Non-profits are magnets for people who want to make a difference in the world, yet many people who start out with high ideals end up down and discouraged. There is often one big obstacle to staff morale – the morale of the leaders themselves. When leaders are deflated, overwhelmed and/or on survival mode, they aren’t good morale boosters for the organization. This is why attending to the morale of leaders is often a good starting point.
We humans have basic needs in our lives that are directly related to morale. We want to grow and have opportunities for advancement. We want to feel secure in our jobs and trust that we are being treated fairly. We want to make a difference and know that we are valued and respected. These needs aren’t fluff, they are germane to job satisfaction and quality of life. By looking inward and attending to their own morale, leaders can empower themselves to build morale throughout the organization.
“The mindset or narrative we have about the organization, our coworkers, and ourselves can either drag us into reactivity or empower us to move forward with confidence.”
- Acknowledge breakdowns. When we are open and authentic about what isn’t working, we can build trust and make room for breakthroughs. Leaders often feel a huge pressure to put on a positive face, even when they are feeling anything but positive. Being honest about challenges can be a huge relief.
- Recognize and let go of disempowering ways of thinking and develop an empowering mindset or narrative. The mindset or narrative we have about the organization, our coworkers, and ourselves can either drag us into reactivity or empower us to move forward with confidence.
- Give and receive acknowledgement. Acknowledging what we appreciate about our co-workers has a many benefits. It can lift our morale by making us aware of the abundance around us and let us know that others value us.
- Practice open communication. Communicate honestly and openly about your own needs. Make sure that everyone is heard. Listen generously, seeing people at their best.
- Model transparency and accountability. Identify actions to meet needs and follow through on commitments. Be clear about how decisions are made. This will go a long way in building trust and effectiveness. When leaders trust each other, this shows up in how they lead together.
- Practice self-empathy and self-care. When we acknowledge and meet our own needs, we are much more able to tap into generosity and compassion for others.
As leaders empower themselves, these practices can be shared throughout the organization. There are many concrete and practical things organizations can do to build morale, even when resources are scarce.