Here a few “rules” that I’ve learned from a career in development. Hopefully some of them resonate with you!

  1. RECOGNIZE. On a regular basis, recognize the important contributions of a member of your team. Even the small things. Kindness goes a long way and it builds confidence and contributes to a healthy culture. Do it in front of others which may offer greater meaning to your staff member.
  2. EXPRESS GRATITUDE. Thank at least one donor daily letting them know how much you appreciate the impact they are having on your organization. Do it spontaneously and not necessarily as part of a formal acknowledgment process.
  3. RECRUIT FOR PURPOSE. Only hire staff who have great passion for the work and great optimism for a better world. You can train them to do just about anything but you can’t train someone to be positive and to have a great outlook on their job and life. Plus, can-do positive attitudes strengthen culture. Negativity destroys it.
  4. EMPOWER STAFF. Empower your team to take on new responsibilities on a regular basis and instill your faith in their ability to do more than just what is listed within their job description. This will result in loyalty and hopefully longer tenured staff.
  5. REFLECT. Take time on a regular basis to get away from the office and reflect on the meaning of your work and how important it is to do what you do. And what it means to be a true leader.
  6. CONNECT TO PURPOSE. Make sure you walk the halls and get to know front-line staff and interact with the people served by your organization. Getting in touch directly with your mission puts your regular job duties into perspective. And gives you a greater sense of purpose. Encourage your teammates to do the same.
  7. INSPIRE TEAMWORK. Inspire your team to work together on prospect cultivation and discourage a “Lone Wolf” mentality. In the long run, lone wolves will not get your team very far and can damage culture. Develop incentives for staff to work together (through metrics and annual evaluations).
  8. PROVE YOUR VALUE DAILY. As a senior professional, consider yourself as a servant to many not just to your immediate supervisor. Approaching your board chair, development chair, major donors and even your staff with this mentality will get you far. Whether you want to admit to it or not you are constantly proving yourself to your colleagues.
  9. KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS. There is no such thing as a perfect leader. Work hard at understanding your weaknesses and “blinds spots.” Knowing what they are will allow you to improve them and ultimately become more effective.
  10. BALANCE. Work hard, but don’t obsess over it. Having the right work-life balance is vital to your ability to lead. Make sure you take time to “sharpen your saw” away from work which will allow you to be energized and “locked-in” when you return.