Non-Profit Leadership Lessons


Tina Combs

Tina Combs, President & CEO

Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce

It didn’t take long to find out why people said that I had to meet Tina Combs. Our coffee shop conversation flowed naturally and easily over a topic that was an obvious passion for Tina – leadership in the non-profit world.

At the heart of every great business, every great organization and every great non-profit, there’s a leader with a heart. Lose your heart for people, and your organization will pay the price.

Here are some leadership lessons I learned from Tina, a leader with a heart for the people she serves.


First and foremost, “Say,No,’ to ego. Don’t worry about who gets the credit as long as the work gets done for the good of the community. Be sincere in what you do and sincerely try to help others.”

Leadership isn’t a power trip to be taken. Leadership is about improving the quality of life for others, your staff, your volunteers, your clients, and your community. By investing in training, education, retreats, and celebrations with your team, you let them know that you care and that you value what they bring to the team. Have a heart. Do something meaningful for the people you lead.


“A good leader must never forget their purpose.” Purpose, valuesand vision motivates, builds a strong sense of culture, and gives people something worth giving their lives too. Keep your eye on the prize, and daily point the members of your team toward your purpose. To lead is to inspire people with a sense of purpose. Can they articulate the purpose of your organization?


“Work well with others. Get people engaged. Treat your volunteers like gold, appreciate them, be organized and don’t waste their time.”

Time is precious, and there is no better way to wear out, discourage or lose great staff and volunteers than to waste their time in ill-prepared meetings lacking leadership. If you want people to volunteer and serve with you, respect their time, lead by your example, and value your volunteers, your staff and your team in every possible creative way.

Tina rightly said, “I can tell when people (I’m volunteering for) forget I’m a volunteer. Always show appreciation. No one is obligated to help us.”

And no one is obligated to work for us. When you know you’ve hired the right employee, treat him or her as the valued asset they are. It’s been repeated over and over that it’s much less costly to invest in great employees than it is to search for and train a new employee. The same goes for volunteers. Value the people you have around you, and they’ll likely stay with you for years to come.


“Good leaders go outside of their world and help other people in the community. Volunteer for others.”

Non-profits require a strong volunteer base, and some of the best leaders are those who have learned to serve well from their personal acts of service. Service is learned in the field of volunteerism.

Is it time for a refresher course in service? If so, contact a non-profit with a purpose in line with you’re passions and find your life enriched by your acts of service.


“Cultivate relationships & your reputation. Show that you’re leading a credible organization.”

Self leadership, organizational leadership, team leadership takes intentional effort. The best leaders are those who give specific attention to building healthy, life-giving relationships inside and outside of their organization. The best relationships and the most revered reputations are built on honesty without compromise.

Organizations need leaders who are honest with their teams, their clients, their volunteers, and themselves. The quickest route to a damaged reputation is to compromise on the truth. When a leader compromises in the smallest of ways, his or her team quickly assumes that’s the way of the organization. Once lies and half-truths take root in an organization, the culture shifts. And a shifting culture will damage your reputation. Safe-guard your relationships and your reputation. Build a culture of honesty without compromise.

Businesses, organizations, teams, volunteers, and non-profits will be at their best when their leaders are at their best. What are you doing today to become a better leader tomorrow? How are you investing in your personal leadership?

Leave a comment below and let me know what leadership investments you are making. I want to learn from you, and I hope to hear that your team and your organization are soaring to new heights because of your leadership. Make it happen leaders.



Act Decisively

action speaksOver the years I’ve found myself attracted to decisive people who get things done and make things happen. Yet I haven’t always lived as that kind of person until I took the time to think it through.

I discovered that I was hesitant to act because…

  • I was afraid something bad would happen. I thought I would fail.  I thought it would be a mistake. Then I realized that I was focused on and expecting something negative to happen. This was no way to live, so I worked daily to put that mindset aside.
  • I knew that to act would create more work, require more effort, and affect change. Yet that’s what I really needed for the good of my business and my personal life.
  • I wanted to take time to “think it over.” And guess what I found out? I seldom gave another thought to the idea I said I wanted to think over. That was an excuse not to act, and that was crazy.

Analyzing my actions got me so fed up with my crazy lines of reasoning that I drew my line in the sand and said, “No more.” From that time forward, I vowed to ACT DECISIVELY every day. I intentionally sought out the people, ideas, and solutions that changed the course of my business. Today, it’s my habit to consider my very best options, then to act quickly in saying yes to them.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned in all of this: No decision has ever been irreversible, even when it was wrong. And no decision has been  life-threatening! As a matter of fact, just the opposite has been true. My decision to act decisively, to quickly say yes to the best people, ideas, and solutions always propels my business forward, positively impacting my personal and my business life.

In business, I’ve found  the courage to act decisively from having systems and tools that consistently work in ways that produce measurable results beyond what I ever imagined. And now I have the privilege of training other sales people and business leaders to create their own set of customized sales systems. Together, we are putting processes in place that make it hard for others to ignore us.

My courage to say YES, to act decisively, to put systems in place that I work each day is resulting in repeated comments like…

“Thank you for remembering me in the busyness of work and life. I want to move forward with the project.”  

“Thank you for thinking of me and keeping me in the loop…I’ll be there.”

“I’ve read everything you’ve been writing, and I need what you have to offer.  Let’s get started…”

As a business owner and sales professional, I’m grateful that responses like these are becoming more my norm.

If you had buying responses like these coming into your business on a regular basis, would it make a difference?

Hoping to make more sales without a clearly defined and measurable plan will no longer cut it. This is your time to make a decision and get moving. You, your business and those you care most about need you to stop putting off decisions and act. Your employees are waiting for you. Future customers are waiting for you. You are waiting for you. Get moving! Not one person will loose their life when you decide to take a courageous step for the good of your business. The worst that can happen is that you may be out of some time and a few dollars. Is that too great of a risk to take?

What does your business most need today? Your actions determine your outcomes.  If you need someone to partner with you so that you act decisively, contact me.  Whatever you decide to do, do something good for yourself and for your business. Act decisively. And when you do, you’ll join me in the tribe of, “I’m glad I did!”

How To Motivate Yourself


John Maxwell said, “It’s never the size of your problem that is the problem. It’s a lack of momentum.”

Momentum comes from inner motivation, and when it’s gone, hopelessness sets in. Many of us struggle to find a deep level of satisfaction in life simply because we lose our motivation to act.

Here are three simple actions you can do today to discover again, the motivation you need to move toward your dreams and goals.

Make Emotional Self-Deposits

Like a bank account, your withdrawals will be only as strong as your deposits. Make time for the people, places and activities that inspire and rejuvenate you the most. Unless you make emotional self-deposits, no one else will. And without emotional self-deposits, you’ll soon find yourself depleted with little left to give.

Aristotle once said, “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event, it is a habit.” Take responsibility for who you are and for who you are becoming. Take action today for the good of yourself.  Our world needs the very best you there is.

Give Yourself Advice

In her article, “Give Yourself A Pep Talk”, Jessica Stillman shares some great evidence for giving yourself advice by using the pronoun “You” rather than “I”. Here’s how it works.

When giving yourself advice you can choose to say, “I am going motivate myself for success today,” or you can say to yourself, “You, (insert your name) are going to motivate yourself for success today.” The difference is powerful. When we speak to ourselves using the pronoun “You,” it’s said to be more authoritative, as if it’s coming from someone outside of ourselves with a renewed sense of power to encourage and motivate.

Begin talking to yourself, in the privacy of your home or car, of course, and give yourself advice as if you were an outsider speaking into your life. Notice the difference just one word makes in terms of your personal motivation.

Surround Yourself With Motivated Cheerleaders

There may be no better gift to give yourself than the gift of well-chosen, highly motivated friends who can cheer you on to success. I recently received an email that simply read, “You’re the man! You can make this project happen because you have everything that’s needed to pull it off. Make it happen…you’re the man!” Those timely words motivated me beyond my wildest imaginations.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in life so far, it’s this. I need to surround myself with great people in order to reach beyond the limits of what I’d expect of myself.

Surround yourself with a tribe of motivated cheerleaders, then celebrate the times when they cheer you on with advice, support, ideas, and feedback. Listen to them, learn from them, and appreciate the ways they contribute to your motivation and ultimately, to your success.

What have you found that keeps you motivated toward your goals and dreams? Leave a comment HERE, making your experiences a testament for others to learn from and to live by. Go ahead and share your stories now, before you forget!

Thanks for sharing, I look forward to learning from you!

How To Snub A Customer


Have you been snubbed as a customer? I bet you have. You’re smiling as those experiences come to mind right now.

I recently took a simple drive through the take out service of a well known chain restaurant. I paid my money at window number one as instructed, and I proceeded to window number two. What happened next was beyond my comprehension.

When I arrived at the window, a young lady had her back to the window, and that’s where she remained for the duration of this event. She was engrossed in conversation with another worker in the window. To make matters worse, I saw my bag with one small food item sitting on the counter just inches from this lady’s hand.

Several seconds later, the other lady grabbed the bag, looked in and said to the “Snub Lady”, “Is this this customer’s order?”

Her reply? “Yes.”

“So why didn’t you give it to him?”

“You can give it to him.”

And without a word, this mysterious hand came out of the window with my bag attached and just as quickly and silently as it came out, it went back in. I drove off shaking my head and declaring this to be the ultimate customer snub!

So, How Do You Snub a Customer?

You turn your back and care about the conversations that matter most to YOU.

You care not about your customers and their needs. You leave that up to someone else.

You choose not to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Some of you reading this blog are saying, “This doesn’t apply to me, I’m the boss. I don’t work directly with the customers. My employees are the ones who need to read this.”

Not so fast, Mr. Boss. From my days with Southwest Airlines it was made abundantly clear to me that every boss, every manager, every leader had customers of their own…the employees they were responsible to lead.

Your Employees Are Your Customers

Translation? The way you lead your team, the way you interact with your employees, the example you set by the work you do will be the way your employees indelibly interact with the people you say mean so much to you…your customers.

Want great customer service? Give it first to the customers you’ve been called to lead, your employees!

Just this week I learned about a job posting in a department where three employees work very part time hours. When questioned about the decision to hire, the employees were told the department had 24 extra hours to give, so a new team member was needed.

Enter customer snub number two. The part time employees hearing this news have been begging for more hours so that they can better support their families, but management has consistently said, “Sales are down, and we don’t have the hours to give.” Funny how they now have 24 hours to give, but not to their “customers,” the current part time employees. It was as if their backs were turned, the needs of their customers ignored, and the shoes of their “customers” were never worn.

Want to build morale, win customers for life and watch your sphere of influence grow? Do not snub a customer!

Turn your face to your customers, identify their real needs, address those needs with intentionality, and in the process, make sure you walk in the shoes of your customers. And do it with an honest desire to understand their needs as if they were your own.

Before you make the final decision that affects your customers and their families, before you recommend a product or service for your client to buy,  care enough to find out what life looks like, feels like, and is in the life of your customer. A well cared for customer will become a customer for life.

“As goes the leader, so goes the organization!” ~John Maxwell

Who are your customers? How will this message impact the way you relate with your customers this week?

If this article made a difference for you, please leave your comments in the box below. I want to know what actions you’re going to take to make a difference this week. I’ll be cheering for your success!

How To Motivate


It was a very positive run. I had just completed the research, given a public talk, and asked for people to commit to a new project I took on, when I found myself exhausted while surrounded with success.

In those moments  I wondered how I would motivate myself and the team of people I was called to lead.

Some of the lessons I learned through the process serve me well to this day:


At the completion of a project, it’s helpful to review what went well, be brutally honest about what needs to be changed, and celebrate the players who made any contribution to the success. In a world nearly deprived of praise, make your praise specific and make it personal. And when you can, praise people publicly and tie the praise to your mission, vision, and values.  What others see rewarded will inspire them to do more of the same.

In the teams I lead,we’ve built a culture where we express our appreciation in our meetings, through our collaboration tools, and in writing. We’ve built systems that allow our members to praise one another quickly and easily, 24/7. This increases our motivation while allowing us to build our mission-driven culture as a team. While it takes leadership, it also takes the team!


When we’re involved in doing work that matters to us, we feel a sense of pride and ownership. Playing to your strengths gives you a strong sense of accomplishment. And whether you are working alone or with a team, it’s important to realize that you’re contributing in a unique way that can make a difference in people’s lives.

If you’re part of a team, seek team member’s ideas, listen to the problems they identify, and give them space to suggest ways to fix those problems. This is one of many ways to ensure your team members are playing to their strengths and satisfied with their team contribution.


Meet one-on-one with your team members or with the key people contributing to your project. And when you meet, make the meeting about the other person. Appreciate the contributions they’ve made, then become a student of the person by asking great questions and listening perceptively.

“How can I best help you? What can I do to contribute to your success? Is there anything you need that will make your work more effective and meaningful?” And deliver on those needs.

Learning how to motivate is really about valuing the people you serve, the people on your team, or the people that you lead. The key to getting this one right is leadership:  leadership of yourself, the people you serve, and the members of your team.

How will you motivate yourself or your team today? The opportunity is yours to take…make it count!

Earn Trust


On every team, in every networking event, and in every encounter we have with people, trust is paramount. When a person questions whether or not they trust you, the relationship quickly breaks down.

Whether you’re the boss, a member of the team, the owner of a business or a team leader, trust must be carefully earned.

How do we earn trust?

Relate with humility and a genuine interest to learn.

Individuals and leaders who always have a story better than the one they just heard, who are quick to give an answer with little or no conversation, or who are too busy to listen, read, or learn will not stand a chance of earning my trust. While the person who takes the time to ask great questions, to look me in the eye, and with sincerity of heart takes a genuine interest in the things that are important to me, they earn trust. And with trust, comes a level of respect.

Engage in life-transforming conversations 

People who relate with humility are likely to be readers, learners and students of life. These folks realize they don’t have all the answers, and with that realistic view of life, they take an interest in others, they understand the importance of bringing great value to people and relationships, and they recognize the opportunity that every conversation brings.

When motivated by a heart committed to making a difference through the value we bring, our conversations focus on how we can help rather than how we will take. Go-giver’s initiate life-transforming conversations, and they do so with humility and a genuine interest to learn.

Act with integrity

People who care about earning the trust of others take action, and their actions are marked by integrity. The integrity to respect people and their time, the integrity to be honest while being loving, and the integrity that motivates them to bring value to people and situations. 

Leading great teams, engaging new clients, networking for results, and building great relationships calls for trust. Break trust and your ability to influence and move people is over. Earn trust and you’ll build a tribe of people willing to work hard, committed to bringing results, and eager to create value with others.

What will your tribe of people look like this week? As you earn trust, your influence will determine that outcome.

As Goes The Leader


As I visit and work with businesses, one thing is becoming more and more clear.

“As goes the leader, so goes the organization.” -John Maxwell

I remember the day I walked into the CEO’s office and heard these telling words, “I no longer read, I’m just too busy.”

I remember the day a disheartened employee had once again been told what he wasn’t doing right. When he asked his manager why the negative was so often highlighted without commenting on all the things that had been done well, she responded by saying, “I get the same negative criticism from my boss (the store manager). I only hear the negative, no one tells me when I’m doing things right either.”

And I remember the day I sat in the waiting area of a business and found myself surrounded by energetic, upbeat, and courteous employees greeting customers by name and with what appeared to be genuine concern. And in this busy office I noticed one lady in particular.  She was upbeat, she was going out of her way to help guests, and she was jumping into to help other employees with a positive attitude and a willingness that’s rarely seen.  Because she had my attention, I wanted to know what her role was in the organization.  And just as I expected, she was the top manager, and it showed!

The team members working for the CEO with no time to read find themselves in an environment where collaboration and new ideas rarely exist. The team is drained by a leader who doesn’t seek input and sees no need to say thank you for a job well done. The leader needs no new ideas, so he isolates himself from the input of his team.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy

The team members lead by a manager who quickly points out the negative while overlooking the good find themselves beaten down and without a lot of hope that their culture will change anytime soon. They’re lead by negative reinforcement.

Henry Ford found the remedy for this leadership style.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

And Sam Walton said,

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

And the team serving with the positively focused leader willing to get involved to find solutions for her team and for their clients, they not only appeared to enjoy their work environment, one team member actually said she loved working for this lady. She is a leader who gets involved with her team, she understands the importance of modelling the attitude that she wants her team to bring to clients, and she understands the importance of personally creating the culture that gets reproduced through her team.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” —John Quincy Adams

Find the leader and you’ll quickly learn why the business culture has taken on the energy and personality that it has.

“As goes the leader…so goes the organization!” What kind of influence are you having in the places where you lead and work? Are there changes you need to make? Take action and make those changes today.

Add A Bit More Grace


This week the news reported 74 school shootings in the last year and a half, people rebelling against government authority, and anger racing out of control. What would happen if rather than accept this as our new norm, we form tribes of people who find tangible ways to add a bit more grace?

Grace: To bring value or love to a person who appears undeserving or unable to give anything in return. It’s motivated by a heartfelt desire to make a difference. Grace isn’t earned, it isn’t bought, and it isn’t deserved. It’s freely given with no strings attached. It’s a go-giver’s way of life!

What would happen if we decided to add a bit more grace? Can you imagine the impact we could have?

Add a bit more grace, surround it with integrity, stir in a measure of excellence, and top it all with a cherry of compassion and see for yourself, the life-changing differences you make.

This Father’s Day week, improve the quality of your life and make a difference in the landscape of our world by joining a tribe of people determined to add a bit more grace. Together, we will reshape the landscape of our world one person at a time. My tribe has room for another results driven person. Wanna join me?


A Review of The Peter Principle


Have you ever worked in a place where it seemed like those in leadership had a pattern of making excuses, using negative reinforcement, or giving superficial answers for ongoing and complex challenges?  If so, you’ve probably had at least one day where you left the workplace shaking your head at the incompetence of those in authority over you. There’s good news, and there’s bad news to the story that’s about to unfold.

The good news is, you’re not crazy, incompetence is alive and well in the workplace and in many well-meaning organizations today. The bad news, unless you’re in a position of authority with the responsibility of leading change, you’ll likely have little influence over it.

In 1969, Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull coauthored the book, “The Peter Principle:  Why Things Always Go Wrong”.  In this book they state,  

“Rather than seeking to promote a talented ‘super-competent’ junior employee, Peter suggested that an incompetent manager may set them up to fail or dismiss them because they will likely ‘violate the first commandment of hierarchical life with incompetent leadership: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved’.”

Why does this happen?  Because “in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence.”

Someone may make a great salesperson, but when promoted to senior level leadership may find he or she has lacks competence when it comes to leading  people and teams. Someone who made a great manager may not be right for an advancement if the new role takes him or her to a role beyond his competence. It’s important to recognize that with each new role comes new responsibilities and tasks that we’re not always competent to do well.

This begs the question, “What do you do if you’ve been promoted to a level that you now realize exceeds your competence?”

You have a few choices:

1. Remain in your level of incompetence because that’s the proven hierarchical structure that’s often the norm, but do so at your own risk. You’re likely to become very frustrated working and leading outside of your strengths.

2. Reach out to mentors, coaches, books, and training opportunities that can help you grow into your new role. Warning here:  Most companies that routinely promote to the highest levels of incompetence will likely deny you the opportunity for this kind of training. They’d hate to see you become competent in your new role. That would break the hierarchical system of promote from within, increase workload, maintain inadequate pay scale, and demand more from employees for the sake of the company.

3. Have the guts to step down and work at your level of competence.  Simply put, find a place that rewards you for working in your strengths! This is where you’re gonna hate me. Stepping down will likely result in a lesser salary, and it may cause you or others to perceive you as a failure. For most of you, this option is far too much to handle, so here’s my advice. Take what’s perceived as the easy road, and stay where you are. Then watch how quickly your health begins to suffer from the frustration that mounts.

And what if you work for a boss who has risen to his or her level of incompetence?

1. Suck it up and endure it…good luck with this one!

2. Write your letter of resignation and TURN IT IN!

Unless you’re the captain of the ship, you stand no chance of righting the wrong that you see in the leadership of the organization.

Some of you reading this blog are feeling stuck today, and you’ve been stuck for some time. You need a tribe of trusted people who can breathe positive life into you, who can encourage and support you through the changes you need to make. Change doesn’t come easy, but when going it alone, it’s even more difficult.

Have the guts to reach out to the best people who can help you navigate through the change you most need today. This will be a definite step toward Choosing Yourself, and why not? No one else will!

Contact me when I can be of help. I look forward to serving you well!

Listening Deficit


It’s happening repeatedly, and it’s happening in more places than you can imagine.

I walk into the restaurant, and with carefully spoken words I place my order, and it happens.

“I’d like an iced tea to go.” To which the server replies without thinking,”Will that be for here or to go?”

I attend a business networking event and engage a sales person in conversation, and then it happens.  He asks me a question I just finished answering.

My boss asks me how many sales calls I’ve made since Monday. I answer his question with a simple number, and two days later I receive an email that says, “Before our meeting tomorrow, can you please make sure I have your sales calls numbers. I haven’t received yours.”

What is going on in our world?  Why isn’t anyone listening anymore?

John Jantsch, in his book “Duct Tape Selling; Think Like A Marketer, Sell Like A Superstar” suggests our listening deficit has been caused by our failure to listen perceptively.  Perceptive listening is, “hearing and interpreting the words as they’re said, but also considering what the person isn’t saying, what she might really be thinking and how she is acting as she speaks.” -Jantsch

Our battle against a listening deficit calls for a…

  • Desire to really hear what’s being said
  • Willingness to intentionally focus on what is and what isn’t being said
  • Heart and mind that care enough to fully engage a person in conversation

If conversations are all about you and about what you want to say, you’ll quickly find yourself in a very broke and lonely place. Choose instead the listening life that creates joy, fulfillment, and true satisfaction.  This is the life for which you’ve been created!

Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and strategic in the ways you engage people in conversations and see for yourself how quickly you…

  • Discover real needs you’re uniquely positioned to meet
  • Bring real value to people through the situations you improve
  • Earn respect, gain trust and make a difference like no one else can

Each day ask yourself, “What is my goal today?  To be heard or to hear?” Your answer will determine the quality of the life you live.

Want to explore specific ways to bring greater value to the people around you? Contact me and we’ll explore ways to get the results that improve the quality of your work and personal life.