CCMU recently held its annual staff retreat over a period of three full days. It was as intense as it sounds. The days consisted of relationship building with both staff and board members, a reflection on what we accomplished in 2016, and strategic planning for the upcoming year. Although there were plenty of spirited discussions and huge progress made on future goals of the organization, the part of the retreat that resonated most with me occurred during an appreciative inquiry storytelling activity on the first day. Broadly, the activity encouraged us to take a positive perspective on our work and reflect on what is going well instead of trying to problem solve what isn’t.
We paired off and were asked to speak about a time when we were most energized and inspired in our work. One staff member would start, while the other listened deeply—only jumping in with questions that could help discover the untold details of the story. The activity not only allowed me the opportunity to hear what inspires my coworker, but also forced me to reflect on the inspirations behind my own work. The activity was simple but the outcome was rewarding. I’ve been reflecting on what I learned from my peers, and I think it’s important that we continue to take the opportunity to do this more often. In the nonprofit world, where it’s easy to become consumed by your work, it becomes even easier to feel disconnected from other staff and forget why we came to do this work.
Earlier this year, Joe wrote about the high percentage of burnout among nonprofit professionals. We want to do what we can to avoid burnout, like maintaining a healthy work-life balance, but we should also make more of an effort within our own workplace to really learn about the passion that drives us to do the work, because it’s the fire that ignites our work and helps us reach our mission.
I had the opportunity to learn about my colleagues’ stories; our paths varied greatly but the destination was the same—CCMU. We are all passionate about the work that we do and we truly believe in the mission of our organization. As the year comes to a close, I encourage everyone to take the time to reflect on what inspires you—and reignite that fire! You’ll be glad you did.
The staff retreat was only the fourth time in five months where we had all of our staff in the same room. We are all caught up with our busy schedules, and sometimes, it’s necessary to press pause and reflect. As we continue to grow as an organization, it’ll be important for us to stay connected to our shared passion. When we’re clear about what drives us as an individual and as a team, our work is stronger.