Leadership drives everything in an organization …. strategy, talent, execution, customers, stakeholders, funding, and systems. Before you can tackle anything else within your nonprofit, you want to ensure you have the right leadership team in place. To run a successful organization you need a strong, healthy, and well-aligned leadership team.
The Strength of Having the Right People in the Right Place
What do I mean by a strong leadership team? This is a team that has a range of skills that complement the leader’s skill set. You don’t want to be hiring clones of the leader, but rather people who are willing to speak up and challenge the team. A strong leadership team is made up of A Players. A Players are team members who are highly productive in their key role and who exemplify the core values of the company in all they do. A strong team is a team you would enthusiastically rehire.
Author Jim Collins in Good to Great suggests that a strong team means you have the rights seats, the right people in those seats doing the right things. Having the right seats means knowing what roles are important for the company to succeed. Role clarification is key to having the right seats and the right people in those seats. Growing companies often have empty seats or more than one person occupying more than one seat at a time. This can have a huge negative impact on the organization. Are the right people in the right seats doing the right things at your nonprofit? Skills are trainable, core values are not. Collins also recommends hiring for values and training for skills.
Characteristics of a Healthy Nonprofit Leadership Team
Patrick Lencioni does an excellent job describing what a healthy team looks like in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The team needs to trust each other, have healthy conflict, prove commitment, be accountable, and demonstrate results. The leadership team’s first commitment is to the company, not their own team. This common mistake is why team alignment is so critical to the success of the organization. Accountability is having clear expectations and holding each other accountable. Key performance indicators and metrics are some of the best ways to measure and hold the team accountable for results.
Aligning Around Results and Priorities
Ensuring your leadership team is well-aligned requires focus and discipline. This begins with establishing annual initiatives as a leadership team. The team can then work collaboratively to determine the most important and critical initiatives to accomplish in the coming year. Once those are set, the leadership team should be meeting at least quarterly to set three to five priorities that should be aligned with and support the accomplishment of the annual initiatives. Team members should then establish key performance indicators. These metrics predict and measure progress toward accomplishing the quarterly priorities. Consistent results reporting and ongoing planning facilitate the team heading in the same direction and working under the same assumptions.
Ongoing, regular communication also creates a healthy alignment of your team. Healthy communication is frequent, effective, and quick. Regular systematic communication can speed up decision-making at all levels within your business.
Every organization has leadership challenges and gaps. The key to success is to identify these areas by looking at the points above and implementing a plan to improve them.
Where are the gaps in your leadership? What do you think you could achieve with a core team that leads and works effectively? What would the positive impact be on your business?