Earlier this year, one of my clients was in a seriously shitty situation.
She’s an Executive Director at a nonprofit, and she had to make a tough decision about a team member.
Making the decision was tough, but the worst part came afterwards.
See, some folks on her team really didn’t agree with her decision.
They felt like her decision wasn’t human-centered, was oppressive, and they did not mince words letting her know.
She came to our session in serious conflict, because she was struggling how to navigate this situation, and how to move forward while holding two truths:
She cares deeply about her values as a justice centered leader…
…and she also has a fucking organization to run.
She was also navigating some (rightfully) big emotions about the situation, because she felt attacked, and like she had been harmed by the way this feedback had been delivered as well.
She knew that as a leader she needed to respond – but she didn’t know what to do with the emotions she was experiencing as a human being who felt really hurt as well.
If you can relate to this, I just want to say that I see you.
This situation is so common, especially in the non-profit space where your team is likely to hold you to much higher, sometimes unfair standards (and where, let’s be honest, you’re likely to do the same.)
Seriously — it’s so common that literally 5 of my current clients are 100% reading this message thinking, “wait, is this email about me?”
It can feel like a really tough situation to handle – but after helping dozens of leaders of color navigate similar complex situations, here are three pieces of advice I have in this situation:
1️⃣ Slow down and take some time to feel and process your emotions about the situation
You and your emotions matter just as much as anyone else’s in the situation. Unfortunately, due to the power dynamics at play, you have to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself, or else there might not be anyone whose focus is taking care of you. Your team member has been advocating for themselves and others in this situation – if you don’t do it, who is advocating for you?
Taking care of your emotions first will also benefit everyone. It’ll allow you to be more grounded, less reactive, and stand firmly in your values of care and compassion as you hold space for others.
When you’ve processed your emotions and have given yourself and your nervous system what you need to feel safe and secure moving forward in a conversation, you’ll be able to show up as the open, fully expressed leader you want to be…instead of a leader who is on the defensive.
You’ll actually be able to support you and your team to have and maintain a respectful, productive, and compassionate conversation, instead of feeling like you’re fighting for your life.
2️⃣ Stop focusing on the “right” way to move forward and respond
I’ll just cut to the chase here:
There is no “right” way to respond to situations like this.
There’s only what’s right for you as a leader.
In order for you to move forward the “right” way (for you!), you need to release all the “shoulds” and everything you’ve learned about leadership in the past, and just ask yourself this simple question:
“If there were no rules, what do I really want to say here, from my heart and as a leader?”
Typically, what comes up from this question is 100% perfect and more than enough.
From there, you get to decide how you want to communicate – whether it be 1:1, through email, a team meeting, etc.
Remember, there’s no right way – so what’s right for you as a leader, and your team as a whole? What meets both your and their needs?
3️⃣ Recognize that you’re not going to make everyone happy
The truth is, in situations like this, you might not change your team members’ minds.
They might not be appeased by anything you’ve said, because they’ve made their mind up, or you both need time to rebuild trust.
If that happens, something you’ll need to work on is feeling safe and okay even when other folks are mad at you.
Right now, it likely feels unsafe to have discord in your organization, because it’s unpleasant and you’re worried it’ll get in the way of shit getting done.
Here’s the truth, though: working relationships are still relationships – which means sometimes there will be some discord, and folks won’t get along.
You have to focus on helping your nervous system feel safe despite that discord or tension right now – so that you can focus on building towards repair instead of focusing on what could go wrong if repair never occurs.
If you’ve been in this situation and know that you could use some support to navigate this and other leadership struggles you’ve been experiencing…
…and you want to do this work with a coach of color who approaches this work from a human and justice centered lens, then you should schedule a time to get on my calendar.
I’m opening up one new spot in my practice in January – and once it’s gone, I won’t have an opening for another few months.
So, if you’ve been thinking about working with me and want 2024 to be the year where you:
⚡feel confident as a leader
⚡navigate leadership challenges with ease
⚡stop overworking and set rock-solid boundaries
⚡kick people pleasing to the curb
…and so much more, let’s schedule a time to chat.
It’d be my truest honor to support you.