If you told me 6 years ago, when I launched my coaching business, that I would be launching a nonprofit organization (with 2 of my favorite coach buddies) in July of 2012, I would have asked you to take a breathalyzer test.  It certainly was not a goal of mine as I was growing my coaching business.  Back then, I was hungrily reading Starting a Business for Dummies, and obtaining as much coach training as I could handle in order to get a credential to my name.  But yet, we have officially launched Women For Change Coaching Community, Inc., after over a year of preparation and planning.

What I want to talk about here is how the overwhelming task of getting the 501(c)3 up and running was possible, only by taking small steps, staying focused and not allowing ignorance, fear and other barriers to get in our way.  I almost folded several times when things got to be really difficult, people didn’t follow through with what they agreed to do, timelines weren’t met, and in one case someone just totally disappeared, taking our newly purchased url with them!

What kept me going was the mission of the organization and the partners I was hanging with.  This is true in other organizations that I’m involved with as well.  Here are the lessons I learned:

 1.  If you have the ability, choose your team carefully:

If you are not having fun with the people that you are working with, you are going to be questioning your involvement.  Life is too short to be part of a project with people that drain you continuously.  It’s also important to have people who compliment your strengths and aren’t just carbon copies of you.  I think the best leaders are those that surround themselves with people who are smarter than them.  You will need their expertise and find yourself empty handed if you haven’t selected partners that can fill the gap of your weaknesses.

 2.  When you feel like something’s not right, don’t step over it: 

I know this is simple, but not necessarily easy.  Communication is key here.  If there is a feeling that a team member isn’t quite pulling their weight, or feels slighted or stepped on, it’s best to call it out as soon as possible in the most respectful way.  You would think as coaches, that this would be automatic, but it’s not.  It’s human nature at play.  Coaches still have the array of emotions, life events, time management and balance issues in common with everyone else.   Hopefully, we approach the communication of the issues in a positive way for forward progress and win/win results.  Letting something fester and stepping over it never delivers superior results.  Which leads me to…

 3.  Be open to people being honest:

Part of that win/win communication means that we all need to be open to brutal honesty.  If we’ve stepped out of bounds on something, we need to be self aware enough to be able to be called out on it from our team members, admit it, own it and decipher a path forward that prevents it from happening again.  This builds a really strong team with superior expectations and results J

 4.  Slow down in order to get there faster:

I have a really bad habit of moving incredibly fast.  Back in my working days, the understanding was that if you assigned something to me, you better be sure that it’s your final decision, because it will be done before you can actually change your mind.  My motto was always under promise and over deliver!  Sometimes that meant that I was moving on things with the information that I had available to me, but that had not been shared with the team for proper vetting.  That can stop a team in their tracks.  Fortunately, I have a team member who is very honest with me and calls me out when I behave this way.  She reminds me of the benefits of going slower, building community, sharing all information, and gathering further input.  She reminds me to put all the puzzle pieces on the table, rather than forcing the pieces that I have to save time.

  5.  Let go of your ego:

This one can be very tough.  If we make it about us, we lose sight of the mission and worry about things like getting credit, exposure, visibility, meritocracy and position.  I’m sure you’ve read the same articles and books that I have by contemporary female leaders touting the necessity getting your credit and being recognized.  I don’t disagree.  We all need to teach people how to treat us, and if they are taking credit for something that we did, we need to let them know the impropriety of their behavior.  But if we have recognition as a key goal in our visual plane, we’re missing the point and we need to set it aside for the bigger picture.  The mission is the most important thing at the end of the day.

 6.  Make everyone feel included and heard: 

In the virtual world we live in, more and more teams meet without sitting across from each other in a conference room.  Phone meetings can be even more of a challenge with people talking over one another.  Have some set ground rules for your meetings and designate a facilitator and someone to take the meeting minutes.  The facilitator should ensure that everyone present has a chance to contribute to the discussions, and call on each team member individually if necessary.

  7.  Build community, not just organization and process:

If we start a meeting and get down to the agenda items immediately, move through them quickly to maximize efficiency and wrap up without any connection, we miss out on a huge opportunity.  This is especially crucial in virtual teams that don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions and offline one-on-one meetings.  In order for a team to really gel and work well together, they need to get to know one another.  Spend some time during the meeting making some kind of connection with each other.  It could be as simple as asking what the biggest win was for them this past week, or what are you doing for the 4th of July.  We asked our Board members to reach out to each other and have offline one-on-one phone calls to further connect. It doesn’t cost much and will pay off big in the long run.

 8.  Ask for what you need:

As women, we sometimes fall into the habit of believing that people should know what to do intuitively, and that they should just do it!  We’ve all done this.  I work with many of my clients on this very thing.  You must ask for what you need.  No one is a mind reader regardless of what you may think.  Whether it’s your husband, child, mother, sister, boss or team member, you likelihood of success is significantly increased if you directly ask people to do something for you, rather than keep it to yourself.

 9.  Be Accountable: 

If you say you will do something, then do it.  If you say you will deliver by a particular date, then deliver by said date.  By all means, if for some reason you can no longer do it, or deliver on said date, please communicate to your stakeholders so that they can plan their activities accordingly.  Be accountable for your words and your actions.  It’s all for the betterment of the organization and the mission!

10.  Celebrate your successes!

Even thought there’s always more work to be done, make sure you take the time to recognize and celebrate your successes as a team.  Everyone works hard.  Everyone is busy.  A well placed “Thank You”, pat on the back and “Wooooohooooo” costs nothings and can last for months.  Take the time to celebrate.  You’ve accomplished a lot!