Your Part of Your Performance Management

Many nonprofits run on the July - June fiscal year. Because my retained executive search boutique’s nonprofit search assignments have increased, I thought I’d write this post near the year end of the nonprofit year. But of course, the ideas apply to any organization at any time. 

The idea came about when I decided to check in with my sports science studio, Endurance PTC in Mill Valley, CA, to proactively get feedback on my running performance. I last checked in in January. I knew I was getting faster, so why check in regularly? Well it’s June…an eternity in the cycle of feedback. Sports watches give you feedback by the minutes these days! It’s more than just comparing whether or not  you are faster from day to day. When evaluating performance, it’s best to parse all the possible factors. It’s important to keep refining the plan for attainable improvement, not just stick with (sometimes unrealistic) goals that I come up with on my own.

It can be quite uncomfortable to get feedback, as you can see from the photo. But it’s always worth it! I found out that I am indeed becoming more economical in my oxygen use, which means I can go faster longer. But I do have some areas to work on, and with the feedback I received  specific process improvements to help reach my new goals. 

So, how does this relate to nonprofits and feedback?

  • One thing that sets A-Player performers apart is that they proactively seek feedback. They frequently check with their boss(es) to evaluate their performance, or even seek advice across departments when they need to collaborate for success on important projects. 

  • A-Players regularly make sure their prioritization of goals, projects, etc remain in line with what the boss had in mind, and aren’t afraid to make adjustments when conditions change.

  • The A-Player works with his team in the same manner. Team members proactively check in to make sure there’s agreement on highest priorities and and progress is communicated.

Are you doing this? Does your CEO or Executive Director proactively check in with the Board on performance goals and progress?

Carrie Cheadle’s, “On Top of Your Game. Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance,” delivers advice that applies much more broadly than to just the sports world.  You can remove the word “athletic” and it applies to all types of performance. (Did I mention this is one advantage to hiring someone with some athletic tendencies in their backgrounds? Pro status not required, just tenacity and consistency. That person has very likely experienced the benefit of going outside the comfort zone to achieve success.)

One point I really loved in her book is that you need process goals. What process can you establish or improve to support your goals? Without the right process steps, goals are just dreams. Make them a reality in both work and fun.

Examples of process goals 

  • When you ask for feedback and develop your exact plans to improve, make sure to include how processes will change, not just what the end goals will be. If your finance department needs to free up more time for analysis, what manual process needs to be automated? What information is generated “because we always did it that way” can be eliminated altogether? 

  • For my running test, the process improvements are to 1) increase hill running repeats and 2)  have a more exact time of running dedicated to a pace called “fat burning zone – low medium and high” rather than speed work.

  • I have a personal goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At my advanced age, I can’t keep doing a marathon every month to see what formula is going to work. There are so many factors that stop you from making your goal time. It’s complicated to sort out how each element of the process (training, sleep, nutrition, mentality and  level of talent) plays in. In order to tweak the process, it’s important to receive feedback from an outside perspective. 

The thing about feedback, whether on the job or in  sports, is that it might be uncomfortable. On the job, it’s easy to fall into the mental trap of “everything must be fine, or my boss would say something.”  Many supervisors aren’t that great at coaching. Make it easier for the boss, and seek the feedback yourself. 

Set yourself apart by asking what areas you can improve in. Chances are that your boss, your peers and your team will support you even more if they know you care about creating more value for everyone. If you are the boss, it’s time to check in on your team, and let them know where they are strong too, or someone else will “offer” to appreciate them while you’re not looking.