How to Develop High-Performing Teams Within Your Nonprofit
More than half of human resource professionals believe the biggest challenge in the coming decade will involve recruiting, retaining and training the next generation of organizational leadership.
Luckily, nonprofit organizations are an ideal environment for developing high-performing teams that generate amazing leaders. While they function much the same as for-profit companies, nonprofits have a few key differences that lead to high-performing teams.
For-profits make money by selling products or services, but nonprofits typically obtain money from donations, grants, membership fees and the like. Without a large income base, nonprofits often have to pay lower salaries to staff members and can't lure new employees with the promise of a high income. Nonprofit workers earn on average 4% to 8% less than their for-profit counterparts.
What high-performing nonprofits can’t offer in salary they make up for with meaningful work. Thus, the people who gravitate to nonprofits are driven by the mission and desire to make a difference in the world. Nonprofit workers are highly engaged in their jobs, at a rate nearly three times the national average.
Nonprofits can do better than for-profit companies when it comes to serving a mission and creating a culture that employees want to work in — which are some of the fundamental characteristics of high-performing teams. It’s time to elevate team building for nonprofit organizations by focusing on recruitment and retention.
The Benefits of a Nonprofit Culture
Millennials are the employees of today and the leaders of the future. They value purpose and culture — and the mission is often more important than a paycheck. They want to matter and make a difference in the world. Millennials also want a healthy, nontoxic workplace with a culture of success, which aligns perfectly with high-performance nonprofit organizations.
Many people are used to working in a culture of failure, where they are micromanaged and under-appreciated. They are blamed, berated, shouted at and demeaned. They are overcommitted and, as a result, unmotivated and demoralized. Unfortunately, for-profit companies often perpetuate this culture.
High-performing nonprofits, on the other hand, base their leadership on a culture of success and respect. Employee efforts are valued, and the work is challenging but rewarding. Management believes in collaboration and teamwork. This culture of success takes commitment and patience, both elements in which nonprofits have a competitive advantage.
A culture of success is tied significantly to high-performing teams. A close-knit team accomplishes something bigger than the individual, which can be especially fulfilling to employees. These high performers value culture — especially a unique one they can’t find elsewhere. Once they've found it, they are more reluctant to leave when new opportunities arise.
How to Build a High-Performing Team
Nonprofits have a unique opportunity to create cultures of success, which can lead to better recruitment and retention rates. Despite this, it can still be difficult for nonprofits to create high-performing teams. The following three strategies can help nonprofits leverage their unique cultures to tackle the issue of how to build a high-performing team.
1. Lead Collaboratively
Dysfunctional teams exist within dysfunctional cultures. When management leads with an authoritative tone, team members often have mixed allegiances because they feel they are being controlled in all aspects of their lives. They don’t trust management or one another.
High-performing teams are quite the opposite. The leader facilitates meetings, but lets the team make the majority of the decisions. Provide the necessary collaborative tools for the team to make decisions, solve problems and create plans. By removing himself or herself as the decision maker, the leader creates the foundation for a highly functional, high-performing team.
2. Build Trust
Partnerships shouldn’t be based on domination by either party. True partnerships are based on equality and a win-win approach that accounts for the best interests of both parties — built with mutual respect and understanding.
As Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," once said: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This concept is integral to building a successful relationship. One must hear and understand the other person because feeling heard is the foundation of trust.
Trust should be the basis of all partnerships, but it takes time to develop. The leader’s job is to ensure that trust exists between team members and between the team and leadership.
3. Create SMART Goals
There has been a recent emphasis on SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. Consider changing that acronym to mean shared, meaningful, achievable, reasonable and time-bound.
By having a shared goal, high-performing teams can achieve something greater than individual performers. These goals need to have meaning and inspire the team to action — giving them intrinsic motivation to complete the objective.
Achievable goals are also important. Instead of stretch goals, set baseline goals that are practical and create an upside when possible. The key is arranging a game that can be won.
Building an effective team is not always a glamorous job — it requires protecting, nurturing, mentoring, coaching and facilitating. But these elements are key components of high-performing teams. Done correctly, you'll have an organization that attracts and retains the right people — individuals who will go on to become great leaders.
As the CEO, chief creative officer, and director of product and service development at the Matrix Management Institute, Paula Martin is passionate about changing the nature of work to be more in line with human potential. Get her free e-book, "Matrix Management Reinvented: The New Game in Town,” to learn how to transform your organization with a culture of success.