2021 June

Dreaming of Post-Pandemic Normalcy, So Why Am I Feeling Tired & Anxious?

Karen Lehman, MHS President/CEO

by Karen Lehman, MHS President/CEO

Burnout, exhaustion, stress, anxiety, depression or just an overall blah feeling are real issues that many of us are experiencing right now.  As pandemic restrictions are starting to lift and there is movement toward normalizing our lives again, many of us are dreaming about gathering with family and friends and doing other activities that we love.  We should be excited to return to our “normal” activities, but instead, many of us find ourselves unable to shake off the feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.  The pandemic upended our lives and changed everything about the ways that we related and behaved, it’s no wonder there is real trauma that many are experiencing as a result. 

As a leader, this past year has required constant vigilance and diligence:

  • Navigating regulations and mandates
  • Keeping residents, those served, and staff safe 
  • Shutting down homes, programs and communities
  • Restricting families from gathering with loved ones, etc. 

And now, there’s a sense that there is a need to make up for the lost time on our strategic focus.  The business needs leadership’s focus now more than ever, but the inspiration and challenge looking toward the future may not be as apparent as it once was.

Your front-line employees take the brunt of many of the problems or challenges that your organizations face.  Residents, individuals served, and family members usually take out their frustrations on the people that they see and know.  Besides the constant vigilance and new policies/procedures they experienced, direct care workers are most worried about jeopardizing their own health, their family’s well-being, and the challenge of work demands and home balance.  And many have had personal loss from Covid-19 or have experienced loss of residents or individuals that they served.  It’s been an incredibly challenging time for your staff with little end in sight.

More people than ever are re-thinking their work, considering their passion and commitment, and asking hard questions about the risks and rewards of working in the health and human services industry.  Is it worth it?  These are tough questions, especially in this time when you need all the staff you can get and don’t want to lose those you have. 

So, what are the solutions or way forward from all of this?

After reading a lot of articles and seeking wisdom from experts, I think the first step to take is to name what you are feeling.  This seemingly simple act has been shown to rebalance your brain’s neurochemical activity to allow you to engage in better problem solving. Then assess your life and work patterns.  If you haven’t taken time off to rest deeply and recharge, consider doing that.  Or find new ways to refresh and/or set greater boundaries for work/life balance.  For leaders, the organization needs you to be in your best health – you are the role model and example for the organization.  Taking care of yourself might mean a medical or physical check-up and talking to a professional if deeper support is needed.  Exercise, rest, healthy eating, and permission to take care of yourself, because if you don’t, nothing else you do is going to matter.  Recharging yourself can re-set your commitment and passion for the work you do.  Maybe you need to reconsider how you are working and develop new strategies for building the team and for invigorating the vision for the future? 

It is much easier for an executive to get away from the work setting, and so much harder, if not almost impossible, to provide the same kind of opportunity for front-line staff to do the same.  But if you have staff leaving because of burn-out, loss of passion for those being served, tired of working overtime, and prolonged time in trauma-producing settings, you are perpetuating your cycle of recruitment and retention.  Keeping good team members is the most important thing you can do! 

Last week in a CEO networking meeting, Loralei LaVoie from Oregon Mennonite Residential Services (OMRS), shared a recent experience with a staff member resignation.  Loralei immediately reached out to the staff member to learn why they were resigning.  Upon hearing that it was due to burn-out and exhaustion, Loralei agreed to take the staff person off the schedule and gave them a number of days off.  She asked the employee to consider waiting to resign until after time away.  And at the end of those days away, the employee did not resign but returned to work more refreshed.  This required Loralei and the team to work hard on covering those shifts, likely other staff had to work overtime to accommodate them, but she saved an employee from resigning!

The best thing we can do is to recognize and honor the varying perspectives or situations that people today are feeling.  There are many ideas and potential “solutions” that can be offered in order to begin to restore ourselves, and our team members.  Maybe it’s as simple as taking the time to give voice to and acknowledging the feelings, and, like Loralei, offering new solutions or options for consideration. We’d love to hear your stories about how you are navigating this time. MHS is here to support you, our members, in any way that we can.  Collecting and sharing your stories is a wonderful way for us to learn from each other as we continue to fulfill our mission and purpose.

2021 June

Four Qualities for Stronger Governance

by Clare Krabill, MHS COO

“If only I knew then what I know now.” This is something we all tell ourselves at some point in our leadership journey. Most likely, at many points along the way!

When I was 36, I began my first tenure on a board of directors and at 42, I moved into my first role as an executive director of a small non-profit. Through the wonders of 20-20 hindsight, I can easily see now how little I understood in those early years about board governance. Through the same lens, I am able to appreciate some foundational qualities that I already possessed and leaned into. It is also apparent to me how important it is both as a board member and as a non-profit leader to continue developing these.

Perhaps you are early on in your own governance journey as a board member or an organizational leader. Perhaps you have decades under your belt. No matter your length of service, good governance is essential to a strategically focused, fiscally stable, and mission focused organization. Alternatively, poor governance can sink the ship. I have witnessed people at all stages of experience demonstrate the spectrum of good to poor governance practices. We all know which side of the fence we would like to be on.

There are some great tools and resources for board governance best practices. MHS offers many resources! While tools and resources are valuable, the difference between a healthy, dynamic board and a poorly functioning one can be found in the quality of board interaction and engagement. As you consider your board, are these qualities evident?

  1. Curiosity. Are you creating space to wonder? Is there a vision for the future? What is happening in the world around you and in the industry? What do you want to learn? Where can you find new ideas? Does your board devote time to identifying knowledge gaps and a pathway to learn?
  2. Faith. Non-profit, mission focused work, especially in the health and human service industry, typically involves high stakes for those you serve. There is obvious potential for stress. Leaning into your faith can add perspective to your work. It can also provide essential focus to your vision. How does your ministry’s vision, programs, successes and failings fit into the arc of God’s eternal kingdom? What is your responsibility and what is God’s? How is faith incorporated into the meetings and work of your board?
  3. Servanthood relationships. Prioritizing, seeking to serve, and engaging respectfully with your constituents: board members, employees, clients, donors, and constituents is essential to your ministry. Are your organization’s values in regards to relationships reflected in your organization’s and board’s policies and procedures as well as your values statements? Do you have processes in place to regularly seek input and feedback from your constituents and peers? If so, are you transparent with the results and do you develop and implement an improvement plan when warranted?
  4. Humility. Curiosity, faith and relationships are all made stronger through humility. Frequently, if one is struggling in any of these areas, a lack of expressed humility can be a root cause. It has been my experience that while at times, a lack of humility can be indicative of over-confidence, it is more frequently caused by guardedness protecting an area of hurt or shame.  When you encounter a lack of humility in yourself or others do you first approach it with grace?  Does your board model humility to each other, the staff and your broader constituency?  If yes, how does this make your organization stronger? If this is not an area of strength, where can you start building humility as a value?

Good non-profit governance incorporates self-reflection, intentionality, strategy, perseverance, and commitment. The rewards are a more wholistic and healthy community. Blessings to you in your important and meaningful work! MHS is here to support you. Let us know how we can help.

2021 June

Wishing Twila All the Best

After more than three years with MHS, Twila Albrecht, Program Manager, will be leaving to pursue a Masters in Conflict Management at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego in California.

If you haven’t interacted with Twila directly, you almost certainly benefitted from her prolific work at our organization.

Notably, Twila developed and hosted our on Leading video podcast. She also developed the Employee Engagement evaluation.

Twila managed and made improvements to the Board and CEO assessments, and if you’ve received a survey from MHS in the past 3 years, chances are Twila wrote it. Webinars were produced and organized by Twila as well.

In addition to all of these tangible resources and assets, Twila also provided counsel on facilitation techniques and group dynamics. We will miss Twila’s many gifts, and wish her well in this next stage of her professional development.

2021 June

Your Words Responses for June

Who is your favorite professional development author?

Richard Rohr and/or Brian McLaren

Timothy Weaver, Chaplain at The Community at Rockhill

John Maxwell

John C. Maxwell, Founder-Author at Injoy Services

Stephen covey

Dennis Koehn, Principal at Koehn Consulting

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (Thanks for the Feedback)

Evie Telfer, Residential Living Pastor, Assistant Director of Pastoral Ministries at Messiah Lifeways

I love Brené Brown’s work! Her wisdom works for personal and professional.

Karen Lehman, President/CEO at MHS

Chip Heath

Nick Hankins, CEO at Upland Manor