Building a strong culture with “Psychological Contracts”

January 13, 2023 | 
2 minute read

Being a nonprofit leader is hard these days. There is a potential recession looming, staffing shortages abound, and in many cases, the need for the work has grown– in some areas exponentially. These conditions plopped in the middle of a world where everything moves at hyper-speed, can make it hard to build and maintain a positive, person-centered culture.
As you start 2023, we invite you to consider the systems and processes that can help your organization and its people thrive in the face of these conditions.

One of the core building blocks of a strong culture that supports performance and personal well-being is the creation of shared expectations. I’d encourage you all to read this excellent article from Forbes on the subject, and I would love to center a few key points that drive home why this is so important.

While many of us create shared expectations around goals, metrics, and timelines, what we often forget to align on is what Forbes Council Member Marvin Chambers calls the ‘psychological contract.’ A psychological contract outlines how folks will “work with one another, resolve differences, check for continuous alignment or hold one another accountable.” As Chambers shares, when we fail to align on what it looks like to do those things, miscommunication, mistrust, and real or perceived mistreatment of participants can occur–derailing the process and the outcomes.

Ultimately, Chambers is advocating that we put people first and recognize that to engage fully and well, we all need to know and be held accountable to a set of behavioral and work-based norms that we co-create.

So, try it out. Create a shared psychological contract in your organization this year, and keep us posted on what it does for your culture and organizational impact.


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