The NBA starts this month: which team is your favorite? Do you think the Toronto Raptors will reclaim the title? How about the Cleveland Cavaliers finally winning the title? What would that take? How do the coaches and the teams develop a winning team? What strategies can you use in your organization?

In professional sports, developing a performance management system might seem less challenging than creating one in your nonprofit organization. Seems pretty cut-and-dry, right? The team either wins or loses. Done.

The nonprofit sector is far from different. If a Best Nonprofit Association league (BNA) existed, how would you build the best team to provide the best results in achieving your mission? If winning was based on a ratio of achieving your mission against creating a lasting impact in the most efficient operation, where would your team be ranked?

Winning may result in a higher profile, better funding, stronger connections, and losses that usually result in less funding, poor program quality, and diminished overall capacity.

Your team needs to train, review and evaluate their past performance, have the equipment they need, and possess excellent communication skills across the organization to ensure everyone knows the play. And remember, everyone has a bad game once in a while.

As the coach, it is incumbent upon you to develop strategies that develop your team. It is the only way to victory!

How do you get there?

  1. The pre-game: does your team know the strategy? 

During the onboarding process, many organizations go through the basicstraining on technology, data systems, client flow, and staff protocolsbut how often is the overall plan for the agency included? I have found that it’s difficult for employees to appreciate how valuable their work is to the success of their organization if they don’t understand how they fit into their organization’s strategic priorities.

So, my first tip is to make sure your onboarding process includes a review of the overall agency vision, mission, goals, and objectives and how their work as an employee filters up to your organization’s goals.

In my experience, nonprofit leaders find it hard to set-aside time in the hectic pace of a nonprofit organization to spend time reviewing the agency’s goals with new staff, let alone helping your team understand how their role needs to function for the team to succeed. However, it is hard to build a winning team culture when some of the players don't understand the play.

Once the employee understands their place in the plan, clarify your expectations of them in their role and how the strategies of the plan align with their work. From there, you should help them develop their own goals for the year and set the expectation of them to have the goals updated during the performance review process.

Returning to our basketball analogythe coach has a win/loss goal for the team for the season, so they craft their practices and plays, scouting player recruitment based on that win/loss goal. Also, each player also has their own individual goals for the season and bases those goals on their performance from the last season. Thinking of these goals is usually what would lead a player to add their own shooting practice time, polish up their free-throws, or perhaps invest in new shoes. Both the coach and the individual players are working toward a winning season.

  1. The season: Coaches need to regularly check-in on performance

Once an employee has designed their personal goals, scheduling regular check-ins is really important. If a coach only conducted check-ins on the teams' stats and the personal stats of each player once a year, many of us would think that was odd. Can you imagine an announcer during a free-throw saying, "Well Bob, LeBron is at the line, but we have no idea how he has performed in the past, let's cross our fingers and see if he makes it?"

My point is that performance management needs to be a part of the organization's culture more often than once or twice a year and might even need to be once a month. Your team needs feedback to know where they are doing well and where they are falling short. It might be more feasible to be quarterly or every-other-month, but more than once or twice a year.

  1. Celebrate the wins!

And never miss a moment to celebrate success at both the organizational level and the personal level. 

Join Allison Motz, President of Ascend Advisors and Candid for this live, online training on Thursday, October 17 to learn how. Registration is now open!

About the Author(s)

Allison Motz President Ascend Advisors

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