What kind of workday are you having?
According to research from Virginia Commonwealth University, workdays can actually be classified into five types:
They found that employees cycle through ideal, typical, disengaged, crisis and toxic days, and that the same types of days tend to appear consecutively: Your one disengaged day turns into three.
Here at Funding for Good, that last part made us pause.
Who wants to have three toxic workdays in a row? We certainly don’t!
So, naturally, we wondered how nonprofit leaders and workplaces can encourage more ideal workdays and less toxic workdays.
One solution? Strategic planning.
The Power of Strategic Planning To Reduce Toxic Workdays
According to the lead author of the new research, Alexander McKay:
Leaders play a really important role in engineering the work environment and how people perceive it day to day.
We often hear about how the tone for an organization’s culture is “set from the top.” So as a nonprofit leader it’s worth taking a moment to consider what tone you’re setting and how you’re communicating it:
- Do you feel like you’re always putting out fires, running from one crisis to the next?
- Are you avoiding hard conversations, hoping they’ll resolve themselves?
- When faced with important decisions, are you operating without a set of shared values that you’ve aligned on with your board and staff?
If you feel overwhelmed and uncertain, there’s a good chance your team will too.
This is where it’s time to pause and consider the power of a strategic plan. The strategic planning process is designed to help you, your staff, and your Board of Directors get in better alignment. Together, you will:
- Hone your vision and mission statement to ensure it reflects both your organization today and who you want to be in the future.
- Align on core goals and strategies that will guide your decision-making over a 3–5-year time horizon.
- Create authentic space for sharing challenges, brainstorming solutions, and building consensus.
After the strategic planning process, you’ll have a board and staff team who are clear in what you all are collectively trying to achieve. You’ll be in sync—which can go a long way toward cutting down on those crisis workdays.
Your strategic planning process will get your team in alignment, but it’s only the first step in the long-term shift into strategic decision-making. With strategic decision-making, you’ll be using your strategic plan as a guidepost for making and communicating about important decisions.
The benefits can be significant. You’ll be able to:
- Easily assess which choices are aligned with your organization’s vision, mission, and 3-5 year goals—and which are not.
- Communicate more clearly to your staff and board why decisions are being made, citing the strategies and values you collectively aligned around in your strategic planning process. This is especially critical when you’re faced with tough decisions.
- Better prioritize your own time—and help managers and staff do the same.
- Identify areas where innovation is most essential and give your staff the opportunity to put their creativity to use.
- Use your strategic plan as a guidepost for regular review with your leadership team and board—enabling you to learn and grow together (rather than in opposition).
In time, you’ll be able to create an organizational culture of strategic decision-making. Which can cut down on those disengaged and toxic days—for both you and your staff.
A strategic plan also includes a budget that will show you where to invest and where to scale back. While this budget will inevitably shift, the principles will remain the same:
You’ll be investing in the elements of your programming and operations that can best help your organization achieve its mission.
As financial challenges arise, you’ll be able to meet them with confidence and clarity about which spending decisions will move your organization closer to its goals.
By combining strategic leadership, strategic decision-making, and strategic budgeting, you’ll be well on your way to creating the kind of organization where toxic workdays are few and far between.
Here’s to more ideal days in your future!