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ONEplace Leader Development

 “In the end, we realize that leadership develop is ultimately self-development.”

This quote from the Leadership Challenge (now in its 5th edition) names what’s at the core of our leader development efforts. Each of us brings all of who we are to every situation. While some aspects may be on the front burner and others more near the back, every pot is on the stove. If a back burner pot boils over, it impacts the entire stove top.

While skill development and content knowledge play a critical role in leadership, self-development occupies at least 50% of the pie chart. Skills and knowledge must be continually developed. Yet, self-development provides the fortitude, resilience and chutzpah to put the skills and knowledge into use. 

By identifying our strengths, acknowledging our deficits, engaging our passions, and facing our fears, we find the courage to take a position, admit our mistakes, and initiate the tough conversation. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable because we’ve developed the interior stability and wisdom to take it.

At ONEplace we’ve been providing skill development and knowledge building workshops and series. This fall, we’re taking the next big step and implementing programs that directly address self-development. 

Peer Learning Groups 

Groups meet monthly for 90 minutes over an eight-month period (Sept – April). At each session, you focus, without distraction, on what matters to you: your values and vision, your challenges and fears. You’ll gain greater access to your own wisdom. You’ll connect with others who listen to and encourage each other, and honor each other’s differences. (more)


This self-guided program recognizes that we bring all of who we are to every situation. LIFEwork draws together easy-to-understand concepts and intuitive practices so you can focus your energy on the single challenge of developing new, healthier habits. Support is offered (not required) through social media connections and quarterly day-long retreats. (more)

Like the famed tortoise, progress is achieved in small, slow steps over a long period of time. It requires commitment because it’s more a lifestyle than a program. ONEplace is here to encourage and equip you on this path.

Just ONEthing - Sept 2015

This past month’s Inclusion Series wrapped up with Trans*, Gender Non-conforming, & Genderqueer: a workshop for allies. During the 3-hour workshop, we learned terms, context, and explored how to be an effective ally.

Sojn Boothroyd and Amanda Niven reminded us that vocabulary is contextual. Different terms carry different meanings across geographical and generational cultures. That being said, they provided definitions and descriptions for terms used in the workshop:

Trans – abbreviation for transgender

Trans* - an asterisk is sometimes added to the word trans to signify that trans communities are diverse and include many different identities

Transgender – someone who does not identify with the gender assigned to them 

CIS gender – someone who identifies with the gender assigned to them

Gender non-conforming – someone whose appearance/identity does not conform to societal standards

Genderqueer – sometimes used to describe someone who defines their gender outside the constructs of male and female. This can include having no gender, being androgynous or having elements of multiple genders. 

Nonbinary – someone who identifies outside the gender binary (i.e., male – female)

They cautioned the group that these terms are emerging and there are various viewpoints on their definitions and usage. We should not assume that one person’s words, identity, and definition apply to others. If you are unsure, then ask and be ready to listen.

Finally, we explored the concept of allyship. An ally is a person who helps to advocate for a particular group of people. Allies are knowledgeable about issues and concerns and may help build more supportive climates. They lead from the back, continually questioning themselves and learning as well as taking action to make their workplaces more welcoming.

Coffee with Bob Jorth

This month we sat down for coffee with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Promise.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I’ve had a zig-zaggy career path with 30-40 jobs. So, in broad strokes, I received my bachelor’s degree in general studies from a small Iowa college and took a job in the aerospace industry doing quality assurance among other things. I eventually took a job with NWL – that brought me to Kalamazoo. While working there, I got a master’s degree in public administration and learned database programming. I later took a job with Secant and was working there when the Kalamazoo Promise job opened up. I believe that my background in databases, process improvement, plus my volunteer work with ISAAC and community organizing made me a good fit for the position, and I got it. So, while it’s been a winding and even somewhat tortured, route, it’s all come together to lead me here today.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I arrived in Kalamazoo almost 30 years ago (January 1986). Having grown up in a small town (population 175), I love the small town feel of Kalamazoo – friendly, people know each other. I also like some of the big city attributes it has as well. I love that it’s a diverse community, and the location can’t be beat – so close to Lake Michigan, Detroit, and Chicago.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I have two things I rely upon. First is the ability to listen. The older I get, the more I see the ability to listen well as an extremely powerful tool in relationship building, in understanding systems and processes, and in getting to the core of people’s needs. The second is to treat every person as a unique individual. We have about 1,400 Promise students in college, so I work with a lot of students and parents. I want to respect each one and attend to their unique situation. These are constant reminders for me. Third (I just thought of a third) is to understand what is really at the core of the organization that you’re working for. At the Kalamazoo Promise, the core mission is student success. If I stay focused on the core mission, it helps with decision making and with keeping all efforts on track. 

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

I’ve had a bunch of mentors. Marianne Houston was one. She taught me the power and importance of deep listening. Many were college professors. The overall theme that I take from them is to have the self-confidence to do the job as I see it. It’s having confidence in myself that, if my understanding is clear and focused on the mission, then I can trust my instincts and move forward. Another take away from them is that no job is a small job. Each job deserves my very best effort.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

One big learning moment was the first time I was fired. It taught me that I’m replaceable. I know that this is true of every one in every job – it’s true of me today in my current job. Eventually, someone else will do this job. What this understanding does for me is to help me be less self-righteous and to not take myself too seriously.

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

On an average day I talk with several students and parents as well as attend to other calls and emails. I’ll have a couple of meetings. Then, there’s always some project to squeeze in between the regularly scheduled work.

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

My greatest challenge is the sheer number of students in our program – over 5,000 who are eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise. Again, my desire is to treat and respect each one as a unique individual, so I’m kept up by the need to keep up with workload. Another great challenge is how we, as a community, can address the disparity of success among minority students and to get more kids through high school and using the Kalamazoo Promise. Currently, I’m challenged in putting together our 10-year report.

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

Trends within the Promise field? It’s a pretty unique organization. That being said, I interact with people at colleges and universities to keep up on how to best facilitate student success. That’s our core. Yet, the Kalamazoo Promise is unique. What’s clear is that it’s a scholarship. Yet, the overall success depends upon the community’s citizens and organizations to help our students prepare for college…prepare to be successful. It’s something we can only do together. My hope is that the community is a bit sleepless about this, too.

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

Success in the nonprofit field is very similar to success in any field. Identify your passion and then be open to opportunities that will allow you to pursue that passion. It’s more about awareness than anything – self-awareness and opportunity awareness. I often tell students, “Don’t worry about your first job. Just get out there and see what doors open along the way. If you want to serve people, then start serving them and see where that takes you.”

What hobbies or outside interests do you enjoy?

I love the outdoors – the beach, mountains, ocean. I like being in “reasonably remote” areas (access is important). I enjoy riding my bike and writing poetry. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

KICtalks spotlights four community efforts

ONEplace and the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL) team up to present Kalamazoo Innovative Community Talks or KICtalks on Wednesday, August 26, at 5:30 pm at Kalamazoo Public Library downtown.

The 90-minute event features four brief (5-10’) talks highlighting their innovative efforts to serve and build the greater Kalamazoo community. A reception for enjoying conversation and locally-sourced food follows the talks.

The August 26 event will hear from four innovative efforts: 

Children’s expression takes many forms and Read and Write Kalamazoo describes how their empathy centers provide a variety of opportunities for children to authentically express themselves. Utilizing small groups and collaborative adult interaction, they develop a culture where voice, perspective, and identity are valued.

Can Kalamazoo become the most physically fit community of its size in the nation? On the Move Kalamazoo believes it can. They will describe common barriers to movement, specific barriers in Kalamazoo, and their vision for getting us fit.

What does it mean to “be from Kalamazoo?” Remi Harrington of the Urban Folk Art Exploratory shares her fascinating story and will inspire all to seek what you need from our amazing community and claim Kalamazoo as your hometown.

When we talk of education, we rarely talk of educating the parents…as teachers of their children. Seeds for Success, a local affiliate of Parents as Teachers, describes how they collaborate with five area agencies to give kids – and parents – a better chance for success.

Quarterly KICtalk events are open and free to the public. To register, visit

Peer Learning Groups 2015


The other day I asked Siri:

How do I supervise staff?...she gave me several helpful websites

How do I plan a fundraising campaign?...she gave me several helpful websites

What are best practices for nonprofits on social media?...she gave me several helpful websites

Then, I asked Siri:

Why do I behave the way that I do?...she said, “I don’t know. Frankly, I’ve wondered that myself”

According to Mario Morino (Venture Philanthropy),

"...our problem is not a shortage of ideas, models, knowing what works, or best practices. Instead, it is our failure to execute, deliver what we promise, and convert concepts to sustainable reality."

As we take the lead in our various areas of control and spheres of influence, we must develop the fortitude, resilience, and chutzpah to plant our stake in the ground, hold the tough conversation, and get up when knocked down. 

Peer Learning Groups (PLGs) embrace the understanding “…that leadership development is ultimately self-development.” It’s not a series of workshops. It’s a safe space for building self-awareness and attending to your own concerns and development within a supportive, collegial environment.

PLGs meet monthly for 90 minutes over an eight-month period (Sept – April). At each session, you focus, without distraction, on what matters to you: your values and vision, your challenges and fears. You’ll gain greater access to your own wisdom. You’ll connect with others who listen to and encourage each other, and honor each other’s differences.

During each session we will

  • Take time to gather and reconnect with one another
  • Hear a brief presentation on the day’s material
  • Spend time reflecting on and responding to the material, first alone, and then in pairs
  • Engage a full group discussion for continued reflection as well as resource sharing

We utilize the Courage to Lead approach developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal (find out more).


We have four initial sessions. Sign up for the one that best fits your situation. Subsequent meeting times may be adjusted. So, if you’re interested but cannot make the first meeting, please register and then email me ( to let me know of your conflict.  




Mapping Your Future, the Millennial Way

For all the fuss about how millennials primarily concern ourselves with dating apps and selfie sticks, we devote a lot of time to thinking about the future. To be frank, based on conversations I've had with friends, we are worrying. And here is the chief concern regarding our professional lives: though we've been encouraged for years to pick a career path, the truth is this: the paths don't exist.

And that might sound hyperbolic (hyperbole is definitely a millennial thing!), but many of us don't have access to the typical stops along a career path. Specifically, post-secondary education is expensive (note: I love the Kalamazoo Promise!) and competition is stiff for top positions. These are some of the well-known barriers, never mind if you're living in poverty, or have chronic health problems. For all these reasons and more, many of us take jobs that aren't exactly what we want to do--or even in the right field--out of convenience or fear of unemployment.

 "forest-pathway-trail" by zionfiction is licensed under CC by 2.0

 So, how does one find a route to the perfect position? Especially if you don't know what that is? That's still something I'm trying to figure out. But here are my thoughts so far.

1. Mentorship. Youth advocate Marian Wright Edelman famously said "you can't be what you can't see." So, find experienced professionals in a field of your interest -- through affinity groups or alumni networks--and form a relationship. They can provide insight into jobs that require your skillset, and connect you to more veteran professionals.

2. Re-Define Success...For Now. Regardless of what the job market and graduate school price tags look like in ten years, preparing for the job you want should be a continuous process. If that means adjusting your expectations to a lower salary, or accepting less paid time off than you expected, those are reasonable adjustments to make.

3. Gratitude. We're surrounded by images that tout success, because that's a well-worn angle for social and news media. Rather than feeding career anxiety with what you don't have, take time to list your professional achievements. It alleviates that tunnel vision that makes you only aware of what's ahead.

There isn't a week that goes by that I don't read something or speak to someone who makes me re-think how to approach my future. I'm taking that as a good sign. My rationale: being flexible in thought will ideally translate to nimble acrobatics that land me in a fulfilling career.

Sink deep roots

Let’s get personal for a moment. Each of us has career aspirations. We want to do well, be successful, enjoy our work and feel good about our accomplishments. Many of us wish to make a lasting contribution and earn the respect of our colleagues. So, to those ends, I have one question for you:

How long is your long-term?

I recently finished a book that addressed one’s development in terms of five-year, even ten-year chunks. Imagine what you could accomplish if you approached your career and self-development in terms of ten-year chunks?

This goes beyond the job. Even if you’re approaching retirement, there are things you wish to do, contributions you wish to make, in your 60’s and 70’s. Of course, if you’re younger, it may be a stimulating exercise to imagine your life and career ten, fifteen or twenty years from now.

Why so long? It takes time to sink deep roots.

Whatever motivates you, gets you up in the morning, and pulls you through your day – plant yourself there. Learn about it and let tendrils of inquiry and understanding extend into the rich soil, in all directions, at all angles. Find others who share your interest and challenge each other’s assumptions.

Before long, you’ll find that what started as an isolated inquiry has turned into a complex network of interconnections. As you examine it, you’ll see how to craft it, deepen it, and make it your own.

This community needs what you have to offer. 

It only takes a few years…and it’s exhilarating!




Leader development sits at the core of all our efforts. At ONEplace, we define a leader as someone who takes full responsibility and ownership for his/her role, developing the skills, knowledge, connections and awareness needed to fulfill that role, listens and learns from others, and teaches and shares with others. Or, to put it in a phrase:

Leaders keep learning.

An article in the recent McKinsey Quarterly reminded me of a fascinating, yet disturbing aspect of learning: neuroplasticity. It fascinates me because, thanks to fMRI’s and other imaging techniques, we’re being flooded with new insights and knowledge. It disturbs me because, like many of you, I continue to draw upon concepts of the hardwired brain, left-brain/right-brain preferences, and the fine art of multitasking – all which have been debunked.

Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change its physical structure and functional organization – changed the game.

We now know that the brain rewires itself (makes new neural connections) when we learn new things. This happens at any age. We also know that everyone utilizes both sides of their brains without strict preferences and, in fact, the brain is more active than we previously thought. Further, calming practices (such as mindfulness or meditation) actually generate more brain matter in the executive functioning areas of the brain giving us a greater capacity for complex thinking. Again, this happens at any age.

Recent brain research offers us more and more insights into brain functioning, learning capacity, and so much more. Furthermore, it’s giving us direction in what we can do to keep our minds sharp and nimble (e.g., See Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains). 

All this reminds me of a humbling and challenging notion: knowledge is dynamic.

Facts change. Theories come and go. Best practices become past practices. And radical notions end up being mainstream. The world, with all its varied and wonderful parts, keeps changing. And the good news is: your brain can handle it.



P.S. Keep up on brain research and effective brain building practices at

Latte With Jesselyn Leach

Jesselyn Leach is the Office Administrator/Program Mentor for Speak It Forward, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to transform lives. She happily discussed why she loves her job, and how mentorship has played a huge role in both her job duties and her own personal growth.


1.  What is one of the most energizing aspects of your job?

Mentoring the youth that we work with and watching them progress as they write down their stories and produce a piece of poetry or a story or a song that they can be proud of. So, the growing process.

2. Do you feel like your early life and education directed you to your current career path, or are you surprised at where you are?

I believe that travelling from the north, Michigan, to the south, Texas, as a child really opened my eyes and allowed me to connect with more diverse people because I was constantly going through culture shock. And, I believe the painful and traumatic experiences I went through growing up allow me to connect with the youth on a very honest and deep level. Through learning my own way of using writing as healing, I’m able to teach other people how to do that.

3. What has been one of your most impactful professional experiences?

On May 1 we had a show at Chenery where we brought out a few of the youth we work with. I performed as well, and the piece I performed was about the impact my mother’s drug addiction had on my life. The reason it was so impactful was because of the steps I took leading up to that day, like the talks that I had with my mother and processing myself through that pain. Being able to share an honest experience with the people that were there was really impactful.

[View Jess’s performance on Youtube]

4. Are there many early career professionals in your workplace? Does that make your job more challenging/simpler?

There are three of us in the office, myself and the co-founders. The two co-founders of Speak It Forward started this organization when they were much older than I am now – they were in their mid-twenties, and I’m 20 now. So, in some ways that makes it easier because they’ve gone through what I’m going through, and in some ways it makes it difficult because it’s harder for me to connect with them in the space that they’re in now, which is [that of] professionals.

5. What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about millennials/early career professionals today?

People feel that we don’t have enough experience to do what we’re doing, and specifically in my area [of poetry]. It’s not about how long you’ve gone to school or how many years you’ve written poetry. It’s about the life experiences you’ve gone through and your personal self-growth. Sometimes I feel like I have to explain myself or justify why I’m in this position.

6. What has been one of your most useful professional development experiences? (e.g. trainings, education programs, mentorship, etc.)

Mentorship. As I grow as a person I grow as a professional, and to just have mentors-- the people that I work with and people on our Board [of Directors]--that want to help guide me through life and help me grow through what I’m going through has been really helpful. Not only am I learning from them but I’m learning from myself. And then I can help teach the youth. So it’s an ongoing learning process.

7. What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

The collaboration between organizations. You meet so many people that have [worked between] organizations. Like Yolanda [Lavender] from the Black Arts & Cultural Center: I met her as an artist and now she’s grown into her position as Executive Director. And through my work at the Resource Center, we brought the youth to the Black Arts and Cultural Center. The Kalamazoo Community Foundation and all the wonderful things they’re doing…and Communities in Schools is doing a lot of really great things. So, the potential for collaboration and the way organizations link up to offer their services to the community is really awesome to see.

8. What is the best piece of advice you've received to date, and who gave it to you?

It was a question, and the question is: if the world were going to end tomorrow, what are the things that you would do today, and what’s stopping you from doing it today? That came from one of my co-workers and mentors, Gabriel Giron. I received it right before our show in May. To me it just means being honest and genuine and kind, today. Those are the things that I would do. It creates awareness.

9. Which natural talent do you get to use most often in your work?

I have two. [First], making connections with people has always been something that happened naturally. So that could be the people we work with, or the youth, or even in my day-to-day life. I’ve also been a really strong writer, and that’s definitely something I use often because we use spoken word poetry as a tool.

10. What's your favorite way to spend your free time?

Listening to music and singing the music, and playing all the instruments in the song all at once. I’m a really great air musician, if that makes sense. I can make it seem like I can play instruments. We have this room in our office, and we have a mic stand. Sometimes when I need a mental break from work, I’ll go into the room and set up the mic stand and listen to music and pretend to perform.

11. Lastly, how do you take your coffee?     

 I like coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee. I take it with two creamers, two sugars. You can’t go wrong with French vanilla creamer.

Peer Learning Groups for Leader Development

Everyone needs to be a leader…just not in every situation.

Each of us takes the lead at some time. We take the lead in our own lives. Many of us take the lead in our household. At work, we take the lead in the role we’re given to play.

At ONEplace, we define leadership as

  • taking responsibility and ownership of your role(s), which includes 
  • developing the skills, knowledge, connections and awareness needed to fulfill your role(s) 
  • listening and learning from others and
  • teaching and sharing with others

Our Peer Learning Program provides a disciplined, intensive approach to leader development for managers, supervisors, and directors. It’s also perfect for executive leaders of small organizations.

The Peer Learning Group design helps you become more attuned to your strengths and challenges, engage your own insights and wisdom, build a network of supportive connections, and develop coaching skills. It requires commitment, and it delivers much more.

How it works

Peer Learning Groups meet for eight monthly sessions from September through April. The facilitator guides and participates in each session. 

The basic 90’ session agenda includes a brief introduction to the day’s topic, time to explore the topic on your own, focused discussion in pairs, and a full group discussion and resource-sharing. Learning occurs as each participant pursues their own path to effective performance and job satisfaction. Together, we create a welcoming and open space to work on our own leadership issues within the supportive context of colleagues who are doing the same thing.

Within the discussions, we listen carefully and engage our curiosity, imagination, and inspiration through asking open, honest questions. The questions create space for a substantial conversation that doesn’t judge or try to fix but allows each person to find what they need within a confidential environment.

Groups start in September and space is limited. For more information, attend one of our information sessions on Thursday, August 13 or Tuesday, August 18, or contact the ONEplace Director at