My father-in-law recently gave me a copy of Peter Drucker’s Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Managing Oneself.” My first reaction was to be slightly offended, although I remembered speaking to him passionately about Drucker’s prediction that the shape of post-secondary education would change radically, and that we should not take four-year college for granted. It felt better ascribing my father-in-law’s actions to a generous spirited association with a recent conversation rather than a veiled attempt to get me to improve my ability to manage myself!
In Drucker’s article, he says, “Knowledge workers have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, what results have to be achieved to make a difference?”
I reflected on Drucker’s words, and on the fact that Year Up was just ranked the 4th best non-profit to work for in the Non-Profit Times’ list of the Top 50 Non-Profits. I’ll be the first one to say that you can’t believe either the really good or the really bad things people write about you. However, I am proud of this ranking, and think that it is largely driven by the alignment of values among our colleagues.
Everything we do at Year Up- whether it be with students, staff, or outside stakeholders should be driven by and consistent with our six core values. We should always have a “line of sight” from our daily actions to our values, and continually reinforce people when they support our values and pick them up when they don’t. It is a process that is critical to our long-term health and our ability to serve students well. If we hire people who resonate with our values, it is up to us to help them to identify their strengths, to clarify their goals, and ultimately to support them in maximizing their contribution to our students and our mission.
While we are by no means the best at getting this right, we aspire to be, and that is important. We are working hard to improve our ability to help our colleagues develop their careers, and to be thoughtful about the support that we provide to them along the way. Although it never feels like enough, our turnover is less than half the industry average. We must be doing something right.
Drucker also noted that “organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they like one another. It means that they understand one another.” As I take a moment to humbly enjoy the positive acknowledgment that we received from this most recent ranking, I immediately turn my attention to what else we can do to continue to build trust and understanding among our colleagues, what we can learn from other organizations on that list, and how we can keep hiring and developing the very best people in this country to collectively close the Opportunity Divide.