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leadership with Kishshana Palmer

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Nonprofit leaders are always trying to do more with less. There never seems to be enough time in the day or enough resources to handle everything that comes along, but you still have to manage and lead your organization effectively.

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about leadership and management with Kishshana Palmer. Kishshana is an international speaker, trainer, and coach with a 20+ year background in fundraising, marketing, and talent management. When an organization wants to grow, find and retain people on their team, raise money, and more she is the fairy godmother they have on speed dial.

Myths that Kishshana wants us to walk away from:

  • You can do it all. As a leader, you don't need to push yourself until you're exhausted because you think you have to. Invest in the systems and people around you that will allow you to let go of things and focus on what you do best.

  • You don’t have enough time. Understanding how you work, what time of day it is, what fuels you, and where you busy yourself, so you don't have to do your work, this is everything you need to know if you want to regain control of your calendar.

Kishshana’s tips on leadership and management

  • Taking rest and break: We have to rethink the way we approach rest. We need to release what used to work. And now start thinking about what is going to satisfy you in your adult life in this new season.The idea of bringing in play into the work is so important for us to grab those small pieces of reset that we need.

  • You have agency and control: You are the CEO of your responsibilities within the organization, regardless of your title in your organization. Understanding that you're actually in control of a lot more than you might think is critical when navigating the power dynamics within your organization.

  • Leveraging resources. Leveraging tools and systems, developing your people and spending those dollars so that as you continue to grow. As you continue to deepen roots, you'll do so in a way that's healthy, that continues to attract folks who are there for longevity who want to have ties both to their work and ties to the community in a different kind of way, and who are healthy at work.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

Post your favorite quote on social media to share with us!

“Let it be the last year that at 2022, that I utter this foolishness because I want to be in a place where if something were to happen to me or if I just wanted to take a darn break that I have hired capable folks who can take on the work that needs to be done, to be able to move the ball down the field.”

“You are the CEO of your responsibilities within the organization, regardless of your title in your organization. And so being able to come powerfully into that and understand like you're actually in control of a lot more than you might think you are, is really, really critical when you have to navigate the power dynamics within your organization. ”

Resources from this Episode

Kishshana’s LinkedIn

Kishshana's Instagram

The Good Partnership


Cindy W. : So dear listeners, you know that we love to talk about leadership and management and all the things that our sector struggles with when it comes to building and sustaining teams. And I am so excited for today's conversation because we have a superstar guests joining us.

We are going to dive in to what is going on in the sector right now with regards to building teams, attracting teams, keeping them motivated, managing workload, because I know that comes up every single minute of every single day for the people we work with. And so buckle your seat belts, we're going to have fun and dive into the content.

I'm your host, Cindy Wagman and you're listening to The Small Non-profit podcast where we bring you practical and down to earth advice on how to get more done for your small nonprofit. You are going to change world and we're here to help.

So today's guest is Kishshana Palmer and she is a powerhouseuse. Spent many years in the sector and now really focused on leadership and management training. She's a Gallup Clifton Strengths coach which if you haven't done the strength finder exercise, highly recommend, we've done that in our team and it's very insightful and she's also a fellow podcaster, so her podcasts Let's Take This Offline is a must-listen, and I know you love podcasts because you're here with me. So with that Kishshana, welcome to the podcast.

Kishshana P.: Thank you for having me.

Cindy W.: So I feel like this is so overdue. How have you not been on this?

Kishshana P.: I have no idea. And I'm so glad we were able to make it happen. Thank you to the podcast fairies that brought us together.

Cindy W.: Exactly. And let's dive right in because you are in the thick of it. You work with leaders all the time. You are seeing what they're struggling with and like right now dive right in. What are the areas that you see? We're recording this it's late February 2022, what's going on out there.

Kishshana P.: So I think, you know what we're seeing, I saw a post today where someone wrote, I am sick and tired of this year already, and it is only February. And I was like, I get it. And then she was talking about her tooth, but it was so funny because that has literally been the like exasperated sentiment of so many leaders that I talked to. Last year, we were still in this like state of the site. What's going to happen next? What are we going to do? And the indecision for many of us, particularly for those of us who are used to getting up and going to making stuff happen to find a way or making one, just like being out there, pedal to the metal, having this sort of grind type of life because we're focused on the mission and we're focused on impact.

We've had a couple of years, one of my good friends Mazarine Treyz said we're in junior year of the pandemic. And I said you know what? I love that. I said that's exactly right. And so think about when you were in junior year of high school or junior year of college it just felt like the song that would never end.

And then the fun was just on the other side of the horizon, but where is the horizon for us, right. So leaders are grappling with what, I have to be able to function, right? And I'm dealing with the ongoing stress of the unknown or the ever-changing environmental pressure that I had zero control over and a funding landscape that for about five minutes I felt like there was hope that it was going to be clear as Poland Springs, but is now back to the murky lake and your grandma's backyard. Like it's just really not great.

And so there's a lot of uncertainty. And with that uncertainty brings so much frustration because there's still a desire to be able to action your mission. And yet the things that you used to feel like cook or you way you control art. So there's a lot of that angst I feel like they're happening among leaders now at home, but definitely let's addressed the fact that angst is happening.

Cindy W. : Yeah. I felt like we had a moment of hope.

Kishshana P: Oh my God.

Cindy W.: And then Omicron. And then it got, I think the lowest point in the whole pandemic.

Kishshana P. : I agree. I agree. Because then people are not gonna follow your rules no stay no, we're not wiping down boxes. There's all the talk about whether you guys or you don't, it's a whole different podcast. And then every time you turn around somebody else's sick, you're like you're darned if you do and you're darned if you don't. And so it felt like that I'll say like out there in the world, but in, within the walls, whether the virtual walls or the actual walls of your organization, it felt like the same.

Cindy W. : Yep. Yep. And, the same, but so much work, right? Like we thought we were busy before, but I know now it's, it feels and I hear, I literally just gave a keynote, an online conference and everyone's I have no time. I have no time. I have no time. And it's overwhelming to think about how to change, how to adapt when the goalposts keep moving and you're already burnt out, you're already exhausted and it's not just you, everyone around you feels like this. So, how do we deal with this?

Kishshana P. : It's so crazy because I think that one of the things that have been such a change that I had to make in my mind is about the things that I can control. And I remember when I first started talking about management and leadership and time management and wellness and wellbeing, one of the first things that I ended up having to pressure test is the idea that I don't have control over my schedule.

Cindy W.: Tell me, I love this.

Kishshana P.: I used to be like, oh my gosh, my schedule is so crazy like my schedule was a person, they just keep acting up, why are they always so booked? Every time I looked at why what are these 15-minute meetings? And I can't even go to the bathroom, it just felt like it was this unwieldy thing that was happening outside of me like a blob and so I started to test different ways to snatch back control of my schedule.

And I found that it was a little bit more challenging than even I was prepared to take on, and the challenges were not external, they were internal to myself for example, how many executive directors right now, whether you have admin support or not, that you have a four-hour window open on your calendar and instead of blocking the time and said CEO, work time and decided whether you're going to do some work that you've been mean, and you've been putting off or you're going to learn something and take some professional development or hell you just going to go for a walk and read a book and get your with your mind clear, what do we do? We rush to fill it with more stuff.

And then we look up and go, oh my God, I don't even have what, five minutes apiece we were back there. We're always rushed to try to use that. What I found was being able to understand really how you work, what time of day, what fuels you, and then where you busy yourself, so you don't have to do your work. We're like, step one, a, and B. Yes on taking back control of that calendar. What'd you think?

Cindy W.: Oh my goodness. I'm just so here for this conversation because everyone says, I always hear, because I do a lot of work in fundraising. I don't have time to fundraise. It's what are you choosing to spend your time on? We make decisions about our time.

Kishshana P.: Yes.

Cindy W.: And usually we don't know that we're deciding on autopilot, but it's things that feel comfortable or safe or routine. And some, and so we're avoiding the hard things.

Kishshana P.: Exactly. And when I work with my coaching clients, a lot of my coaching one-on-one clients are either CEOs or executive directors or their VPs and they have teams that they manage, whether they're smaller, or big. And one of the first things I have my ongoing coaching clients do is do a time management study. Like it's the time to study and they like. Kishshana, I really don't like you right now, but then I'll get these like random text messages. That'd be like, oh my gosh, I cannot believe I just been 16 hours doing whatever foolish thing they're not supposed to be doing.

Okay. But it crept up on them in 20-minute increments, 35-minute increments in 20, and so to your point, what are you choosing to make time for and getting off the auto conveyor belt? Like we're not in a factory making Twizzlers, we're not the automatic machine that twizzles the Twizzlers

Cindy W.: I want to be in a factory, but okay.

Kishshana P.: You know what I mean? Like I know I used to be obsessed with like how they do that. And some like the candy factories were the best oh my gosh, how did they make that? But just thinking about the fact that there are so many things that we try to automate, but for leaders, particularly in small shops, being ruthless about what you automate versus what you spend your time on is so important.

And so one of the things that I encourage leaders to think about is what tools I use and learn. Hello, learn it. Don't take your weekend friend, but learn it be on YouTube university, Skillshare, whatever you got to do, we all figured out how to zoom. Just fine, like you can do one more thing, but what tools software can you use to semi-automate the stops AB steps, the things that you used to spend all this time doing yourself.

And what will that free your time up to do? And if you just go, even more, let's give it a little more granular. We think about time in terms of time and money. If your hourly wage, just to say this is right $45 an hour. That's how much it is. Okay, fine. Why are you doing $15 an hour tasks and so $45 an hour?

Cindy W : Yes. So that also. Brings me into some of the money mindset and scarcity mindset stuff that we see in the sector a lot, which is yeah, but I'm already paid for my salary is in the budget. I don't have the budget for an assistant or for that hundred dollars a month technology. That's going to save me 10 hours a week.

And, how do you work with your clients who reevaluate that mindset or shifted it? Because there is a sense in my experience with organizations that like the way things have been done is easier, but also there's the sunk cost fallacy that we've already paid for my time.

So let's squeeze as much out of it as humanly or inhumanly possible instead of investing in things that are going to make my life and my job easier. And allow me to focus on some of those other things that I don't want to spend time doing.

Kishshana P.: Oh, it has made me want to throw my shoe, so one of the things that I talk about with clients on money mindset is topless it's a mindset in general. Like I think we come into the sector with this may have more bread please, like attitude about growing our organization, bringing on team members. There's very much the sort of tin cup mentality, if you will, around how we do our work, as opposed to operating from a, we are solving social challenges so that we can do more social good.

And so to be able to do that, we need to be leveraged properly. We need to be resourced appropriately so that we can do great work. And so to an ED that I'm talking to, who came in and with that same attitude or I had to fundraise for my salary. I was like, first of all, where is your board?

So we can have a different compensation. But then the same thing, but about this admin. Okay. Let's do the, so an admin, how much time would it take you? So we went through time studies. That's on the top of my list. So we did a time study for two weeks they're already making a big investment by having a coach.

Okay. I understand that. So they want big returns. I'm like, do you? The big return is yourself, but let, 's hold on before we get there. So after we do this time study, we realize we have about 15 hours of busy work a week that's being done. If I could free up 15 hours of your time at the X dollar amount, it came to several thousand dollars a month. And then we were able to redirect a few hundred dollars a month. To someone who could do the exact same thing. Could you not spend that time raising

Cindy W.: Tenfold easy? Yeah.

Kishshana P.: In that amount of time, so with 60 extra hours of time a month. How many individuals could you be talking to? How much connecting could you be doing? How many of your current donors could you move along? How available would you be for calls and conversations and being able to be out in your community?

So you're making those connections and having a building that connective tissue, right? There's so much that you could be doing to be prospecting, to be cultivated, to be stewarding, to be elevating your brand. In the community with that same amount of time, that's going to yield the dividends of visibility, the dividends of I will say fame, of having a good brand reputation, the dividends of having individuals who want to come and serve alongside you as volunteers, as board members, et cetera, the dividends of having folks who are taking an interest in your organization and want to back your play financially, and the dividends of having folks in your community who were like, you might be small, but you're mighty and they want to serve as team members and they will help you figure it out. That's a mighty 60 hours a week. That's a month.

Cindy W.: Yeah, and also to take a break.

Kishshana P.: I mean, c'mon take a break

Cindy W.: Let's talk about that. I want to come back to this idea of like things you can control and talk about people who are not necessarily in leadership positions, but before we do, I want to talk about the value of space and breaks, because I have experienced this over the past two years where there was nowhere to go. So I'm recording right now, I'm in Palm Springs with business buddies. We're doing a little retreat. This is the first time I've traveled without my kid. I did one trip with my kids on an airplane. This has the holiday season. And then this is this is the first time I've been away from my family in two years.

And we have had no physical space away from people like no quiet time. No, where to go room of one's own or what have you. But then, w and then we've been working crazy hours because there are no barriers between work and life anymore. We're working in the same space where we live. How do we build in breaks?

Kishshana P.: Yeah. So I've learned that the hard way, burnt myself right on out, I was like, how does one who teaches on well-being still manage to quietly, burn yourself out. Fascinating, because there are four. And there was real rest. So for me and people always like you should get rest. I can't actually rest until I have peace. And peace for me means things in my business are running well without me, things in my household, my child, and my momma are running well without me and are taken care of, right. That my money is moving without me. And so I can have stillness and calm moments by myself in my room and the bathroom, et cetera.

We all have had that. If you have the good fortune of having a bathtub, to be able to go and sit in there and just have a little Calgon, take me away moment, but that is not really resting. And so having the opportunity to take to see the rest of the valuable recharge that allows you to come in hot, innovative, creative, focused, and charged up means that things in your life have to have some semblance of being handled. So I think that we charged people out there to sell them, to have rest, get rest. Without recognizing this there might be potential little C or a big C chaos happening in folks' lives, and to draw that back to what you were saying before, in terms of things we can control and evaluating where we're spending our time when we are responsible for everything we're never going to get that sense of peace.

But if you can invest in the systems and the people in the things around you that give you, they give you the ability to let go of things. You find some more of that peace some more of that sense of, okay, I'm not the linchpin, like the world does not revolve around me, which it can feel like our organizations revolve around us, and let's face it.

Some of us love that feeling. Okay. Let's be honest. It's most people just I just need to keep it. Nothing is going to operate. I do not want that feeling anymore. I was like in a year of our Lord, 2023. Let this be the last year that in 2022, I utter this foolishness because I want to be in a place where if something were to happen to me or if I just wanted to take a darn break I have hired capable folks who can take on the work that needs to be done, to be able to move the ball down the field. So to your question about rest, one of the ways that I have been super intentional about building rest into my life is that I start with rest and build backward.

So for me, every. I shut down just for a few days, I have my little four-day weekend and that's my opportunity for stillness. So if I can travel, I'm going to a local spot, the street, I'm turning my phone off. I got my good food deliveries and that's my staycation. I might even Springfield local hotel, okay. If I'm feeling spry and do the same thing, just to give myself a sense of reset. So that's how I think of my rest. So I have those short resets and then a couple of times a year, I have long moments that I just power down. It's scary though. And so when I start with building in that piece, then I can build back from what needs to be true. So that the week before I'm not running around crazed. Trying to get everything done. And by the time you get to your vacation, you're like, you're panting. You're done.

So those have been some helpful things that for me have worked, maybe folks can't travel, excuse me. Or they don't have the means to do those things. And so can, it's been, I think there's, I want to be able to quote the study, but I cannot at this moment, of course, my leaving my mind, but I read recently that, just the act of getting out into nature. And I don't like bugs y'all okay. So I did not want to be with the bees and the trees and the leaves. Okay. But just getting out. So maybe your nature is the beach, sand. You don't have to get into the water.

Cindy W.: This past summer went camping for the first time in my adult life with my kids. Now we were car camping. And I was very specific that it had to be in August after all the crazy bugs. And we went with five other families and we loved it. I loved it. I never, like anyone who knows me would have been like, no, you don't camp, but our phones didn't work. The kids had an unstructured play, but there were other kids around who could play with, and it was amazing. And we're doing it again this summer. We might even buy a tent. Okay.

Kishshana P.: And the reason I'm all for that is that our desire to be in a community to touch and agree is so important. And as before the pandemic, I think one of the things that some of us probably realize in our subconscious mind, but not in our conscious mind, was that we were just going through the motions of community and going through the motions of play and going through the motions of rest and then. For lots of folks, we all went into like hyper mode to stay funded, to stay open, to keep doing our services, to keep our staff employed. And so now being able to touch the ground, not having cell phone service, all of a sudden it's oh, this is a gift.

So we have to rethink the way we approach to rest. And I think to release what used to work. And now start thinking about what is it that's going to satisfy me in my adult life, in this new season. And so for me, one of my big things is play. So I have adult coloring books. I listen, my adult coloring books are hilarious and vulgar and a whole mess. And whenever I'm having a bad day or so long day, like today will be a day where I'll probably pull it out. And today's Wednesday. So Mary, the first. It's going to be on and it's a whole hot mess on the show that in love is blind. All of it, I'm a mess asking. So I'm going to sit down and watch my shows and I would just be coloring and relaxed. And just the idea of just bringing play into the work is so important for us to start to grab those small pieces of reset that we need.

Cindy W.: Yes. Oh my goodness. I am so here for all of this, especially the joy, we just recorded a podcast episode. I can't remember it was going to come out before or after this about finding passion and bringing passion to the work. The whole of the conversation. I do want to spend a little bit of time talking about how, if we're not the boss, yes. How we can still do this, I hear from so many people that it's yeah, but my boss has these expectations, or, I'm not the one who sets my schedule or when I'm asked to join the meeting, I can't say no.

If we're not the like CEO executive director position, how do we step into making these changes? In a way that works.

Kishshana P.: Yeah. So there are a couple of things, so different strokes for different folks. You also, they buy some giving you as a word of wisdom. It has worked for many teams that I have coached and counseled, but you have to adapt it to your personality and level of comfort.

So one of the things I will say is that you've got to be able to name a thing. We are adults. And so I think what I see, I don't think what I see when I go into workplaces. When I hear that there's a dynamic of power that puts you in a mom, child, or a dad, child position, or teacher, child, as opposed to where two adults who have different levels of experience and exposure and access. But you're a sovereign person. You are an entity onto yourself. And to be able to exercise agency happens in small ways and big ways, for example, in which your scheduled meetings get scheduled all the time. And I don't have any control. Yes, you do. So in your next one-on-one with your manager, you get to say simple things like, hi, I just want to name that when I'm setting out my week, I want to do a great job. And I understand that we have competing priorities that happen all the time. But for the last six meetings that I have been, that's been dropped on my calendar last minute, I have neither had time to plan and be appropriately prepared nor I had time to digest the information after to be able to act and respond in a way that's going to put us powerfully in a position to exercise and action, our goals.

So I'd love to be able to think through with you how we can make it so that I'm able to be nimble when necessary, but that my job doesn't feel like, one giant episode of a Seesaw, or whatever word you would use, you got to give people a visual. So they in their minds understand what it is, you're trying to say.

You can say that as an assistant, I've had my junior team members say to me, Hey man, a lot is going on. The media was at nine anatomies at 11. So what I started to do as a manager. So this is a conversation that, one of my subordinates is happening with me. So as a manager, she requested that I map out for them for the week, just as just a headline. Here's what we got going on this week. Cause they don't always know what's happening on my calendar. So I started to do daily or weekly digests on Mondays. Hey team, it's Monday, this is what's on deck for the week. We got this man. They could see my account. Let's be clear, but they got this many speaking engagements.

We have this many business development calls. This one is doing this. This one is out. So let's make sure that, this week that we're operating appropriately. Does anyone have anything that they cannot move because you're paying for it or are you just keeping a commitment to yourself? Cause I held for me and my team is very important and folks started to respond.

So going to your manager with a challenge without going to your manager without potential solutions in my book, I might be old school in that way. It's a no-no. So that's a small way to be able to say here's a challenge that I continue to see and our naming, that this is a challenge. And also that I want to be able to in real-time, just problem, problems solve with you on how to get the result you want, without it feeling like I don't have any control over my work. So that's one way. What do you think about that so far?

Cindy W.: I love that also you may even be giving your manager a gift because if you're saying like, do we need to have that meeting? Or can we figure out a way to check in on this and save me time, but save you time.

Kishshana P.: Yes.

Cindy W.: I love when people cancel meetings on my calendar. I'm like, thank you

Kishshana P.: Thank you. And good night. Yeah. And I started doing as many years ago. I think he used to think I was being rude, but I don't, I hate writing emails and I'm doing the thing. I was a little lazy, but I love a video. And so from the very first thing was the music was like BombBomb or?

Yeah, I don't remember what software came up. I was six or seven years ago. All right. When I was transitioning out of full-time work into full-time consulting and I was in videos, I do it all the time. Now, like my clients get responses from me, I get an inquiry and I'm like, oh, this is going to be a five paragraph email, but it's a 62nd video, and just being able to be responsive. And also if you find that your manager is hijacking your time all the time, suggest a new way of working. So a lot of times it's because managers don't have comms norms, communication norms that they themselves are beholden to. So you were in a really great position as a team member to suggest the norms that you think will make to your point, make the manager's life easier, but hello, make your life easier.

Cindy W. : Yeah. Just as an aside. So they've, I love video as well. And oftentimes, and this is a trick again, if you're in the position where you need to train your manager on somethings, having been the person in the past where everyone is like, where's this where's that instead of just doing it for them, take a video.

I use loom where to find the information. Don't answer it. Say walk through step-by-step okay. Go to this folder. Here's the file thing, blah, blah, blah. There's your information. And the email that goes with this super simple.

Kishshana P. : Hey, I made a quick video for you showing you where to find it just in case I'm not around the next time when you need something. It's 90 seconds. Just click it right here and you'll find it. Folks love it. Love it. And guess what it also creates for your organization? It's particularly beneficial for small organizations, standard operating procedures. You are building a video library of the, how to the where to find, the who done it, of how your particular organization works. And if that is not managing up, I don't know what it is.