What’s Your Worry?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 19th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As a capacity-builder, it’s not surprising that a recent blog post caught my attention with the headline, “Why Capacity Needs as Much Attention as Output.”  It further intrigued me when the author chose Enron as a classic example of a company that focused on output without proper attention to capacity. Clicking on the post’s link took me to another headline:   “What Worries You the Most that is Not Getting Enough Attention?”

I immediately thought of Steven Covey’s quadrant 2:  important but not urgent.  I’ve always thought that that labeling was quite risky:  put something important off long enough, it becomes urgent—if not, “Oops! Too late, there goes the house.” In fact, if something is important, doesn’t that carry a sense of urgency by simple virtue of being identified as important? If so, then why put it off?

Which brings us back to the headline:  what is your greatest worry that isn’t getting the attention it not only deserves, but downright needs?  If you remember your logic, this is a both a worry and the demand for attention.

Right now, few, if any, of us are short on worries. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we know, deep down, that not all worries are equal. Some are greater than others, many are more deserving than others. So, what is your greatest worry right now that isn’t getting the attention it deserves? Ignoring it, pushing it further back in the queue, just wastes time that should be spent on addressing that worry.  

I am often struck by how little time leaders give themselves to actually sit back and think. Somewhere along the way, our society equated movement with being busy, and stillness with being lazy. And while I am told it is true that many people do their best thinking when they are running, I also know that many others need the peace and calm of stillness in order to think, especially when it involves deep issues. 

Sadly, when I am caught sitting still in my office, seemingly staring off into space or at my desk, people stop to ask if everything is okay.  No one asks me that when I am moving, typing, talking on the phone.  Yet none of those activities may correlate with any productivity of great depth or meaning. 

As I was writing this post, which co-mingled with the other activities of my day, I was drawn to some very sobering numbers from a study done by the Charities Aid Foundation of America. A comparatively small sample of 414 organizations working nationally and globally were surveyed between May 28 and June 3. One-third of those surveyed said they will likely close their doors within the next 12 months. Almost another third (31.9%) said they don’t know how long they can hang on, and 7.5% have already closed.

While there is no doubt that the pandemic has adversely effected most nonprofits (this study found that nine in 10 nonprofits said they’d been negatively impacted), I cannot help but think that in the months (or likely years) preceding the pandemic that the 7.5% that have already closed had failed to pay attention to the worries they knew weren’t being pulled into the spotlight.

If ever there was a time to listen to that nagging unease—whether it happens in your gut or in your brain—this is it.

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.