Building accountability through leadership

You cannot assess your staffs’ overall performance if some of their most basic tasks have not been defined

October 20, 2013

Sharron-BatschEDMONTON, AB, Oct 20, 2013/ Troy Media/ – It’s difficult to assess a staff member’s performance when the elements of their job are not clearly and specifically defined. Accountability begins at the top and to develop a high performance team you need to first develop a high performance working environment.

It is all too common to find working environments fraught with no management definitions and job descriptions that are limited to a very macro level, leaving the actual day-to-day work to be redefined and changed with every new staff member. This scenario allows for lost information, poor data management, undocumented procedures (or no procedures at all!) and an overall disaster. Without the right level of leadership, staff may be left entirely out on a limb without the resources they need to efficiently manage their time and succeed in their job. How then, can you truly assess the performance of a staff member when their time might be eaten up with busy work and productive actions take a back seat?

Here’s an example of how an organization can miss out on a job well done:

A charity hires a special event consultant to run their annual fundraising gala. All the information gathered for the gala is collected by the consultant and housed on spreadsheets. But no one from the organization has thought to enter the information into the donor database for current evaluation or future use.

Why did this happen?

To my mind, it is a leadership issue. No one at the charity took the responsibility for creating a hard and fast description of the expectations for the consultant to follow. In other words, the consultant needed a job description that set out the full set of expectations of what a successful event entailed. Doing so would enable the charity to assess whether the consultant completed the job to the benefit of the charity or not. Additionally, no one in the fundraising department considered the importance of asking the consultant for this information so that it could be used to the charity’s benefit down the road.

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As far as the consultant was concerned, they did everything necessary to produce the event when, in fact, this lack of process resulted in a huge missed opportunity for the organization.

Take this example back to your organization and consider other information-gathering functions. I’m focusing on information gathering because it is a key tool for bringing in needed dollars and is also a step that gets missed by many organizations.

In my experience, the lack of detailed job descriptions that define the expectations of a particular staffing role, are often far too open-ended. These expectations are the basis on which consistency, compliance and accountability can be determined and a lack of framework forces staff to make decisions they may not be qualified to make; at which point, assessing their performance becomes more difficult because it may be tied to structural problems within the organization and not simply the employee’s capabilities.

As in the case of the gala, the lack of detailed job descriptions sheds light on the state of leadership within a non-profit, in many cases the lack of it. It takes time and effort to assess and document the tasks that are important to the success of both your staff and your organization, ensuring that, when a task or is performed, it is done in the same manner each time to the satisfaction of the charity, ensuring consistency. Only then can staff be assessed on their job capabilities and corrective measures taken as necessary.

In a system with no specific requirements and methods, individual staff will each come up with their own processes, which may to confusion, inefficiency, poor outcomes and less than satisfactory results. Put one, two or three people in the same job over the course of several years and you wind up with a chaotic environment where information is both everywhere and nowhere.

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Cleaning up this chaos can be accomplished but often the end goal appears daunting and procrastination can set in.

But the fact remains; you cannot assess a staff member’s overall performance if some of their most basic tasks have not been defined. We place the onus on senior management to design systems that address all departments, allowing the charity to function like a well-tuned machine.

Sharron Batsch is a partner at Batsch Group Inc., the developer of the @EASE Fund Development Software specializing in donor management for non-profits and the author of From Chaos to Control which addresses building a high performance team through knowledge management.

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