Staff Swap: Getting Creative Can Build Capacity

by | Mar 31, 2017 | Leadership Development

Let’s face it. That stack of papers on your desk isn’t going to file itself, and those outreach folders aren’t going to stuff themselves.

Have you ever experienced “Task Block?” If you have no idea what I am talking about, don’t worry…you aren’t behind on cutting-edge nonprofit lingo. Task block is a phrase I coined recently when I realized that there are just certain items on my “to do list” that keep getting ignored or re-prioritized for no good reason.

This past week I decided to opt for a creative solution…staff swap! What better way to build relationships with other team members and remove a “Task Block” item from your plate than to participate in a work exchange with a colleague?

The goals of staff swap are simple:

  1. Complete that task and free your mind and time
  2. Build a relationship with team members while jointly completing the task
  3. Foster greater understanding of each team member’s job, daily responsibilities, and capacity. 


Before you get too excited and start dreaming up ways to “delegate” all your work away so you can retreat to a break room for a snack or a nap be sure to consider the following:

Rules for Staff Swap:
  1. Tasks must be of similar exertion/skill level
  2. Work must be a unified effort, not a “delegate then ditch them” mentality
  3. Time to complete tasks should be comparable
  4. Task Swap should not cancel out  priorities, deadlines that are expected of either team member
  5. Jobs should not violate confidentiality or create access to content that is above the other’s clearance level.

Ready to play?

I participated in my first official Staff Swap on Monday. Our program director graciously agreed to partner with me to tackle a major filing initiative for two hours, and in return, I promised to assist her with program prep for two hours the next day.

She was amazed how much she learned about our organization’s finances, daily operations, vendors, filing systems, and membership program all because of the paperwork she was sifting through my files.  I worked beside her and was available to answer questions and teach her more about the Executive Director roles and responsibilities.

When it came time to tackle her task (assembling 120 board toolkits for a S.T.E.A.M program with school children) I was a willing to become her apprentice! My two hours under her supervision allowed me to learn more about her curriculum development process, community connections, and dreams for program growth.

At the end of the day, Staff Swap was deemed a success because both of us completed work that had been hanging over our head, we learned more about our organization’s programs/operations, and we got to know each other a little better.

Keep growing for good!

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