THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF KEEPING GOOD PEOPLE WORKING AT YOUR NONPROFIT

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I hear it all the time:

One of our best employees is leaving us for another nonprofit organization.

 

       It's disheartening to lose good people because good people help make the good things happen.  I think many organizations could lose less "good people" if they just followed these 10 commandments:

1. Thou shall not make empty promises.

       We've got to stop making promises to our team members that we know, deep down inside, we cannot keep. After one or two promises being broken, people start think you are full of _________ (you know what to write in the blank). They begin to distrust you and distrust is the knife that cuts out loyalty faster than an Hibachi Chef. If you can't follow through on what you are about to say, don't say it at all.

2. Thou shall give a crap about employee's lives outside of work.

     Caring about people's lives outside of work goes a loooooooong way. It communicates, 
"I acknowledge that you are a valuable human being outside of this organization. Who you are is more important than what you do."  Remember their birthdays. Ask about then 9 month old baby. Go to their mother's funeral. Send a gift basket when they have broken their ankle playing ultimate frisbee and have to take a week or two off from work.  Give a crap. When they know that you care, they care. They feel safe enough to root themselves into the organization for the long haul.

3. Thou shall not play favorites.

     Playing favorites is just gross so don't do it. Always play fair. Treat everyone the same and go to great lengths to do so even if when it's inconvenient for you. Uphold yourself and everyone else to the same standards. This isn't eighth grade. Everyone gets to sit at your table.

4. Thou shall celebrate wins...small and big.

     For the love, please celebrate your wins. Celebrate your team! Celebrate for big things and for little things. Create a culture that knows how to be grateful for the good. Surprise Ice Cream Parties are always a win (except for our dear lactose intolerant friends). Treating everyone to an afternoon off will always earn your good stars. Hosting an in-office luau is always fun. Always. Learn to be the leader that highlights the good with celebration. Good people are attracted to that kind of culture. 

5. Thou shall use "mistakes" as opportunities to "mentor".

   Even good people make mistakes. Learn to take this moment as an opportunity to mentor through the mistake instead of being a total jerk face about it. Shaming people after they have made a mistake has never been an effective course of action in guaranteeing they won't make the same mistake again. The best way to make sure mistakes aren't made again is by taking the time to kindly mentor someone through it.

6. Thou shall practice basic manners on a regular basis.

   Learn how to practice:  Please. Thank you. I'm sorry. Excuse me. Hello. How are you? Take care. Have a great day! You know. The basics. Manners are becoming a long lost art in the workplace and this makes me very sad. Regardless of your position, there is never a reason why you would ask an employee to do something without incorporating good common sense manners into the request. It's downright disrespectful and frankly, immature. Too harsh? I think not. We all need to be grown ups and being a grown up means that we know and practice good manners Mr. Rogers taught us!

7. Thou shall look for creative incentives to motivate good work.

    Look, let's not kid ourselves. If you are wanting to make the big bucks... working for a nonprofit will most likely not be the place where you going to become a billionaire. Most folks who choose to work for a NFP, do so because they believe in cause of the mission. They want to contribute to the good of world with the everyday work that they do. In saying this, we can rest assure that although we may not be able to hand out frequent bonuses, we can find other creative incentives to award our employees for their good work. Lack of money can never be an excuse to forget to say "thank you".

8. Thou shall return phone calls, emails, and texts.

   Do your best to communicate well. I know things get busy and it's hard to stay on top of correspondence but it's important that your team feels like you care about what they have to say. Even if you can't respond right away, you can always send a simple text or email that says, "Hey! I got your message. I am little swamped right now but I want you to know that I am thinking about you said. Let's a schedule a time to talk about this..."  By doing this, you are communicating to your team members, "You are a priority to me."

9. Thou shall commit to integrity.

    This should go without saying, but sadly... honesty is gravely underestimated these days. Leaders who commit to integrity command the respect of  their team. Need I say more?

10. Thou shall deal with office drama, problem people, and team dissension quickly and effectively. 

     No one wants to work in an hostile environment. Office drama is a waste of energy and problem people are soul sucking. Deal with it. Don't ignore it. Don't become involved. Just lay down a "no tolerance" policy of people being mean to each other. Be ye not naive : Bullying still exists among adults. If someone can't play nice and work well with others... perhaps they shouldn't be working for you at all. 

 

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       Look. Good people will leave from time to time... just don't give them a good reason to. Okay? This world needs the mission of your organization to succeed and the only way that can happen is if good people roll up their sleeves to help you do it.

My money is on you because you are awesome,

Todd