Only a few on your nonprofit team will help achieve big goals this year. How can you change the narrative through leadership development?

A few key leadership development steps can help you have more on your nonprofit team who achieve big goals.

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You have big annual goals that align with your strategic plan.  Everyone must play a role in helping to achieve them.  A few on your team will overachieve.  Also, more than a few won’t carry their own weight.  Why is this and how can you intentionally develop them as leaders?

There are many reasons for this reality, including how engaged everyone is in what the goals are and whether or not they understand their own roles in achieving them.  However, at the most basic level, the question that must be asked is how many on the team have the COMPETENCIES needed to reach the goals in the first place?

In our organizations, we often talk more about skills than competencies.  Most of the time skills (hard skills, at least) are described in job descriptions and listed as a requirement.  A competency, however, is a set of skills and is also attached to values and behaviors.  As an illustration, the table below shows examples of skills that may help make up a competency.

SkillsSpecific learned abilities required to perform a task or job in a specific wayExpert use of a particular CRM for donor management; knowing and executing on the best practice steps of engaging a donor; active listening skills; clear verbal communication
CompetenciesA combination of knowledge, learned abilities, values and behaviors that allow an individual to perform key functions or goals successfully, often setting them apart from others.Relationship development; ability to influence others

Among the key positions that are needed to achieve your big goals this year, or even across the whole organization, what is the one competency that is essential to reach this goal?  This may be the most important question you answer in the new year. How do you determine what competency matters most to your organization? Two things might help:

  • One way is to think of competencies as the things that would make a job candidate stand out. If you called for a reference about a certain candidate, what praise would most lead you to hire that person? For example: “Natalia is someone you always want on your team because she follows protocols and inspires and motivates others while doing so.”  Or, “Taylor stands out for me because not only does he know the steps of engaging a donor, but he is intuitively good with relationships, can read people, and really cares about them; all of these things together make him able to engage and retain more donors for our organization than ever before.” Then, ask yourself, what competency does this represent?
  • Sometimes the easiest way to determine what competency is needed most, is to look at who is excelling on your team and determine what his or her competency is that is leading to such success. What competency (remember a set of skills plus behaviors) makes his or her success possible?

Of course, after the first question are three more to consider:

  • What are the skills, behaviors and values that make up this competency?
  • Which of these can be taught/learned?
  • Who on the team has which ones and how can the organization help to develop individuals where they are lacking?
  • What does this knowledge tell me about hiring and recruiting for our team?

Below is a list of different competencies to get you started. This is adapted from the University of Washington’s Guide to Workplace Competencies, which they adapted from the book, FYI: For Your Improvement, b Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Einchinger (2009).

How you manage yourself and your approach to work?How effectively you communicate with others, work on a team, and manage conflict or difference?How efficiently and successfully you execute your job and achieve your objectives?How well you hire, develop, and manage individuals and your team as a whole?How well you contribute to the mission and objectives of your team and the organization at large?
Accountability and IntegrityInnovation and CreativityProblem Solving and Decision MakingSelf-Awareness
Collaboration and Teamwork

Conflict Management

Interpersonal Savvy

Speaking and Presenting

Written Communications
Planning and Prioritization
Process and Project Management
Information and Technology
Understanding and use of Policies and Systems
Building Effective Teams

Hiring and Staffing

Developing Employees

Managing and Measuring Work
Change and ResilienceCustomer FocusOrganizational AcumenRace, Equity, and DiversityStrategic Ability