Thoughts

Getting it Done > Your Title

I’ve mused on the idea of “getting it done.” Go with me now please on another journey: worry about getting it done… not your title.

SillyWalks

Friends, Romans, countrymen… in the grand scheme of things, your title is insignificant. As nonprofiteers, the identifier on our business cards should be infinitely less important than the work we do — unless you are the Minister and your business is Silly Walks — though nevertheless, often the opposite is true.

For me, this idea became obvious just about three years ago. At that point, I had spent over a decade building up my experience and titles — coordinator to manager to program director to director — and then, shifting careers, overnight I again became a manager. Only then did it really begin to gel for me: my work was simply more important than what followed my name in my e-mail signature. [Note: this was around the same time I realized I was not seasoned]

Look, I won’t begrudge anyone for being proud of their accomplishments. If you’ve put in the time and energy, and have ascended to a certain position which carries a certain title, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. #CelebrateSuccess, or whatever. But your title isn’t the whole of your job, so #chill with the self-aggrandizement. “Leadership” titles are important, as they identify achievements, tenure and hierarchy. Though at the end of the day, they really don’t mean much — if there are 1,400 Assistant Directors of Silly Walks at an organization, what does that even mean?

Another way to look at this is considering personal aspirations. By this, I suggest, the trajectory of one’s career shouldn’t necessarily be tied to ascending titles. I’ve taken a particular path which came with marginal title bumps, though now (as an associate director) in many ways I’m having a far more meaningful experience than I ever did with “higher” titles.

If it’s not clear, this is something that really bugs me. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even ask new acquaintances about their work or titles. At the end of the day, I believe titles say more about what people think about themselves rather than anything else. Instead, I prefer icebreakers like “[So and so], what’s your passion?” I like how this throws people off, and gets them a little off their high horse.

So next time this idea of titles presents itself as a potential topic of discussion, just remember:

NoBody

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Rants

Get it Done > Getting Credit

I have a multi-faceted philosophy on work, which often begins with: worry about getting it done. One of those facets, specifically, goes: worry about getting it done… not who gets the credit.

I grew up with a relatively no-nonsense approach to work. If something needs doing, you do it. No big fuss, no big reward. It was therefore strange entering nonprofits ~15 years ago, where I continue to find myriad colleagues who require great recognition for tasks big or small. [If you have 2 minutes, this video paints a clarifying picture.]

I’m getting at the concept of humility. In my short career, I’ve spanned public programs to administration to fundraising, and I’ve done those things at cultural institutions, universities and beyond. At the end of the day, I’ve often found colleagues — irrespective of the sector — unable turn on a dang light switch without exorbitant self-aggrandizement, either in person or on social media. More on that, here.

i-am-amazing-e5lm5l

This also speaks to the idea of “me” instead of “we” — or “I” instead of “our.” As in many fields, much of our work as nonprofiteers does not happen in a vacuum, and fewer things get under my skin more than people taking singular credit for joint efforts. I don’t care if it’s something big like your organization’s 5k run-walk or annual luncheon, or something simpler like cleaning up a database — if you’re in it for yourself, my feeling is you’re generally in the wrong industry.

Maybe this kind of behavior is inherent. Or maybe you learned it, working for a few bosses who always stole the thunder you deserved. Either way, it’s a disappointing characteristic, and for the savvy among us, it’s totally obvious. When people tell me tales of how they individually accomplish something, I respond with inquiries about the micro-steps of which I know, for sure, they were not part. I’m passive-aggressive AF, and there’s only a “me” in “team” if you rearrange the word. Even then, it would spell “at me,” and if you take unwarranted credit, I will come at you, bro.

come at me

So next time your nonprofit — which is staffed by what? people — does something totally stellar, make sure you take a look around and consider the fine folks who helped bring the thing to fruition.

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