The best laid plans for delivering premium service do not always work. Effective nonprofits begin by looking at things they can control before going outside to discover what went wrong. When emphasis is on doing an external scan, problems inside the organization go unnoticed.
Dedicated people in nonprofits do not set out to be ineffective at solving social problems. Many difficulties can be traced to poor communication, when people talk to each other in disrespectful ways or critical issues are ignored. Expectations about what has to be done and how to do it stifle conversations around change.
Everyone in the organization turns to the board of directors to provide that leadership. They need not agree on every aspect of operations to be effective. A group with different backgrounds creates a larger capacity for understanding multiple audiences. Diversity and inclusion are key ingredients. It is not enough to have people who look different; their voices must be considered and given equal weight in every discussion.
Before getting to the tough questions every board faces, putting six things into practice paves the path for highly effective boardroom communications.
- Remember that everyone on the board is valuable and worthy of respect. They bring a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities toward accomplishing the mission.
- Always use a respectful tone when addressing each other and do not make anything personal. Focus on the vision, mission, and the people who need your services.
- Focus on the good qualities each member of the team possesses. This is not always easy in the heat of discussion. Build pauses into conversation when agitated or doubtful about the direction it is taking. Allow time to reflect and adjust to what has been said. It is possible to be wrong, and everyone has a right to be wrong. Angry language will not bring others around to your way of thinking. Empathy is the best tool for getting the conversation back on track in these situations.
- Listen and ask questions. Repeat what someone has said, in your own language, then ask if that was what they meant. Conversations may last longer, but this approach is worth the extra time invested to eliminate misunderstandings. Active listening includes full engagement, openness, going beneath the surface of the words to hear what is not being said, and not interrupting the person speaking.
- Be clear about what you want to say and how you say it. Show respect by avoiding you-statements when you are addressing a disagreement or talking about your reaction to something they said or did. Address your response to the action, not to their action. Listen very carefully to their response and thank them for taking time to listen to your point of view. Focus on the problem, not the person.
- Continuously celebrate what is working. When you notice others’ good qualities in action, verbalize how you admire them in front of the group. Openly state how much you value and appreciate each other. Making these six strategies a habit will increase your effectiveness as individuals and as an organization.
The above techniques free you to answer the following questions. You are on your way to tackling any challenge when you’ve answered them!
- What’s our primary purpose? Always stay focused on the vision and mission.
- What are we best at? Always work from your strengths.
- What is our biggest challenge? Work on the most important things first.
- What are we not doing that we should start doing?
- What should we stop doing?
- What should we keep doing?
Russell Dennis is CEO of RD Dennis Enterprises, LLC. He is host of the Social Profits Success Show and co-host of SynerVision Leadership Foundation’s Nonprofit Exchange Podcast. He creates customized tools that are easy to access, understand, and use to help social profits raise more funds and attract more support for their missions. You can find him at www.RussellDennis.com and at user name RmanRussDen on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Go to https://Bit.ly/bookruss to schedule a complimentary consultation.
This article is reprinted from Issue #10 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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