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daring-greatlyDon’t try to win over the haters, you’re not the jackass whisperer! -Scott Stratten

Lately I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s excellent 2012 book, Daring Greatly. In it, she shares 10 tips to help you discover what the culture is at your nonprofit (or at home). Why would you want to discover the culture? Because when you have words to describe the culture, you can talk about what needs to change.

So what is daring greatly?

It’s being strong enough to stand up to a toxic work culture or family culture.

What does that standing up look like?

It’s having compassion for yourself, knowing that you are enough, that you are worthy of love, respect and caring, no matter who likes you or doesn’t like you at this moment.

When you first start to work at a nonprofit, you’ll see some unwritten rules for “The way we do things around here.” Unaccountably, these rules are not usually in the employee handbook, if there is one. If you end up stepping over the boundaries of these rules, you can get punished.

How can you find out the unspoken rules for “the way we do things around here”? And if you have found out what the rules are, and you don’t like them, how can you change them?

Here are some questions for you to ask, both to find out the rules, and to call attention to what needs to change.

1. What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?

2. Where and how are people actually spending their resources? (Time, money, attention)

3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?

4. Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?

5. What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?

6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?

7. What happens when someone fails, dissappoints, or makes a mistake?

8. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?

9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?

10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort, and how does this look?

So first, what are our values? I have another blog post on how to find your values.

Now that we know what they are, what are our aspirational values (what we SAY we believe in) versus our practicing values (what we actually DO, how we actually live, feel, behave and think)?

This is what Brene Brown calls the disengagement divide. When you say you believe in gratitude and respect, but when you actually yell at your employees or take them for granted, then you are not living your values.

When you say that you value honesty and integrity, but then you cheat on your taxes or when a server gives you too much change and you don’t return it, then you are really living the value of rationalizing or letting things slide.

Maybe your aspirational values are emotional connection and honored feelings. How can you show that?

In your nonprofit, there may be a culture of never enough. When you raise the goal or make over goal, they just set the goal higher for next year. This has to do with shame. When shame is used as a management tool, you see people bullying, criticizing people in front of their colleagues, public reprimands, and eventually, people disengaging, they stop showing up, they stop contributing, and they stop caring.

How can you push back against this culture of never enough?

If you are a nonprofit employee, remember what Nietzsche says and think about how your greatest weakness can also be your greatest strength.

What does this mean?

Maybe you beat yourself up for not having good work boundaries, micromanaging and controlling, OR you can recognize that you’re very dependable, responsible and committed to quality work.

If you go through the majority of your faults and limitations, you can often find strengths inside them.

For example, I have a friend who does not like to leave her house. She always tries to arrange meetings there. She’s famous for never wanting to meet more than 10 blocks from her house. Some people might see this as a weakness, and I did too for awhile. However, she is really good at taking care of her own needs, doing yoga, getting to bed on time, and taking all of the sick leave from work. She’s really in touch with what she needs and what feeds her spirit. She’s an inspiration to me in her self-care techniques. I wish I was as good as she is at doing self care. And part of her self care is making her home her sanctuary, and never being very far from it.

What is one of your weaknesses that is also a strength?

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