This week's article is later than usual. There's a good chance that no one would notice, but I mention it because this leads to a topic that I think membership leaders probably need to talk about more often:
What happens when you run out of energy to lead anyone anywhere?
For me, the past couple of weeks, the influence of an aging, chronically ill parent has loomed in the background. No matter how productive and passionate you typically are, throw in a few unexpected trips to a hospital and it's easy to find the energy tank running low.
Yet, it doesn't have to be something terribly awful to zap the zing right out of you.
Maybe you've been hunkered down in the planning of a big project, or you just got back from a fabulous vacation and now you have a mountain of work to catch up on, or perhaps you're just feeling worn down because you've been chipping away at a strategic goal for a long time and aren't seeing progress.
Any of these things (and many more) can leave you feeling burn out and incapable of moving forward on anything.
Here's what has been helpful for me in these situations (and exactly what I did today):
1. My first step is always to walk away from the desk. I step away, get some air, and clear my head. If I'm simply unable to get myself back into a positive vibe, then it's time for a mental health day. I know that I won't get anywhere by trying to press my shoulder into a brick wall. Instead, it's far better to do a little self-care because I'll come back and realize I didn't have to press into the wall at all. I could have just taken a peek around the corner of that wall to see the path forward.
2. The other strategy that I often use to shake off that exhausting sense of pushing a boulder uphill is a “big brain dump” onto a piece of paper. Everything that's weighing on my mind, all the loose ends, anything that I'm uncertain about… it ALL gets scribbled onto a piece of paper. The dread that I carry around in my brain when I feel like I'm not making progress often disappears once I've exposed it to the sunlight outside of my brain.
Once everything is on a piece of paper, I can quickly categorize tasks to create quick wins – oh, I see I have all of these phone calls to make – boom, boom, boom – six calls in a row and I'm done in 20 minutes, instead of having that huge sense of dread in my head that I have SO MANY CALLS to make.
3. If neither of those things make me feel better, it's time to seek an external perspective from a trusted friend or advisor. It's easy to “awful-ize” what's happening when you can't see your way through it. Everyone needs to have people in their life who listen without judging and help you find a different way of looking at problematic situations.
So, that's what generally works for me. I'm curious to hear what YOU do to revive your spirit and rekindle your momentum when the work is feeling harder than it should.
Leave a comment and let me know.
How I Can Support You:
If you ever find yourself in need of outside perspective to help you work through problems with the membership you lead, I can help in 3 ways:
1) Strategy Only – where we map out your best approach and you implement on your own; or
2) Strategy + Team Support – where we map out your best approach and my team helps you implement;
3) Strategy + Group Support – where we map out your best approach and you work alongside other organizations who are working on the same thing.
The best way to get started is by scheduling a quick call.
Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership. Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.
You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.