To achieve the highest potential results for your community, your organization needs to be working at its highest potential. For that to happen, everyone involved needs to be working at their highest potential. What if you applied that thinking to your human resources policies and practices? For each aspect of your human resources and volunteer management system, ask yourself and your team,
How could our ______________________ policy and practices bring out the best in everyone?
Fill in the blank with words like recruitment, compensation, evaluation, benefits, time off and more. Gradually re-think every aspect of how you deal with the people you depend on for getting organizational results. Encourage boards and senior management teams to have really challenging dialogues about what would be possible if your policies supported people to be at their best, especially in difficult situations. Involve employees in those conversations; make any change with them not to them.
Bringing out the highest potential in each person, situation and organization is the focus of the charity Creating the Future. They have called their approach Catalytic Thinking, and there’s a link at the end of this article if you want to know more.
They let me grow!
I spoke with a former employee, Candice Grimm, to ask what Catalytic Thinking had meant for her as an employee and as a person – because you hire whole people whose total lives matter.
Her key phrase? “They let me grow!” From the start, the co-founders asked her to work with them not for them. They were very intentional about what they wanted to achieve, and when. They had confidence in her even on days she wasn’t sure herself how to do things. Every week, they checked in with her and each other about results achieved, bumps in the road, resource needs and what was possible for the coming week.
Candice observed that many organizations don’t look past working roles to see their employees as people. I agree. Many employers forget that a whole person comes to work, affected by what happened that morning, the health of family members, a mortgage coming due and many other thoughts they cannot leave at the door. Instead of looking transactionally at each employee (or volunteer) relationship and considering their ROI, consider everyone as part of a community currently performing certain roles and tasks.
At Creating the Future, Candice was asked how she wanted the work to make her feel. She answered “fulfilling”, so she was allowed to progressively take on more responsibilities, with support as she learned. They met her where she was at – in her very first nonprofit
I also spoke with Stacy Ashton, Executive Director, Community Volunteer Connections, a volunteer centre serving several communities in British Columbia. Despite funder restrictions on job descriptions and compensation, she sought ways to empower staff. She started with staff-board retreats, moving them from secret circles of leaders to a chance for employees to make their best contribution. The sessions humanized the board members and helped staff see the reporting relationship between the board and executive director. Stacy reported that the directors being very impressed by the depth of thinking that came from involving the staff members.
Performance evaluation that brings out the best in everyone
Building on that success, and her prior experience with Appreciative Inquiry, Stacy moved to changing performance management into an opportunity for staff to reflect on how to bring out the highest potential of their programs, with each staff person sharing their passions and the possibilities they saw. Stacy’s job shifted from directing their work to providing the supports they needed to accomplish what they wanted to do, with check-ins for accountability. She saw respect grow and small conflicts disappear because everyone, Executive Director and co-workers alike, have the best interest of the programs at heart, and are in alignment with the goals of the organization as a whole.
Stacy emphasized that while she couldn’t entirely eliminate the power dynamic, she was very mindful about finding ways to reduce it. One way was having staff debrief as a group after each new process was tried out.
In preparing for this blog, I re-listened to the September and December 2014 Board meeting of Creating the Future (all the board meetings are held on air and the videos posted for those who missed the live event). It was truly astounding to listen to the board members and founders talk about creating a whole and vibrant life for everyone involved. Compensation is an enabler that makes it possible for people to live – what a wonderful re-framing!
They seek to align an individual’s potential with the potential of the organization, making performance evaluation about achieving potential. Evaluations validate the efforts people have made to achieve the mission, so they are inspired to further actions and learning. Are people in your organizing rushing to their evaluation sessions so they can talk about what’s been amazing in their work? They can be!
The follow-up blog will look at other HR functions you could catalyze! While you are waiting, learn more about Catalytic Thinking. I very highly recommend this blog written by Hildy Gottlieb, co-founder of Creating the Future. There are many areas other than HR where you can benefit from this transformative thinking.