As a leader, there is constant and relentless pressure to deliver grace under fire, remain calm and diplomatic despite the ( hopefully only verbal and above the belt) attacks. When posed a difficult or unpleasant question, to never lose your cool, snap or reply in kind. With the unrelenting visibility we all have now, like it or not, you have got to watch yourself, every second.
Emails are forwarded, webcams are on, calls and every keystroke recorded; other than the shower or alone in the car at night there is nowhere where I feel I can just scream or swear.
I have always felt that nonprofit leaders and managers are quite downhill from all this more than some others. Because of the very passionate nature of the organization, there are always strong feelings, one way or the other. The competition for scarce resources: funding, volunteers, research, members, good board members, celebrity spokespeople, major private and institutional donors, can make the nonprofit arena as cutthroat and bloodthirsty as any battleground. Yet, the causes of nonprofit must always be cloaked in doing good, and being good. Even when one of your own makes some ridiculous public assumption or attack, or your own constituents claim the organization is unfeeling, uncaring, unresponsive and/or not doing enough, even if the comment is baseless or inflammatory, you must be the essence of calm response, and not reaction.
Getting mad and losing it is never good policy, but it has been known to happen. Those moments of true anger and reaction, not pushed down into the gut and covered with the auto-smile, can be cathartic and revealing. And as good as that may feel, almost instantly the regret, quickly followed by backlash, shows up.
Okay: the Answer, Deceptively Simple
So, what to do? Although I often have the tendency to want to defend myself, that hasn’t worked, strategically. There is one answer: to apologize, quickly, humbly and as sincerely as you can manage (work on it). “I am sorry, I lost my cool and my temper and allowed myself to say things I regret. I am truly sorry; I hope you can forgive me.” Mean it.
What you said, or what I said, may have been totally right, and deserved, but unlikely. More likely it was a breaking point. But losing it can give you an option; an apology can allow a moment, a breath of air into the conversation, which hadn’t been going well anyway, obviously. It can allow both sides a chance to regroup, and start over.
As you may be able to ascertain, I have been a victim of myself, and whether tired, goaded, misunderstood, misconstrued and misquoted, I have let it fly. The moment felt so good, it also felt so bad. And, as tough as I feared it might be, when I did gather myself to open my mouth to really apologize, it felt twice as good. Do try not to lose your temper and restraint, but it is ok if you do, you are only human. But the better human takes the next step, do it.
I was able to apologize to all but one, but she was a raging bitch. Feeling overwhelmed and a little underwater? Get in touch here or call us on 310 828 6979
and we will toss the life preserver, and haul you to safety.,
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.
Wrath / This woman scorned by Darwin Bell on Flickr