As we move through the first quarter of the new year, are you on track with what you and your team set out to accomplish? This LeaderNotes round-up has advice and insights to help.
We’re going to build relationships with new funders.
We’re going to better engage the public and grassroots supporters.
We’re going to increase organizational agility.
These are all good examples of New Year’s resolutions we as nonprofit leaders might make, in one form or another, perhaps with our Boards or through an annual or quarterly strategy planning process. As we inch—too slowly—towards spring, it’s time for a gut check. Is your organization on track to accomplish the objectives it laid out for itself just two months ago? Sometimes the goals set at the start of a new year, as urgent and important as they are, can too easily become casualties of competing priorities, reluctance to delegate, or just a lack of cohesive vision.
To keep those New Year’s resolutions and make the adjustments our sector needs in order to grow in a rapidly evolving world, effective leadership is imperative. No surprise there, right? But how to lead is the question.
According to a recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership, the most effective leaders spend a great deal of time trying to involve all employees—from administrative staff to the C-suite executives—in change efforts.
During the process, the most successful change leaders “asked lots of questions and gathered formal and informal feedback. The input and feedback allowed them to make continual adjustments during the change. In the case of unsuccessful changes, leaders didn’t ask as many questions or gather accurate information, which left them without the knowledge they needed to make appropriate adjustments along the way.”
Have your change efforts ever foundered because your nonprofit couldn’t figure out how to properly measure impact? In an interview with Fast Company, YWCA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron says that she is frequently questioned about the need for organizations like hers. She asks these skeptics to imagine, “what would the world be like if there weren’t organizations like the YWCA who have been there on the front lines.”
It feels like a no-brainer that our communities and our world have been fundamentally improved by the existence of mission-driven nonprofits, but quantifying this impact is often challenging—if not impossible. To address that issue, Richardson-Heron, “designed her job to ensure she constantly gets the feedback and input to ensure she is on the right path,” and says that maintaining a close relationship with the community stakeholders, “reminds [her] that this is not a job, it’s a responsibility.”
In the January edition of the Innovators Box email newsletter, founder Monica Kang echoes some of Richardson-Heron’s assertions. She notes that technology—be it the pursuit of or just keeping abreast of trends—can cause nonprofit leaders to lose sight the most important change agents of all. Kang reminds leaders, “to reflect on [their] EQ, people and culture development,” because, “whether its customer service, product development or business growth, its going to be led and built by people.” (Kang is an alum of the American Express Leadership Academy.)
Whatever strategies you have for achieving your 2020 objectives, don’t forget to seek the input of people and all levels. And as Richard-Heron said, “take it one day at a time, don’t get discouraged, and keep moving forward until you achieve the intended outcome. Only incremental change leads to larger sustainable change.”