Michelle A. Taylor leads UWDE, one of the state’s largest nonprofit community impact organizations. She is also chief steward of the United Way brand in Salem County, N.J. Taylor is UWDE’s primary representative in the community and leads implementation of organization’s strategies to improve outcomes in third-grade literacy, college and career readiness, and financial empowerment, especially in low-income communities. She is responsible for UWDE’s strategic planning, partner relations, philanthropy, community impact and engagement, operations and administration, finance, marketing, human resources, public policy, and board administration.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The truth is, if you keep doing things the way you always have, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always received. It’s important for leaders to be comfortable with change, with taking risks, and with making bold, courageous decisions.
Change can cause anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and even anger. Some people can get caught up in the anger and emotion of the moment. But responding to anger with anger is like trying to brighten a dark room with a dead flashlight. Like Dr. King said, only light can drive out the darkness. Be the light in someone’s darkness.
These days, noise comes from every corner: TV, the internet, social media, podcasts, newsfeeds; it’s a 24/7 flood of information. But not every source is reliable. Where you get your information matters. Be selective about where your information comes from. These sources shape your mindset, decision-making and your destiny.
Your internal “truth filter” is more vital than ever. If something you hear doesn’t pass the truth test, chances are it’s not true! Learn to distill truth from myth, weed out the myths, and speak only the truth. Based on your exposures and experiences, these become your truths and can alter your boundaries.
If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Every organization and individual needs a North Star, a singular goal that energizes. Know your “why.” Without it, mission drift will creep in. Keep your eyes on the prize. Be sure everything you do is advancing the journey toward your North Star.
Transformation is quick, sudden change. COVID-19 was transformational. Evolution is slow, methodical change. Most organizations are in a permanent state of evolution, with change happening over long periods of time. In a world where many demand overnight results, it’s important to sustain the focus, passion, and energy required to deliver long-term goals.
Faith requires that you believe in something you cannot see. Fear makes the same demand. But faith and fear cannot coexist. As we lead, it’s not unusual that we will sometimes feel fear. But fear cannot overtake us. Choose encouragement over criticism, grace over judgment, and faith over fear.
Unexpected problems are inevitable, but so are unexpected solutions. Few of us could have foreseen COVID coming, but likewise few of us might have imagined the massive and collaborative response to this pandemic. Every challenge has within it an opportunity to imagine new possibilities, to rethink the way we do things, and to develop new and better alternatives. Be open to those possibilities.
The fight for good can be exhausting. It’s not for the faint of heart. It takes time and persistence. Fortunately, persistence is a talent that can be cultivated. If we are persistent in doing good, we will reap good in return.
John Lewis famously said, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble.” This is a disarmingly simple rule in life. When you see something that’s wrong, call it out. And be willing to stand in the way if necessary. You may not win the day, but when you stand up for truth, you will always win history.
© 2023 Delaware Business Times