Type A No Longer

I’m sitting here, looking at my “to do” list (really, a flip chart so I can’t pretend I misplaced it), and not wanting to do any of it at all. And so I don’t and then, typically, anxiety attacks, and I wonder (again!) why I just don’t get on with it. I will, of course. I’m too type-A or whatever they are calling overly obsessive, ambitious people (WAIT! I’m reading Wikipedia now and it says that type-A’s are individual who are “ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.” They also, apparently, are smokers. OK, I need to rethink my definition of myself, clearly.

I cop to the ambitious and proactive, but the rest?   Not so much.

Re-defining oneself can be either exhilarating or painful. Too many people and organizations—nonprofits particularly but not exclusively—spend much of their time looking in the rear-view mirror. Where have we been? What did we do? Isn’t that how we’ve always done things. Looking forward, especially when the landscape is unfamiliar—which we tend to (erroneously) think of as hostile—causes hives and other uncomfortable symptoms. And yet, if we don’t constantly what we plan on being, we get stuck in the quagmire, condemned to doing what we’ve done and not growing or improving. Redefining can also take you down new roads.

That can be really important—and profitable—in fund development. A colleague recently retired saying she knew it was time when she kept telling her board, “We tried that; it didn’t work,” and “That’s not how we do it.” She knew that the organization could not continue to grow and change and prosper unless she moved on.

Knowing you have to change things and knowing how to change them are tied inextricably to each other and yet are very different things. Most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a Type A, and now I have to find another description. More to the point, maybe it is time to reconsider who I think I am—and who I want to be.

Nonprofits certainly should do that regularly. Board retreats should be places where you look to the future and how you want things to be (and consider how you will get there) rather than endlessly rehashing who you are and what you have been. As should board meetings.

Each year, the fund development committee should review the development plan—which, of course, every organization should have—and see what activities they should keep, which they might want to stop or change, and which they might want to introduce. They should set goals and strategies and while history plays an important part, they should be mindful of what is happening out in the rest of the world and how new ideas might affect them.

So taking this to heart, I will rethink myself not as a Type A person but one who is adaptive, flexible and forward thinking


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and to build stronger, more committed boards. Learn more at her website, www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the free monthly newsletter