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Conscious choice and discipline

In his book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins compares companies within the same industry, during the same time period, facing the same challenges. The great companies excelled and maintained their excellence over 15 years. The comparison companies faltered. He sums up the difference in a phrase:

Conscious choice and discipline.

Since I first learned this phrase, I’ve stumbled upon it on many occasions and in a variety of settings. I don’t hear the phrase spoken or see it written; rather, the phrase pops into mind as I observe what’s before me. Be it a child with schoolwork, challenged parents, determined youth, engaged employee, recent retiree, etc., excellence stems from sincere commitment and unwavering discipline.

Not that any one person exercises this winning combination in all aspects of life. Instead, I observe that almost everyone exercises sincere commitment and unwavering discipline in some aspect of life. That is, most of us have access to this experience, its impact, its benefits. And that is an experience we can draw upon.

So, where do you invest sincere commitment and unwavering discipline? 

It may be as simple as how you organize the clothes in your closet or care for a single, potted plant. Whatever it is, examine how this experience serves you, how it makes you feel, how it makes you whole.

Let the “small wins” teach and motivate you to take on the next thing. You know can do it. Indeed, you’ve already done it.



No thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to pause, be grateful, and affirm all the times I’ve said, “No.”

I realize that “no” is not often considered an affirmative statement. As kind and generous folks, we usually want to say “yes” when asked to help or assist in any way. Indeed, “yes” seems to leap from our mouths before we fully consider the request. It’s our default response. It feels like we’re being helpful.

Yet, every time we say “yes” to something new – a new project, new program, new responsibility of any sort – we risk diluting all the previous commitments we’ve made. To find the time and energy for even one more activity, we often embezzle energy from our standing commitments, other short-term commitments, and ourselves.

So, like a thoughtful “yes,” a well considered “no” is a strong affirmation. It affirms our family, our friends, our work, our health and everything else that fills our minds and calendars.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Serving Up Gratitude

While I was busy balancing two professional roles and preparing for a third November snuck up on me. It feels bittersweet that just as quickly as it came, fall is gone (weather notwithstanding), but I’m also excited. November might just be my favorite month, and not just because it’s my birthday month. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and this year, it’s right on time. In no uncertain terms, I am exhausted. Working fourteen hour days, as I have been, is simply unsustainable. As I noted in my last post, I have been meditating to manage my stress, but it doesn’t replace hours of sleep lost.

 Gratitude Card

Even though my long hours aren’t over, seeing Thanksgiving on my calendar when I turned the page to November reminded me of an important emotion: gratitude. When I think of what has gotten me through these past two months, it has been the small moments where I felt thankful. Every time I took a second to acknowledge something good, no matter how small, it buoyed me through the next task. Gratitude is not a panacea; it won’t fix achy knees or puffy eyes, but it offers perspective that could allow you to fulfill your commitments and reach larger goals.

Of all the things I’m grateful for, my loved ones might be the best. I have received so much positive support from the people in my life who know how hard I’m pushing myself. Everything from cards to funny memes have kept me smiling, and remind me that it’s okay to share successes and challenges.

So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been in a new state of mind. And even though my added workload is not over, I feel lucky and proud of how far I’ve come.

ONE Leader Development

ONEplace believes that a strong nonprofit sector is critical to the success of any community. We encourage everyone to be a leader (i.e., take full ownership of their role) within his or her own span of control and sphere of influence.

We envision a day when a critical mass of Resolute-Humble Leaders (i.e., Level 5 Leaders) is spread throughout our area, collaborating to successfully address deeply entrenched community problems. Success is not understood as solving a problem once and for all. Rather, success is a state of continual improvement in which a community admits and addresses their problems in a spirit of hope and unity.

As a catalyst for community success, ONEplace focuses on Leader Development that 


  • addresses the whole person, because we bring all of who we are to every situation
  • encourages personal integrity, because aligning values and actions energizes one’s voice and agency
  • builds collaborative connections, because only together do we bring sufficient capacity to the table


ONEplace offers leader development programs for emerging leaders at all levels of your organization. Thanks to the generosity of local foundations, all ONEplace programs are free of charge.

Highly Capable Individual – Available 24/7, ONEpages web-based resources address single topic concerns affecting most nonprofits. Our Video Series also provides convenient, focused instruction on fundraising, communications, governance, and more. For those new concerns or challenges, contact our staff for Direct Assistance with your issue.

Competent ManagerManagement Track series address knowledge and skills critical for management success, including: Supervision, Fundraising, Operational Processes, Team Building, Marketing and more. Our Peer Learning Groups bring motivated managers together to learn and grow in a collaborative environment, while deepening their own sense of passion and commitment. For emerging leaders with their sights set on executive leadership, our ONEplace Nonprofit Leader Academy offers a ten-month, intensive course in leading an organization.

Effective LeaderPeer Learning Groups provide a needed space for executive leaders to reconnect and renew themselves in a supportive and collaborative environment. In addition, new CEO’s are offered six months of free coaching to help them navigate their personal and organizational transition.

ONEplace also offers LIFEwork Renewal, a self-guided, personal development program open to all that encourages and equips healthier, happier, more productive living. Daily attention to quiet, exercise, diet, and learning, coupled with quarterly day retreat opportunities provide the framework to bring greater focus and energy to one’s work and life.

Many of the above elements are in place and a few will continue to roll out this winter. As always, please contact us with any questions.

Just ONEthing - Nov 2015

How would you like to work less, feel better, and be more productive? Over this past month, several presentations and discussions pointed to an almost magical idea that would do all three:

Devote time to self-care.

The standard excuse of “I’m too busy” is characterized by one presenter as another way of saying, “I’m too lazy.” Busy becomes lazy, when we take on too many things outside our core priorities, don’t draw healthy boundaries, and do-it-yourself rather than delegate. We put ourselves and our organizations at risk by burning up and burning out to better our organizations and services.

Beth Kanter (The Networked Nonprofit) is working on a new book focusing on “impact without burnout.” Faced with dire warnings from her doctor, she changed her habits and not only feels better but is much more productive than when she worked longer hours.

A driven workaholic, Kanter framed self-care as “part of her work” to make spending time on self-care more palatable. As a result, she feels better, “works” fewer hours, is more productive, and produces higher quality work.

Bottom line: If you’re healthy and rested, the quantity and quality of your work will improve.

Executing leadership

Halloween fast approaches! Pumpkin spice saturates everything consumable and Trunk-or-Treat signs compete with election signs for front lawn real estate. So I bow to the gruesome and gory and offer a gallowed twist to basic leadership practices.

Hang’em High – Put your clean & dirty laundry high on the line for all to see. Transparency is a must and leaders should be the first to admit mistakes and offer second chances.

Stake in the Heart – Plant your stake (i.e., take a stand) aligned with your passion. A misplaced stake will burn you out, and unplanted stakes mean you and your organization stand for nothing.

Firing Squad – Keep the right people on the bus in the right seats and improve or remove those who shouldn’t be on the bus. Make the difficult decision and do it compassionately and appropriately – but do it. Not taking action frustrates the people you want to keep and it holds back the operation.

Off with their Heads – Big-headed egos must go! And, the bigger they are, the harder they’ll fall. It’s not about you (the leader), and it’s not even about your organization. It’s about your cause and the collective impact you can make aligned with others who share your vision.

Leaders who execute well not only know what to do, they have the fortitude to do it.

How to Spring into Fall

Picture this: you're carrying a bag over your shoulder, and you're walking to wait for the bus. Along the way, you bump into a neighbor who asks if you would like this box of goodies because they know you'll like what's inside. You take the bulky package and continue walking to the bus stop. You turn to look over your shoulder and see the bus coming. Now you need to pick up the pace to catch that bus!

 "eastern wahoo leaves" from thingsorganizedneatly on tumblr is licensed under CC 2.0

Happy Fall! For whatever reason, fall tends to be a busy time for most of us, as new projects and opportunities emerge. The true challenge for me seems to be finding time and energy time to do what I must do, while carrying a heavier load than usual. And by "must" I am including the self-care activities that keep me healthy and grounded.

Here is what I'm trying out:

Setting Boundaries

Since everyone is busy, you may find your colleagues and loved ones asking you for assistance with this or that. If you can help, you should, but saying no is also an option. And, don't let anyone convince you that you're not too busy. We're the best experts on our own limitations.

Replenish Your Energy

I'm learning that working well over 50 hours per week is draining -- and since I have other activities on the weekend, I can't use those days to recharge. Instead, I meditate for 15 minutes in the morning, and I've adopted a bedtime routine that includes journaling. This gives me a place to store any thoughts or worries, so I can get into bed feeling calm and relaxed.

Use an App -- Or Three

My cell phone has shot up in importance because it now keeps me organized. With so many things to think about and remember, I downloaded Google Keep, which holds reminders, notes, and to-do lists on one screen. I also downloaded Stop, Breathe & Think for my morning guided meditations. Finally, I use the Reminders app, which comes pre-loaded on Apple devices, to alert myself daily to drink water. (Hydration, for me, is the key to a clear mind!)


I am having success so far and have yet to hit any major roadblocks. Check back in November for an update on my progress!

Savor the KISS

We all know KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetie. The admonition gets tossed around from time to time, especially when someone (self or other) gets mired in operational complexities or lost in multiple scenarios. So why is keeping it simple so important and effective?

KISS allows people to bring order to their own particular style of chaos.

Let’s face it: people are messed up – and I mean that in a nice way. That is, people bring their own messiness to your website, your program, your service, your doorstep. There’s no way to anticipate all the various recipes of messiness that get served to your organization by patrons, volunteers, et al. So, what do we do?

We keep it simple.

Not only does the simplicity of our process serve the patron’s need, it makes for happier staff and more willing volunteers. Sure, there will be plenty of exceptions, so let them be exceptions. Keep the normal simple.

This goes for organizational branding as well.

A recent article in Entrepreneur spotlights the importance of simplifying one’s personal and organizational branding. Consultant Steve Tobak advises us to “keep it simple” and cites Apple and Mercedes as examples. Both keep their names attached to their products: the Mercedes SL-500 or the Apple Watch that you saw on Apple TV and purchased using Apple Pay.

How are you bringing complexity and confusion to processes or communications?

Ask someone who doesn’t know your organization to look over your website, marketing, and services. Simplifying the first steps, the introductory brochures, the homepage, the elevator speech and other gateways to your brand and services will not only make life easier, it will make everyone happier.



A refill with Donna Odom

This month we revisit our discussion with Donna Odom as she recalled the path and passion leading to her present post as Executive Director of SHARE – Society for History And Racial Equity (formerly known as Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society). SHARE is emerging with an expanded scope, now including racial equity and the name change to more accurately reflect their new mission.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

There were many shifts that led me to where I am today, but the primary shift was leaving Chicago and relocating to Kalamazoo. In Chicago I began my career as a French and English teacher. From there I transitioned to positions in career services and cooperative education. My last position before leaving Chicago was teaching college English Composition and Research Writing.

After coming to Kalamazoo, I began part-time at Kalamazoo Valley Museum and remained there for 12 years in the Education and Programs area, where I coordinated science and history programs. That was where my interest in regional African American history was sparked. In 2003 I founded the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society, along with Dr. and Mrs. Romeo Phillips, Harold Bulger, and Horace Bulger. I served as president of the Society through 2010. After retiring from the Museum, I later transitioned to serving as Executive Director of the Society.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I love the openness and friendliness of the people in the community and their spirit of service.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I like to maintain focus, to complete what I start, and to stay true to my word.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

I can’t identify any one mentor. I learn from everyone with whom I interact and let their best qualities serve as a guide to my own behavior. 

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

My biggest learning moment was realizing that I do my best work when I’m following my passion.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

Because I’m primarily a volunteer at what I do and I don’t have set hours, my days are always different, which is the thing I like most. However, almost all of them involve at least one meeting.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

When we are planning a specific project or program, I find myself getting my best ideas in the wee hours of the morning.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I serve on several boards of history-based organizations.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector

Make sure you are making the decision to enter the field because what you are going to do enables you to follow your passion or your life purpose, not because you think it will make you rich.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Believe it or not, I spend some spare time on my work which allows me to do the things I enjoy most - expressing myself through speaking and writing, planning and organizing, researching history, interacting with others. The only other thing I do as much is read. I also enjoy classical music, theater, dancing, and interior decorating.

Just ONEthing - Oct 2015

Earlier this month, Paul Knudstrup (Midwest Consulting Group) launched this year’s Supervision & Management Series. The series not only provides critical information to new supervisors, it also gives experienced supervisors an opportunity to revisit information, assess needs, and sharpen skills.

In Session Two, Communicating for Results, Paul touched on conflict resolution and presented a five-step process for addressing conflicts of emotion or perception. They include:

1. Acknowledge the Conflict: Naming the conflict and acknowledging that it exists must occur before both parties seek to resolve it. Often, each party is waiting for the other to deal with it (most often, subordinate waiting on the boss). The fact is, one party must make the first overture, so why not you. 

2. Clarify the Conflict: All of us want to appear as rational, thoughtful people, so we’re good at rationalizing our behaviors. As we ask clarifying questions (e.g., “Good point – say more about that”) it’s often helpful to list information on a white board. This helps objectify the situation, letting everyone take ownership of the full situation. In this step, it’s crucial to listen well and reflect the other person’s emotions back to them to get all information out on the table.

3. Identify Alternatives: Having reduced the tension, we now can enter into problem solving with the other person. Listen to other person without making judgments or rushing to closure. Set out your statements briefly and fairly, but don’t hold back any information. If each of us saw the situation from the other’s perspective, there likely wouldn’t have been a conflict. From this base, we can generate ideas, suggestions, and options for moving forward.

4. Agree on Actions: In this step, we work out a mutually agreeable solution. Commonly there’s an amount of give and take but not always. If, at this point, both have reached a common understanding of the problem, then it’s easier to move to a common commitment to the best solution – regardless of whose idea it is. The key is that all parties agree. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, “If it’s not win-win, I don’t want to play.”

5. Summarize Next Steps: Once you have a solution, the final step is pretty simple. Set forth the steps necessary and an accountability system (who will do what by when). Document these steps and their timeline, and then be sure to check in to ensure that all is on course. Hold each other accountable, while allowing some grace as needed. Resolving the conflict and improving the relationship are the goals, so keep the focus there.

You’ll find more great information in Paul’s book, The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers. Now in its second edition and available at the Kalamazoo Public Library or at Amazon.