I recently facilitated a workshop about finances that was part of a series for nonprofit leaders and board members. The guest speaker asked participants to raise their hand if they normally would avoid such a topic – and most of the hands went up!

I, too, once had finance-phobia and avoided any in-depth discussions that involved budgeting, income statements, balance sheets and the like. That is until I rose in the ranks and suddenly needed to know these things and more. I became responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets, working with lenders on bond issues for construction and serving as a leader on a board where I carried the fiduciary responsibility, even if it wasn’t accompanied by adequate knowledge. Suddenly, those Finance 101 workshops seemed relevant, but now I wanted them to go even deeper.

I shared this story with participants and let them know that I eventually spent a lot of time and money to earn an MBA (after my doctorate) because I had to have that level of knowledge on the subject to be successful at my job. I encouraged them – and now, you – to pay attention when exposed to financial matters, or even better, to seek them out through training, volunteer experiences or asking as many questions as you can when given the opportunity.

Money is the universal language through which business is conducted – no matter if that business is a booster club, lemonade stand, side hustle, nonprofit board or a major corporation. The more you can understand what to pay attention to and pitfalls to watch for, the better equipped you are to have power in this critical area.

Cure yourself of finance-phobia one line-item at a time. You don’t have to become an accountant, but ignorance will eventually limit you.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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