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Marta Brockmeyer, Ph.D.
Project Pointers
Issue 61                       Late Spring 2020
In the last few months, I have talked with so many colleagues about partnerships. While the conversations typically begin with a specific topic such as joint programming or the board's role in merger discussions, the exchanges invariably lead to more personal issues. I hear you talk about your stress, tiredness and frustrations, often with a hint of embarrassment about these feelings. You are committed to meeting the needs of clients, staff, and volunteers. You offer compassion and sensitivity even when you are frazzled and pulled in many directions. But how do you feel in the midst of so much uncertainty?
This newsletter will address some of the feelings that are impacting our work. I hope to help normalize them because others share your experiences right now. 
How Do You Feel?
Our feelings are as unique as our sector, but during a crisis, feelings are more widely shared, even predictable. They include such a wide range of emotions, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Acknowledging them without discomfort is a good start to taking care of yourself and those around you. Please remember that you are not alone. Like so many others, you may be experiencing the five common reactions that follow:
So often, we fail to examine this obvious, overriding emotion and wonder why we are experiencing a drop in attention and energy. Mourning is an active, even healthy process that allows us to move ahead in time. But right now, the losses can feel overwhelming and impact a wide range of concrete plans that will not be realized. The pandemic represents a death, a hard stop to much of what brought comfort and predictability. You may be mourning multiple losses, including furloughing good employees, reducing services, and delaying retirement due to personal financial losses.
Exhaustion and stress
I have not talked to anyone who felt they were working at their best. The sheer volume of tasks and decisions takes its toll, especially for those who are physically isolated from trusted colleagues. Troubled sleep and other physical manifestations can result in chronic health issues, including mental health challenges. Prolonged stress can lead to burnout and unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or the misuse of alcohol. The longer the pandemic keeps its hold over us, the more important it is to practice the basics of good health: sleep, exercise, appropriate foods, and relaxation breaks.
Loss of Confidence
It can be difficult for even the most seasoned leaders to make good decisions with so much up in the air. You may be moving at an unusually slow pace, reluctant to make choices for fear you will make the wrong one. Feeling tentative about decisions is a normal reaction to so much change. It may help to remind yourself that you cannot possibly review the entire universe of data, so determine what criteria will allow you to take a leap of faith. If you recall your decision-making history and successes, it should be calming as you face new ones. Fear is often expressed as paralysis, and life is moving too quickly to tolerate that for long.
A feeling of being out of control usually accompanies a drop in confidence. In many ways, we can only control how we respond to problems and try to influence what we can. You've done well in the past -- trust that you have what it takes now.
Technology Overload
The various video conference platforms provide some personal connection, but the technology itself often interferes with the content. Colleagues routinely comment on the reduced quality of information sharing as well as the resulting tiredness from having to focus so much. The frequent delays and gaps can leave participants feeling a bit off center and human services professionals particularly depend on nonverbal cues to assess both client and organizational needs. People are harder to read on a screen and this can easily lead to misunderstanding and faulty assumptions. We typically react to the energy in the room, and virtual meetings can feel flat. Don't underestimate how the technology is affecting you. 

Political Angst
Fulfilling your missions in such a highly polarized country was already problematic, reflected in the wide range of views and reactions from staff and clients. The virus has complicated planning even more because decisions rest on political probabilities about life after November. Simply, the upcoming elections will have a profound impact on sustainability and serving our most vulnerable populations, making decisions even harder.

Fortunately, the above feelings are also accompanied by more positive ones. Leaders are filled with pride about their staffs and volunteers. Most have expressed appreciation for acts of kindness and the life-affirming aspects of daily life. I consistently hear CEOs talk about their determination to see things through and even make long delayed organizational changes for the greater good. Accepting your feelings is the first step in connecting with others and finding ways to nurture those around you.

"You have had such vision and foresight for years and years...about what is needed for nonprofits to weather storms, especially those that are unexpected."
-- Funder

"Thank you for the incredible strategy session. You really helped me get clarity on untapped opportunities. It was fun talking with someone who sees the big picture and thinks creatively about how to navigate within it."
-- Human Services Executive Director

"I truly appreciate your integrity and only hope I come close to holding myself to the same level of integrity that you appear to hold yourself to."
-- Nonprofit Consultant
"I continue to be amazed at the extent of the generosity, guidance and counsel you have provided to our organization and me. Thank you."
-- International Nonprofit

During the pandemic, I've been intent on finding books that truly take me away. I heartily recommend three:

I was fascinated by Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won by Herbert J. Stern. Stern helped break organized crime in New Jersey before becoming the lead trial attorney for the Department of Justice and eventually a federal judge. While the details are operatic, I was so touched by his fundamental humanity and compassion.

The Women Who Made New York by Julie Scelfo would interest anyone who enjoys history, urban life and character studies. Some of the names are familiar to me, but most were not, and I wanted to sit down with all of them. Who knew?

The Last Trial by Scott Turow. This novel marks a return to the author's earlier high writing standards. The characters are well developed, moving through an interesting plot. This book combines substance and suspense, a needed combination currently.

A complex project can seem overwhelming, but not when you have the right tools and processes. Join Marta for her essential Project Management Basics Workshop, where you will learn new skills and methods to tackle your most difficult assignments. Past participants applaud the training and recommend it for its practicality and impact on their organization!
Project Management Basics
  Tuesday, October 6, 2020
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at Interact for Health
3805 Edwards Road
Cincinnati, OH  45209
Workshops on Site
For convenience and increased participation, you may prefer an in-house workshop. When a larger number of employees share concepts, language and tools, projects move along more smoothly. In some cases, a series of customized follow-up activities complements the foundational workshop. Evaluations from recent on-site trainings have been enthusiastic. Please contact Marta for more information about in-house, customized training.  
End Point
I am so touched by the commitments I see every day, especially when someone shares their feelings in a genuine way. As I have learned from my merger work, how leaders feel is more important that what they think. Paying attention to our emotions is the key to moving forward. Please know you have my appreciation and ongoing support for the next chapter. 
Best wishes,