A nun calls it like it is

I don’t remember how I happened upon this essay, but it’s been sitting in my bookmarks for over a month in the “you really need to blog about this” queue, and today’s the day I’m ready to talk about it.  The title is grabbing: Even nuns get violent in meetings.  That’s right, I linked to it twice, because I want you to read it.  Really.

It’s worth a read to remind yourself about the value of truly working on your leadership skills as a way of building yourself into the leader you aspire to become, rather than the too often implicit focus of building your resume and inching up in an unreformed hierarchy that pervades leadership books and blogs and articles in the popular press.

But that’s not why it struck such a chord with me.  It’s the unapologetic identification of bad work behavior as violence.  Read more

Quick Tips: Purge cliches from your writing

Particularly useful for fundraisers who write a lot of copy, there are two tools that I’ve taken to using more and more since I’m now a solo practitioner who gets a lot of work done in the hours after the rest of my house has gone to bed.

Now, please don’t get too excited about my violating my own “sleep, dammit” advice – the kid’s down at 8:30, the husband retires at 9:15 at the latest…but it’s not my own finest hour for creating inspired prose, which means I edit in the mornings.  Here are two tools I want you to know about.

Cliche Finder

It’s a web form…cut and paste your stuff in there and click the button that says “find cliches.”  Some cliches can be useful in a piece meant to appeal to public emotion…but cliches that aren’t a deliberate choice are probably doing you a disservice.  You spellcheck, right?  Cliche check.

The Passivator

OK, I don’t use this much, but then again, my first boss was the analog version of this bookmarklet that hunts out and scolds you for using the passive voice.  Thanks to him, I reflexively review my work for passive verbs and useless adverbs all on my own.  If you’re either starting out as a professional with writing duties or a mid-career professional who’s never developed into a star writer (it’s such an important job skill – good writers are in high demand, always), this tool might help.  (Again, it’s not *always* a no-no, but you want to be intentional about your choices and how they impact your readers.)  It’s a little more involved than a web tool, but worth installing and trying.

Fighting Stress – Good For What Ails You

One of the things I am constantly working on with my various coaching clients is the very individual problem of cutting through their own stress cycles.  So many of us have become either addicted to or inured to high levels of stress, and it’s counterproductive.  In fact, when we are under stress for a prolonged period, our brains shrivel up and cower in our skulls (which is barely an exaggeration: see this study from last year).

Forbes just had a nice round up of advice on tackling your own stress, titled How Successful People Stay Calm, written by Travis Bradberry.  (I find myself overwhelmed by the slickness of his company/professional site, but the article is a nice survey of stress reducing best practices, if not particularly insightful.)

But how does all that translate into instructions for the average person? Read more

Gratuitous Olympics Post: The Crucifixion of Hannah Kearney

Hannah Kearney had an amazing practice run in the 2014 Olympics, then just didn’t when it counted. No spectacular injury or crash, she just failed to ski the run of her life, and that was what she needed to do to win a gold medal.  She was devastated.  And said so when they stuck a camera in her face immediately after the run, when it was clear she was getting the bronze.  She tweeted that it felt like heartbreak.

And the internet and some “journalists” went nuts.  What a whiny, entitled, ungrateful girl.  She should be happy she got to even have such an experience.  An embarrassment to America.  Worst interview ever.

But that’s not what I saw. Read more

The hubris of nonprofit social media

The 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report is out.  I’ll be coming back to their findings a couple of times, because I think it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of your industry, so you are making informed decisions to keep up with your fellow organizations or buck trends.

I was at a philanthropy conference last week and griping about this report with a professional who leads development efforts for a mid-sized institution in a bigger city.  This person laughed at me and said that keeping on top of trends was the luxury of consultants, that people “actually working” in development were just trying to make their goals any way possible.  These are the kind of people who give you, dear reader, an opportunity to truly shine…because they are not uncommon.  They’re just idiots.  Fundraising is a profession – and if you don’t have the professional pride to concern yourself with knowing your industry’s best practices, you deserve to be embarrassed – and you will be, sooner or later.

But I do sympathize with the time pressures we are all under – that’s why blogs like this exist.  Read the report for yourself if you can, but I’m going to highlight a couple of interesting findings that I think many readers will find useful.  (If you’re here for the personal development side of development, go ahead and tune out…this post is for the fundraisers.) Read more