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Mission-Driven Non Profits and Their Challenge with Artificial Harmony

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In one of his best books called, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, Patrick Lencioni says,

“Nowhere does the tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven non-profit organizations. People in those organizations tend to have the misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.”

If you work at mission-driven non-profit, chances are you know exactly what Mr. Lencioni is referring to.  There can be an undercurrent of intangible artificial harmony that hovers on the surface of interactions but when the layers are pulled back there is often deep hurt, frustration, irritation, and loss in the way the organization functions and people interact.

Sadly, many in leadership unknowingly believe that their cause and mission should be enough to unify, align and grow a healthy team.  And it may begin that way.  However, as time goes on and challenges, disappointments, and shifts occur there is a lack of strength in the foundation. 

We forget that although the mission and cause are why we are here and should be accomplished, our greatest resource to accomplish the task is not the donors, grant writers, money makers, but the members of your organization.  Without listening, getting to know, managing, aligning talent, and developing skills your mission will suffer and limp towards the finish line.  

It is advantageous to spend time building trust, open communication, vulnerability, authenticity, and a culture that can ask for help and feels free to challenge ideas.  This is the team you want to run towards your mission.  This is the team that will be innovative, creative, helpful, and successful in accomplishing the mission of your organization. 

If that feels like a long way off from where your team currently is, we understand.  We've been there.  We have seen it time and time again.  You are not alone.  We have coached many nonprofit executives and teams into health.  It isn't an easy process, but it's really really worth it.  

I'd like to give you a small understanding of the foundation of our process. 

Our process looks like a lot of question-asking and listening on our part.  We want to listen to your ideas, frustrations, and hopes.  We then use assessments to get an understanding of who is on your team and the culture that currently exists.  After we meet with each person individually to help them understand more about their natural style and ways of seeing the world we bring everyone together.  With a new framework of language to help flesh out ideas, we can begin to unlock some of the communication break-downs that have gone unresolved for a short time or perhaps even for years.  We begin to build bridges of empathy towards others that see the world differently and see the value of making space at the table for more ideas to be heard.  We go on to help supervisors develop in their leadership style along with the executive team so that they too begin to learn the value of self-awareness, self-regulation, and social awareness on what is actually going on within your organization.  

At times people will feel freed through this process to move on from the work they are struggling to accomplish, or perhaps it becomes clear that their skills are more aligned for a different position or department.  That can be scary for many people. Change is hard.  But now the beauty of this type of change is that it will bring fruit, both for your team and your mission.  

We are passionate about helping mission-driven leaders change the world, and we believe we do that by helping you grow a healthy team!  We want to support you. 

Email [email protected] to set up a conversation to learn more.

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