Blog

Moving Forward – Meaningful Changes From the Pandemic

In March 2020, we all watched as the world was put on “hold”. “Stay at home” orders were put into place, remote working became the new reality, and we all were forced to make adjustments in order to cope with the growing pandemic. Fast forward to today, and there seems to be a possibility of reclaiming some of the past that we considered “normal”. As vaccinations roll out across the world and countries start to relax restrictions, it provides us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and all of the changes that came with it. 

The Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, launched The World After Coronavirus Video Series, featuring more than 100 interviews with leading experts and practitioners across the world, exploring the challenges and opportunities we will face in our post-coronavirus future.

As stated by Marina Khidekel at Thrive Global, “Amidst all the disruption that we’ve experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic, this time has offered us small silver linings and insights and habits that we’ll carry with us into the future.” 

What do we want to bring forward? What do we want to leave behind? And what do we want to reclaim from our life pre-COVID?

Many people adopted new hobbies and rituals into their routines during the pandemic, some of which will continue as we begin to transition into a post-COVID world. What are some things that you began doing during COVID that you hope to continue post-pandemic? Below are some meaningful rituals to consider bringing forward.

Staying connected and maintaining relationships.

We have all found new ways to stay socially-connected to one another, even when physically distanced. This pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of maintaining relationships, even when miles apart. 

Incorporating “me” time into my daily routine.

For many, the line between work/life balance has become blurred due to remote working. With constant pressure to feel like you need to be “on the clock”, it’s important to schedule “me” time in the day to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. Literally, schedule “me time” on your calendar!

Daily mindfulness practice.

The last year has been anything but normal, which can feel overwhelming at times. Incorporating daily mindfulness practice into your routine can help to clear your mind and prevent feelings of stress and uncertainty. This can be as simple as three deep breaths several times a day or writing down three items you have gratitude for daily.

What rituals are you bringing forward? And what do you want to leave behind?

Moving Forward – Meaningful Changes From the Pandemic

In March 2020, we all watched as the world was put on “hold”. “Stay at home” orders were put into place, remote working became the new reality, and we all were forced to make adjustments in order to cope with the growing pandemic. Fast forward to today, and there seems to be a possibility of reclaiming some of the past that we considered “normal”. As vaccinations roll out across the world and countries start to relax restrictions, it provides us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and all of the changes that came with it. 

The Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, launched The World After Coronavirus Video Series, featuring more than 100 interviews with leading experts and practitioners across the world, exploring the challenges and opportunities we will face in our post-coronavirus future.

As stated by Marina Khidekel at Thrive Global, “Amidst all the disruption that we’ve experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic, this time has offered us small silver linings and insights and habits that we’ll carry with us into the future.” 

What do we want to bring forward? What do we want to leave behind? And what do we want to reclaim from our life pre-COVID?

Many people adopted new hobbies and rituals into their routines during the pandemic, some of which will continue as we begin to transition into a post-COVID world. What are some things that you began doing during COVID that you hope to continue post-pandemic? Below are some meaningful rituals to consider bringing forward.

Staying connected and maintaining relationships.

We have all found new ways to stay socially-connected to one another, even when physically distanced. This pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of maintaining relationships, even when miles apart. 

Incorporating “me” time into my daily routine.

For many, the line between work/life balance has become blurred due to remote working. With constant pressure to feel like you need to be “on the clock”, it’s important to schedule “me” time in the day to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. Literally, schedule “me time” on your calendar!

Daily mindfulness practice.

The last year has been anything but normal, which can feel overwhelming at times. Incorporating daily mindfulness practice into your routine can help to clear your mind and prevent feelings of stress and uncertainty. This can be as simple as three deep breaths several times a day or writing down three items you have gratitude for daily.

What rituals are you bringing forward? And what do you want to leave behind?

Listen to the entire Conversational Intelligence® Mini-Series Podcast!

Several years ago, I took part in a 7-month course on Conversational Intelligence®, (also known as C-IQ®) facilitated by Judith E. Glaser. The curriculum explored how parts of the brain influence the outcome of conversations.

While attending a virtual gathering on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year, I had the privilege of connecting with Deb Shannon, another certified C-IQ® coach. We decided to launch this mini-series podcast to offer tools to support the conversations that we are called to have during this time. We are living in an era that has rocked our foundation on so many levels: the global pandemic, racial reckoning, economic collapse, and the climate crisis.

We hope you enjoy this six-part mini-series on Conversational Intelligence®!

 

Episode 1 – Know Yourself

In the first episode of the Conversational Intelligence® mini-series, Deb and I will begin with some of the foundational building blocks for having difficult conversations.

 

Episode 2 – Three Levels of Conversation

In this episode, Deb and I will discuss the three levels of conversation and how you can identify what level of conversation you are having. Then we’ll provide some tips about how to level up or level down to achieve great outcomes!

 

Episode 3 – Conversational Agility: Reframe, Refocus, Redirect

In Episode 3 of the Conversational Intelligence® mini-series, Deb and I discuss how we can get clarity about definitions and terms, in moments of uncertainty. We’ll pull back the curtain on the meaning of Double Clicking and provide concrete examples of how to ask for the deeper meaning of a word or commonly used phrases. When a meaningful conversation requires more than mutual agreement of definitions, we use conversational agility to reframe, refocus and redirect the mindset of the speaker, which opens access to different parts of the brain. Using these tools ensures that at the end of a meeting your team agrees on much more than definitions.

 

Episode 4 – Navigating Conversational Assumptions

In this episode, Deb and I discuss tools to remap relationships toward greater trust and navigate conversations with greater success. When things start to go awry in conversations it is often due to conversational assumptions. If you can become more aware of these assumptions, you will have higher-quality conversations with others.

 

Episode 5 – Navigating Conversational Assumptions Part 2

In this episode, Deb and I discuss more tools to remap relationships toward greater trust and navigate conversations with greater success. When things start to go awry in conversations it is often due to assumptions we make from an ‘I’ mindset, rather than a ’We’ mindset. When you are more aware of your own thought processes, experiences, and assumptions, you can shift them to consider the larger picture and the result…higher quality conversations!

 

Episode 6 – Mary & Deb’s Favorite Conversational Intelligence Tips & Tools

In our final episode of the Conversational Intelligence® mini-series, Deb and I will recap some of our favorite tips and tools to put at your fingertips listeners, so that you can muster the “will” to have that next challenging conversation.

 

“Minutes with Mary” episodes are available on the following platforms: Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio and Stitcher

Tools for Courageous Conversations

As we enter this new year, I can’t help but think about the changes that I wish to see in 2021. One of the most pressing issues that our nation currently faces is racial injustice. In May 2020, the world watched people take to the streets across the United States with outrage caused by the horrific killing of a black man, George Floyd. Unfortunately, George Floyd’s story is not the first time we’ve seen acts of extreme racial injustice in our country, however, his story has brought light to the long-standing structural issue of racism that can no longer be ignored. 

The Biden administration has made it clear that tackling racial injustice is one of its top priorities, and as community members, we all share a responsibility in creating a better, more just world for everyone. Learning how to have conversations about white privilege, white supremacy, racism and racial injustice is the first step in resolving these deep rooted issues. This seems like a simple first step, but in reality, addressing difficult topics is never easy. So, how do we have these types of conversations? Where do we begin?

To better understand how to have difficult conversations, Vista Global will be launching a mini-series of podcast episodes that highlight the important role that Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) plays in engaging in hard conversation. To kick off this series, we have created a toolkit for tips on getting started.

Tools for Courageous Conversations

Recently, I completed certification as a Conversational Intelligence coach. When starting your courageous conversation, it’s helpful to have the right tools on hand that assist with making the connection between neuroscience and the quality and effectiveness of our conversations.

1. Know Yourself

In order to empathize with someone else, you need to be in tune with yourself. Look to understand your personal triggers—in other words, the comments or questions that send your brain to a place of protection or defensiveness. When we become defensive, we obstruct our ability to have a productive conversation. 

Take a moment to reflect on a recent high-stress conversation. What did you experience physically, emotionally, and mentally? Learning from our worst conversations helps us avoid those traps in the future.

2. Make Trust Your Goal

The level of trust in a relationship has the single greatest impact on the quality of a conversation. Every interaction, big or small, is an opportunity to build trust with others, even if you don’t think you see eye to eye. 

3. Recognize Assumptions

When things go off track in a conversation, it’s often because there is a gap between intention and impact. Our intention is what we hope our words communicate, and the impact is what the receiver understands. The gap between intention and impact is a conversational “reality gap.” The easiest way to recover is to use a tool called “Double-Clicking.” Double-clicking means following up with additional questions to confirm that the listener understands your intention. We often assume that others understand what we mean, but this assumption can lead to friction and misunderstandings. Double-clicking helps close the gap between what the speaker means and what the listener hears.

Each of these tools will help you engage in courageous conversations with compassion and confidence. Courage is needed in conversations in all areas of our lives. NOW is the time to take that step.

Need help framing your next #CourageousConversation? Stay tuned for the podcast mini-series launching soon!

Check out my blog series below on the full Conversational Intelligence toolkit, or get in touch for coaching on how to start your next courageous conversation. 

Blog Series

Listening to Connect: The Neuroscience of Coaching and Conversational Intelligence

What We Can Learn from Our Worst Conversations

Creating the Environment: Moving from Distrust to Trust

Avoid Assumptions To Navigate the Conversational Highway

Asking Questions For Which You Have No Answers

Build Your Conversation Agility: Align Your Intention With Your Impact

Developing the “I Inside the We”

Which Brain is Driving Your Conversation?

Is it Time to Explore a Strategic Alliance or Merger?

Over the last 12 years, Vista Global has supported nonprofits across the country to examine whether a strategic alliance or merger was a strategy for increased impact.  

When the pandemic began, most nonprofits looked at current reserves to evaluate whether they could weather a 3-6 month downturn in revenue.  We are now passing the 6 month mark and all indicators are suggesting that we will be in this stage for at least another 6 months, if not longer.  

Can your organization continue to weather this economic situation on its own?

In the 2016 study called the Chicago Nonprofit Merger Project, 25 nonprofit mergers were analyzed from 2004-2014 to identify how trends have shifted over the last 20 years. The study identified that strategic partnerships and mergers are seen as a competitive strategy to support organizations in increasing growth and services. The study saw organizations using strategic partnerships and mergers as a response to market and policy trends to improve their competitive advantage. In addition, many of the organizations in the Chicago study had previous merger experience. In 85% of the cases, the board chair or board members emerged as chief merger advocates.

The Chicago study, maps out the key stages and key questions for evaluation for a strategic alliance and through this process, your organization can make a strategic decision as to how an alliance or merger can advance a shared goal, respond to community need, improve program outcomes, reach more clients and maximize financial resources.

From July 2019 to March 2020, Vista Global guided Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley Region and Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha, now known as Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Wisconsin (BBBS-ECW), as they explored each stage of a strategic alliance. 

When the pandemic took hold, BBBS-ECW was prepared, having already pivoted their organization efficiently and sustainably in several ways. 

Recently, BBBS-ECW CEO, Lindsay Fenlon shared with community partners how the recent merger prepared them to navigate COVID-19:

Through the help of community partners, we invested roughly $250,000 into the merger negotiation and integration process. This financial support enabled us to “do it right,” creating a new organization with the ability to pivot efficiently  and sustainably in the following ways: 

  • Operational Systems: We chose to integrate and transition all critical operational systems to cloud-based options, including financial management (Quickbooks Online and online banking), telecommunications (VoIP phone system with virtual meeting, texting, scanning,  and information sharing and storage (Office 365, Sharepoint and Onedrive file systems), program database (Salesforce platform), donor database (eTapestry) and board communications (Microsoft Teams).  As such, we were able to transition to 100% work remote within 24 hours.
  • Technology: In anticipation of the need to work remotely, all staff laptops and technology devices were replaced with camera and microphone enabled laptops with Bluetooth capability. We were able to stay connected to our cloud-based operational systems with no need to wait for additional supplies or materials to facilitate “business as usual.”
  • Leadership Capacity: The merger required an organization restructure and we elected to maintain all personnel, focusing on adding more management positions to expand the leadership team. While this initially carried a higher salary impact on our operational budget, we gained additional capacity of leadership-thinkers, poised to strategically tackle the diverse crisis that COVID-19 brought while simultaneously achieving the following two weeks after the Safer at Home order was announced:
    • Pivoted 100% of programming to virtual mentoring;
    • Transitioned all program processes to virtual, including new enrollments and make-match meetings. The first virtual match was made 10 days after the Safer at Home order went into effect;
    • Postponed and restructured fundraising events for optimal revenue retention;
    • Designed and implemented a multi-audience communication plan, successfully communicated small wins and big breakthroughs with PR, social media and direct communication to stakeholders
    • Developed financial forecasts that allow for 100% retention of employees
  • Board Cohesion: The negotiation process required that each board of director associated with the original agencies come together to listen, learn and dream big about the future.  Ten days into January, the newly combined board of BBBS met to define a cohesive way of moving the mission forward. Clear board member responsibilities, committees and goals, and communication expectations were defined and refined throughout the first quarter of 2020. When COVID-19 hit, board members were among the first to reach out to BBBS leadership to offer support and empower myself to take drastic action as needed to ensure the organization’s sustainability. As such, I was able to mobilize swiftly to take advantage of federal legislature and operational modifications necessary to best protect the mission of the organization and the safety of the BBBS team.
  • Culture of Adaptability and Resiliency: As part of the merger, our team faced the need to embrace change in order to move forward under the umbrella of one unified agency. Policies, procedures, practices, and organizational structure throughout the entire agency were modified as we got use to the adage that “the only thing consistent in life is change.” When the life-altering changes that came with COVID-19 were first coming to light, our team embraced it as just another situation to adapt to. In the weeks since, the staff and board of directors have acknowledged having full confidence in agency leadership and in each other, identifying that the cultural challenges inherent within any merger actually led us to coming together as a dynamic and diverse group of mission-committed individuals with the tools to keep kids connected during a crisis. 

In Fall 2020, Vista Global in collaboration with BBBS-ECW, will release a white paper that shares the learnings and key success factors contributing to BBBS-ECW’s merger and how that prepared the organization to navigate COVID-19.

Other Vista Global blogs on nonprofit mergers: 

Five Lessons Learned from Nonprofit Partnerships & Mergers

Nonprofits on the Move with Mergers

Tips on Nonprofit Merger Success Through Organizational Cultural Integration

If you are wondering if a strategic alliance or merger might be your organization’s strategy for success, let’s explore the options together.

What Sombrero Are You Wearing?

Over the last 10 years, Vista Global has facilitated training for more than 100 organizations on the 10 responsibilities of nonprofit boards developed by BoardSource, the premier resource for nonprofit governance.

One topic that we explore is the distinction between the fiduciary roles which are the legal responsibilities and the support roles, which are the same as any other volunteer.

The fiduciary roles are guided by case law and guide board members to operate in the best interest of the organization, remain loyal to its mission and oppose operating in their own interest or in the interest of the CEO/Executive Director they supervise.

The support roles include: acting as an ambassador, ensuring resources, offering expertise and contacts and good old, “roll up your sleeves” volunteering.

To have a little fun with what many often perceive as a painfully boring topic, I approach the topic asking, “What Hat Are You Wearing?  This can give board members a visual cue if they are starting to exert authority, or be directive in an area that is really outside their fiduciary governance role.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to deliver this training for the first time in Spanish to a U.S.-Mexican nonprofit.  The organization is bi-national, legally incorporated in both the United States and Mexico so this training was to help board members understand what their roles and responsibilities were for the U.S. legal entity.

The three hats “sombreros” that Board Members wear are:

Governance Hat: This is the only hat that carries legal authority. It is worn only when in a properly called board or committee meeting with a quorum. Decisions on behalf of the organization are only made wearing this hat.  The CEO is accountable to governing policies set by the board.

Volunteer Hat: This hat has no legal authority.  It goes on when leaving a board or committee meeting. It is worn when advising the CEO. It is worn when fundraising, when helping staff, either alone or in a group, and often under the supervision of the staff.

Implementer Hat: This hat carries limited authority and is seldom worn.  It is seldom worn because staff usually implement board policies.  When it is worn, a board resolution gives a board member authority to implement a specific board action. When that action is completed, the hat is removed.  One example where this hat might be worn, is if an organization is considering purchase of a new property and there is a board member that has real estate expertise.  As long as the board member is given authority to operate on behalf of the organization without personal benefit, she could take on a role to negotiate the transaction. And when the transaction is completed, she removes this hat.

Are you having difficulty figuring out what sombrero you should be wearing? Contact Mary today to explore how to move your organization and board to greatness!

Other blogs on the topic are:

Every Great Nonprofit Begins with a Great Board

What Does Governance Got To Do With It?

The Importance of Upstream Reciprocity During COVID-19

As we continue to ride the unpredictable wave of COVID-19, many of us are feeling a shift in our emotional wellness. It is not uncommon to have a shift in mental wellbeing, especially when faced with large amounts of change and uncertainty. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to communication disconnects, efficiency issues, and overall lack of motivation and feeling of lesser value in the workplace. 

As leaders, how can we prevent our team from experiencing an emotional lull? 

Check in With Your Team

Since March, life as we once knew it has changed. Many people have been uprooted from their jobs or homes, and organizations have been forced to adopt work from home strategies. As we transition into this “new reality” and continue to adapt to the constant changing ways of life, it can be hard to feel grounded. 

By reaching out to your team members each day, it lets them know that you’re thinking of them and that their work is valued. This can be as simple as a text, iChat, WhatsApp message, “How is your day going?” 

This is also a good time to check in on their work-life balance. Many people, especially those who have children, have had to put on the hats of parent, teacher and childcare providers, all while trying to accomplish a 40-hour work week. By checking in, it lets your team know that they aren’t alone and gives you a better sense of those who may need additional support to navigate these uncertain times.

Show Appreciation and Gratitude

According to a study conducted by the University of Melbourne,

“The significant relationship between gratitude and job satisfaction suggests that organizational leaders can aim to boost job satisfaction by regularly prompting grateful emotions.”

When working remotely, hard work can often go unnoticed. By showing gratitude towards completed projects, goals, or tasks, your team members will feel acknowledged and appreciated. Here are four simple ways to help your team feel seen and appreciated. 

Encourage Social Connecting, Not Distancing

Much of the world is in the first phases of reopening, however “social distancing” is still being encouraged. Although it is important to remain physically distanced from one another, maintaining social connections with friends, family, and colleagues is vital for your emotional wellbeing. 

As a leader, encourage your team to participate in virtual social or happy hours. This promotes social connections within your organization and gives your colleagues an opportunity to check in on one another. By providing a sense of community, your team is likely to feel more motivated and at ease during these uncertain times.