Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Insights from the Inside: Creating Pathways to Success

This post is part of a series providing a road map for real world operational management of non-profits and social enterprises. The author, Gene Miller, has held a variety of high-stakes leadership positions in diverse industries through crisis periods and great successes. This series shares her results-based approach, presenting practical guides for how to get things done. She can be reached at

You Want The Road Ahead To Look Like This To Your Team


Not This!


What a high caliber team wants is simple. They need to know the destination: i.e. where we, as an organization are going and the overall road map for how we are going to get there. They want to clearly understand what their individual particular roles are and what they are to accomplish. It will be helpful if you can put up the guard rails as to where not to go and plan frequent check ins. And then most important, you as the leader need to give them the keys to the car.

Many nonprofit and social enterprise teams will admit that the immediacy of the day to day often keeps them from the big stuff like strategic work. Roles can bleed into one another depending who has availability or there may be silos of accomplishment by individual players who don’t communicate with one another. More often than not, there is clarity about the mission and vision, but after that it’s fuzzy and the strategic plans from last year tend to sit on the shelf until the next strategy session.

This does not have to be your organization. If you take the time to set up a pathway from the strategic plan to individual performance goals and send clear signals as to expectations, human nature can usually take care of the rest.

Steps to make it happen:

  1. Make sure everyone has a job description (not the job posting from their hiring but rather a description of what they do). If they don’t have one (and many not for profits and social enterprises do not), ask they draft their own up, making clear it doesn’t have to be perfect, but needs to exist.
  2. Condense the overall organization strategy into a 4 paragraph high level document to be shared with the team that answers the following:
    • Where we are.
    • Where we are going.
    • How we are going to get there.
    • What we are going to accomplish in the next year.
  3. Every manager should then work together with each of their reports to develop 4-5 goals at the beginning of each year to which their performance will be reviewed at year-end. These should be framed with the “This year we as an organization are going to accomplish” (from the strategy document) and your corresponding goals are to… These should be weighted as to importance and add up to 100%. If there is a constructive “needs to be improved area” in need of attention, talk it over and spell it out.
  4. Personally, I like to include teamwork as one of the objectives, actually putting it in writing that this is one of the ways they will be measured. I have found it unleashes all sorts of healthy stuff you can’t even envision at the outset.
  5. Finally, the discussion around all of this is vital. No matter the level they play in the organization, everyone needs to understand their importance to the strategy. It’s also a great time to remind them of what we value in their abilities and performance. Folks need to hear all of this.

The more your team understands the road ahead and they feel essential to the outcomes, the more you will unleash your organization’s true potential. Yes, this will take some up front time to organize. But the results can be wildly impactful; it’s the secret sauce for making it happen.

Tactical Takeaway: Formally set up a process that ties overall strategy to individual performance expectations and performance measurement. Empower the team to play their roles and then count on them to deliver!