One of the truisms of nonprofits is that all the people who work at a certain organization believe in its cause. They are there for the psychic rewards of doing good in a field that matters to them. That perception of a built-in reward can often lead to an organizational culture that is not generous with other nonmonetary rewards — parsimonious with praise, constructive feedback, or team fun.
So the fragile positive culture of a nonprofit cannot tolerate negative ozone. And while one would hope that all who work there support positive culture, for the same variety of reasons that corporations find an individual not a good fit nonprofits will have a percentage of staff who are in fact hurting the culture — and functioning and success — of the organization.
It is just that where a corporation might speedily move such individuals on and focus on those staffers that fit well with the culture, a nonprofit is sometimes unconscious of keeping its culture healthy. We worked with a client several years ago who had identified issues in her organization, but could not determine what changes needed to be made. As part of a much larger strategic review, we helped her to focus on the culture of her team. By shifting responsibilities among staff, hiring new expertise, and moving one frustrated and unhappy individual on, she was able to frame a much healthier culture. As a result, her new strategy could take root and grow successfully. Her star performers could be just that, and she could invest time in growing her high-potential staffers into stars.
Harvard Business Review recently published a piece that has a useful set of categories for identifying the kinds of individuals that can help or hurt an organization’s culture. Worth a thought as you tackle your organization’s new strategy: What is the culture you want to build to support your organization’s success?