By Tom Peterson
If you happen to be in a role of hiring staff, key volunteers or outside vendors consider that every position you get is a precious gift. A cause’s most valuable asset is its collection of people, so a leader’s top job is find and keep the most insanely talented folks possible. Most nonprofits are on tight budgets and staff is often the largest expense, so it’s doubly important that you bring on not good but great talent. Yes experience, college degrees and résumés matter, but pay special attention to attitude and energy. All of us fall somewhere along an energy spectrum with some on the Decelerator end, who will put a drag on your effort, and others toward the Accelerator end who can help take it to a new level. By all means, make sure you’re bringing the accelerators on board and helping the others find a better place to be.
Diversity in terms of race, age, gender and so on are critical to success. You also need another kind of diversity: build a team of weird people, cool people, misfits. The caption under Sigourney Weaver’s high school yearbook portrait said: Please, God, please, don’t let me be normal. Find passionate people already doing amazing things on their own (it’s a sign of life). Did he perform in an opera? Does she go hang gliding on the weekends? Do they study frogs in their spare time? You’re looking for people who are smarter than you, happy, awake. Gather people who believe in your mission and have the energy to tackle whatever you’re trying to take on.
The leader’s second job is to guarantee a culture that keeps those talented people engaged and allows them to thrive. The good leader, it’s been said, provides air cover for the team to protect them from the assaults of bureaucracy and unnecessary meetings and to free them to do their important work. Motivated people in a positive culture will flourish from each other’s energy and nudge your cause to greater accomplishments.