Guest Writer: “How Are You Managing Your Stress and Overwork?”

Article by: Judy L. Buka MED., LSW
Comprehensive Counseling Services, Inc.

As a therapist who works in a small business, a special interest of mine has been how to keep rising stress levels down.  Trying to run the business, build it and concentrate on its growth and success can be overwhelming especially for small business owners and individuals who run, or own, their company.

A recent study of 2,500 American workers by CareerBuilder.com found that 77 percent feel burned out at their jobs!

“So what,” you might ask? It’s no secret that stress is a fact of daily life, and in fast-moving cultures with technology thrusting us to new heights, what else is new?

Well, some things we may not think about are, for example, that if the stress is ignored in a workplace, rising stress levels can actually affect the atmosphere and relationships between coworkers by affecting employee behavior. Under strain and stress, for example, managers sometimes lash out at their employees, become overbearing and can create a hostile workplace. Companies pair down their workforce to remain competitive and increase the demands on themselves and each other. Small business owners especially feel this pressure, as they try to do all they can to keep costs down.

Effective communication in the workplace is essential in management and leadership. Constructive communication is essential for effective functioning. Lack of effective communication skills can create disconnect and destructive dynamics. Look at your own situation and try to figure out what you can do to eliminate stress both at the workplace and at home.

Here are some areas of workplace stress to be examined and perhaps modified for a more relaxing day!

1. Environment and Organizing Your Environment:

-Is your workspace being kept orderly?
-Do you and your staff have all of the papers, materials, equipment, and tools you need at hand.
-Are they easy to find and organized in a way that is convenient for all to use?
-Remember that a constant need to look for or find needed papers and materials can cause frustration, overwhelm and increase stress.
-Time spent looking for materials is time taken away from accomplishing things in a timely fashion.

2. Distractions:

Do you find that you are interrupted a lot during the day to return phone calls or look at and answer e-mails? Are there people dropping in with constant interruptions?
-Try to reduce distractions!!
-Set up specific times during the day to check e-mails and return phone calls.
-Set up hours when others can ask you questions or when your door will be open for them. When you are trying to get things done, stress is lowered when your attention is not diverted to other things or people.

3. Time Management:

A considerable amount of office stress results from allocating too much time to less important things or working on what is in front of you, rather than what is important. You end up then, facing a rapidly approaching deadline on an important project and experience stress and pressure.
-Prioritize important projects and schedule them accordingly. Daily “to do” lists help clarify time frames.

4. Delegating Responsibility:

Small business owners and executive directors often try to do too much. It is a trap into which many fall.
-Try to delegate tasks to others competent to do them.
-Learn to say “no” and only bite off what you can chew.

5. Balance:

Small business and non-profit people have a personal stake in their financial future and in the success of the business or organization. However, make certain you have some time every day that is free from the pressing concerns of your business.  Make sure you take adequate breaks to get away from work. Take a walk outside, go have some coffee or read a magazine as a small break.

6. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations:

Stress and the feeling of failure come from feeling that you are not meeting your expectations or someone else’s expectations.
-The solution is to set realistic goals for yourself and your employees. Expecting too much in too short a period of time sets the stage for stress, anxiety and, eventually, burnout.
– When offering your services to others, it’s often best to promise less than you can deliver and then deliver more than you promised!

7. Get Sleep!:

Stress is greatly increased by trying to work if you’re too tired.  Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep. Set a bed time and stick to it!

8. Look at the Substances You Take In!:

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol all boost stress levels.
-Replace coffee and soda with water or non-caffeinated beverages.
-Quit smoking and encourage your employees to do so, too. Moderate your alcohol consumption.

9. Eat Healthy

Eat low fat proteins, vegetables and fruit daily. Be careful not to skip meals.
-Eating smaller meals throughout the day can relieve stress and is better for your metabolism.
-Eating correctly and getting enough exercise will make you feel better. You will release endorphins, which will reduce stress and help keep your blood pressure down while boosting your immune system.

10. Deal with Employee Conflicts as They Arise:

-Create an open atmosphere where employees can discuss any problems they are having with you and try to resolve them through effective communication.
-Get help on effective communication if you have not had it.
-Festering disputes between employees will be destructive and can cause stress for everyone.
-Remove problem employees who create negativity or hostility in the office at once.
And remember, effective communication is the key to a harmonious atmosphere.

Judy L. Buka M.ED., LSW is licensed by the Marriage and Family Counselor and Social Work Board, and offers counseling, for individuals, couples, and groups.

Groups (small and confidential) available for stress reduction, and small business owner support.
Groups are 2 hours $35 per session.
Contact Judy for more information: 513-891-1533
Also workshops available on effective communication!

Judy L. Buka M.ED., LSW
Comprehensive Counseling Services Inc.
10999 Reed Hartman Highway Suite #233
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
513-891-1533
http://www.bcounseling.org/

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
To read the whole newsletter, follow this link.
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Operation Happiness: Non-Profit Employees

How to keep your non-profit’s employees happy with all the changes and belt-tightening that seems to be across the board is a challenge. Harvard Business School reported that job satisfaction nationwide is at a 23-year low and that’s not just with non-profits. Chronicle Survey says that 40% of workers characterized themselves as dissatisfied with their jobs. That means, if you have 10-20 people with your organization, 4-8 of them are probably unhappy.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to a number of things, though. The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted an online discussion recently with Jan Masaoka, the Chief Executive of the California Association of Nonprofits and, previously, with Blue Avocado, and Trish Tchume, the National Director of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. They took questions from readers and also posed some of their own, answering them with their many years of experience.

The first question was “What is employees’ #1 dissatisfaction?” The responses centered mostly around transparency of procedure. It would depend on who was being asked, but a large complaint is not necessarily that employees want to be in on the decision-making process, but that they are unclear about what the process is. In non-profits and many other agencies and organizations, there are formal and informal hierarchies. Decisions are often made through the unofficial hierarchies and employees need clarity on how the organization is structured in this area as much as the formal processes which would be written in the handbook. Jan stated, “Too many non-profits (and for-profits) emit messages like ‘we do everything as a team’ that people read as indications that the non-profit is a democracy. It’s important to be able to say, ‘This is a decision that you will have input on, but the decision will be made by X.'” According to Daniel Pink, people are motivated by three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Give your people these things and they will thrive.

Another topic brought up was that of “bailing” by employees, or “organization-hopping.” People who find themselves dissatisfied with their current position or place of employment may “bail” on that organization if they are confident they can get another job at the same pay or see themselves as marketable. This brings up another point: How long does a person need to stay at position/organization in order to be seen as a dependable/loyal person? There is a statistic that leaders of younger generations have about 8-10 transitions over the course of their career as opposed to far fewer in previous generations. However, this can be misleading because while younger leaders may change organizations, they are often staying within the same cause.

No turnover can equal stale ideas. Some organizations and positions expect a certain amount of turnover in staff. Some are meant to turn over every year or two. For example, you would not want a 35% turnover in management positions, but having a high rate of turnover for youth workers on a playground is expected and acceptable. Employers should be seeking ways to build into their employees not only for their current job, but also for any jobs they may have in the future.

One other question was on effective methods in getting good problem-solving input from staff. Jan and Trish suggest that good problem-solving cannot happen when there is widespread distrust. But if there is a general attitude of “we can work things out,” then having teams prioritizes their own work is the best way to start. Check out an online resource: Structuring Leadership: Alternative Models for Distributing Power and Decision-Making.

To read the full discussion, visit the website.

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
To read the whole newsletter, follow this link.
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Critical Skills in Fundraising

Here are some critical skills to get under your belt when going out to raise funds for your organization.

Getting the Appointment Over the Phone 

It is very important that you meet with potential donors in person. To get this accomplished, though, you first must master the art of making the appointment.  Get a script together and practice on your own and then with another person (someone who will give you quality critique).

Phone Objections 

There are certain objections that always come up when asking people for donations:

– I’m not interested in giving.
– I already give to other organizations.
– I already give “this” much to your organization.
– I have to check with my spouse.
– We don’t have it in our budget.
– I don’t know enough about your organization.
– How can I know you’ll spend my money wisely?

These six statements echo most concerns donors have about giving to non-profits.  The key to answering them is to be sincere, attentive and as succinct as possible.  Some objections are beyond your control and some address key structural concerns within your organization. It is vital that your organization has a transparent method for handling finances and that you are consistently looking for ways to be good stewards of the money already given to you.  Make this information easily available, whether on the organization website or in a pamphlet that can quickly be mailed to the potential donor.  Having appropriate answers before the call is placed will give you a foundation and confidence.

The Visit 

When preparing for a visit there are a lot of questions going through your mind. The big ones can be as general or specific as you need them to be. What do you say? Where do you begin? What order do I need to proceed? It goes without saying to dress and behave professionally for the person you are meeting.

Handling the Responses 

Along with the objections given over the phone, there are the typical ones given once you have met with someone in person. The first is an agreement. “Yes, I will support you at $____.” The second is refusal: “No, I will not be able to support you.” The other responses are non-committal: “I’d like to think about it.” or “That amount is too high for me right now.” Handle these responses gracefully and be prepared with an appropriate answer or follow-up to keep the conversation going.

Ask for Referrals 

There is a bottom of the barrel for every fundraiser. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, but be sensitive. Don’t push someone for names and numbers, but be sure to ask each person you approach if they know of anyone else who might be interested in donating to your organization.

Storytelling 

Storytelling is immensely important in fundraising these days. Share an account of someone who has given to your organization, a person on staff, a volunteer, or someone whose life was impacted by a service at the organization. A good story engages the listener and reaches into their hearts.  Insert stories into these meetings, committee meetings, a newsletter, email, Facebook and thank-you letters. For more on storytelling, check out this entry on our blog.

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This article was featured in the February 2012 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
To read the whole newsletter, follow this link.
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Prospective Board Members and the Right Questions

When the time comes to look for new board members, there are a couple strategies you can take.  You could meet up with the prospective member one-on-one, or with another current member, for coffee. Or you could come at it from another angle.

Put together profiles of several potentials and bring them to a board meeting.  Then, all together, sort the individuals into 3 groups.

Group A – Candidates who are well-known by the board and can be added immediately if the initial meeting goes well.
Group B – Candidates are not well-known, but if there is mutual interest, membership can be pursued.
Group C – The candidate doesn’t seem like the right fit, but depending on who accepts or declines the offer, they can be moved up to Group B.

Having the right questions ready, too, can make all the difference. Here are some great ones to keep in mind.

For yourself:

What can this person do for us? Don’t only think about who the person is, but what benefit would they be to your board. For example, you might want a certain person on your board because you believe they can connect you to a certain part of the community. Don’t assume they can, but ask them if they think they could.

For the individual:

  • What interests you about our organization? Which aspect interests you the most?
  • What are some of your previous volunteer experiences and leadership roles?
  • What appeals to you about board services as a volunteer activity?
  • If you were to join this board, are there any experiences you would like to have or people you would like to meet?
  • What skills, connections, resources and expertise do you have to offer or are willing to use for the organization?
  • Do you have any worries about joining the board?
  • Is there anything you think you would need to make this experience a successful one for you?
  • If fundraising is an important aspect for your board, clearly state the expectations you would have for the individual and ask if they think it feasible.

The candidate may have questions of their own before agreeing to join your organization’s board. Here are some that you should be prepared for.

  • Why are you interested in me as a board member?
  • What role do you see me playing on your board?
  • What are your expectations and commitments?
  • What is unique about your organizations? Your board?
  • Are there particular discussions this board has difficulty handling?
  • What weaknesses are there in the way the board works together and with staff?
  • What are the major issues this board is facing? How are you addressing them now?
  • If I were to join this board, what would you want me to do during my first year?
  • If I were to join this board, what could I reasonably expect to get out of this experience?

For more, check out the full article on Blue Avocado.

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This article was featured in the January 2012 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
To read the whole newsletter, follow this link.
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Non-Profit Tax Quiz

There are always questions and opinions about taxes and non-profits, but do you think you really know your stuff?  Blue Avocado put together a 17-question quiz about non-profit taxes.  Don’t worry, they keep the questions light and interesting and use jargon only when necessary.  Here is a sampling of the questions:

Q – If you give a non-profit 501(c)(3) $10,000, how much less will you pay in federal taxes (assuming you itemize and are in the highest tax bracket?)

a.  $10,000
b.  $3,500
c.  $1,500
d.  $10,000, but only if you get a receipt within 60 days of the donation.

Q – A “progressive tax structure” means:

a. It is supported by “progressive” people.
b.  It is part of Obamacare.
c. People with higher incomes pay a higher percentage in taxes than people with lower incomes.
d. Taxes increase with inflation.

Q – Which of the following is legally a restriction on 501(c)(3) non-profits:

a.  Non-profit staff cannot donate blood.
b.  Non-profits cannot borrow money, except from board members and staff.
c.  Non-profit board meetings must be open to the public.
d.  Non-profits cannot divvy up the surplus at year-end and distribute it to staff.
e.  b and c

Q – To be officially poor according to the federal government, a family of four can have a total annual income of no higher than:

a.  $22,350
b.  $31,700
c.  $42,000
d.  the salary of the governor of Wyoming.

You can find the rest of the questions and an answer sheet by going here: Blue Avocado Non-Profit Tax Quiz

Don’t forget that CDP is holding a Professional Development Series the morning of November 10, 2011.  One of the speakers is Jim Clark, a CPA with Lloyd, Darner, Guenther & Ellis and will be talking about accounting for non-profits.  Be sure to register for this training here.

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
To read the whole newsletter, follow this link.
Join our monthly email list.

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