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Weed or Flower? Fresh HR Perspective for Nonprofits

Meteorological spring is here… even if the temperatures where you live suggest otherwise. 

Perhaps, like me, you’ve looked in your yard and wondered: is that a weed or a flower? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell before they blossom.

By definition, a beautiful flowering plant could actually be a weed. According to Merriam-Webster, a weed is “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.” So, even the loveliest, most unique plant could be considered a weed if it’s not growing in the right spot.

Jim Collins, the business guru, frames this issue in terms of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. It’s not enough to have qualified staff; they also need to be in the right positions to maximize their value.

Sometimes, nonprofits have the same issue. Do you have “weeds” among your staff, board members, or volunteers? Maybe they’re not actually weeds, but flowers that need to be relocated to thrive.

Perhaps you have an opportunity to shift your perspective: your plants need to be transferred to new soil… or your people simply need a different seat on the bus. 

If it feels like you—or your organization—need to look at your people resources through a fresh lens, consider some of the following options:

  1. Audit your job descriptions—both for staff and volunteer roles. As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.” If your job descriptions aren’t clear and aligned with the needs of the organization, you’re setting your team up for failure. Compare job descriptions with the annual review process and expected outcomes. Are you measuring the right things?

  2. Engage stakeholders and request their insights. If you truly welcome authenticity and openness in this process, stakeholders will be able to provide a fresh perspective on their roles and new ways to think about internal collaboration. What challenges have they felt? What creative solutions might they offer?

  3. Conduct a broader organizational assessment, including a review of the org chart, strategic plans, and annual goals. Identify current gaps on the individual and organizational level. Look for opportunities to realign workflows to those with the right skills, disposition, and capacity. Seek outside counsel to bring objectivity and confidentiality to the process.  

This spring, take a moment to think anew about weeds versus flowers in your midst. Maybe that “weed” would thrive in different soil and would be appreciated for its beauty.

Plant image by Kristin Raack


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