“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Margaret Wheatley

Note: This Article is a special Guest contribution by Ashley Pero. ]

As we move through our careers, we go from being the one asking all the questions to being someone that has a few answers. As we get older (and, hopefully, wiser) we are sometimes asked what we’ve learned, especially it seems as graduation time approaches again. Today, I’m sharing a few of the lessons I have learned.

✅ Be kind and delightful. If you spent much time at one of the organizations I worked for you likely heard, “Will that delight?” It was cultural value to satisfy and delight and we strived to live it every day. It’s not to say that the “customer is always right,” but it does mean that you can be kind when you tell someone they aren’t going to get their way. It’s not always easy to be kind, but the extra effort is always worth it and it really makes a difference to the people you interact with (family and colleagues). Make it a habit to practice kindness and delight others. I guarantee you won’t regret it and people won’t forget that you make them feel special.

✅ Connect often. I’ve had to privilege of meeting some amazing people throughout my career. I can also confirm that what you hear is true, a strong network is important. It’s good for your well-being to have colleagues and friends that you can call for advice or talk through ideas. And using your connections and relationships to help others (connecting your connections, if you will) makes you feel good. It’s easy to neglect those relationships, but it’s also easy to keep them alive and well. A quick coffee before work, an email with an article that would be helpful for them, a quick call to see how things are – those small gestures (that more often than not shouldn’t be about you) build relationships, and connections matter.

✅ Seek knowledge. Knowledge comes in many forms – formal training, coaching, mentoring, experiences, volunteering, reading – and all of them should have a valued place of importance in your life. Learning keeps you sharp, allows you to contribute in meaningful ways, makes you a trusted resource, and pushes you to grow. An investment in yourself is one of the surest investments you can make. Even if the only investment you can afford to make right now is the time to stay current with your favorite news sources and blog resources, you’re worth it.

✅ Turn it off. We all need time to recharge and disconnect (yes even you). That vacation time you’ve earned but have been saving (read: not using) needs to be used. Not just for you, but for your organization and your family. Your organization deserves a refreshed, clear-thinking version of you. Your family deserves a fully present, not work-consumed version of you. There isn’t a magic number of days to get away, you have to figure out what’s right for you. Never feel bad for taking a break from work or turning off your phone. It will all still be waiting for you when you get back and you’ll have a clear mind to tackle it.

What lessons do you share most often when asked?

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Sara Leonard
IN HER 25 years of nonprofit work, Sara has held many titles and been a solutions-oriented advancement professional.She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Tampa and an MBA from the University of South Florida. She is a Certified Fundraising Executive and has been named as a Master Trainer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.As the founding director of the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s Fund Development Academy, Sara created an extensive curriculum of fundraising and board governance courses. She has had the privilege of working with organizations to achieve their fundraising goals through instruction, coaching and consulting. She continues to serve as an instructor for the Fund Development Academy.She has worked in the nonprofit sector raising funds for healthcare, educational and cultural organizations. She managed development operations including identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of donors, managing annual giving, major gift cultivation and solicitation, training and management of staff, board and volunteers, foundation and corporate support, sponsorships, annual funds, special events and in-kind support. She is widely considered an expert in crisis fundraising and has guided organizations through capital campaigns – both large and small.Sara serves on the board of directors of the Suncoast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and New Tampa Young Life. She is a former board member of the AFP Florida Caucus. She lives in Tampa with her husband and two children.

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