In high-performance organizations:
- Managers translate leaders’ drive for excellence into clear work plans and incentives to carry out the work effectively and efficiently.
- Managers’ decisions are data informed whenever possible.
- Managers, like executives and boards, recruit, develop, engage, and retain the talent necessary to deliver on the mission. They help staff get the tools and training they need in order to deliver the desired results.
- Managers provide opportunities for staff members to see how their work contributes to the organization’s mission. Managers know that doing so helps staff members find meaning and purpose in their work—and generally leads to higher motivation and performance.
- Managers establish accountability systems that provide clarity at each level of the organization about the standards for success and yet provide room for staff to be creative about how they achieve these standards.
- Managers provide continuous, candid, constructive feedback to team members and augment it with periodic performance reviews. They view performance reviews as an opportunity to help staff improve.
- Managers provide frequent opportunities for staff to provide feedback to their supervisors. Supervisors are not only open to receiving this feedback; they encourage it and are willing to act on it.
- Managers acknowledge and take action when staff members are not doing their work well. They give these staffers help to improve or move them to more suitable roles. If it becomes clear that staff members are unable or unwilling to meet expectations, managers are not afraid to make tough personnel decisions so that the organization can live up to the promises it makes to constituents, donors, and other key stakeholders.
Note: We recognize that an organization with a very small staff usually can’t afford to draw a distinction between leaders and managers. In our experience, this distinction starts to be meaningful as an organization grows in size and/or adds sites—making planning, organizing, and coordinating more important and more challenging to do.