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From Personal to Organizational Mission: Core Competencies 101

By January 24, 2020

Nonprofit Management Advice

By: Balt Leenman, g-company

What is your personal mission? What makes you passionate about taking action for a cause you care about?

I care about human rights, extreme poverty, the refugee crisis and the situation of my fellow men in the refugee camps all over the world.

How does this show up in my work with nonprofits? One way to do this is by thinking about how to align core competencies with making an impact.

Personal Core Competencies

A core competency is a defining capability or advantage that distinguishes an individual or organization. As individuals, we have certain skills. But what’s the difference between a skill and a core competency? A skill is something you can do proficiently, but a core competency is something that you are uniquely good at. Gallup has a whole model of strengths-based development that is based on a series of core competencies that he has identified. Not surprisingly, getting people to do more of what they’re good at, rather than solely focusing on fixing weaknesses, leads to happier employees. (Read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 for more.)

I use my core competency of technology thought leadership to improve the life situation of refugees. In January 2017, I was in UNHCR refugee camps in Northern Iraq, at the invitation of Open Doors. This past January, I went with Africolt to Kakuma, in Northern Kenya, close to the border of South Sudan, where 180,000 refugees are currently living. I discussed with Jesuit Relief Services how we can help create a hopeful situation for refugees, by training them on Salesforce and creating meaningful work for them. In my own country, I support RefugeeForce, a great foundation that trains refugees with a permit to become Salesforce Admins.

Understanding your personal drive, your mission or in the words of Simon Sinek: your “Why”, helps you align your personal strengths to your organizational strengths.

Organizational Core Competencies

Once upon a time, the popular understanding of business strategy was one of diversification: spreading risks to be less vulnerable in turbulent market developments. Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad challenged this strategy and proved that companies that focus on their core competence were more successful than those who had a strategy of diversification.

For example, Philips used to produce light bulbs, audio and video equipment, TVs, computers and even toilet seats! That’s a wide variety of products. Today, they focus on their core competence: healthcare.

Collaboration in complementary teams

Helping individuals focus on their core competency is the beginning. What’s next? Collaboration in complementary teams makes your team high performance, because individuals’ core competencies can ladder up to organizational core competencies. When each individual uses her or his core competencies, the whole team reaches a higher level of output and impact.

Modern technology can help with collaboration to help leverage everyone’s core competency. Social collaboration and co-creation, such as in Google Docs or Quip, mean no more emailing attachments with the “latest version” or “final final” slides! Salesforce Chatter also helps people find information they need from colleagues. It changes the dynamics of the whole team!

By collaborating with my team in real time on the same document, I’ve discovered that one of my colleagues is really good at making simple pictures to clarify complex situations, and he enjoys doing so. Somebody else is really good at clarifying expectations from our customers, while I also have one colleague who is a great editor. Real-time collaboration allows everybody to contribute effectively and significantly reduces the time it takes to create a proposal.

Co-creation can go from internal collaboration to the constituent journey

Many organizations are implementing new technology like marketing automation to create customer journeys that create a more profound impact with their followers and target groups. Nowadays, one can co-create with supporters using well-implemented CRM systems and marketing automation. But if you don’t know how to collaborate internally with your own co-workers, then it will be hard to build trust with people outside your organization.

By aligning the mission and core competencies of your organization, and the mission and core competencies of your co-workers, you can work as a high-performance team and make a powerful impact.

Use your core competencies to make a positive impact.

To summarize:

  1. Stop sending emails with attachments to each other within the organization! Instead, make use of new technology wisely, such as a collaboration tool like Salesforce Chatter;
  2. Choose to work with a joint calendar and shared documents to keep teams on the same page;
  3. Use shared spaces like Google Docs (G Suite) or Salesforce Quip to collaborate;
  4. Know what each team member is passionate about: what are their strengths or individual core competencies?
  5. Build diverse teams that recognize and integrate everyone’s unique talents!

In case you missed the discussion at DOT org Amsterdam 2019 on 10 December, g-company will be hosting a roundtable on core competencies on 26 February 2020.

Need more inspiration? Hear from Nonprofit Trailblazers who are paving the way to impact and learn how they’re using Salesforce to achieve their mission goals.

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g-company is a Impact Partner that helps nonprofits succeed with Nonprofit Cloud.

About the Author

Balt Leenman

Balt Leenman is a social entrepreneur and an IT strategist. Sixteen years at Capgemini formed him as an international thought leader. In 2013 he started the Salesforce nonprofit consulting firm, In 2017, he started Africolt, a Salesforce consulting firm in Africa, with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Balt has a strong passion for making a positive impact using new technology in a smart way. He cares about eradicating poverty and addressing human rights, like the refugee crisis. His personal blog is: