There are people in leadership positions and there are people who have leadership qualities regardless of position. Some of the former would be hard pressed to manage, not to mention lead, while some of the latter can have a very positive influence within the team or organisation in which they operate. The impact of good leadership can and should be felt throughout an organisation. Similarly, the effect of poor leadership can have a very negative impact, not least, on organisational culture.
Let us consider the impact and effectiveness of leadership across these three areas:
Organisation Culture & Structure
Leaders within an organisation may have a very clear understanding of what they perceive the culture of that organisation to be, or indeed what they want it to be. They agree the purpose, values, standards, behaviours and attitudes which they believe will define that culture and communicate these to everyone involved with the organisation. However, an organisation’s culture can be informed by many things including:
Mission, Vision and Values
Non-Profit organisations can have very clearly stated Mission, Vision and Values. These are very often reviewed and updated during the development of a new Strategic Plan for the organisation. Hopefully many stakeholders, including managers, staff and volunteers are involved in this process as by their actions every day they are supposed to be living up to the overall culture and, indeed, contributing to it. Unfortunately, all too often this is not the case, and if culture is informed in part, by Mission, Vision and Values that many employees are not even aware of, then the organisational culture they experience, and contribute to, must surely be different. Furthermore, their contribution to an organisation’s culture may be disproportionately influenced by other considerations, and they may not always be positive.
Leadership/Management styles of CEO and Managers
The Board, CEO and Management Team within an organisation should have a strong influence on culture so their leadership and management styles are important. The influence of the Board is often most felt by the CEO and may only impact on Managers when the Board sets key performance indicators (KPIs) and looks for reports on progress. The leadership style of the CEO has a significant impact and they should possess strong attributes in setting direction for the organisation and mobilising commitment from employees. Using Daniel Goleman’s Six Leadership Styles as a reference, CEO Leadership styles may be described as Commanding, Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, or hopefully, a combination of these, changing over time.
Where employees and managers are very motivated, have a strong work ethic, are driven and proactive, work well alone and have initiative, they will respond well to a more democratic, visionary style of leadership. Some employees need a more commanding style of leadership, and when they do, it is important that they experience it. Employees who do not perform as well as they should, should not be left to their own devices, with those in leadership positions preferring to ask more of those who are able and, most often, willing to take on more responsibility and work above and beyond. This risk causing such people to feel that too much is asked of them, while the underperformance of others goes unchecked.
Ignoring underperformance is a failure of leadership. Speaking on a podcast about managing underperformers, Management Consultant, Liz Kislik, describes that while employees are responsible for themselves, the leader is ultimately responsible. Leaders must ensure that employees know what is expected from them and what standards they are expected to perform to.
Staff personalities & motivation
The personalities of individual staff members can have a very huge impact on the culture within a team and, sometimes, more widely within an organisation. In any Department where little attention is paid to wider organisational culture, the personality of the manager, or one staff member, can significantly dominate the working environment, possibly in a negative way.
Similarly, within the non-profit sector, many employees are on very low incomes and may be on short term, supported employment schemes. Within this group, it could be argued that many people are motivated by the need for basic income, the need to upskill and move on to other organisations who might pay more and provide more prospects. Some people nearing retirement may not have the same motivation as others more mindful of career paths. So leaders wanting to understand what impact employees have on culture, need to know what motivates them to be there in the first place.
Performance Management & Reviews
Strategic Planning is a significant governance function and leaders within non-profit organisations can agree impressive strategic goals be achieved. However, the most important resource available to help deliver on such goals is people, employees and volunteers, so managing performance, enabling and empowering people as much as possible, is something that needs to be done well.
The format and the process is important to get right and should include:
PR Questionnaire starting with:
In starting with ‘About the Organisation’, it is intended to link the organisation’s purpose with the work of employees so they feel connected and motivated. The employee’s performance should also be measured against the description for the job they are actually doing – are they doing more? Or less? Have they grown the role so much that the job description needs to be updated?
The Performance Review Questions should start by asking employees what motivates them to do the work they do. As mentioned earlier, not everyone has the same motivation to do the work they do or to work in the organisation they work in. Some people are motivated by income, take pride in their work, and are very results orientated. However, others will have other motivations. As mentioned earlier, when purpose and values are not embedded throughout the organisation, and you have strong personalities which have a negative impact within a Department, the culture of the organisation can be significantly diluted. Add to that the simple reality that some people have motivations that have little to do with the organisation’s purpose, then there is a real risk that those strategic goals will not be realised.
Employees should also be asked to assess themselves against competencies. This will help to support the values and purpose of the organisation, set requirements and standards for employees and roles, and identify training needs for individuals and across the organisation. Employees should be involved in setting some of the competencies for their role particularly as part of the appraisal process – they are the people doing the job every day and it is good for them to have some ownership of the process and content.
The last section is the Personal Development Plan, identifying goals, needs and any obstacles in the way of either. Incorporation GROW model questions into the Plan can encourage the Appraiser to incorporate coaching into the process. This lends itself to a person-centred approach, enhances a sense of belonging for the employee as they see the employer is thinking about them, and their role in the organisation, long term.
Quarterly informal performance appraisals provide an opportunity to keep manager and employee focused on all aspects. KPIs should of course be included but the focus is on how the person is progressing, what goals do they have, where are they now in relation to those goals and what help do they need to achieve them. It is important for leaders to demonstrate that the organisation is interested in employees’ career paths, hopefully within the organisation. It is also motivating for employees to hear that organisation understands that some people want to improve, upskill and progress when opportunities present themselves.
Recruitment & Selection
Leaders will want to find the right people to work in an organisation if strategic objectives are to be met and an important consideration in this regard is the recruitment process, in particular, incorporating:
As identified earlier, problems that can occur when employees within an organisation see little or no connection between the work that they do and the Mission, Vision and Values of the organisation. One way to address this is to incorporate these into the recruitment process from the very start. There should be consistency across an organisation in how vacancies are handled and promoted and the process should incorporate some of the features used in Performance Management:
The inclusion of Mission, Vision, Values and stated competencies in recruitment of all employees is a key first step in ensuring their significance is understood by all from the start. It also enhancing the chances of better matching candidates with organisational requirements. Furthermore, the inclusion of purpose, values and competencies in the recruitment process prepares an employee, and the organisation, for their inclusion in performance management later on. At times of low unemployment nationally, in a sector where salaries are usually lower than private and other sectors, this can be all be very challenging, but with increasing pressure on non-profit organisations to work to the highest of standards, find the right people and keeping them is a significant leadership responsibility.
The importance of strong leaders, and strong leadership, within a non-profit organisation cannot be overstated: the impact and effectiveness of leading people successfully can and should make a huge difference to both the culture and success of the organisation. And remember, leaders in your non-profit can be working at any level within the organisation, look around you, don’t just look up.
Andrew Madden, Learning & Development Manager, Carmichael.
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