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Study: Say what? Nonprofit executive teams need to work on their communications skills

Written on Nov 5, 2018

Fewer than one out of five nonprofit executives strongly agree that their executive teams focus on the right work, according to a new report from The Bridgespan Group, and only one-quarter strongly agree that their CEO effectively addresses team dynamics and performance challenges.

Only 17% strongly agreed that they had effective meetings and barely 1 in 10 (11%) indicated that their executive team communicated well with the rest of the organization, according to results from Increasing Nonprofit Executive Team Effectiveness.

Thirty-six percent of survey respondents strongly agreed that their executive team members work well together. Interviews with coaches and consultants suggested that many teams underinvest in developing a productive work dynamic, expecting this to happen without intentional effort, according to the report.

CEOs who were most successful in managing executive teams set expectations and defined the team’s work, steered meeting agendas, and supported team members to grow while holding them accountable for performance. CEOs who rated their teams as highly effective structured them in a way that kept the teams at a manageable size while ensuring they were “comprised of people with the necessary perspectives, competencies and diversity.”

The research reveals that most nonprofits falter when it comes to executive team effectiveness, characterized by productive group interactions, clarity of the team’s role, and capable CEO leadership, said Henry Barmeir, Bridgespan manager and co-author of the report.

From the research, Bridgespan created a sequence of five steps, formulated as questions, that executive teams can implement as a guide to increase their overall effectiveness:

  • Is the CEO effectively managing the executive team?
  • Is the executive team focused on the most important work?
  • Does executive team composition support its ability to do the work
  • Do meeting and communication processes support superior decision and execution?
  • Does the team’s dynamic foster the right conversations and results?