MT: Hey, everybody, welcome. It’s time for another incredible interview with Della Rae, who I have known for many years and who is – gosh. There’s just so many things I want to say about her. I hardly know where to start. So let me say that Della Rae is a nonprofit founder, and she has had a storied history with nonprofits, has worked for women’s media organization, and also has an HR background and is a self care advocate, which is how she is most commonly known best, and has written a book about that. It’s called Little Book of Self Care, and she also puts on the annual Women’s Day event in Portland, Oregon which I attended this year and it was just fantastic.
She presented at our Fundraising Career Conference earlier this year and people just loved her. So Della, thank you so much for being here and for presenting again at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit this September.
DR: Wow. Thank you for that introduction, Mazarine. That was just so kind. Thank you very much.
MT: And you have a new project now, which I want people to know about. So could you tell us more about you?
DR: Yeah. So first and foremost, like you mentioned, I’m a self care advocate. For ten years I’ve really been advocating the work. There’s so many different avenues to self care, but the one that I really, really promote, think about, write about, talk about, and speak about is our own self agency. It’s about how we think and feel about ourselves, which is something that’s often overlooked. So with that, at the end of the day, I’m a self care advocate, author and radio host, advocating for women’s overall health, and you’re right. My background does include HR in training in education in practice, but I really come at HR from the angle of how a team can be happy. What makes a team?
A lot of times people get HR mixed up with looking at it for how it makes the organization work, but really we need to kind of put that on its head and kind of think about how it really serves and engages the people in doing the actual work.
MT: That’s so true, and your new business that you’re doing, it’s called the Oregon Women’s Health Network.
DR: Yeah. So in June, I acquired the Oregon Women’s Health Network, which has been around since 1994, and it’s a lecture session series that really offers topics that advance women’s overall health. So we’re taking on this project. It’s a very slow, intentional process of really getting to know what the need is before we set a long term strategy. So really looking for topics and discussions and then engaging women to understand what the true need is. So thank you for asking about that.
MT: Well, I feel like people should know about it, because so often in our nonprofit work, we do not think about taking care of ourselves as part of our daily routine, or even our weekly routine. I add myself to that category.
So your session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit will be discussing resilient leadership. So I wanted to ask you, Della, what do you want young leaders to know?
DR: I want young leaders to know the same thing that I want the seasoned leaders to know, that I want employees to know, and people in general to know. I have this note here and I need to read this because I don’t want to miss the word of it. This is about according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, a quarter of all employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Many of us now work in a constant, connected, always on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are widespread.
So this is really, really important. So as we look at our leadership, our individual leadership, what examples are we setting? How are we treating ourselves? Here’s how it relates back to self care. We teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves, and so the idea that we’re one way at work and we’re one way at home is really not necessarily the truth, because who we are and what we value shows up wherever we are. That’s what I want leaders to know, regardless of where they are at in the journey. I just believe strongly that there are three keys that make a great leader. One of them is being able to check your personal stuff at the door.
The second one is being okay with what you know to be true about yourself. The third one is being able to meet people where they’re at. If you have these three keys down, this is where your relationship with yourself and with the example that you’re setting for your team becomes your resilience.
MT: Oh my gosh. There are so many things I want to ask you about with that. But I don’t want to give away too much. We’re going to have your session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit that everyone should come to. One of those key pieces, I feel, for a lot of us we are immersed in workaholic culture in nonprofits. I don’t exclude myself from that in any way. I feel like I’m still in that and it’s very destructive. So that can be very isolating. How do you see leaders get isolated and how can they combat that?
DR: So one thing as a nonprofit founder and working in nonprofits on many different levels, that for whatever reasons, nonprofits have built this culture of scarcity and not enough. We have to be out struggling with one another and competing over everything. I think that’s how leaders become isolated, and then the lack of resources. The believed lack of resources and feeling like you have to be doing all of these things in isolation. Then that just kind of breeds upon itself if that makes any sense at all.
MT: Mm-hmm. Oh, it totally does. I mean, that’s part of capitalism, isn’t it? Is that the scarcity – not enoughness, and then that’s built on the three pillars of white supremacy which makes you feel like always concerned that you’re going to be fired or you’re not sure what your metrics are for your job.
DR: Right. Somebody’s going to take something from you and you have to be secretive. Really, if we look around what’s happening, it’s just critical and crucial now more than ever that we start collaborating and figuring out ways. Stop creating the wheel and figuring out ways to work together.
MT: Absolutely. There are so many pieces that I feel like collaboration can address, that we’re not looking at. I really love, too, that you mentioned – you’re talking about how to accept other people exactly as they are and see what you bring to the table, because a lot of times, I feel like we have these unexamined assumptions that everyone is like us, and don’t get it when people respond differently than we thought they were going to. Like when we give them a complement, or when we have a suggestion for improvement and they just take it all out of proportion in some ways.
So one of the things I love about the strength finder is it has this concept of individualization, which I feel like you and I both have as a strength, which is treat everyone like an individual and not assuming that they’re like us.
DR: That’s right.
MT: It turns around someone’s leadership and management style, like night and day.
DR: That’s right, Mazarine, and just back to one of the key things in successful leadership is when you meet people where they’re at and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are and really make friends with what those are, then you are less likely to be susceptible to other persons’ mood change or whatever is happening with them. Does that make sense?
MT: Oh yes.
DR: It’s a simple thing but yet it’s one of the most complicated things to take with us, allowing whatever someone else is going through to be an indicator with what you’re going through.
MT: Oh, so it really helps you become a better barometer of your own moods and not misinterpret what’s going on for the whole office.
DR: Right. Yeah. It comes down to self security and confidence and being okay with what you know to be true. Then that’s where we start. That’s where leadership starts happening. Not just in the “leadership”, but in your own personal life, your relationships, everything changes when you really are strong and confident about what you know to be true about you.
MT: That’s so powerful. So, well, knowing that, why should people come to your session?
DR: Well, I believe that especially today, right now, that a lot of people are searching for what it is. What their next move is. What they’re trying to figure out. What they don’t know. I believe the session will be a great foundational piece to start having some real conversations with yourself about what’s right and true for you, and offering some tools where you can get there in very simple ways that I really believe, from my experience, will help the process in ways that people are not really talking about right now.
MT: That is so powerful. That’s good. I think everybody, come to Della Rae’s session. It’s going to be incredible, and if you’ve ever felt like you’ve not been supported enough in your management role or in your leadership role, or even to move up into leadership, or even as a board member, you could benefit from this session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit with Della Rae.