This post is for all you non-profit leaders and managers out there.
Whatever you can do to drive out fear in your workplace, do it now, because, I’m going to tell you…currently, you’re doing a really bad job.  Not all of you, but many of you.
Earlier in the month I wrote a post about urging major gift development folks to make more mistakes.  That’s right, I told them to get out there and quit being afraid to fail.  The point was that too many of us are afraid to make mistakes and, when that happens, we’re less likely to be innovative and creative problem-solvers. We’re also more likely to be miserable in our work.
I received a ton of positive feedback on that post.  But let me tell you something, leaders and managers, it seems like the #1 reason that non-profit development professionals are not taking more risks is because the culture of their workplace is one of fear.
When fear is the predominate culture of your workplace you are on the fast track for high employee attrition, a lot of gossip and negativity from employees, a lack of trust in leaders and managers and ultimately, failure.
In other words, your place will NOT BE A FUN PLACE TO WORK!
Is this the type of culture you want to have in your organization?  I don’t think you do.  Now, it could be that you’re feeling the pressure yourself from the executive director or the board and you think you have to pass on that pressure to your employees…perhaps.
But it’s got to stop!
Only by fostering a workplace that is free from fear will your employees grow, thrive and ultimately fulfill the incredible vision of your organization.
I just read a great article called Diminishing Fear in the Workplace.  In it, the author Sally Stanleigh says:
“In a highly competitive work environment fear is easy to see. Competition between employees or departments creates anxiety, destroying trust and setting off a chain reaction of negative behaviors that can have a negative effect on the total culture of the organization. In a highly competitive organizational culture, people tend to focus on eliminating threats instead of working to achieve desired outcomes and they are more likely to avoid reprisal, perhaps at the expense of others.”
Could this be happening within the ranks of your major gift officers, or between departments in your development office?  I know that Richard and I see it all over the place in the non-profit environment.
Look, I know you don’t want to have this type of culture.  I mean, no one but a sadist says, “I love creating fear…it keeps people on their toes.”
So, what can you do?  Well, Sally Stanleigh goes on to say in her article:
“How do you manage fear?  Individually, the most important way to manage fear is to acknowledge that it exists. As well, it is important to manage fear by:

  1. Establishing clear expectations—being clear on what your peers or staff expect of you.
  2. Assessing fear—that is, identifying what you or your team is fearful of and how it affects good performance.
  3. Clarifying perceptions—do you feel that people on the job have to do things that are against their better judgment?
  4. Defining the level of trust—do you feel that your peers, staff or suppliers are trustworthy? Do they trust you?
  5. Communication—do you feel that your staff members have all the information needed to carry out their jobs? Is feedback being collected among peers, employees and management?
  6. Training—is individual development and advancement supported by management? Are you, your peers and staff fully qualified for their jobs? If not, what have you done to ensure that your peers or staff acquire new knowledge and develop new skills?”

I urge you to read the full article as it will give you more insights on how to drive out fear in the workplace.
I promise you, if you can work on creating an environment where people can be free from fear, you will have a more productive workplace that looks long-term at solving problems and coming up with innovative ways to fulfill your organization’s mission.