Bob Voss PhD's blog

The Stages to Becoming a Higher Performing Team: A Primer


The path to becoming a higher performing team and culture follows predictable stages. Recognizing and understanding this truth, if fully embraced, can fundamentally change the way you look at your organization. And more important, it will enable you to consciously and deliberately create the conditions for developing a high-performing team and culture.

The pathway to success is simple. Organizational development has predictable and knowable stages. Each stage has it's strengths, weaknesses and limitations. And there are clear milestones that need to be reached to move to the next higher stage of development. With this knowledge, you can map the path forward and establish clear and specific next steps for moving down that path.

Just as people, cultures and natural systems go through developmental stages...

Business Strategy for Nonprofits—A Primer


The ability to craft effective business strategies is essential for nonprofit organizations being able to respond to rapidly changing conditions and deliver on their mission. The excerpt below from an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (a must-read for nonprofit leaders) addresses a key element of what is needed: strategic thinking. And to take this one step further, we need to develop cultures of strategic thinkers—teams working together to constantly create, innovate and test strategies for growth.

“We think that what is necessary today is a strategy that breaks free of static plans to be adaptive and directive, that emphasizes learning and control, and that reclaims the value of strategic thinking for the world that now surrounds us.”

The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy—Stanford Social Innovation Review

Mindset-A Game Changer

Mindset-CreativityFor anyone engaged in organizational development or executive coaching work, the importance of leadership mindset is a given. Often the first step in helping a leader or team move beyond current limitations and fixed ways of seeing and acting is addressing ineffective mindsets head-on. In our work at Growth River, “Effective Mindset” is one of the core conditions we focus on with teams to create the conditions for success (How Leadership Teams Successfully Create Aligned Business Strategy).

My appreciation for just how important mindset is deepened as the result of my recent experience facilitating a 2-day alignment workshop with a nonprofit leadership team...

Accountability Without Authority Spells Failure

authority empower

Accountability without authority is a pervasive pathology in organizations. Holding someone accountable for playing a role without giving them the authority to succeed in the role is a recipe for failure. If undiagnosed, the impacts on a team culture are insidious and unhealthy. These effects can become a very real obstacle to developing a high-performance team that consistently delivers on desired goals and outcomes.

Several years ago I took on the role of CEO at a small nonprofit (see Authoring Your Own Success Story). At that time, we recognized that we needed to transition from being a top-down, directive leadership organization, as it was no longer working. The organization was growing and developing new programs and services, so we needed to create a more complete system-of-roles to manage this increase in complexity. Concentrating too much authority and responsibility in the hands of one directive leader wasn’t working...

Performance Metrics for Driving Nonprofit Growth

feedback loop performance metrics nonprofit

Performance metrics are a key component in growing and evolving a nonprofit organization. As a former ecologist, I was endlessly captivated by the inherent perfection and dynamism of the evolutionary process. Ecosystems have a remarkable capacity for constantly adapting to changes in the environment by refining existing adaptations or even making leaps to entirely new solutions for meeting the challenges of ever-changing life conditions. An essential component of this ability to adapt and change are the many feedback loops that are found in every ecosystem.

Put simply, ecosystems are constantly “collecting data” to evaluate what’s working and not working and then tweaking the system to respond to this information.

Nonprofit organizations are no different. In a dynamic organizational ecosystem...

Authoring Your Own Success Story

organizational development strategy

I’ve spoken with many senior leaders of nonprofit organizations who are caught up in stories that fall short of being stories about success and greatness. Not that these leaders aren’t doing exemplary work, but their day-to-day narratives are too often not the narratives of greatness. And I can empathize with why this is so—I’ve been there.

As the CEO of a small nonprofit in Massachusetts, I faced the challenge of holding to the higher vision and core mission of our organization in face of very real organizational and financial challenges. I stepped into the leadership position at a stage in our development where we could no longer run on the energy and passion that gave rise to the organization. As I learned from the exceptionally gifted and experienced organizational development consultant who was guiding us through this crisis, at 18 years of age—late adolescence in her words—we were hitting the same wall that many nonprofits hit at this age...

Why Is Competitive Advantage In The Nonprofit Sector So Important?

competitive advantage nonprofit  

Why is competitive advantage in the nonprofit sector so important? Assessing and optimizing competitive advantage is an essential discipline for any organization that is committed to becoming exceptional at what it is designed to do. This is no less true for nonprofit organizations than it is for for-profit companies. In a recent post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s blog, Defining Your Competitive AdvantageMollie West and Andy Posner stated this truth unequivocally:  

It’s unfortunate that social change organizations...

It’s unfortunate that social change organizations tend not to think about competitive advantage as it relates to social impact and growth; far too many nonprofit organizations view competition as something reserved for...