The Whisper of Change

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doing, doing, and more doing?

Everythings good. You’re happy. The team is happy. And your board is awesome.

Life is not boring. You wake up everyday grateful for the priveledge of living the “exciting Christian life”. 

When suddenly, nawing relentless questions begin to dance in your mind. Untitled design

Questions such as:

“Am I really doing what I am supposed to be doing?”

“As the leader, am I focusing on doing the right things for my organization?”

“Why is there an unease in my spirit?”

Every leader faces these questions from time to time.

If you are a visionary leader, this is especially important for you because you’re all about growing your organization. Change does not feel threatening to you. You gladly embrace the challenges of change head on.

I’ve learned (both personally and from my clients) that when this happens it generally means one of four things.

First, God has a completely new direction for me to take which means serious far-reaching changes.

Second, my organization has moved into another level on the corporate life cycle and I didn’t catch the signs that this was happening.  (Hmmm… perhaps I didn’t see the signs because I was so busy ‘doing’). Now,  I need to stop and assess what’s not working so I can put energy and resources into what is working.

Third, I need to determine if our firm’s activities continue to align with our brand, goals and mission.

Or fourth, it’s time to focus on expanding or adding new services.

Should you someday find these or similar questions tip-toeing through you mind, consider if one of the top four possiblities could be at play.

* Are you feeling that you’re so deep into your organization’s forest that you cannot clearly see the trees? Click on the “Coach” tab above and ask for a free 30-minute consultation.

Honesty, An Important Crisis Communication Principle

blog post 4When a crisis first hits your organization, always refer to your emergency policies and procedures that should be in place.

Keep in mind that eighty percent of your crisis communications procedures should work in most cases. But the fact is that few procedures will be right for every situation when dealing with a crisis.

Crisis has the ability to take on an energy of its own that can force leaders to change direction or even add another action.

Don’t wait. Create communicaton response statements and take action as quickly as possible.

Implement both internal and public responses.

If your organization messed up, admit it. Own your mistakes and tell the truth. No blaming or making excuses.

Summary: In a crisis, take communication action quickly.  Control the narrative. Always be honest. 

You’re Not That Powerful

blown Gods plan

Identifying & Understanding The Problem

In my last blog post, I shared how it’s been my experience that most leaders who are facing an internal or external conflict experience degreees of ‘denial’ before they have the brain power to tackle identifying and understanding what is happening.

While ‘denial’ is common, it should not last more than one or two days because, the longer a leader lingers in the denial stage the more momentum the crisis picks up.

Crisis should always be mitigated as soon as possible.

Okay, assuming that you’ve pushed through the disabling ‘denial’ stage, you’re now ready to focus on Step #1 which is identifying and understanding what is happening.


First, a basic leadership principle is the bigger the stress or crisis, the more the leader must lead through being present, communication, and never letting their emotions drive the response.

While no one can control how they feel, you can control what you do, what you say, and the tone in which you communicate.

Never let negative emotions (anger, fear, frustration, etc.) be the driving force by which you deal with a crisis. (Be angry and sin not)

Below are some actions that I recommend for this step:

– Very Important: Secure a consultant who specializes in crisis management and communication strategies and who understands your organization’s work. Most leaders are too close to the situation and will benefit from someone outside of the situation. Everyone needs a coach once in a while.

– Remember that everything that you write or say can be used against you.

– I recommend that communication via email ceases so as to reduce liability and other risks. Emails can be subpeoned, forwarded without your permission, and are not secure.

– Determine who is at the heart of the crisis and who are being sucked into the drama.

– Identify your stakeholders. These are people who will be impacted by the crisis. (e.g., staff, volunteers, board, donors, churches, public at large)

– Collect all evidence related to the crisis. (e.g., letters, documents, notes)

– Talk to everyone who can help you understand the issues. Keep an open mind.

– Make sure that you follow any policies that apply to this situation (e.g. personnel manual, crisis management policies). There is legal protection in policies.

– Distribute your conflict resolution policy to all staff and volunteers. I’ve found that having an all staff meeting to go over this policy is beneficial so that everyone knows the rules and the leader’s expectations.

– Stay in constant communication with your board of directors.

Next post I’ll introduce Step #2 which covers some principles for crisis communication strategies.

When a Public Relations Crisis Hits Your Organization

I have over 1,200 organizations that I call my primary customers or clients. There are several aspects in which I serve them, but among my favorites is in the area of strategic alignment and risk avoidance. I have a passion for teaching principles regarding what to do in advance to avoid as much as possible internal or external crises.

But even the finest risk avoidance techniques may not divert all crises. I have witnessed many times that people will behave like people and cause a crisis for even the best prepared of organizations. Then my consulting work must turn to advising them on how to navigate through their predicament.

The good news for me is that I’ve discovered I actually enjoy working in the world of crisis management and I seem to have a God-given gift for it.

I’m not sure what this says about my personality. After all, who likes dealing with conflict and drama?

But I feel so blessed to be a part of helping organizations in crisis to successfully navigate the perils of an internal or external crisis and watch their leaders emerge stronger than ever as they do the right thing and trust God for the outcomes.

Having assisting hundreds of organizations as they deal with various types of crises, I have concluded that there are actions that need to be taken anytime crisis thumps an organization.

I use a two-step process when helping leaders survive and thrive during an internal or external crisis.

  1. Identify and understand the crisis.
  2. Develop and implement crisis management and communication strategies.

In this post, I will address something that needs to be done before you can take the first step of identifying and understanding the crisis.

You see, there are two primal responses that will fight for dominance anytime calamity first arises. 

These primal responses are denial and the brain’s demand for facts, proof, data, and clarity.  

Denial.  It’s a defense mechanism that comes with being sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

We’ve all slipped into denial at some point. Sometimes it becomes a comforting retreat when we are faced with what feels like an impossible situation. Untitled design (2)

While it’s a natural response, leaders must deal with it. You cannot allow it to linger or control you.

When an organizational crisis hits, denial whispers in your mind, “this cannot be happening” and butts heads with the primal brain which demands, “give me proof, evidence, data, and clarity.”

Mental health experts tell us that denial is the first step in the grieving process when someone has lost a loved one.

I have found that in the same way, denial is the first emotion most leaders face when a crisis hits their organization.

No one has complete control over their emotions when a real threatening crisis emerges.

But it’s virtually impossible for your brain to correctly identify and understand what is happening while you are caught up in the denial stage.

So, what do you do?

You apply the scriptural principle of “be angry, and sin not” and acknowledge your emotions, but you do not let them drive your actions. To do so would likely place you on the path of failure rather than success.

Dr. Phil McGraw discusses in his book Life Strategies the life principle, “You cannot change what you do not acknowledge”.

Acknowledgment is a no-nonsense, unvarnished, bottom-line confrontation with what is happening.

Most crisis situations require speedy responses from the organization’s leaders. The luxury of expending volumes of time pondering the best response to a public relations or internal crisis is rarely afforded organizations.

Life rewards actions. Moving quickly beyond the denial stage can be life or death to an organization.

Therefore, ignore the denial emotions that are screaming for your full attention and focus on giving the primal brain what it is demanding – reliable, honest, and tangible information so that you can identify what is really happening and create a powerful response.


The first thing to do when hit with a crisis is to conquer denial so that you can move to the next step of identifying the crisis and implementing crisis management strategies.

I’ll share about identifying the crisis in the next post.

An Ounce of Prevention Really Is Worth A Pound of Cure

When is the best time to prepare for a worse-case scenario in your organization?

You got it…before it happens.


During a board consultation, I pointed out an organizational risk. I explained the problem and provided the solution.

While it was one of ‘those things’ that wasn’t a problem until it becomes a problem, it was also one of ‘those things’ that if it becomes a problem it becomes a very bad problem.

The board ignored my recommendation and said, “it has never been a problem before so why worry about it now”.

Six-months later the organization’s executive director called me and said, “Hi Beth. You know that thing that you said we needed to fix, and we didn’t? Well, it happened. Can you help?”

Me, “Of course I will help. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

Fast forward to today.

The financial cost to deal with the problem was over $32,000.

Cost to the organization’s public trust, unmeasurable.

It is far less stressful, expensive, and damaging to an organization to eliminate a risk than it is to ignore it.

A Conflict Resolution Model

I love the Thomas-Kilmann conflict resolution model. I use these principles personally and in my performance coaching work. I share these principles with my clients who come to me for general leadership coaching and those who must deal with organizational or relationship conflict issues — which are just about everyone I work with at one time or another.

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Any of the Thomas-Kilmann options may be appropriate for a situation of conflict. I have found that following Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on the wise, foolish and evil person is also very helpful when determining which of the five options would work best.

Here Are The Thomas-Kilmann 5 Options When Dealing with Conflict Resolution

1. Competing. The Competing option is at the top left of the model which means you take a wholly assertive and uncooperative approach to resolving the conflict. It means standing up for your rights, defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to beat the other side.

2. Accommodating. The Accommodating option is at the bottom right of the model which means you take a wholly unassertive and co-operative approach. This might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, giving in to another person’s orders when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.

3. Avoiding. The Avoiding option is at the bottom left of the model which means you take an unassertive and uncooperative approach to the conflict and don’t deal with it. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

4. Compromising. The Compromising option is at the center of the model because it is both assertive and co-operative but only to some extent. It’s the approach of “half a sixpence is better than none”. Both sides get something but not everything. It might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, some give and take, or seeking a quick solution in the middle ground.

5. Collaborating. The Collaborating option is at the top right of the model and is at the opposite extreme of avoiding. It means being willing to believe that when two parties are at loggerheads, it is possible for both sides to come out with what they want. Collabor

ating requires developed conflict resolution skills based on mutual respect, a willingness to listen to others, and creativity in finding solutions.

 For more information about the Thomas-Kilmann model click here.

P.S. If you are dealing with conflict (personally or professionally) please fill out the contact form below and Beth will reach out to you.


My First Book Is Published

UNFire FB page

My first book, Underground Fire, was published this summer. One thing I learned during this process is that the most comfortable part was writing the book.  I just do not have the patience for dealing with a massive amount of details. (And it appears that my patience with particulars is becoming worse – not better – as I get older.)

Therefore, my most significant learning curve with this book was about the new industry language that publishers had to know and all of the steps upon steps that self-publishing requires.

Nevertheless, the day Underground Fire was officially published on Amazon and on other book distributions, I felt such incredible joy because I knew I was supposed to write this book. I felt compelled to put into writing my experience of helping over 100 leaders of faith-based organizations to survive organizational meltdowns.

Already, leaders from all across the nation are contacting me saying how much they saw themselves in the pages of Underground Fire and how they no longer felt alone in their experience.   If you are a leader of a faith-based organization or if you know someone who is Underground Fire is a must read.

My prayer is that when every leader reads this book, they will find within its pages the answers, encouragement, and strength to prevent, identify and survive an internal organizational meltdown.

You will find Underground Fire at in Kindle and print formats. And I would love to hear from you after you’ve read it!

Finding Relief From Living in Compassion Fatigue

Question:  I am an executive director of a mid-sized nonprofit organization. For the last couple of months, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I dread going into the office in the morning. The other day, I found myself sitting in my car that was parked in my office parking lot trying to rustle up enough energy to go into the building.  I’m not sleeping well because my mind is racing with everything that I need to do.  I feel sad all the time now and struggle with bouts of crying and even small panic attacks.

Answer:  It appears that you are describing symptoms of leadership burn-out. Unfortunately, I see this most often in leaders who are hard-wired to be result oriented, high-performers who do not have the right people in the right places doing the right things, chronic board problems or an organizational underground fire.

In my 22 years of executive coaching, I’ve observed that there are three stages of leadership stress that may ultimately result in stress related illnesses and, sadly, even resignation if something does not change.


I have found that unresolved long-term feelings of being overloaded at work is a recipe for compassion fatigue and it’s generally just a matter of time before unresolved compassion fatigue turns into burnout.  Therefore, anyone who is striving to be healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, etc.) should be on guard for the slipper slop into burnout.

According to my experience, this is how the stages generally flow.

Self care plan

FIRST STAGE: Overload 

Description: This stage generally is the “frog in the hot water” scenario. It can catch almost everyone off guard if they do not understand the indicators of organizational overload and make the right adjustments.

Below are common events or situations that may cause you to feel overloaded at work. Feeling overloaded does not have a strong negative impact on your life unless you continue to experience three or more of the situations listed below.

How You May Feel

  • You still love the work you’re doing but feeling the need to take a short break or a few mental health days.
  • You’re tired a lot
  • It’s a little more difficult to get up in the morning
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed by the afternoon.
  • You find yourself needing (more than usual amount) caffeine in the afternoon.
  • You’re struggling with getting and remaining organized. Paper work is piling up.
  • Sometimes you don’t know where to begin.
  • Everything is slowly moving into the “urgent” category.
  • You’re feeling like you are taking one step forward and two steps backward.

Possible Causes of Overload

Below are common situations that may cause you to feel overloaded at work. Short term feeling overloaded does not always have a strong negative impact on your life unless you continue to experience three or more of the situations listed below for more than three monthgs

  • A large or long-term project that require many extra hours, focus and energy in addition to your current work.
  • Launching a new major program.
  • Opening a new facility.
  • Manageable internal organizational crisis.
  • Inadequate infrastructure.
  • Not having the right people in the right places doing the right things.
  • Organization is moving into another level on the corporate life cycle.
  • Lack of relevance and/or clarity in job descriptions and supervisor expectations.
  • Operational systems have not been updated and are not working like they used to.
  • Staff is complaining about not know what is going on within the organization.
  • Board decisions are taking too long.
  • Executive director feels like the board is starting to micromanage them.
  • Team meetings focus more on urgent problem solving than moving the organization forward.
  • It’s taking longer and longer to get things done.
  • Staff is beginning is complain more often.
  • Important leadership time is being consumed with executive administration details.
  • Big picture strategic plans on hold.
  • When you leave the office to go home you feel like you took three steps forward and two steps backward. Nothing is getting done as efficiently as it could.
  • A large or long-term project that require many extra hours, focus and energy in addition to your current work.
  • Launching a new major program.
  • The vision has out-grown the infrastructure.
  • The organization is moving through the “doing things right” stage on the corporate life cycle.
  • Job descriptions need updating.
  • The organization needs a governing board rather than a managing board.

Possible Solutions:  If you are an executive of a nonprofit organization and you relate to three or more of any of the above bullets, do not wait for things to get worse before doing something.

SECOND STAGE: Compassion Fatigue 

  • Possible Causes
    • A long-term project (over 6 months).
    • Back to back long-term projects without recover time in between.
    • An increase in job demands without the right tools to get things done in a timely manner or with excellence.
    • Lack of clarity in job descriptions and supervisor expectations becomes more of a problem.
    • Staff appears unhappy overall.
    • Staff is having interpersonal conflicts.
    • Dealing with the same stress factors over and over without a solution.How you may feel
  • How you may feel
    • Never enough time to get things done.
    • Isolated from others – no one understands the pressure you are under.
    • Impatient with yourself and others. Cranky
    • You are becoming less enthusiastic about going into the center while still caring about the staff, clients and mission of the organization.
    • You are feeling very tired, even fatigued, by mid-afternoon.
    • You are not enjoying your work like you used to.
    • Find yourself questioning if you are the right person for the leadership or management position.
    • Problems with the mind racing at night – cannot turn it off to sleep.


  • Causes
    • Chronic stress over one issue that goes on and on with no solution.
    • Extreme disloyalty within organization
    • Board conflicts
    • Working in outside areas of strength for an extended amount of time
    • Not having and/or implementing a self-care plan
  • Symptoms
    • Having difficulty sleeping
    • Sleeping less than five hours
    • Sleeping a lot
    • Crying or easily tearing-up
    • Panic attacks
    • Physical manifestations that are connected with stress
    • Headaches
    • Sore muscles
    • Cortisol levels too high or too low
    • Serious difficulty focusing
    • Loss of initiative, creativity, imagination
    • Strong feelings of either fight or flight
    • Want to get in the car and drive away
    • Friends/spouse/relatives (people who know you and care about you) expresses concern
    • A few days off does not help


Get some coaching that can help you identify the real issues and provide gentle accountability.

Create a self-care plan and stick to it.


Bullies On Board?

By Craig Chase
President, Chase Advancement Inc.
Certified Governance Trainer

I want to address an issue that, thankfully, I only occasionally find while teaching and consulting with hundreds of boards of directors.

My concern is that these situations, however infrequently I may have observed them, bring great risk to the board members and rarely, if ever, do they seem to perceive it as being risky at all.

When most board members think of risk or liability or being sued, they are usually worried about mishandling or wasting donated money, messing up with the IRS, breaking some law they are not aware of, medical malpractice law suits or a personnel law suit such as wrongful termination.

But here’s what needs to be understood about these potential threats.  First of all, the vast majority of board members are concerned about and aware of these threats so they protect the organization with effective policies as well as adequate systems so mistakes are greatly reduced.  Then, as a second layer of protection, good insurance is put in place, just in case.  And if all else fails, board members are protected by their organization’s corporate veil from being exposed to a law suit against them personally.

So, if you are a board member, sleep at night.  No need to fear.  If you behave yourselves and follow the rules and the laws and always do what is in the best interest of the organization, you will be fine.

It is rare for board members of non-profits in general to be personally sued and extremely rare.


With that said, however, there have been a few times in my career where I have witnessed situations on boards that have greatly concerned me because, in my opinion, board members had high exposure to personal liability.

This dangerous situation is legally defined as:

The domination and control of the corporation by one or two parties to the extent that it becomes their alter-ego

Put another way, any time you have a board of six, eight, twelve people that is being run by one person, or even two people, to the extent that all the other board members pretty much vote the way the “leader” wants, you have a very dangerous set-up.

The actions of such a board are in direct opposition to the very purpose of the board.  When populated with people of various backgrounds, training, experience, occupations, knowledge, etc., who speak their mind at meetings and are willing to listen to other board members share their opinions and perspectives, a well-run board of directors brings a huge amount of safety to a non-profit organization.

Taking that a step further, it is extremely difficult for a well-run, Spirit-led, Christian non-profit board of directors to commit serious mistakes.  If each board member is doing their job, the Holy Spirit will ensure that someone will see the error if there is one.

But much of that safety and the Spirit’s leading goes out the window when one person becomes the “boss” and pretty much makes all the decisions.  Oh sure, the rest of the board votes on things, but the vote is just a rubber stamp on the decision the “boss” has already made.

No matter how wonderful, experienced, gifted, smart, educated, etc. “God’s-gift-to-the-board” may be, this bully is not always going to be right nor have God’s mind on things.  At any given board meeting on any given subject, any given board member may be given God’s insight on an issue before the board.  A well-run, Spirit-lead board understands that and would never allow one person to make all the decisions for the board.

Therefore, allowing someone to dominate and control the board dissolves the built-in safety that the concept of a board affords and can also thwart the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead.

But, it gets worse.

Board members of non-profit corporations enjoy an awesome protection called the Corporate Veil.  The Corporate Veil is a strong, legal wall of separation between the corporation’s debts and obligations and the board members, meaning, board members cannot be sued regarding a debt or obligation that the corporation is unable to satisfy.

Any non-profit board of directors is protected by the Corporate Veil.  That protection is iron-clad unless there is misbehavior by the board and a classic misdeed that could lead to the loss of the Corporate Veil is:

The domination and control of the corporation by one or two parties to the extent that it becomes their alter-ego

In the wake of a court’s decision to Pierce the Corporate Veil, each member of a board, no longer having the protection of the Corporate Veil, would be open to law suit by the entity who brought the original suit.

Although having their corporate veil pierced is not a common occurrence for most pregnancy center boards of directors, avoiding such a disaster should be a high priority for any member of a board.


In working with nonprofit organizations, I have seen two instances where I have either observed this issue occurring or the potential for such.

It has usually either been the situation where the founder of the organization is still very much in charge or a board chairman that misunderstands his/her role.

When it comes to founders, I get it.  I do.  They started this organization, been with it in good times and bad, praying for it without ceasing.  They love it like a child.  No one could ever care for it like they do.  They have nurtured this baby for 30 years and now sit on a board of people that have only been around for one or two years.  They really believe they know better than these newcomers what is best for their baby.

But the reality is usually quite different.  Often, they still run the organization like they did 30 years ago in spite of how different the world is today.  And regardless of how much they may know, they don’t know everything and definitely don’t possess the only hotline to the mind of the Holy Spirit.

Founder or not, they are still putting the organization and each individual board member at risk when they are guilty of domination and control..

And in situations when board chairmen are the concern, I find it almost always stems from a misunderstanding of their job description.

Sometimes I find that they think they are the boss of the board and in other cases they think they are the boss of the whole organization. In either instance, they are in error.

As far as running the organization, that is the role of the executive.  Whether the title is center director, executive director or chief executive officer, that is the leader who oversees the organization.

It is neither wise nor does it work well to have the board chairman run the organization or assume the position of the direct supervisor of the executive.  By far the best practice is for the entire board as one to supervise the executive.  Individual board members should never give directives to the executive—that includes the board chairman.

And when it comes to the role of the board chair on the board, it is best regarded as being that of a servant leader.  The main goal of the chair is to create a positive culture amongst the members and an atmosphere at board meetings where good decisions will flow naturally from the board members.  This means monitoring the meetings to ensure everyone is respected, appreciated and valued.  The chair strikes a balance between making sure everyone is heard while also keeping things moving.

In truth, great board chairmen of well-run boards of directors testify that they rarely find the need to express their own opinions, thoughts and desires because they are that skilled at drawing what they need from their board members.  These humble servant-leader board chairmen understand that it is far more valuable to hear from their board members then that the members hear from them.

Founders and board chairmen are in a position to be used by God to bring immeasurable blessing to a pregnancy center organizations, but when they dominate and control, not only is there no blessing, but the risk meter is vibrating off the wall.

Therefore, before I go any further, I want to be as clear as artic air.  If you are behaving like a board bully, STOP IT!!  You are exposing everyone to great risk.


Now that we are all clear on that, I am going to flip this whole subject on its head for just a moment and view it from another angle.

As tough as this article may seem to be on self-inaugurated “leaders”, “bosses”, and “bullies” that dominate and control and expose everyone to increased risk, they are not the only ones at fault.  They are at most 50% of the problem.

You see, the only people that can be bullied are those that allow themselves to be bullied.  For every board chair or founder guilty of domination and control, there is an entire board allowing it to happen when all the while they have the power, and the duty, to stop it.

When this is happening on a board, we are talking about a problem board, not just a problem individual. We are also talking about a high level of risk that this problem board is exposed to, equally.

I can almost guarantee you that anyone who is on such a problem board, reading this right now, is thinking, “Is it my place to stand up to this person and shut this problem down?  She’s the founder.  He’s the board chair.  Do I have the authority?”

Simply put, you never, ever want to be in a position of responsibility with no authority.  And in this case, you are not.  Just as you are absolutely responsible as a board member, you absolutely have the authority to rein this person in and put an end to all this acting out.  If not you, then who?

So once again, I will be as clear as I can be.  If you are allowing anyone to bully your board, STOP IT!!  You are exposing everyone to great risk.


In an effort to conclude on a positive note, I offer a final thought.

I think in some ways the bullies that dominate and control are like children pushing their limits.  Children that are emotionally healthy have usually been given well defined limits by their wise parents.  Though they may not know it yet, these limited children with clear boundaries are also happy children.  They are happy, secure and loved within those boundaries.

And keep in mind that these boundary testers are quite often the very people that end up accomplishing amazing things—even things that everyone thought impossible. The very same God-given wiring that literally causes them to continually push against their parent’s boundaries is what will someday motivate them to never give up, never take “no” for an answer until they achieve greatness.

I think in the same way, it is the loving thing to reel in board bullies and give them clear, consistent boundaries.  Although we’ve seen the rare occasion when the bully is not a good fit for the organization and just needs to go, usually these are not bad people at all.  They are often very gifted and beneficial to the organization.

It is entirely possible that God has placed this very “bully” on the board to be molded and guided, even mentored by a wise board into the leader the organization needs to move to the next level.

If your board has a bully, pray for your bully and give clear boundaries.  It is actually possible to morph this from being a risky situation to one of blessing.

Craig Chase may be reached at 509-886-4894 or