, the CEO and other board members and stakeholders.  And don't be surprised if you get a different answer from everyone you ask!


If you are looking to volunteer your time, skills and experience for board service, I would like to help you find the right fit. And if you are an organization looking to develop a great board, I would love to help you do that. Please be in touch at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.


What Does My Board Need to Succeed?

The age-old question of what nonprofit leaders can do to make their board members more productive has many possible answers. A recent study by accounting firm Marks Paneth reveals that more training would be beneficial in fostering more board involvement in governance and strategy. That's all fine and good, but most of the nonprofit leaders surveyed said limited time and cost are significant deterrents to providing this training. This is not news to anyone who knows about board development. The good news from the survey is that 73% of the leaders surveyed report that their boards have passion for the mission of the organization, and 61% said their board members are engaged but do not micromanage. Most of the leaders also report that their board members are closely involved in financial oversight and that attendance at board meetings is strong.

However, only 28% reported that their boards are highly strategic in supporting the organization's mission, and around the same percentage said that the board is involved in connecting the organization to external resources.  These are not encouraging statistics.

I am committed to helping organizations succeed by engaging boards in a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities in supporting growth and instilling governance.  If you are a board member or leader who wants to help their organization find its path, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.


How to Live a Happier Life

"If you think money can't buy happiness, try giving some away and see what happens." -Michael Norton Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton studies the relationship between money and happiness, and he has some interesting observations about it:

The individuals he studies do not report being happier after spending money on themselves, but they do report significantly higher levels of happiness when they spend money on others.

We can translate this phenomenon among individuals to corporate philanthropy as well.  Employees who have a role in determining where their company's philanthropic dollars are directed report higher levels of satisfaction with their work,  and are more loyal to the company.

In addition, when shoppers are given the ability to direct donations through their in-store actions, it creates  stronger consumer loyalty and can drive repeat business.

Bottom line: corporate philanthropy programs that engage employees in decision-making and allow for something other than a lump-sum donation to an organization or two can be successful not only in spreading the wealth, but in spreading the happiness.

Keep giving and keep smiling!


Dare to be Like Donna

"I truly believe that philanthropy and commerce can work together." - Donna Karan Donna Karan's decision to leave the helm of her eponymous company- a company she nurtured and built over 30+ years- bodes well for philanthropy.  Her Urban Zen line and Foundation were created to facilitate her deep commitment to helping people in need both locally and globally. The Foundation has already had significant impact on Haiti's recovery from the 2010 earthquake, on incorporating integrative therapies to change healthcare in the U.S., and in empowering children.

Through her commitment, Donna has demonstrated that the connection between business and philanthropy can be seamless (pun intended). Doing good can lead to doing well, and vice versa.

Perhaps her new focus will be on expanding her efforts and impact even further.  How great would that be?


How I Spent My Summer Vacation

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."

 - John Lubbock

 I use the summer as a time to assess my progress toward personal goals and objectives at the midpoint of the year, and to recalibrate as needed.  I do the same for my clients, and I help them make sure that they are on track for a successful year. Summer is a great time for reflection and planning- the days are longer, and somehow there seems to be more quiet time available.

Summer is also a great time for rest and relaxation. I'm a big fan of vacations- not just a day off, but a real vacation, where you detach and (ideally) unplug.  Lately, I feel like an outlier when I say that I'm going to be "off the grid" for a few days.  It's all too easy to stay connected, and to "just  take a quick look" at your emails while trying to enjoy a day of relaxation.

Well, as a matter of fact, not taking vacation time is a bad idea,  for you as well as for the economy. A 2014 U.S. Travel Association study reported that more than 40% of American workers who received paid time off did not take all of their allotted time last year, despite the obvious personal benefits.

According to the study, the benefits of taking time off include higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee retention, and significant health benefits. But nearly 34% of employees surveyed said that they were not encouraged to take vacation time, and 17% of managers considered employees who take all of their leave to be less dedicated.

For me, the most depressing statistic is that 40% of workers surveyed said that although they were supported in taking time off, their heavy workload kept them from using it. This is upsetting for many reasons, not the least of which is that creativity and productivity suffer without needed breaks and recharging.

“Despite the myriad benefits of taking time off, American workers succumb to various pressures-some self-imposed and some from management-to not take the time off to which they are entitled,” Adam Sacks, president of the Tourism Economics division of Oxford Economics, said. “Leaving earned days on the table harms, not helps, employers by creating a less productive and less loyal employee.

I came back from my vacation in California, where we were in a remote part of the state- often without cell service- rested and refreshed and (almost) eager to get back into the various projects I'm working on.  I was able to spend a good portion of my downtime thinking about my work in a big-picture kind of way, allowing new ways of looking at things. I'm grateful for the opportunity to escape from my regular routine, and excited about approaching my work with a fresh and clear perspective.

What are you doing for your summer vacation?