You might be surprised how often this disrupts leadership team functioning

This is the 3rd in a 10 part series on building a high-performing leadership team.

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., the Mission-Based Leadership Coach

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Let’s say you’ve got the right people in place in key leadership positions.  Now what do you do to maximize their ability to achieve great results?  One fundamental requirement is clear purpose and direction.  Every nonprofit leader I have ever worked with recognizes that this clarity is critical to organizational success.  However, many factors cause precipitate a need for a timely adjustment or clarification of strategic direction and goals.  Doing this is fundamental to achieving high performance as a leadership team.

Signs that your organization needs to clarify purpose and strategic direction

  • Leaders have difficulty making decisions. When you find that your leadership team keeps having the same conversations over and over, but can’t seem to arrive at decisions, this may be an indication that there is a lack of clarity about organizational direction and goals. What are the budget priorities for next year?  Should we pursue this grant?  What qualities should we look for in hiring the next leader or bringing on the next cohort of board members?  Bring out the strategic plan to help resolve such disagreements.  If it doesn’t help, it may need to be updated.
  • Organizational leaders are “stuck.” When organizational direction has become confused, people may be paralyzed and unwilling to take action.  It is frustrating and unrewarding to be part of a stuck If you ask leaders in this situation how they feel the organization is doing, they express frustration that there is too much discussion and too little action.
  • Leaders, volunteers, and staff are “spinning.” People are busily engaged in lots of activities, but there is little in the way of forward movement or results to show for it.  It can be easy to attribute these behaviors to personality attributes, but it may be more an issue of underlying disagreement about vision and goals.
  • Organizational leaders are often working at cross-purposes. This wastes resources terribly and is important to address. When leaders avoid each other and fail to coordinate their efforts, it causes organizational dysfunction and creates rework.  Working at cross-purposes can also lead to bickering and hostilities between different parts of the organization.  All of this is costly in terms of time, money, and goodwill.  Do not assume this derives from personality issues.  It could be a matter of different views about organizational direction.  When you observe this, check if everyone has a shared vision and shared goals and is adhering to an agreed-upon set of strategies for achieving those goals.

The Executive Director gave notice that she was retiring in one year—which panicked board members who found themselves quite uncertain about organizational direction. They were becoming increasingly worried that the organization would not survive this transition.  Although they had the common nonprofit mentality that the organization couldn’t afford anything “extra,” they decided they needed to get help to develop a clear direction and focus for the future and they hired me to facilitate a planning process.

Use Planning to Maximize Leadership Functioning and Organizational Results

If your organization lacks clear direction, you will not have a high-functioning leadership team.  Such a team has a united focus and purpose.  Such leaders share leadership and accomplish organizational goals through effectively networked efforts, amplifying each other’s efforts.  That’s why your leadership team must engage in planning activities with some regularity—achieving clarity about the shared vision, key goals and strategies.  This is one of the key elements for building a dynamic, united, high-performing leadership team to lead your mission-based work.  When mission-based leaders achieve great clarity of direction, organizational resources are put to best use, staff and volunteers are energized, momentum is built, and the mission is well-fulfilled.  It is a joy to be part of such an organization!

What have YOU discovered is important for building a high-performing leadership team?


Get in touch at or 720-443-5056

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