We recently sat down with our CFC President Andrea Dicks and CEO Andrew Chunilall to hear from them on the topic of leadership in a time of crisis and the ways in which they are navigating the current COVID-19 reality. Here’s what they had to say.
In your opinion, what’s the single most important thing leaders can do for their teams and communities right now?
Andrea: I would say: lead with empathy. In my opinion, it’s crucial for anyone leading an organization or managing a team right now to demonstrate the utmost empathy for colleagues and the people that you work with, the people or groups whom your work engages as well as those it supports. As well as empathy and kindness towards yourself. What we’re going through is new for everyone and leaders need to understand that people experience and process stress, anxiety and trauma in many different ways. We know all too well that the impacts of this crisis are being felt unevenly and that it’s the most vulnerable individuals, groups and communities that are experiencing its effects the most. Ask yourself as a leader: In a moment that is extraordinary, how can your response, as an organization and as a leader, also be extraordinary?
Andrew: I agree with Andrea. I would add that now more than ever, it’s important for foundations, charities and non-profit organizations to come back to their core values, their purpose and let that be the authentic and driving force in their work. COVID-19 is forcing and accelerating change that might have otherwise taken much longer…how can we leverage this moment to transform and advocate for a different, better future? How can we let our values guide our emergency response, while also starting to prepare for the recovery and rebuild phases that will follow? At CFC, this question is top of mind as we closely monitor and follow the situation. We’re challenging ourselves, in the face of rapid change, to boldly pursue our purpose of “creating a future where everyone belongs.”
I would add that now more than ever, it’s important for foundations, charities and non-profit organizations to come back to their core values, their purpose and let that be the authentic and driving force in their work.Andrew Chunilall, CEO
How are you adjusting to fully remote work and helping guide and support your team and board through this?
Andrea: A couple of things. I’d say communications is the biggest piece right now. On Monday mornings, I send out a message with updates and greetings to the team. I end the week with a similar wrap-up for our board of directors. Operationally, we’ve created a few new touchpoints within the team. We established a core COVID response team, with input from Communications, Programs, HR, Finance and Partnerships. This group meets three times weekly to share information and manage our response. We also created a Slack channel for the entire staff team, specifically for COVID-19. It’s a place where everyone can participate and share a mix of both serious programmatic information as well as funny internet memes, good articles, resources or tools we’ve discovered and so forth.
Beyond that, different project teams are staying in close touch. Each team has its own way of operating and supporting one another; some teams have daily standing meetings to start the day while others meet bi-weekly.
Our approach right now is an all-hands on deck method…we’ve collectively assessed different areas of work, de-prioritized less time-sensitive project work and staff are pitching in to support initiatives and activities they may not regularly work on.Andrea Dicks, President
We try and use videoconferencing as much as we can to ‘see’ one another but we’re also mindful that after a month of remote work, endless zoom calls can be pretty exhausting, not to mention hard to manage for colleagues and collaborators with a full household and kids. To that end, some of our team are now mixing up the zoom calls with “walking” phone meetings, as one example. We are also being as flexible and accommodating as possible. We understand that our team members are juggling this situation as humans, (not just colleagues!) and have many responsibilities as children, siblings, parents, caregivers and more.
Our approach right now is an all-hands on deck method…we’ve collectively assessed different areas of work, de-prioritized less time-sensitive project work and staff are pitching in to support initiatives and activities they may not regularly work on. We’re really seeing the concept of teamwork at its best!
Finally, and I can’t overstate this, we’ve created opportunities for “watercooler” or social time by having themed Zoom lunches every Friday. Last week, we wore “fun” (aka creative) hats. There’s little to no work talk during these calls… it’s an opportunity to decompress, connect as we would around the lunch room table. It feels like a very welcome moment of laughter, levity and collegiality in what have been pretty challenging weeks.
How are you connecting and supporting community foundations and the charitable sector across Canada right now?
Andrew: The situation is evolving so rapidly. Again, as Andrea said above, this is a real team effort. There is a high degree of dialogue and many different types of communications with community foundations right now, as well as across the non-profit and charitable sector.
The leadership of foundations coast to coast to coast is incredible. CFC is doing its best to track all the activity across the movement – from response funds, to new partnerships and collaborations, in an interactive map which we update several times a week. The goal is to share information, best practices and make these efforts visible to communities across the country. If we’ve missed something on our map, let us know!
We’re in active conversation with foundations and partners, many on a daily basis. Andrea and I are in regular meetings with many leaders from across community foundations in Canada and around the world. We encourage foundations to use tools like our various Slack channels and listservs to address specific issues, questions or share resources. We’re offering thematic webinars for foundation staff and board members. We know that direction and support to all foundations is key. To that end, we have our own board engaged in leading calls to address governance questions and provide a forum for directors of local foundations to ask questions, seek advice etc.
Beyond our network of community foundations, we’re engaged alongside the charitable and non-profit sector in conversations with many partners (corporate, private, government), many of whom are keen to collaborate. There really is, more than I’ve ever seen, an appetite to align, join forces and work towards the common good of our communities.
On a personal front, what strategies do you find useful when it comes to managing your time and energy right now?
Andrea: One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is to build in time for “transitions.” Specifically, even though I’m not going anywhere but to and from home, I build in time for a morning and evening commute. I try to get out every morning before going to the “office” for a walk and some fresh air. I do the same thing when the work day ends, which creates a really good boundary for me. I’m also doing my best to eat healthy food that’s really nourishing and avoiding sugar (so hard!) but when I do, I notice a marked improvement in my focus and mental resilience.
Andrew: I too make sure to get my physical activity and family time into the schedule to stay healthy and stay sane. I usually run about 40 minutes in the morning and find time between calls and meetings for short bike rides with the kids and at the end of the day, walks with my wife. I’m also really diligent about keeping a consistent wake up and sleep schedule, which I find helps for clarity and focus. My guilty pleasures right now include kombucha and the occasional BBQ chips indulgence.
In your leisure time, you’re both avid readers. What books or blogs are you reading right now that you’d recommend.
Andrea: Glennon Doyle’s Untamed – it’s incredible!
Andrew: Future of Good is doing some incredible reporting right now. Check it out