in Nonprofits

One sure way to take your leadership to the next level

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This is the fourth piece in our For-Purpose Leadership Series highlighting advice from select social entrepreneurs in the Catchafire Community.

Embracing lifelong growth and learning is key to successful leadership. Jane Winter, the Executive Director of the YWCA of San Francisco & Marin is a firm believer that there is always room to grow and is constantly improving her own leadership style.

One way she instills this philosophy at her organization is by eliminating the more fearful elements of reviews and upholding a culture of transparency. In 2014, the YWCA of San Francisco & Marin  revamped its performance review process and Jane even underwent her first ever 360 review! In her interview, Jane shares the benefits of this shift and how the 360 review is improving her ability to lead.

Hayley at Catchafire: How did you revitalize your annual performance reviews?

Jane: In our 2014 fiscal year, we implemented a market rate compensation program that tied compensation to changes in the wage rates in the Northern California nonprofit sector. At the same time, we separated the performance reviews from the compensation discussions. We basically made a deal with our employees: We established excellence as our performance standard, and that separation allowed us to have a much more open and honest discussion with employees about how to deliver excellence on a consistent basis, and also how to create action plans that address performance development without that worry of compensation being tied to this process.
We have a very strong philosophy of total transparence within our association. Employees appreciate knowing exactly how we established wage rates, and they feel that they are being treated very fairly both within the organization but also within the larger labor market.
It’s our feeling that performance should be discussed throughout the year but that there is value in having a formal annual performance review. There is much less fear of making mistakes because performance isn’t tied to compensation. I think employees feel this review structure creates the ability to have a much more open and honest conversation. It completely eliminates that fear element and so far it has really worked out very well.

Hayley: Why is transparency so important?

Jane:It’s all about trust. When you are open and transparent you build a lot more trust with all of the constituencies that you are working with. It models for other people to be transparent as well.
Hayley: What was it like undergoing your first 360 review?
Jane: First of all, it confirmed that my perceptions about myself and my performance were very closely aligned with the perceptions of my bosses and my direct reports. That was great validation for me – it gave me an added boost of confidence.
There were two areas that the review uncovered that I needed to work on. One was a communication issue that I addressed with my board chair. This feedback allowed me to increase the level of communication I was having with individual board members and the board as a whole. One of the things that I’ve done is create an Executive Director Report that comes out in between our board meetings to keep the board up to date on our activities. It was very easy for me to sit down and have this conversation about how to change my behavior. By having a conversation with my direct reports about my performance, it makes it easier for them to have that type of conversation with me, as well as with their direct reports or peers.  

Hayley: What value can leaders gain from undergoing a 360 review?

Jane: You’ll receive a lot of detailed information about yourself as a leader. If you are committed to continuing your professional development throughout your entire career, whether you are a relatively young leader of a nonprofit or you’re a more seasoned leader like myself, 360 reviews help with that process. If you’re not committed to that, you aren’t going to enjoy it. 360 reviews are all about improving yourself. It’s just another tool in the toolbox to helping you become a much stronger leader.

Hayley: How can other organizations implement 360 reviews?

Jane:The trick would be to find a local organization that can administer a 360 review for you. I recommend that the 360 reviews be limited to those people who have direct reports, so I think it’s more appropriate at the managerial or executive level. Generally it is recommended that you do a 360 review every two years. From a cost standpoint, they can go anywhere from $250 – 1000 per person so I don’t recommend that you do the entire senior team all in one year but rather that you stagger the reviews.
Three things that you need to have in place before you implement 360 degree reviews:
  1. Transparency; If you don’t have an overall philosophy of transparency, this isn’t going to be as effective.
  2. Performance reviews already in place;  A 360 is a fairly sophisticated performance review, if you are not at that level of sophistication in your performance review process, it probably wouldn’t be a good time to start it.
  3. The capacity to effectively use the information you receive from the 360

Hayley: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jane:We have a philosophy of self-managed teams, meaning all the team members understand the overarching goals, what their particular responsibilities are, and they don’t need a heavy hand in management to deliver on those goals. In today’s work environment, we are continually working on teams. I think it’s important to review how your teams are functioning. It is also important to review how the team leaders are functioning to ensure they are managing teams in a way that allows each individual to deliver the greatest value.


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