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5 ways to make your nonprofit teams work better

By January 22, 2020June 2nd, 2020No Comments

Who doesn’t want to belong to a team that works together to make that touchdown, break long-distance records, or solve for X in a math competition?

Teams are just as important in the nonprofit world as they are in the corporate one. An employee working as part of a team is a much happier employee than one working in solitude, research shows.

ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) surveyed more than 19,000 works around the globe to discern their level of engagement in their work. ADPRI found this.

  • Workers on a team say they’re 2.3 times more likely to be “fully engaged” than those who toil alone.
  • A worker who trusts their team leader is 12 times more likely to be fully engaged.
  • Trust in team leaders grows when team members know what’s expected of them, and when leaders recognize and appreciate team members’ strengths.
  • Gig workers, especially, like being part of a team; 21 percent of gig-only workers who are team members report feeling fully engaged.

Successful teams feel closer and more engaged with their company’s goals and missions. But how do you build successful teams?

Glenn Llopis is chief personalization officer for GLLG, a workforce development and business strategy consulting firm based in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Llopis has written extensively about corporate team building.

“In the end, the best teams are the most inclusive teams that throw away hierarchy or rank,” Llopis told “This is especially important in mission-based nonprofits when you’re often dealing with minimal resources and financial limitations.”

Llopis, author of “Leadership in the Age of Personalization,” says the best teams consist of a diverse group of problem solvers.

“Some people solve for chaos. Some people solve for advancement. Some solve for transformation,” Llopis says. “Everybody solves for something different.”

The way workers look at problems to be solved is a window into their individual work styles and strengths. Successful teams consist of people with different ways of looking at problems.

“Teams are a function of how everyone complements each other’s strengths and each other’s ability to contribute,” Llopis says.  “Knowing people as individuals is the most important part of building a team. It serves as the foundation of how that team approaches problems.”

Ah, there’s the rub. How does a manager discover who an employee is as an individual?

Llopis has spent 12 researching team building and has devised the four “money questions” that help employees reveal themselves.

  • What’s unique about the way you think?
  • What gives you distinction as an individual?
  • What impact do others expect from your presence?
  • What types of solutions do you enjoy delivering?

If managers have the time, they should ask these questions in person. If not, they should ask employees to answer the questions via email before developing the team.

Answers to the money questions allow CEOs to “recognize the diversity of thought in the room, which allows teams to be successful with both strategic and tactical issues,” Llopis says.

Once a leader has built a great team, they must keep it rowing in the same direction long-term. Here are some ways to keep teams working together.

Communicate early, often

No team can work together without frequent and clear communication about its mission and goals. Expectations should be set for the team as a whole and for members as individuals.

Communication can look like a short morning meeting, afternoon brainstorming session, or end-of-the-day roundup.

Location, location, location

If possible, locate team members close to each other in the office, which fosters communication. Also, create a break room, and encourage team members to use it. Some of the best ideas emerge casually over coffee or a lunchtime sandwich.

Set communication boundaries

In this work of 24/7 access to co-workers, it’s important to draw some lines around work time and home time. Team leaders should be clear on how to communicate with team members – text, email, telephone—and when – office hours, up to 9 p.m., weekends – whatever works for individual members.

Offer frequent feedback

Nothing keeps a team on track like consistent, constructive feedback. Don’t wait until a problem arises to weigh in on how the team as a whole, and members individually, are performing.

Recognize contributions

Recognizing work well done not only rewards workers, but it’s a way of telling team members what behaviors are valued. Money is the most coveted reward, but not the only valued form of recognition. A title promotion, a hand-written note from the team leader, an email from the CEO, or an attaboy (gal) in the company newsletter are good ways to recognize valuable contributions.

About the Author

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a veteran content producer, e-book creator, and social media writer with two Pulitzer Prize nominations and three National Headliners Awards. Her writing has appeared in Washingtonian Magazine, Redbook, Yahoo!, AOL Real Estate, AOL Daily Finance, USA Today, and US Weekly, as well as major metro dailies. She writes several times a month for

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