How to Be Exceptional in 4 Easy Steps

By Way-Ting Chen

Oh, how those infomercial tactics work!! If only the path to “Exceptional” were as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4. As foundation and nonprofit leaders know, and most definitely feel, the path to creating lasting, meaningful social change is anything but easy. We feel for the organizations that grind it out daily to positively influence their communities and clients. But to what end? What’s the “So What?” that you are striving for? And once that is defined, how do you align your organization to deliver?

Enter the “High Performing Organization” (a.k.a. HPO) Framework, our way of explaining what it takes to be exceptional, and help organizations and leaders orient their thinking toward hitting their desired impact. At Blue Garnet, we believe that high performing organizations deliver lasting social impact. Four disciplines separate good organizations from the exceptional, and are foundational to periodic and ongoing strategic thinking. So, without further ado…

The Four Disciplines of High Performing Organizations


Organizational Clarity

  • Definition: Shared vision for where organization is going, how to get there and course correct, and means of determining progress and achievement
  • Our Perspective: We encourage every organization to have an Impact Statement (more on what this is to come in our blog). Think about how you tell your quantitative and qualitative story of impact

Shared Leadership

  • Definition: Working cohesively to develop and implement strategies and decisions by leveraging strengths of organization, team and individuals
  • Our Perspective: We recommend engaging formal and informal leaders from board to staff when setting strategy

Healthy Economics

  • Definition: Data-driven decisions to manage and generate resources that meet present needs without compromising the future – an ongoing journey to thrive
  • Our Perspective: We think that a multi-year financial strategy and plan fosters strong links between aspirations and practical decision-making

Accountability for Results

  • Definition: Confidently knowing the impact you have had and can claim; being answerable for performance through continuous learning & improvement
  • Our Perspective: We believe a dashboard and the discipline to use it can help our clients balance meaning impact, performance management and continuous learning

Over the next coming months, we’ll begin to unpack and dissect these 4 disciplines, and share some of our experiences with organizations as we helped them define their impact and align toward becoming a high performing organization.

Stay tuned!  In the meantime, tell us where your organization’s discipline is strongest, and/or could use a good workout to get stronger!

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