Don’t get in the way of others who see you as a leader

When others remark positively on your leadership characteristics, how do you respond?

If you’re like me, not well.

A colleague/friend/mentor recently told me that he sees me as someone who has a strong vision for the future for the nonprofit sector, and that I do work with others who also want to get there. I’m out in front. I’m a sector thought leader.

I did not accept the compliments of ‘visionary’ and ‘futurist’ gracefully. He told me that while I might not see myself as a sector leader, I should not get in the way of others who see me in that light. He thought that I picture my circle of influence as much smaller than it is and could be.

Something for me to chew on. I don’t question my ability, but as an independent actor outside of the nonprofit sector institutional framework, I do question my influence at a high level sometimes. It’s not that I’m not interested in influence at a high level, but it’s not the first lens that I see my work through.

I’m a bit of a “keep your head down and work hard in service of clients and educating others” kind of person. Framing my work in a different, more expansive, light, is not something that comes instinctively.  This obviously relates back to my interest in quiet changemakers–those who do great work and have great influence irrespective of the spotlight.

A better, alternative, response my colleague’s comments might have been

Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say that.

Simply. Acknowledge. The gift.

How do you respond to professional compliments?

When others around you speak of your personal or organizational influence, does it match how you see yourself?

What’s the story others tell about you? What’s the story you tell about you? What’s the story you want others to tell about you? And are you reaching high enough?

Success as an Introvert for Dummies [book review]

Because of my work on the Quiet Changemaker book, I read a lot of books about/for introverts. The really vary in quality. But this one, Success as an Introvert for Dummies by Joan Pastor, PhD, is solid.

Succss as an Introvert for Dummies
The book is an overall guide to knowing more about yourself as an introvert, accepting yourself as an introvert, and providing tactics to build on your strengths and to know when introversion works against you. It covers all aspects of life–leadership, career, love, family–in high-level ways. Overall a very good introduction to life as an introvert for those who haven’t done a lot of self-exploration.

What works well

The language is very accessible. Where Quiet by Susan Cain can be dense and research-heavy, Success as an Introvert is light and conversational.

It covers all the main bases. As I mentioned above, it provides an overview of what being an introvert means in leadership, career, love, family, and just generally as an individual trying to make things work in an extrovert-centric world.

The author doesn’t suggest “overcoming” introversion. Some books oriented to introverts focus a lot of their advice on pushing people out of their comfort zones. Instead, Pastor focuses mostly on realities of introversion, where it works for you, when it might not, and how to use your strengths to overcome challenges.

Some great insights. My favourites include the sections “Breaking the rules — successfully” (on how introverted strengths can lead to better meeting facilitation), “When Playing the Extrovert Can Work”, and especially “Anticipating the Challenges of Leading as an Introvert”:

  • People may mistake your introversion for aloofness or arrogance.
  • People may mistake your introversion for a lack of self-confidence.
  • You may hit “people burnout.”
  • Multi-tasking can take its toll.
  • You may miss some of the facts you need to know.

What doesn’t work

Success as an Introvert makes what I consider a lazy mistake when it comes to advice (on leadership especially). Rather than sharing insights that are relevant specifically to introverts, Pastor just shares general tips that are relevant to everyone, regardless of the person, and doesn’t relate it back to introversion as strongly as I think she could. She covers things like “SMART Goals” and “Creating a contract with your team” which belong in more general personal/professional leadership books.

Perhaps the author makes the assumption that people reading this book aren’t also reading other self-development books. The “For Dummies” franchise may know its audience well and this may be a strategic move, but it meant that for readers like myself who do a lot of personal development reading, I had to fight the urge to skip sections.


A great introduction. If you identify as an introvert or recently received a suggestion that you might be an introvert, but haven’t done much reading on the topic, this is a great place to start. Also a great read for managers or family members of introverts.

Unofficial off-the-top-of-my-head rating?

B+. I got it from my local library, but I may considering buying it as a resource to reference.


Good jobs beyond the nonprofit sector ep03

In this Do Good Better podcast episode I chat with Dev Aujla of Catalog about whether the nonprofit sector has lost its monopoly on jobs that do good, and what the job market looks like in new types of careers and companies that are doing good (ie not just nonprofits anymore!).

I also talk about things to do when you’re leaving a job (e.g. succession planning, leaving a legacy, reflecting on learning, and actually handing over the role).

Finally, I answer the question “how should nonprofits deal with corporate volunteer days of service?” and share a listener response from Episode 02 on why she goes to conferences.

Links and resources from this episode


Submit your questions or comments by following the directions here.

Celebrating CharityVillage turning 20! #village20

CharityVillage is one of the core resources to the Canadian nonprofit sector, one that I recommend to so many people interested in working in the nonprofit sector. They are turning 20! Which is amazing considering they are web-based. What websites are you familiar with from 1995?

As part of their 20th birthday celebration, I am answering their ’20’ questions. Not actually 20 questions, but all on the theme of ’20’.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the sector over the past 20 years?

The internet. Truly. At a basic level it has changed how the sector fundraises, engages volunteers, communicates with its supporters. But even more fundamentally it has changed the structure of organizations. It means we are increasingly distributing leadership away from central offices, creating flexible work environments, and producing organizations that exist completely online.

Where do you see the sector 20 years from now?

Most definitely we’ll see fewer big, place-based organizations and more initiatives that succeed because of networks of individuals.

What I hope to see, though, is a culture of collaboration, sharing and risk-taking in service of our important missions, and less protection, competition, and risk-aversion.

What I hope to see most is most organizations going out of business because capitalism evolves to minimize the negative external impacts of business, government policies protect vulnerable people and environments, and citizens create the change they wish to see.

What’s the most creative nonprofit campaign you’ve seen in the past 20 years?

My favourite recent campaign is VOKRA (Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association) using Tinder to attract potential volunteers and adopters.

What could 20 volunteer hours do for your organization?

I’m outgoing chair of Canadian Women Voters Congress, and 20 hours could be used in so many different ways! Off the top of my head – help complete our rebranding, launch our honourary council, launch a digital ambassador program, spark campaign schools in 5 new communities, develop a robust onboarding program for new board members….so many ideas!

What impact could $20 from 20 people have through your organization’s work?

A total of $400 but, even more powerfully, 20 new supporters. It would cover costs for four women from underrepresented communities to get subsidized attendance to a campaign school. And those 20 supporters each convince five friends to help out, and on and on…wow!

What would you go back and tell your 20-year-old self?

At 20 I would be in my final year of my undergrad in science at UBC and producing/choreographing a production of Guys and Dolls as a residence advisor.

Re: my undergrad I would tell myself to take an extra year in order to take a bunch of classes that don’t count towards graduation but that interest me. Poli Sci. Organizational behaviour. Music. Geology. Architecture. Comp Sci.

Re: musical theatre I would tell myself to chill out. I was a control freak perfectionist back then (I’m now a recovering control freak perfectionist) and letting go of some of my quality standards would have let more people in.

What advice would you give to a 20-year-old starting a nonprofit career?

Negotiate salary and benefits. Learn things and achieve things outside your job descriptions. Learn how to run a good meeting. Don’t be afraid to leave your organization in order to learn more and move up. Get fundraising experience. Soak it in!

What one thing should every nonprofit professional do for 20 minutes every day?

Plan their day. Ideally based on a weekly plan. Building a weekly plan helps you outline how you are going to move important things forward, and building your daily plan from that weekly plan ensures you don’t just get urgent things done (email, meetings) but also make big things happen!

What was the best (or most embarrassing) 20 minutes of your nonprofit career?

Hmm. It’s less than 20 minutes, but both great and kind of embarassing. I had facilitated a strategic planning session for a community foundation and it went really well. One of the board members ran into my mom and told her that she should be really proud of me.

Fill in the blank – 20 years ago, I was using my computer to _____.

In 1995 I was 15 and my family didn’t have a computer yet. I think by 1996 we had a computer and got internet for Christmas. My parents had give the clue “ocean” and my younger sister hoped that we were getting jet skis. Ha! Instead the clue referred to “surfing the web.”

I can remember using the computer for writing a chemistry report on HIV/AIDS, trying to play Myst but not really getting it, and joining a chat room but, again, not really getting it and never coming back.

Favourite song from 20 years ago or when you were 20?

I got my first CD player 20 years ago. I wanted the first song I played on it to be really meaningful. It was “Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette.

How has CharityVillage impacted your career and work over the past 20 years?

I’ve found jobs on CharityVillage. I’ve recruited volunteers and contractors on CharityVillage. I’ve written for CharityVillage. I’ve been quoted in CharityVillage. I’ve recommended CharityVillage!