Tips on Avoiding Burnout

Executive directors easily get burned out. What with the conflict situations that arise between staff and board, the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from, and the general sense of stress that comes with being the leader of a non-profit — it’s no wonder executive directors lose their sanity from time to time.

This week, let’s take a look at how an executive director or other leader of a non-profit can preserve his/her sanity amidst the ups and downs of running a non-profit organization.

  1. Don’t take everything personally. For example, when you get turned down for a grant, don’t let it get you down on a personal level. Instead, learn from the experience and vow to do a better job at securing the grant next time.
  2. Stay focused on the goal and don’t get crazy dealing with the every day details of what you have to do. Keep your eye on the bigger picture.
  3. Anticipate rather than react; plan ahead. People have a tendency of driving through the rear view mirror. When you anticipate your future and plan ahead you will prevent many of the road blocks in your path to success.
  4. Build a team. It is important to have a team of people who share the same vision and mission and are willing to take on the appropriate responsibilities and workload.
  5. Minimize internal conflicts. I have seen very healthy people get burned out almost overnight when there was an internal conflict with the staff or board members. Bend over backwards to support your staff, make them look good, and give them credit when they earn it. It is the team — not the superstars — that will win the games.
  6. Be proactive with your board. Your board members are critical elements in your drive toward success. Make sure you are spending adequate time with them in between board meetings.
  7. Take a vacation. Make sure you take time off each year to rejuvenate yourself. This will help you deal with some of the insanity of the non-profit.
  8. Hire a coach to work with you to provide the emotional support that will help you succeed.
  9. Realize that everything in NOT a crisis. Learn to differentiate between an urgent and non-urgent situation.
  10. When you feel overwhelmed, try to stay calm. If you always over-react to situations you will lose control over what you should be doing and your staff will lose confidence in your ability to deal with problems.