Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Is your nonprofit team fired up or burned out? A case for connection

Connected organizations are more productive, more innovative and more profitable; conversely, a lack of connection will gradually burn employees out. Author Michael Lee Stallard makes the case for increasing connection at work and shows you how to build a “connection culture”—a culture that increases connection among people—by increasing the elements of a connected culture: vision, value and voice. Paying attention to these so-called “soft” aspects of the work environment will help increase employee engagement and, in the end, will make your organization more successful.

The case for connection

Research by the Gallup Organization shows that fewer than three in ten Americans are engaged in their jobs. Gallup also estimates the annual cost to the American economy from the approximately 22 million American workers who are extremely negative or “actively disengaged” to be $250 to $300 billion every year. Unless people in an organization feel a strong sense of connection to their work and colleagues, they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

Conversely, employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged, more productive in their jobs, and less likely to leave the organization for a competitor. One trend in particular makes connection more important than ever: the increasing globalization of labor. As globalization makes it easier for companies to move work and jobs around the world, organizations that want to retain jobs in their home countries will need to boost the productivity of their people or lose business to competitors who reduce their costs by offshoring.

The connection formula

A “connection culture” is a culture that embraces the beliefs and behaviors that enhance connection among people and meet their basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth and meaning. There are three elements of a connection culture that meet these basic needs: vision, value and voice. Leaders who intentionally foster these three elements will reap the benefits of a connection culture.

Vision exists in an organization when everyone is\motivated by the organization’s mission;

united by its values; and

proud of its reputation.

Value exists in an organization when everyone

understands the basic psychological needs of people;

appreciates their positive, unique contributions; and

helps them achieve their potential.

Voice exists when everyone

seeks the ideas of others;

shares ideas and opinions honestly; and

safeguards relational connections.

A good way to remember these elements is to remember this formula: Vision + Value + Voice = Connection.

When all three elements are in place, it’s a win-win for individuals and organizations.

The evolution of organizations

Most organizations today focus on task excellence—or the quantitative and analytical aspects of business. However, according to Stallard, organizations that focus exclusively on task excellence will fail to meet the basic human psychological needs that maximize employees’ contributions to the organization.

Stars, core employees and strugglers

Employees fall into three categories: stars, core employees and strugglers. Stars are the superior performers; they are either part of senior management or are on the management track. Core employees are valuable contributors but not stars. And strugglers perform poorly, either for temporary reasons or because they are not well suited to their position. Stars are the “favorites” of management and are treated as such—they may be paid more, listened to or included in social situations. This “caste” system within organizations makes most employees feel like second-class citizens and affects an organization’s economic, political and social aspects.

Core employees, however, are just as critical—and often more so—to an organization’s success as its stars. Core employees make up the majority of an organization’s employees and are often just as intelligent, talented and knowledgeable as stars. They differ from stars in three important ways:

They are less likely to call attention to themselves;

They are less likely to leave their current employer for a different organization or position; and

They are quietly dedicated to their work and to their colleagues.

Core employees are key

Organizations are at risk of losing their core employees if they do not foster a sense of connection in the workplace. The reason is simple: Core employees feel that their ideas and opinions aren’t heard and don’t matter, and that they are not respected or recognized for their contributions. Over time they become frustrated and feel underappreciated. This leads them to becoming disconnected and disengaged which, in turn, causes burn out. Leaders need to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and give core employees opportunities to shine as well as the stars. These so-called “soft” issues are essential to any organization that aspires to be the best.

Nonprofit implications

Much has been written about nonprofit “burnout” and the impending “leadership crisis” as Baby Boomers prepare for retirement. Disengagement, an aging population and globalization are converging to become the perfect storm that will make today’s leaders and organizations vulnerable. However, leaders can gain a performance advantage by intentionally creating a work environment that increases engagement and connection within the organization. Organizations that do this will attract and retain committed employees and, as a result, achieve high impact in the long run.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out free ebook

The Leadership Challenge (4th Ed)

The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive

Image credits: bloomberg.com, accidentalcreative.com, wallconvert.com

 

Leave a reply

Create a nonprofit culture of shared leadership in your organization

Many of us who grew up with the Internet simply have a different way of looking at the world compared to previous generations.

Take access to information: the Internet has democratized access to and dissemination of information in some very dramatic ways since the early 1990s. These different views spill over into the workplace, especially in terms of expectations around access to information, transparency, communication and decision-making. Within many nonprofits, leadership structures are lagging behind these shifts through the continued embrace of hierarchy, creating challenges for established leaders, younger employees and everyone else in between.

Less hierarchy equals better impact

This continued reliance on hierarchical structures has been repeatedly cited by young nonprofit leaders as one of the key barriers to leadership development in the sector. Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out, a nationwide report published in 2008, states that organizations that maintain traditional hierarchical structures “risk perpetuating power structures that alienate emerging leadership talent in their organizations.” The report continues, “Executives who adapt their organizational cultures for less traditional hierarchy, while holding everyone accountable for meaningful mission impact, are in the best position to attract and retain the next generation of leadership.”

Opportunities versus challenges

Even though these generational differences often play out as challenges, many opportunities come along with adopting flatter structures and shared leadership models. Organizations that diffuse decision-making and communications are often more adaptable, which can lead to greater sustainability. Also, organizational cultures that integrate shared leadership practices often better demonstrate the values that many nonprofits exist to uphold. On a practical level, shared leadership models can also create a higher level of engagement and buy-in among staff and can promote the leadership development and retention of employees.

Shared leadership can be defined in many different ways, and practices fall along a continuum. The chart below summarizes some of the key practices that often differentiate leadership models within a nonprofit environment:

Area Hierarchical structure Shared leadership model
Decision-making Top management. Important decisions communicated down without input. Collaborative decision-making. Input from appropriate staff members is regularly sought and considered in any important decision.
Communications Top-down, one-way, infrequent.  Increased transparency, staff members have a say in all important decisions.
Structure Hierarchy Flattened hierarchy, networked, matrix, or collaborative
Planning Board and ED develop, staff implements. Partners in determining the organization’s future, all staff play some role.
Processes Directive Collective
Culture Resistant to change Encourages new ideas and innovation from all staff
Definition of “leader” Executive director and possibly select senior managers The organization cultivates leaders at all levels.
Ideas that some organizations are testing out Co-directors (separate internal and external focus) 

Management teams that report to the board, with the executive director serving as an equal member of the group

Strategic plans are developed with equal input and decision-making between board members and staff

If your organization has a traditional structure, testing out new approaches in areas like decision-making and leadership can be a good place to start to integrate some of these practices within your organization.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Use staff meetings to discuss critical issues and gather input, rather than reporting. Select an issue that is affecting your organization’s work and facilitate a conversation to get staff member input on addressing that issue, both short- and long-term. After some discussion, identify ways your team as a whole can work to address the issue, and then follow-through.

Include staff as partners in strategic planning. This can include something as simple as gathering staff input through an anonymous survey, to hosting multiple staff work sessions as part of the planning process, to fully integrating the staff, board, and your organization’s constituents into a partnership to create a plan for your organization’s future.

Gather staff input on a regular basis through anonymous staff satisfaction surveys and on important decisions affecting the organization. For staff surveys, openly share results and commit to addressing at least two or three things as a team.

Empower staff members at all levels to participate in setting goals in their functional areas and for their own performance, rather than prescribing deliverables and expectations.

Increase access to information and cultivate a culture of transparency. Additional transparency can include sharing board packets, financial information and program evaluation information, along with things like inviting staff members to observe or report at board meetings.

With younger leaders assuming leadership positions, formal and informal, within the sector on an increasingly frequent basis, shared leadership models are likely to become more and more prevalent. Help ensure that your organization can both attract this talent and maintain its relevancy by starting to integrate some of these practices in your organization. In addition to possibly strengthening your own organization, you can contribute to the retention and development of the next generation of sector leaders today.

This chart is adapted from “Shared Leadership: Why it Matters and How to Help Nonprofits Get There.” Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference 2010, Judy Freiwirth, Psy D., Dahnesh Medora, and Deborah Meehan.

See also:

The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide: Revealing the Hidden Truths that Impact Performance

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia – Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things

Image credits: wpclipart.com, johngerber.world.edu

Leave a reply

Why employees leave: Retention strategies for nonprofits


I recently heard a story about an employee who received a very enthusiastic call from a headhunter trying to recruit him for a job. The employee said he wasn’t looking to leave the organization, to which the headhunter replied, “You are on my list of employees to be downsized, so you will be leaving the organization.”

I hear stories like this on a regular basis. Many employers badly betray the loyalty of good employees, yet developing employee loyalty and holding onto good employees will be crucial for all employers in the next ten years. The number of people born between 1960 and 1980 who are in the workforce is half the size of those born between 1940 and 1960, as well as of those born between 1980 and 2000. This shift from having enough employees to too few will hit nonprofits especially hard, as they struggle to compete against the private sector that can pay more for the best employees.

The good news is that retaining employees isn’t expensive or complex. And, in the nonprofit sector, most employees work to support the vision and mission of the organization, not for extrinsic rewards. The main reason employees leave an organization is bad relationships. Employees will stay when the quality of their supervision is good, and they will leave when they feel mistreated by their immediate supervisor. Symptoms of a poor supervisor include high turnover in the supervisor’s area, complaints of mistreatment to Human Resources, or more absenteeism in that supervisor’s area. Supervisors are often promoted because they were good at their last job, not necessarily because they make good managers. If a supervisor isn’t strong, find other work for that person that takes advantage of his or her skills. Or, spend time developing the supervisor’s management skills.

Employees in all sectors report higher retention rates when their employer values and rewards them for who they are rather than for what they do. Employers can show that they value who an employee is by providing training, opportunity for advancement, work/life flexibility, feedback and communication. Does your organization set individual goals with employees and then provide the support and training needed to meet those goals? Once the employee begins to achieve those goals, is there opportunity for advancement? This can mean a promotion as well as the opportunity to take on other, more meaningful work—which is often rated as a high motivational factor for employees. These practices are neither revolutionary or expensive, but they are proven to hold onto employees. Here are a few suggestions for developing some of them:

Communication

Organizations can’t communicate too often. Employees want to feel that they are “in the loop.” An employee should never hear about a layoff from a headhunter or the local media. Instead, use whatever internal mechanisms you have—email, voice mail, the employee newsletter, bulletin boards and meetings—to tell employees what is happening. This doesn’t mean you divulge information that is sensitive. Determine what you can tell—and then tell, tell, tell.

Feedback

Employees crave positive feedback, and most don’t get much. Studies report that for every four items of “corrective feedback” employees get, they only receive one pat on the back. While employees deserve to know when they are missing the mark, one rule of thumb is to turn those numbers around and praise an employee four times for every one piece of corrective feedback. You will be amazed at what a difference in morale this creates.

Flexibility

Be as flexible as you can. Can you have employees work a flex schedule, where some employees report to work early and others stay later? Can you have some employees work at home one day a week, or can you pay for one extra holiday a year? Employees report higher retention rates at organizations where employers help them balance their work and personal lives.

Quality relationships

Employees also report that the quality of their co-worker relationship is an important consideration for staying with an employer. There is often a correlation between high productivity and cohesive work groups. Make sure you have a well-established problem resolution process. If you see a work group floundering, consider using an internal or external facilitator to help the group move beyond what is keeping them stuck.

Retaining employees reduces turnover costs and allows you to hold on to the talent that makes your organization unique. Retention strategies don’t need to be expensive; they just need to be implemented and supported.

See also:

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Leave a reply

So what’s all the fuss about culture?

So what’s all the fuss about culture? Why does promoting a good culture feel like something that can be pushed down on the priority list after board recruitment, fundraising, and filling that vacant position?

Though you can’t see it, and it’s even harder to describe, experts prove again and again how a healthy, toxic, or even ignored culture can make or break every aspect of your efforts—yes, that includes productivity and your bottom line.

Now that I have your attention, turn your focus to our upcoming live author interview with Michael Stallard. He’s coauthored Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity with Carolyn Dewing-Hommes and Jason Pankau. Connected organizations are more productive, more innovative and more profitable; conversely, a lack of connection will gradually burn employees out. Author Michael Lee Stallard makes the case for increasing connection at work and shows you how to build a “connection culture”—a culture that increases connection among people—by increasing the elements of a connected culture: vision, value and voice. Paying attention to these so-called “soft” aspects of the work environment will help increase employee engagement and, in the end, will make your organization more successful.

Stallard recent submitted an article, “Weathering the economic storm: how to boost morale.”

Join us for a conversation with Stallard about three elements of a connection culture: vision, value and voice. Leaders who intentionally foster these three elements will reap the benefits of productivity and innovation. Now who can’t use more productivity and innovation in the workplace?

Watch Stallard explain “Connection Culture.”

See also:

Michael Stallard’s site: www.epluribuspartners.com

The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide: Revealing the Hidden Truths that Impact Performance

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Image credit: PhilmMcKinney.com

Leave a reply

Why leaders need to create connected cultures

Connection is “a bond among a group of people based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves self-centered people toward group-centered membership.” Nothing boosts the engagement of a social sector organization’s beneficiaries, employees, donors and volunteers like connection.

Connection is a universal phenomenon, though different cultures refer to connection using different words and phrases. The French phrase “esprit de corps,” which literally means “the spirit of the body,” describes a connection among people. The Japanese call connection “Ittaikan,” which means “to feel as one body of people.” In Kanji, it is  “一体感” (一 = one, 体  = body, 感 = sense or feeling of). Cohesion, unity, social capital and attachment are also ways to describe connection. It’s interesting to note the word “corporation” is based on the Latin root word “corpus,” which means “body.” The definition of corporation is “a group of people combined into one body.”

Our leadership training and coaching firm, E Pluribus Partners, has spoken, taught and consulted with all sorts of organizations, including Greenwich (Connecticut) High School, Texas Christian University (TCU), the NASA Johnson Space Center, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Google, Scotiabank (Canada) and ITV (London). Each of these organizations benefits from developing a “connection culture,” where people feel connected to their organization’s mission, values, reputation, supervisors, colleagues and day-to-day work responsibilities. When people feel connected to their organization, they give their best efforts, align their behavior with organizational goals, share information and insights with decision makers even when it may dangerous to do so, and participate in the organization’s marketplace of ideas that feeds innovation and creativity.

There are three elements in a “connection culture”: vision, value and voice.

Vision

Vision exists when everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values and proud of the reputation. Social sector organizations can boost the element of vision in their cultures by having people who benefit from their organization’s work tell their stories to remind everyone he/she serves a cause greater than self. Also, I recommend people get together and share stories about how they live out their values, such as excellence, integrity, love of people, kindness, etc.

Value

Value exists when all in the organization understand the needs of people, appreciate their unique positive contributions and help them achieve their potential. Value is the heart of a “connection culture.” I recommend organizations give employees permission to take breaks and go to lunch together so they can get to know one another as human beings. This develops intimacy, an essential element of trust. Not tolerating condescending, patronizing or passive aggressive behavior is also important to respect the dignity of all people. Supervisors can boost the element of value in a culture by getting to know the people they are responsible for leading, including their personal and career hopes and dreams, and helping them achieve those aspirations.

Voice

Voice exists when everyone in an organization seeks the ideas and opinions of others, shares his/her opinions honestly and safeguards relational connections. Keeping people in the loop and then seeking and considering their ideas and opinions on matters that are important to them help engage people. Leaders who have humility do this. Wise leaders like Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar, are intentional about it. Pixar’s directors get together regularly to help each other produce the best films possible. Pixar director Brad Bird and his producer John Walker set up a meeting once a week with their team of 200 plus people working on a film to keep them in the loop. Brad and John wander the halls of Pixar, connecting with the people they lead, and they are much beloved for their caring personalities and commitment to producing films the team and Pixar family will be proud to have created. Brad and John’s first film at Pixar was The Incredibles, a massive hit worldwide.

Just connect

Research shows people who experience an abundance of connection in their lives are more energetic, more creative and better at solving problems. They also live longer, according to a recent 20-year study of workplaces. The bottom line is that connection = productivity and life, whereas disconnection = dysfunction and death.

If leaders will be intentional about developing work cultures with vision, value and voice, they will see their colleagues and the organization as a whole flourish. Connected people are happy people. That’s why it’s wise to just connect.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out

Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

Leave a reply

Fired up or burned out?

You’ve all heard the phrase “You should never judge a book by its cover.”

The truth is we all do.  In this particular case, I looked at some of the great management books we’ve featured at CausePlanet over the years. One of them caught my eye because the cover’s so great. But the more intelligent answer you’re looking for is that it contains a terrific amount of sage advice for managers. The book is called Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity by Michael Lee Stallard. December feels like an appropriate time to take a pulse and see if you fall into one of these “fired up” or “burned out” camps. In either case, you’ll find Stallard’s approach worth your time.

Stallard talks about the notion that connected organizations are more productive, more innovative and more profitable. Conversely, a lack of connection will gradually burn employees out. Stallard makes the case for increasing connection at work and shows you how to build a “connection culture”—a culture that increases connection among people—by increasing the elements of a connected culture: vision, value and voice. Paying attention to these so-called “soft” aspects of the work environment will help increase employee engagement and, in the end, will make your organization more successful.

Research by the Gallup Organization shows that fewer than three in ten Americans are engaged in their jobs. Gallup also estimates the annual cost to the American economy from the approximately 22 million American workers who are extremely negative or “actively disengaged” to be $250 to $300 billion every year. Unless people in an organization feel a strong sense of connection to their work and colleagues, they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

A “connection culture” is a culture that embraces the beliefs and behaviors that enhance connection among people and meet their basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth and meaning. There are three elements of a connection culture that meet these basic needs: vision, value and voice. Leaders who intentionally foster these three elements will reap the benefits of a connection culture. The connection culture formula can be thought of in the following way:

Vision exists in an organization when everyone is
• motivated by the organization’s mission;
• united by its values; and
• proud of its reputation.

Value exists in an organization when everyone
• understands the basic psychological needs of people;
• appreciates their positive, unique contributions; and
• helps them achieve their potential.

Voice exists when everyone
• seeks the ideas of others;
• shares ideas and opinions honestly; and
• safeguards relational connections.

A good way to remember these elements is to remember this formula: Vision + Value + Voice = Connection. When all three elements are in place, it’s a win-win for individuals and organizations.

See also:

Michael Lee Stallard’s website, www.epluribuspartners.com
Stallard’s new eBook, The Connection Culture
Fired Up or Burned Out Page to Practice™ summary

Leave a reply

Mergers and alliances: Check your culture at the door

So often, you find yourself asking why things transpire they way they do in your organization and 9 times out of ten, you can point to culture. No, we’re not discussing pop culture or arts and culture. This culture is the underlying and invisible fabric of how your nonprofit behaves, what the underlying assumptions are and what the organization values. Thankfully, we all are given a free pass on striving for a perfect culture because the truth is, there is no perfect culture. With perfectionism out the way, we can go about factoring organizational culture into one of the more important roles it has to play, which is in an alliance or merger.

With our Page to Practice feature of The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide this summer, we learned about the importance of organizational culture and how pervasive it is with everything you do as a nonprofit leader—from hiring decisions and board training to marketing and strategic planning, organizational culture, as the authors Teegarden, Hinden and Sturm say, “reveals hidden truths that impact performance.”

That’s why it comes as no surprise that our currently featured author, Tom McLaughlin, spends some time in his book, Nonprofit Mergers & Alliances, on the importance of taking a “culture check” as one of the preliminary steps for considering collaboration. “Culture is stronger than strategy, so it is crucial to understand and be comfortable with a potential partner’s organizational culture,” says McLaughlin.

He further adds that since people take action and demonstrate behavior every day using underlying values, blended cultures translates into blended value systems that don’t always complement one another. In fact, 75 percent of hospital mergers fail if cultural issues are not taken into consideration, according to McLaughlin.

Ultimately, “one of the most reliable rules of thumb for post merger implementation is that the tighter culture always prevails,” says Tom, and the larger organization doesn’t automatically dominate, nor will the loudest or flashiest. So, how do we go about identifying one another’s culture before engaging formally in an alliance? McLaughlin has provided a list of good places to look for evidence of nonprofit culture that we reviewed at the beginning of the month:

  • Composition of board and management team
  • Degree of centralization versus decentralization
  • Demographics of clients
  • Demographics of staff
  • Financial investment policies
  • Financial performance
  • Geographic location
  • Management compensation policies
  • Marketing materials
  • Number and type of management meetings
  • Number of board meetings per year
  • Philosophy regarding staff turnover
  • Process for recruiting and selecting new board members
  • Requirements of major funding sources
  • Size of board
  • Size of management team (especially versus comparable nonprofits)
  • Unwritten/unspoken hiring preferences

Not every item on the list will yield insight and some will produce contradicting impressions. However, if taken together, these areas can help you create a composite of your potential partner’s culture.

See also:

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

The Necessary Revolution: Working Together to Create a Sustainable World

Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Leveraging Businesses

Leave a reply

Workplace culture: Just breathe

Positive workplace culture is to success what oxygen is to breathing. You can’t see it but it’s vitally important, and though it’s hard to describe, it makes everything else you do easier. Authors, Paige Hull Teegarden, Denice Rothman Hinden and Paul Sturm, demystify the highly mentioned but rarely discussed notion of organizational culture in their new book, The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide.

The authors begin with a helpful synopsis of what is published about culture and build on this foundation with the many factors that influence our deep assumptions about the nonprofit workplace. Historical, economical, political and contemporary business practices are discussed and how they impact the cultures we form. The authors explain how revealing hidden truths through stories provide us with the critical information we need to characterize nonprofit culture. By undergoing this ROC (Revealing Organization Culture) process, managers can leverage their cultural awareness to improve every aspect of their decision making, from marketing to mergers.

We are pleased to feature this helpful guide during June after having read how much culture can affect a nonprofit leader’s role with their staff and board. We hope you enjoy the book as well. In the meantime, here is the first Q and A we shared with the authors in our Page to Practice summary:

CausePlanet: Why should nonprofit leaders care about understanding and improving their organizational culture?

Authors: The work of nonprofit organizations has never been more important than it is right now. Nonprofit organizations are the heart and soul of our society and impact the quality of human and community life in profound ways. Many nonprofit organizations have become the new safety net for countless numbers of individuals and families in communities throughout the United States.

Surfacing the deepest unique elements of their organizational cultures can help nonprofits strengthen themselves as they advance their missions. Once revealed, the elements of organizational culture provide new information for developing more effective organization capacity building and service delivery strategies. The potential for success increases when strategies are designed to take advantage of an organization’s strengths or respond to its limitations. From hiring key staff to recruiting board members to identifying new program partners, understanding organizational culture can help leaders make better strategic decisions and strengthen alignment among key stakeholders.

For more information about The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide visit http://www.revealorganizationalculture.com/ or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about this month’s book and future highlights.

Leave a reply

Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
Forget your password?
Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.