Own Reality

Reality. It is a hard row for many to hoe. So often clients tell me that they do things (or don’t) that they clearly do not (or do). For completely understandable reasons, they don’t want to admit frailty or fault. And it is a very disrupting trait. Along with lack of reality is the ever-famous finger pointing. It’s not my fault; it is yours, or yours, or yours.

I get it. Honestly. But it is not helpful and won’t make things better.

In order to make things better, you first have to own reality. And acknowledge what is your fault, even if it is your fault with all the best intentions.

As a boss, I was difficult. I wanted everyone to be as fast at things as I was (though, I also wanted them to be more accurate than I sometimes was). And I wanted them to intuit what it was that I really wanted.

What I needed to do was to slow down, gather my thoughts together (in the privacy of my office and not out there in front of everyone. As a very very extroverted thinker—I joke that I have to talk in order to know what I think—I would talk things out, and some of my staff would think that each thought was an order), and then present them clearly to my staff.

Instead, for a long time, I railed at how they didn’t “get it” and how they needed to shape up. When it dawned on me that perhaps I had to shape up first, things got a whole lot better.

Owning reality means being realistic about the resources you have at your disposal. It also means understanding what people can and cannot do. I don’t care how good your development director may be—if you are expecting that one person to raise all the money, enter all the gifts in the database, write grants, create online giving opportunities and and and, you are going to be sorely disappointed in the outcomes.

If you think your board will go out and fundraise because they are “supposed” to, you will be even more disappointed.

Owning reality means understanding that meeting deadlines is not just a staff function—it is your function, also. If you ask your staff to have something to you by Wednesday, give them a date by when they can expect to have your approval (or not!). Have procedures that are clear and that everyone follows.

Owning reality isn’t sexy. Or fun. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer a rich fantasy life. But when I have work I have to get done; when I have things that must be accomplished, I can only get where I need to go by being honest about what I am doing and when I am doing it.



Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising results, strengthen boards and help staff acquire the tools they need to do their jobs well.  Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the free newsletter, and do contact Janet for a free 30 minute consultation.