Top Performers

Almost every organization has a few top performers. While it is true that in every group someone is the best and someone is the worst, it is unnecessary for the gap to be huge.

Think about professional sports teams. Every member of those teams is exceptional.

Even with a limited budget, you can use their tactics to raise the performance of your staff. The place it starts for any team is with recruiting. Professional sports teams are very careful about who they recruit. Attitude, teamwork, and current skills are at the top of the list. So is the potential to grow and develop.

There are two things that control the growth of a nonprofit. One is the leadership’s willingness to grow. The second is the capacity of the staff to grow. The actual growth rate of the nonprofit is limited to the speed with which the slowest member is willing to grow.

Is your nonprofit growing in all directions fast enough to increase its sustainability, value, and relevance to your community?

Some nonprofits will attempt to work around a slow-growing or non-growing individual. At those nonprofits other people are hired to compensate for the non-growers. This workaround is inefficient and sends the message that poor performance will be tolerated.

It is possible to avoid obstructive individuals. Hiring those with untapped potential ensures your staff has the capacity to grow. Hiring those who are ambitious ensures your staff has the will to grow. Now the only missing ingredient is management’s willingness to invest in the development of each individual. The sports team has mentors, coaches, and trainers.

Is your nonprofit willing to invest in your staff?

While your nonprofit is probably too small to have mentors, coaches, and trainers on staff, your community has colleges, you can recruit volunteers, use board members as mentors, access online courses, etc. In other words, your nonprofit has all of the tools it needs to narrow the gap between your superstars and your other staff members.

Some of the tools are expensive but your donors are willing to pay the bill. Asking donors to pay for a staff member to take a college course is unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm. However, if you tell your donors that your clients need enhanced services to reach the level of success you, the clients, and donors want, they will give you the money you need to enable your staff to develop the skills necessary to enhance your services. As long as the money will make things better for the clients and the mission, donors are willing to be generous.

Use your superstars as mentors for the rest of your team. Because it is in everyone’s best interests to be part of a winning team, your superstars should be willing to coach others. The willingness to be a team player is one of the key attributes you need in every member. As you develop each member’s potential it becomes very difficult to predict who will be your superstar in the future.

It is important to be responsive to the needs, aspirations, and ambitions of your superstars. It is also necessary to give your superstars the resources and coaching they need to remain great. It is impossible to predict, with any certainty, the future needs of your nonprofit. Since every member has the potential to be a superstar, every member deserves to be treated like a superstar from recruiting onward.

Next Step:

Give your superstars the resource and training to continue to perform at high levels

Treat all of your staff members like you treat and develop your superstars

Be selective when recruiting new staff members

Monitor the performance gap between your top performer and your bottom performer

Your staff is a portfolio of skills, knowledge, abilities, and attitudes. The best performing portfolios have a small gap between the top and bottom. As you close the gap between your top and bottom while increasing your top, you will notice that your mission becomes more effective, your clients are successful more often, your value to your community will increase, it will be easier to recruit superstars, sustainability will increase, your community support will increase, and your donors will be more loyal, generous, and engaged.

With your coaching, your team will quickly exceed your expectations for excellence.

Take It Further:

Recruit and invest in your volunteers in the same way you invest in your staff

Encourage your board to recruit and invest in its members the same way you invest in your staff members

Have an education and staff development budget that grows faster than the rate of growth of your nonprofit’s services. The skills of your staff limit the rate of growth of your services. The skills of your fundraising team limit the rate of growth of your donors’ generosity


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