Like people, work (paid or volunteer) comes into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Your relationship with the organization that you founded, you built, or you cared for is not static. It is important to reevaluate whether the relationship continues to be mutually beneficial. There are people who can productively stay with an agency for their entire career, while others will feel the need to move on. Do you know which you are and whether the time to leave has come (or even passed)?
Did you give birth to your agency? Are you a visionary? Do you have great ideas and the charisma and energy to get something going? Are you the founder of your NPO? Have you thought about whether it is time to allow someone else to take the reins?
Visionaries, who can see something no one else can and who have the conviction to take a risk and the charisma to get others to join them, are amazing. However, if they stay too long, they risk stifling their organization. Much has been written on Founders’ Syndrome. In spite of this, many founders hold on too long. The irony is, that their inability to allow someone else to take risks, might ultimately be what destroys the organization they love, as capable people leave to find other opportunities where their ideas matter.
Did you come to your agency when it needed your talent? Did you fix it up, create processes and grow it? Did that excite you? Have you stopped being excited? Are you struggling with the politics of the position? Do you want to do bold new things but feel stagnate?
There are people who like to fix problems. When those fixers no longer have significant problems to fix, they begin to create problems. Sometimes it is difficult to identify yourself as a fixer; but if you’ve come to the point where you are experiencing conflict with others; when you are bored by the dialogue and frustrated by the plodding pace of change, you may be one. Sometimes it takes a long time for you and others in the organization to realize that the time has come to move on.
Sometimes the telltale sign that it is time to go is that you do not agree on the direction the organization should take or the best use of its resources. Sometimes the organization takes a different direction than you do. It is the nature of non-profits, led by frequently changing board members, to change focus on occasion. It is tough to be the leader who dissents. Although we all know the saying “the board speaks with one voice,” it’s much easier to say than to do some of the time. It takes an incredible amount of energy from you and from the organization to be at odds. It is perhaps the most difficult time to leave because you are worried that the organization is doing the wrong things.
If you have worked to change people’s minds without success, your best course of action may be to leave. While your concern about the agency you have been involved with is legitimate, the fight will take its toll on both you and others around you.
Whether you are a board member, a key volunteer or a paid staff member, there may come a time to leave. Typically, the time leading up to the departure is difficult for everyone concerned. If you are struggling with the direction the organization takes, if you are experiencing conflict, or if you are just bored, ask yourself “what’s next?” Think about what type of a leader you are. Are you there for a reason? A season? Or are you a forever person.
Sandra Dunham is the sole-proprietor of Streamline New Perspective Solutions
Streamline New Perspective Solutions offers management consulting services for non-profit organizations. Please visit www.streamlinenps.ca