RFL Training Plan: Leadership Under Pressure

Just a few short months ago I was in your shoes - managing a Relay For Life to-do list of about 34 million tasks, struggling to maintain my other commitments like school and work, and steadily losing the interest of my ELT. There’s a lot of pressure on you as a leader - get everything done, do it well, and do it on time. It’s nearly impossible to be successful - key word nearly. It can all be done, done well, and done on time - you just have to ask your team to give 10000%. Consider these tips for your own stress relief and then share with your ELTs!

Mission Possible
Think back to your first Relay For Life experience. What was the most stunning moment? Since then, what has kept you coming back year after year? Chances are your answer has something to do with the mission of the American Cancer Society. Whether it’s a great-uncle who used the National Cancer Information Center to get more details on his new diagnosis, a cousin who used Road to Recovery, or a friend who benefitted from ACS funded research we do everything we do to continue the mission and its successes. As hard as each of your tasks may get, never forget that the work you’re doing matters to cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers today and every day.

Make the Most of Your Time
Take a look at the below matrix: All of your tasks fall under one of these four quads. On top we have “urgent” and “non-urgent” - either a task demands attention or it can wait for a bit. On the side we have “important” and “not important” - a task either carries serious consequences for not doing it or not. Quad I is important and urgent - usually crises that are of the “in-your-face-must-be-dealt-with-at-this-instant” nature. It’s near impossible to say no to those kinds of tasks. Tasks that fall in Quad III might be considered deceptive - you think they’re urgent, but can almost always be put off till a later moment. We spend a lot of time doing Quad III things when a better way to manage our time might be in another Quad. Quad IV includes things that you do for funsies or to relax - those are really great things, but don’t let your Netflix binge get away from you when you have other things to do. Finally Quad II is where you ideally want to spend most of your time in order to facilitate positive outcomes. These are tasks that you can use to get ahead of the game - build relationships with your ELT or use the Relay calendaring tool to plan out your upcoming month. The more time you’re using to plan ahead the less time you’re worried about crises or getting caught up in unimportant tasks. Use this matrix to manage your own time, but also share it with your ELTs to encourage their continued success!

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In Delegation We Trust…
Easier said than done, right? I know you think that if you do a task you know it’ll be done well and on time, and delegating means you lose control over a task and show vulnerability in being unable to do it yourself. Here’s the thing though - you can’t be everywhere at once. Something’s gotta go, so you might as well delegate. Pick a task, choose a person, and patiently see what happens. Check in from time to time, but trust that you’ve delegated the right task to the right person and trained them well enough to successfully complete the job. Your ELT will be useful and extra committed if they know their work is necessary and helpful. Best case scenario? Someone else learns how to do something new (succession planning anyone?) and you didn’t have to spend time or energy on it. 

Dialogue Not Monologue
It's super easy to fall into a rut where you're doing everything and then dumping that information on to everyone later. An event as large as Relay requires open communication among everyone - you included. CC others on emails, use weekly meetings as brainstorming sessions instead of endless updates, find relevant ways to spread the message like GroupMe or Slack, and sometimes just shut up and listen - you'd be surprised at what you hear from your ELT when you stop talking. Use that communication, information, and shared knowledge to tell your team how important they are and encourage them to do more!

Sacrifice Perfection
So the Luminaria playlist doesn't include every song that was requested by participants, accounting is running a little slower than expected because your volunteers are still learning the paperwork, and a team is unhappy that their campsite doesn’t give them a fabulous view of the stage. I promise you, it's okay. Everything isn't going to be perfect and everyone isn't going to be happy no matter what you do. Let it be. You've planned a spectacular event with your 10000% committee - no one is going to remember a few little hitches. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your newfound leadership under pressure skills!