Monday, February 23, 2015

What Keeps You Awake at Night?

*How do we cut costs?

*How can we raise more money?

*Who should we hire (or let go)?

These are likely candidates to keep you awake at night.  But if you are a senior leader for a nonprofit then I am going to add another one to your list.  I know.  You are welcome.

I’m not encouraging more sleepless nights, but I am encouraging you to work on something unless you are sure you have it handled.  I am suggesting that, based on research*, there is a high likelihood that your Board members use different criteria to judge your nonprofit’s performance.

Try this test.  Circulate the following question to your senior staff:

“What criteria should we use to determine the extent to which we are accomplishing our mission?  What results, outcomes, and specific evidence should we look at to make this determination?”

See what you come up with.  Based on research I did years ago*, which has been replicated since and confirmed through my consulting work, you will probably get responses all over the board.  This is not good.  Without agreed upon performance metrics, all you have to rely on are the varied opinions of those on your team.  You are not unlike a football team on which everyone has their opinion on where the goal line is.  This makes it very difficult to coordinate action, set priorities, and make strategic decisions.

And it gets worse.  If you do the same exercise with your Board then I predict even more variance in their responses.  Why is this a problem?  If you think you have had a successful year and they are looking at different criteria than you are, then it could be an unwelcome surprise.

My advice?  Don’t lose sleep over this!  Get proactive and start the conversation with your staff and Board about this soon.  This is way better than you being surprised at a future Board meeting.  And that would end up costing you a lot of sleepless nights in the future.

*If you want to check out the research on this, see the Resources section of my web site at this link.

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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