As consumers, we constantly make purchasing decisions that express our values. A consumer seeking to live a healthy lifestyle might buy organic produce; a consumer conscious of her carbon footprint might purchase a Prius.
Leading an organization provides similar opportunities to invest in our values, especially when it comes to the colleagues with whom we choose to surround ourselves.
Employees, volunteers, and contractors all play crucial roles in the growth of any organization. Indeed, the people on your extended team are as important — if not more important — than your organization's mission and brand. They are the face of the organization, and ultimately their actions and creativity define your brand and activate your mission.
So how do you ensure your team reflects what your organization is all about? Here are some tips to consider:
Understand where they are coming from. Working with people who reflect and believe in the values of your organization doesn't happen by accident. It requires being clear about who you want to work with and why you want to work with them. And it also requires you to understand what motivates an individual to want to work for your organization. What is it about the organization that resonates with him/her? Why do they think they would be a good fit for your team? How will they provide value to the team? The more carefully you consider these questions as you are interviewing, be it a potential new hire, a contractor, or a volunteer, the more confidence you will have in your final decision.
Highlight the mutual benefits of the relationship. Aside from the benefit of adding individuals to your team who have the skills to help your organization grow and thrive, you should make a point of letting viable job candidates know how working with and for you will help them grow. There is a give/get in any successful relationship, and it is your job to make sure every qualified job candidate, contractor, and volunteer understands the unique value proposition your organization is able to offer.
At the Global Good Fund, our mission is to accelerate the leadership development of young social entrepreneurs. While our flagship program is a fifteen-month fellowship experience, our efforts don't stop there. We go to great lengths to coach and mentor our colleagues, contractors, and volunteers, with the aim of helping them achieve their full leadership potential. In fact, over the last sixteen months we have played a pivotal role in helping launch twelve social enterprises led by volunteers or contractors who were previously engaged in helping the Global Good Fund fulfill its mission.
Seek out people who can inspire current team members. In the social good space, many volunteers and contractors will want to work for your organization because they are inspired by the work you do and the impact you have in the community; these individuals want to serve a higher purpose by helping grow your social enterprise. But as much as you want to seek out (and work with) individuals who are inspired by your work, you also want to make sure these individuals have the ability to inspire your team. For the Global Good Fund, that means contractors and volunteers often teach staff or contribute content expertise that we lack. In addition, contractors and volunteers are encouraged to share their aspirations and struggles with employees. In turn, everyone in our organization is motivated to contribute to the personal and professional growth of all team members, not just full-time staff, and that culture of sharing reinforces our mission and organizational values.
Work with your constituents. The best way to ensure that your team reflects and believes in your organization's mission is to recruit individuals who share the values of your constituents.
When seeking to hire a contractor, for instance, we look for individuals who meet the same criteria as our fellows: dedicated to positive social impact, "cutting edge" in how they approach social entrepreneurship, and still in the early stages of their entrepreneurial careers (typically under the age of 40).
Partners who share the values of the people you serve are much more likely to be passionate about the programs you run and/or the impact you are trying to create. You won't have to worry about calling or e-mailing them on weekends or at 9:00 on a weeknight because they not only value their relationship with your organization, they value the thing you are doing or building. And because they are already aligned with your values, they will be able to speak to your constituents on a more authentic level and are likely to be your best brand advocates.
To some extent, we all have the ability to choose the people we work with. Our values are our compass, and if that compass begins to show we have lost our way, we can course correct – by asking for a new assignment, by explaining to the people we work with why our values are important, or by moving to a new organization that more closely reflects our values. In the final analysis, it's all about knowing who we are, what we believe in, and being intentional about finding and creating a team that shares those beliefs.
Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of the Global Good Fund, an enterprise dedicated to investing in the leadership development of young entrepreneurs committed to social impact.