Katya Andresen is hosting April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and she’s asked:
What was the one, best piece of professional advice you ever got and why? How has it transformed your work?
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with so many bright and talented people. From the Rhodes Scholar who supervised my first non-profit job, to a beloved Director of Communications at a provincial charity, and more recently with my wonderful colleagues here at Wild Apricot, there have been so many who have inspired and motivated me with their words of wisdom.
But rather than simply offering my own favorite advice, I thought I’d ask my colleagues to share their “best advice”. Here are a few of the nuggets I’ve gathered – which I think you’ll find apply to folks working in nonprofits, associations or corporations.
Life lessons from Mom - it’s all about integrity
One of my colleagues offered some advice his mom told him several times:
"Never trade your integrity for a paycheck. You can get more money later, but you'll never be able to buy your integrity back."
How did that translate into real life for him? Apparently, on several different occasions throughout his career, he's been under pressure to agree to something that he knew was wrong, either morally or professionally, and not going along with it led to missing out on a raise or a promotion. But in each case, my colleague developed a reputation for integrity that led to even better opportunities and compensation.
Always ask “why” and work towards a shared vision and mission
Another colleague told me that one of the many great pieces of advice he gleaned from a favorite university professor was: “always ask why. If you’re not sure why you’re doing something, it may not be worth doing.”
The same professor also introduced the idea of making sure there's a shared vision and mission within an organization. The example he gave was this -- if there's a janitor at a college, and he sees his job as being to keep the school clean but he has no larger understanding of the mission of the school, his logical response could be to lock the doors and keep all those students out because they're the ones who mess up the place! While he suggested it may be a silly example, my colleague took that point to heart and has remembered it for over a decade.
My nonprofit "best advice" - understanding your audience is key to effective communications
Back in my early days as a non-profit staffer, my supervisor (and mentor) gave me a great piece of advice: remember - you are not your audience! She taught me that understanding and empathizing with your audience is key to effective communications. I think this rings true for both non-profits and corporations.
Getting perspective: "circle of Influence, circle of control"
A few years back when the company I was working with was going through a very stressful merger, one of my colleagues said – “remember, circle of influence, circle of control.”
At the time, I didn’t realize it was a reference to a concept outlined in Steven R. Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” But I always recall that phrase during challenging times and I think it applies to individuals as well as groups. As Covey said in “30 Methods of Influence”, “as we focus on doing something positive about the things we can control, we expand our circle of influence.”
One of my colleagues shared an inspirational quote from Shakespeare that had such a profound impact, that she had it tattooed on her side as a permanent reminder:
our doubts are traitors
and make us lose the good we oft might win
by fearing to attempt (Shakespeare - Measure for Measure I.iv)
What’s your best advice?
What words of wisdom ring true for you? Do you have some great advice for people who work in nonprofits?
There’s still time to submit to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. If you’d like to add your “best advice” to the carnival round-up, you can submit your posts by emailing the URL to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Friday, April 26. Image source: Advice support and tips signpost courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com