nonprofit manager

Dear Manager,

It’s the beginning of the year and for many of us it’s performance evaluation time. This is the time of year where we review the ambitious goals we set, the progress we’ve made and the effectiveness of our performance. Our 360-degree reviews often keep us focused and on task, yet we can’t truly have a comprehensive review, if the assignments aren’t quite up to what we need them to be. The “one size fits all” rule only works in winter hat sizes, but not in nonprofit management.

Before you jump into performance reviews; here’s what’s on my mind. All assignments aren’t equal (can I say it again for the people in the back?). All assignments aren’t created equal.

In every organization and in every field, there are different types (and levels) of assignments. There are glamour assignments —the type of work that can set you up for promotion and skyrocket you to the top of your organization. Although they are great opportunities, these are often assigned subjectively and can be baked with implicit bias.

And there are other assignments that are necessary but unsung. Let’s call them office housework. Some are actual housework e.g. getting the coffee for the morning fundraising huddle or cleaning up after a lunch meeting. But more often they are operational or administrative, and they keep the company rolling along and culture humming e.g. ordering materials for the team retreat or planning the office holiday jam.

So, what do you do when you have to evaluate the glamour assignments and the housework assignments for those on your team? How do you evaluate those assignments that keep the company rolling, but don’t look quite as glamorous as the ones that have a clear strategic charge (and affect the bottom line)? How do you share the details of your employee’s housework assignments without minimizing the “glory” of their glamour ones?

As a manager of a growing team, I think about these questions a lot and over the last 17 years I’ve come up with a method I use to ensure every voice is counted, all efforts can be measured and I create space for each and every person on my team to get a little glamour in the house(work). Here are a few of the things in my nonprofit manager workbox.

1. Make sure you’re ready to evaluate on a holistic scale by asking for feedback that would present your employees as whole workers rather than titles and labels. Ask about more than their SMART goals and fundraising milestones. Gather data on their communication skills, problem-solving strategies, and interpersonal attributes. Asking for feedback from the peers that know them and the ones they interface with is a great start.

2. Ask leading questions in order to better gather the details of everything they accomplished from cross functional projects, to site visits, to coffee pickup. It all counts and everyone has a position to play to ensure your organization is in the best position to advance mission. Don’t make assumptions about skill, agency or desire unless you understand what you’ve ASKED your team as a whole (and your team members individually) to achieve.

3. Create your own wheel of work for your employees. What does success look like? What are you measuring and why? Do you have a clear sense of the balance and importance you place on housework vs glamour work?  Evaluate how you’ve seen your team members set, adjust, and execute goals. Then provide opportunities (think of a lazy susan or ferris wheel) for each of your team members to lead an important piece of work and STRETCH their skillset.

These are just a few of the steps I take to ensure that my team has a balance of the work needed to advance mission. It does take some trial and error, but you can do it!

For more ways to grow your team while keeping your sanity, check out these resources here.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Kishshana Palmer, CFRE
Kishshana Palmer, is a uni-mom, trainer, educator, and professional speaker. She is the founder of Kishshana & Co. and author/blogger for “Secret Lives of Leaders”. When she is not starring in the Life of My Preteen (okay it’s not a real show, but it could be), she is dropping knowledge about leadership and life. Kishshana is the epitome of your classic 90's Queens homegirl and quintessential corner office executive. She is your daily dose of Claire Huxtable with a side of Blanche Devereaux