The most crucial component of any small organization is teamwork. Working together as a team makes sure that the vision of the organization is not lost. However, teamwork is especially important in ensuring the success of a small nonprofit organization. A lack of teamwork can lead to disorganization and dissolution of a nonprofit organization. This seems like general and obvious advice, but in reality effective teamwork can be quite tricky. Below, I have detailed three points that can help you build a better team and be a better team member.
1) Keep an open mind and be respectful to all opinions, thoughts, and ideas. A team will never succeed if its members are not open to other people’s ideas, thoughts, and ideas. One has to realize that everyone comes from a unique backgrounds, has different experiences, and has their strengths. Therefore, it is important that everyone on the team respects different ideas and takes them into account. The insight you gain from listening to others is important because it can lead to new solutions as well as a newfound understanding about a particular topic.
2) Align yourself with the organization’s vision. Make sure you are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of your organization. Straying from it severely hinders progress and development within the organization. This also applies to meetings. When you meet as a team, go over what you would like to accomplish during that meeting how you will be collectively approaching the organization’s philosophy. If at any point an individual strays from the goals for that meeting or an unnecessary tangent is entertained, the chairman or chairwoman needs to bring the main conversation back. In the case that the whole team agrees that the established vision is outdated, it is advisable for the team to regroup and draw up a new vision that they can collectively agree on. This helps improve the organization and keep it up to date.
3) Act, reflect, act, reflect... The team is a reflection of the nonprofit itself, and therefore, needs to be constantly reflecting upon itself. Arguably, reflection is the most important tool for having great teamwork. One suggestion that works particularly well for our nonprofit organization is having the team members meet once every two weeks and reflect on the strengthens of the team and the challenges of the team. In addition, we reflect on the projects we undertake and see where we could improve the next time. The point of these sessions is to focus on the team and not on individual members. This prevents people from pointing fingers when things go wrong and to get our members into the mindset that what we do is bigger than a single person. The successes we have can be attributed to the work many and these successes go on to help many people in the community. Likewise, the failures we have are taken as a team and we focus on how we can avoid the same mistakes the next time instead of putting one individual on the spot and blaming them.
4) Finally, always ask each other questions. One question we like to ask in our board meetings is, “How can we improve communication?” As a remote team we often face barriers in communicating, so we ask about the various communication channels we use and how effective they are in getting our ideas across. Other questions include: “Does our meeting place affect our productivity? Are the tasks the team has undertaken in their field of expertise? Is there some administrative steps that can be eliminated to free up more of the team’s time?”
All of the things suggested above are gateways to opening dialogue within a team. It is important for a team to think about what is best for the organization and to work together to maintain a strong team dynamic.
For more tips on how to build an effective team, I highly recommended the following resources:
M.S. Health Policy Candidate ‘17