Leading a nonprofit is not easy. There are many interests to balance, many balls to juggle, many personalities to assuage, many clients to serve. It’s been likened to herding carts. So, in order to do the very best job you and your agency can do, you need reliable information, straight talk, and everyone performing at acceptable levels.  Of course, adequate funding is also a key but I’ll leave that for another another time.

I hear leaders praise their directors, program managers, etc all the time using terms like “we’re like a family”, “we are so close-knit”, “we care for each other”, etc. Truthfully, those phrases make my skin crawl because they imply getting along, peace, and liking each other are more important than effectiveness and making a difference.

When you lead a “family” of workers you are pretty much stuck with them…for better or worse. Next time you and your family are together, try terminating or disciplining one of them. Try firing one of your uncles or a weird cousin from your true family…Can’t be done.

Same when leading a nonprofit agency with a family-type culture. When the culture of an organization is warm and fuzzy and poor performance is tolerated, accepted, or not confronted you end up with a family . You’ve got problems.

Now, with a team culture, everyone understands there are rules to follow, performance to me maintained, and clear expectations. You may be a starter or on the bench in a team culture, but after the bench you are of the team. Everyone gets the message when they serve on a team. Teams cannot “carry” members, teams have certain expectations, teams can release you.

A “team culture” is a healthy way, and a kinder way, to lead your staff, your board, your volunteers. It leads to straight talk, clarity, and super results. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Team culture implies a mixture of all of the following:

  • Straight talk when problems arise
  • Honest, open discussion about performance and results
  • Transparency in leadership
  • Proactive, consistent communication
  • Truth over sugar-coated conversations
  • Making the tough calls on personnel when necessary
  • A collaborative leadership style
  • Supportive, yet maintaining accountability

What else makes for a team environment? Post your suggestions. If you agree with this approach, please “like” or “share” it with others.