It’s that time of year. For most of you, this is your biggest quarter for giving, and the pressure is on! Leaders, we know this is a stressful time for you and your team. So the question is: are you actually getting in the way of your team’s success? Let’s unpack how you could be inadvertently blocking your team.

1. Leading from Fear

It’s normal to have fear creep in about reaching your goals. However, when you lead from unchecked fear, you are leading from a scarcity mindset and allowing stories to develop in your head that feed those fears.

For example, let’s say you see your fundraisers in the office and start to worry that it means they’re not out meeting with enough donors and asking for gifts. But instead of sitting down with each fundraiser to walk through their donor plans, supporting them with strategy and accountability, and asking them about what is getting in their way, you announce a sweeping metric that everyone has to meet, like all MGOs should be out of the office with donors 80% of the time or have 10 in-person meetings per week.

The reality might be that your fundraisers are often in the office because a good number of their top donors prefer to meet via Zoom, or phone, or even have conversations via text. Or it could also be that your fundraisers are actually meeting donors out of the office more than you think, but you didn’t stop to ask. Your sweeping announcement out of fear has just added stress to the team and isn’t strategic. It shifts your team’s focus away from donors to meeting a metric.

2. Leading From Control

When you’re operating from a place of fear about meeting revenue goals, that can translate into a need for high control. The story you’ve made up in your head is that you have to closely manage every step, or all of this will get out of hand and fall apart. In this stress response, you are in fight-or-flight yourself and are not seeing the wider view.

For example, you’re so worried about meeting your budget that you want all hands on deck for all events. So you get your MGOs involved in the detailed work of event planning and ask them to help with the event check-in, break-down, etc. In this decision, you are missing the wider view that the greatest potential for revenue is to have your MGOs focused on their caseload donors. Instead, encourage your fundraisers to use the event as an opportunity to steward, inspire, and thank those top donors in a strategic ways. That will have a much higher ROI.

3. Leading With Pressure

Everyone needs some level of pressure and accountability to get things done. That’s why working with your fundraisers on their individual plans for donors and holding them accountable to those plans is so critical. This is a service we at Veritus provide every day with fundraisers across the world. But when you add too much pressure, that can backfire and shut people down, making them less effective.

One example of that would be being a big cheerleader. In meetings, you do the “hip hip hooray” commentary about how this will be the best year ever, that you know your team can surpass their goals, and that everyone is a winner – basically shutting down anyone who may have concerns about reaching their goals. Or maybe you come from a place of competition where you focus on how your department will be more successful than another. Being positive is great, and believing in success is important, but unless you are also listening, removing barriers, and supporting people’s success, those attitudes only lead to more pressure and frustration for your team. Your people need to know you have their back and are there to support them when challenges arise.

You might be cringing just a little because you see yourself in some of these examples. Please give yourself some slack, and be kind to yourself. Trust me, you are not alone!

The opportunity here is to see what’s happening and make some different choices. Here are some questions to ask yourself…

  • What stories am I making up that I need check for accuracy? (Am I making assumptions, or leading with curiosity?)
  • In what ways am I increasing stress and pressure to the point that it’s having an adverse affect on my team?
  • What can I do personally to release and manage my own stress, so that I’m not adding to anyone else’s?

Then, ask your team:

  • How can I create an environment where you feel supported yet held accountable?
  • How can I support you in helping you stay focused on your donors?
  • What obstacles can I help remove?

You are doing beautiful and important work that makes our world a better place. Include your team in your mission to make a difference in the world by offering support, guidance, and encouragement so that they’re set up for success.