How do successful not-for-profits develop future leaders? Part 5: Monitoring progress and adjusting course

leaders - part 5

Great leadership is central to all successful not-for-profit organisations. In this five-part series, we look at strategies to recognise and realise the leadership potential within a not-for-profit. Follow the links to part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. In part 5 below, we finish our series by looking the how you monitor your leadership development plan and adjust course to ensure you achieve your goals.

So far in this series we’ve spent a lot of time talking about leadership; but this week we’re all about management. That is, ensuring your theory translates successfully into the right change within your organisation. This means maintaining the momentum and energy created so far in the consultation, planning and launch phases, and making it sustainable.

For many not-for-profit organisations, monitoring and evaluation are the weakest and most difficult areas, where good plans most often fall down. Don’t fall into this trap. There are four basic steps to take to ensure that you learn from your leadership development efforts, and feed the lessons back into adjusting course:

1) Confirm priority objectives and actions

Are your leadership development priorities, goals, and the actions you need to take to reach them, clear?  It can helpful to summarise them and determine whether they’re having the desired effect – a simple table containing your goals, actions and the information you need to measure your progress towards the goal is a handy tool for tracking progress:

With your priorities clear focus on the information you need to measure measure your progress, including:

  • Are you taking the action’s you’d planned to?
  • Are these actions successfully moving your organisation towards your leadership development goals?
  • How effective have these actions been, and do you need to adjust them?

2) Create accountability milestones

There’s that old saying about shared responsibility equaling no responsibility and there’s truth in it. The quickest way to ensure something won’t happen is to assign a task to a group of people to complete. The second quickest way is to forget the due date.

Monitoring and evaluation needs to happen at pre-planned times along the way with key people reporting back their assigned actions. Plan out reporting requirements for the Board, CEO, senior managers, line managers, HR and others.

3) Check your progress towards goals

You may find that your actions and goals are not giving your organisation the benefits you were looking for. That might be because your actions are not resulting in the outcomes you expect, or it might be because you are measuring the wrong things.

Whichever it is, it’s a signal that time has come to adjust course. Consider:

  • Actions that are not giving you the results expected –  try to understand why and monitor closely;
  • Areas where results surpass those expected – celebrate and understand these also;
  • Apply what you learn from the successes to the underperforming parts of your program.

4) Diagnose problems and adjust course

Every process can always be improved over time – it’s often just a question of where to start. This will obviously depend on the plan you have put together, but some broad questions to ask to begin diagnosing any problems are:

  • What lessons have been learned since beginning the leadership development process?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the process?
  • How is the process helping your your organisation to meet it’s broader goals?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to improve the extent to which it is helping to meet your broader goals?


So that’s it. If you’ve been following this series, you may be ready to start developing your organisation’s leaders – or you may already be at the end of your journey! If you haven’t yet done so, we really recommend downloading the full “Nonprofit Leadership Development: What’s Your “Plan A” for Growing Future Leaders?” report from The Bridgespan Group.

The basic concepts remain simple: understand your needs, create a clear plan, develop your existing staff, recruit strategically, monitor your progress and adjust course where necessary.

If you’ve implemented some of the ideas from this series of posts, we’d love to know how you’ve gone – and potentially feature your organisation’s story on this blog. You can leave a comment below or email us at with your lessons for other and your tales of successful leadership development!

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