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Do you have any systems in your personal or work life? How well are they working for you?
There are three work systems you need to strengthen right away. The first system we are addressing in this series is:
DECISION MAKING & APPROVALS
Decisions tend to bottleneck somewhere along the chain of leadership in your organization. Maybe you're the one creating the bottleneck or perhaps there is another person or layer where conversations stop. It's challenging for any projects to run efficiently without a clearly defined process, frustrating the people running the project as well as managers and top leadership.
As a leader start by honestly answering if your need for control is driving your inability to trust others to make decisions and even allow for a mistake here and there. This is frequently an issue in small to medium nonprofit organizations; leaders feel they need to be in most conversations and aware of all the details before anything can move forward.
Implementing a system of checks and balances will alleviate management pain and free your employees to create within a defined space that provides freedom and still maintains brand and missional integrity. One method of this system is the Traffic Light System.
The Traffic Light System has three categories of restrictions:
Green (always): No manager approval is needed for making these decisions. There are no safety concerns, branding changes, legal questions, etc. Most nonprofit organizations and corporations agree that customers and members come first. No matter what you are in the middle of, you ALWAYS have time to stop and speak with a customer to answer their question, direct them to where they need to go, or resource them.
Yellow (sometimes): This category doesn't carry a hard stop necessarily, but may call into questions factors that need to be discussed with a team. For nonprofit organizations, this may be an outreach or partnership opportunity. Outreach is almost always a good thing, but it is important to choose situations that will meet your organization's goals.
There are also situations when processes or activities have been carried out for so long and while previously an annual fundraising event may have been non-negotiable, perhaps some staff are noticing a lack of enthusiasm and engagement from members, so this would be a situation where the event may be downgraded to Yellow and brought to the table for further discussion.
Red (never): Just as a red traffic light demands that you stop, this category is rarely an area that can be changed. Primarily these will be areas of legality, such as no child left alone with only one adult, safety, and organizational values, including mission and vision statements.
You and your leadership team must decide what goes in each category. Be aware that the more decisions fall into the yellow and red sectors, the more inefficiently your organization will function. If you are hiring great people, trust them to do their job. If you are not hiring great people, well, we need to talk!
A Traffic Light System doesn't necessarily involve any software, but it is an important automation. Implementing these guidelines and discussing them with your staff will free them to move forward confidently and let them know when they need to come to you.
SHORT & LONG TERM GOALS
Have you defined your 3, 6, 12-months goals as well as the long term vision of your organization? Have you over communicated these to your team so much that they could articulate them without any prompting? Poll a few members of team to see if your communication is as good as you think it is.
When people know their destination it's so much easier for them to stay on track and get to where they want to go. Seems basic, but try this on for size...
If I give you a car and a set of keys and tell you to go, but don't bother giving you a destination, what is the likelihood that you will end up where I need you to be?
Pretty much zero.
We are now working with a large number of digital natives, so there is no excuse not to keep your mission, vision, and goals in front of people. Videos, emails, texts - the list goes on and it is EASY to get your message out to as many people as you choose, especially if you are paying them.
This second step of automation provides a map to every employee, volunteer, and community member about where you are going. Your team can filter conversations and decisions through these goals they know so well and minimize drifting off course. If you as their leader haven't done a killer job of communicating then yes, your staff will need you to hold their hand.
I've seen this repeatedly, but you will get frustrated if staff make decisions that seem to come from left field. Before you get frustrated with them, determine if you are doing all you should be in communicating. And don't answer that question yourself. Check with other staff to see if they have a clue of what you thought you shared so eloquently.
WORK MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Your ADULT employees do not need a babysitter, but accountability and visibility are two of the healthiest characteristics to instill in your organizational culture.
Work Management Systems (WMS) provide objective accountability so that the pressure on you to manage (or micromanage) almost disappears. When everyone on the team has visibility of projects and deliverables that everyone else is responsible for it elevates their own motivation to contribute excellent work.
If you ever work out in a gym or take a group exercise class you're probably aware of the fact that you work a LOT harder there than if you were working out in your garage. That is a form of accountability - everyone can see you so you're not about to choose the lighter weight or leave class early.
A WMS will do the same thing. People know what others are doing. They don't want to look like the slacker or be the bottleneck. And if you do encounter issues in your workflows, you have your WMS to analyze and uncover the weak points.
To learn more tips on efficiently managing your organization and team, connect to the hive.
I work with nonprofits, entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them strengthen their operational strategy and marketing approach. To work with me, check out a few strategy packages I've compiled for. you or set up a discovery call to determine how I can best support you.