Paying Attention to Your Nonprofit's Workplace Culture Pays Off | Beth's Blog

Paying Attention to Your Nonprofit’s Workplace Culture Pays Off

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Workplace Culture

Recently, I was invited to participate in a staff “Lunch and Learn,” by Connor Diemand-Yauman, CEO of Philanthropy University, about building a culture of wellbeing in the nonprofit workplace and capacity building.

One of the things I immediately noticed in the office, is that they displayed their values on the wall (the sign with the different color circles).  Many organizations do that.  But there was also another sign on the wall that described their Quarter 3 theme word “Mindfulness” and a reflective question, “What behaviors and processes can we establish to engender more mindfulness and presence in our interactions.”

I asked Connor about how they use this particular cultural nudge and cue.  First, they selected the theme “Mindfulness” because it hits across many of their core organizational values, including “See the whole person” “Be vulnerable” and “Move with Purpose” and “Seek Joy”

He and his team identify a  “theme” for every quarter, something that they want to work on or reinforce that is aligned with their organizational values.   He asks his team for regular, concrete interventions that reinforce that theme.  Says Connor, “These printouts are a simple cue reminding us to be more mindful and present. You can’t look anywhere in our office without having them in your line of sight; they’re inescapable.”

Another intervention that emerged was a solution to “techno-interference” at meetings where people are not giving full attention to the meeting because they were on their devices.  This is a common challenge for many nonprofits.

Philanthropy University has created large, green “Digital Detox Boxes” that sit outside their meeting rooms. The rule is that the person running the meeting can require that people put their devices in this box before coming into the room.  Connor notes, “I’m so much more present without devices in reach — I’m a better manager, more thoughtful teammate, and more active listener. The ‘detox box’ is akin to collecting your friends’ keys at the start of a party; but instead of curbing drunk driving, we’re stopping distracted discourse.”

The ability to pay attention AND influence your nonprofit’s organization culture is an incredibly valuable skill to master, regardless of your position or the stage of your career. While organizational culture may be driven by leadership, it is often reinforced by others on staff. Leaders and all staff for that matter have an essential role in creating a culture that encourages the best work and promotes the growth and development of individuals and teams.

If your organization or team has not identified its cultural values, here’s an exercise from the Emerging Leaders Playbook that can help get you started and a few good articles to read.

How does your organization connect its stated values to actual workplace mindsets and actions?   Is mindfulness a theme that is important to your nonprofit?  How have you addressed it in your culture?

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