Just about every week, I talk to nonprofit communications directors who have “limiting beliefs” that are holding them back.  Limiting beliefs are ideas or assumptions that you have about yourself, your situation, or others that limit your ability to succeed.

But limiting beliefs are just that: beliefs. They are not indisputable facts, and they are often flat-out wrong. In my role as a coach, I help communications directors challenge their limiting beliefs such as

  • I haven’t been given permission or authority to make this decision or to do this work.
  • I don’t have enough information or experience.
  • Saying “no” to a manager or coworker will make me a bad employee, or they just won’t like me.
  • The risk of trying something is too high.
  • I need to be perfect.
  • If I mess up, our clients will suffer a grievous harm.
  • I am dispensable, so I must lay low and play it safe.
  • I don’t have enough time or resources or support to do a good job.

While each of these beliefs could be true in theory, and they can certainly feel true when you’ve had a particularly long and frustrating day, the reality is that they rarely are.

What’s more often the case is that people within your organization are hoping you’ll put your fears aside and step up, even if they never say that out loud.

If strategic communications leadership is lacking right now, stop waiting for your executive director or board to do something. You could be waiting forever. In many cases, they don’t know what to do, or don’t really want to do it, or don’t want to invest in being good at it.

But they don’t admit any of that, or even acknowledge it. They are often confused or lost or even totally clueless. And same goes for your co-workers. They are busy trying to be experts on their own jobs.

It’s time for you to step up and lead, from right where you are. After all, they hired YOU.

Sometimes limited beliefs develop because of the organizational cultures that make you question yourself.

If everything feels last minute and staff are constantly dropping things in your lap after the deadlines, that’s a cultural problem that will take time and leadership to change. Odds are that leadership will need to come from – you guessed it –you.

If you are constantly sucking it up and doing things at the last minute because of poor planning on the part of your co-workers, you are reinforcing their bad behavior. Why not just stop, and see what happens?

It’s not unreasonable for staff to expect real strategy, real leadership, and a supportive office culture. If you aren’t getting that, make your own choice to be bold and ask for it. And if that doesn’t work, be even bolder and make those hard choices yourself.

Quit waiting for someone else to fix it. You are the someone else. It’s hard work, but it’s time to step up. 


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