Non-Profit Leadership: Creating Congruent Environments for Both Staff and the Mission

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I have unique opportunities to speak to organizational leaders from many parts of the country.  I have also conducted conferences around how to trauma-inform organizations so that they can be aligned around their mission as well as provide an environment that will be supportive to their staff.

What I find to be interesting at times is to experience the disconnect between how leaders set policies and practices that support their clients and fail to support their own staff with the same level of intentionality. Most non-profit leaders recognize that their most significant asset is their staff. However, the organizational practices and policies are designed for styles of management that are more about accountability, financial priorities, production and sometimes even some level of expectations that are unrealistic for staff to maintain.

What I recognized early in my communication with our staff at Lakeside was how stressful it  can be for them to deal with our students. As my leadership staff and I worked together to create our core values we recognized that we needed to provide the same care for our staff that we do for our students and those we serve. It seemed very obvious that we should have this congruency in our philosophic and practical support for our staff yet sometimes the expectations we have of staff reaches to a point where the care for their needs can be neglected. 

I feel strongly that one of the most significant commitments non-profit leaders can make is to develop organizational environments where clients and staff are allowed to authentically communicate their needs. As we get that feedback, we then have the opportunity to respond to those needs in healthy emotional and relational ways. Our environments should be about bringing regulation and support to both the caregivers and those they serve since both are under high levels of stress. 

This simple core belief can shape the entire culture of an organization and bring this sense of equity, humility, mindfulness and authenticity. The discussions are often complex and difficult but always focused on people, their needs and the quality of relationships. It does not preclude effectiveness in our practice but enhances it since there is such a consistent set of values that are aligned and reflected in how everyone is respected and supported across the entire organization. 

Congruency of care in our non-profit environments is one of those values that we could assume to be in place just because of our respective missions. However it takes a great deal of intentionality in how we foster congruent mindfulness and compassion to everyone who is a part of our non-profit organizations.

Gerry Vassar


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