ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

Just ONEthing - Dec 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and others who attended our community alignment workshop on November 6. During this time, Suprotik posed the question, What are the barriers to your operating at maximum potential? Among the responses came these insights:

  • We think we have to do it all vs. working smarter
  • Organizational tunnel vision – we don’t see the full picture
  • We work in silos and will collaborate only so far. We stop when we fear losing funding
  • We may use the same terms, but we have differing definitions of those terms - misunderstanding
  • We often reinvent the wheel, trying to solve issues by ourselves when someone already has the answer
  • Always done it this way vs. Willingness to change

Suprotik offered that what works best for any specific community is found in the intersection of Best Practices (success in many communities), Local Data (trends unique to our community), and Local Voices (from people nearest the issues).

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Many thanks

Thanksgiving fast approaches. So, this week I’ll simply share with you three Work-Related Gratefuls (WRGs, pronounced wergs).

1. ONEplace colleagues – It’s great to work with people you enjoy and admire, and I’m grateful to work with Adam McFarlin. Many of ONEplace’s innovations these past months are his contributions. I also am grateful for colleagues past, Bailey Mead and Bobbe Luce, whose contributions continue to benefit our nonprofit sector.

2. Consultant network – Talent abounds in so many corners of our county. Our consultant network includes smart, insightful, dedicated, and innovative persons who put the meat and muscle into ONEplace workshops, Leadership Academy, and more. I’m grateful and honored to work with them.

3. Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – While I’m grateful for every dedicated nonprofit staff, board member, and volunteer, I especially want to thank those who connect through the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – both the LinkedIn group and our LIVE gatherings. Taking time to meet, share and regularly connect with your nonprofit colleagues illustrates your grasp of the long view and your commitment to collective impact.

I could go on, but three is a good number. Plus, why should I have all the fun – what are your WRGs?

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thom

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Trust connections

In a video I recently viewed, Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, offers her five attributes of trustworthy leadership: question ourselves, develop and attend to solid partnerships, avoid the use of force except as a last resort, value differences not only as a source of respect but as a source of creative information, and create a community.

Certainly, others may vary their own trustworthy leadership list, but I find that in leadership, as in many other areas, it all comes down to relationships. The connections we build over the course of our careers make all the difference in our individual success as well as our organization’s impact.

Our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE events were created as a venue for you to make and strengthen connections with your nonprofit colleagues. Along with its sibling, the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LinkedIn group, they provide opportunities to meet, discuss, ask questions, share resources, and support one another.

I hope you’ll stop by the upcoming LIVE gathering on Wednesday, November 20. We’re here from 4:30 – 6 pm.

Best,

Thom

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Inter(active)dependence

I get jazzed when I'm part of a group that's getting deep in the hoo-ha on issues that matter. Last week (Nov 6), we had moments of that during our Community Alignment workshop.

During the discussion, Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh (Kalamazoo Community Foundation) offered three keen insights that brought this elusive topic into clearer view.

Community alignment is an act of our will
We choose to be aligned or not. There's no magic formula or moment when all falls into place. Alignment occurs when two or more organizations set their intentions to a common outcome and consent to common goals; when we choose to combine our power to do good and to do it well.

Community alignment is about a better way to connect us
Our work takes on greater meaning when it engages us in something bigger than ourselves or our organizations. When we choose to align around these larger goals, the connections we make are stronger and deeper. They withstand conflict and debate, and they surround us with the net of support required to pursue transformational change.

Community alignment begins by starting conversations with people we don't know
While we acknowledge the truth that "we're all in this together," we often don't recognize that "all" includes those voices not being heard. Aligning with those we know takes work. Seeking those we don't know - but need to know - requires curiosity as well as vulnerability. Let's keep asking, "Who's not at the table?" And then, offer them a chair.

We live in a dynamic community - a living system in constant flux. In such a place, community alignment is not something to be attained so much as to be pursued (like "the pursuit of happiness"). At best we'll achieve moments - moments when months of effort from many people results in lives being changed...improved...transformed. At the end of the day, that's something to celebrate!

Then, tomorrow, we do it all over again.

Best,

Thom

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Executing Leaders

It’s Halloween! 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 fire 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 mission 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.

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Just ONEthing - Oct 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from Dann Sytsma and Brian Lam (aka, Improv Effects) who led our Manage by Improvisation workshop. Through a series of improv games and exercises we learned the power of: 

  • affirming what the other person says and then adding to it 
  • making strong choices in the moment 
  • having fun

One participant emailed us two days after the workshop to add to comments made on the evaluation. The participant wrote: “The improv practices we learned are highly applicable to my job, particularly to the collaborative aspects of the work I do.”

ONEplace offers the improv workshop again on January 23, 2014. Registrations open in late November.

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Focus

Autofocus used to bug me. I’d take a picture of two people standing side-by-side, and invariably the camera would capture the detail of the plant centered behind them and blur their faces.

I eventually learned the trick of autofocus, but it still bothered me. The auto feature distracted me from my desired focus of attention.

Now, more than ever, distractions abound. Our attention gets pulled in several directions every minute. Yet, research and practical experience show time again that our ability to focus – to pay attention in the right way, at the right time – is critical for success.

Focus not only directs our attention, it also brings things into clear view. As the detail sharpens, we discern where to invest our time, our energy, even our very lives. Clarity draws us toward our center.

Our organizations have a center – it’s usually captured in the mission statement. Each of us also has something inside that knows when we’re in the center – when we’re on the beam or off the beam. In accepting that knowledge and pursuing that center, we find our passion, our bliss, our happiness.

Allowing ourselves this journey requires a self-acceptance that allows for the mistakes we’ll make along the way. It requires courage as we put ourselves out there and learn in public. And it requires a focus gained from self-reflection (i.e., set manually) rather than dictated from outside ourselves (i.e., autofocus).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Here’s a brief clip of Daniel Goleman speaking on focus – watch clip

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On Leadership - Sep 2013

Leadership development is becoming ONEplace’s cornerstone. Why this focus?

We’re targeting leadership development because of overwhelming evidence that leadership – both executive and non-executive – sits at the hub of effectiveness. People take their cues from the top. No major initiative ever succeeds without the leader’s support. And every unit – from task force to board – relies on effective leadership.

As a result, ONEplace will change over the next three years. Changes we’ve made to date include:

  • Increased management/leadership workshops during the year
  • Increased online information and fewer webinars
  • Created environments for connecting with nonprofit colleagues online (LinkedIn group) and face-to-face (quarterly gatherings)
  • Pilot testing small group leadership intensives
  • Increased communication with you

As we endeavor to encourage and equip your long-term leadership development needs, we welcome and will solicit your feedback and suggestions. As always, our goal is your success.

Upcoming ONEplace Leadership Series workshops:

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Need a New Direction?

Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”

If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a new direction - time for a turnaround.

Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.

Strong leadership delivers
* a single, unified vision
* a positive, forward-looking face to outside world
* courageous decision-making

Disciplined management delivers
* obsessive focus on the mission
* a feasible plan toward sustainability
* short-term needs handled with long-term perspective

Institutional marketing delivers
* A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
* One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
* One spokesperson who controls the media message

Right-sized fundraising delivers
* Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
* Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
* Increased revenue

Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.

ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).

Best,

Thom

Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.

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Tear Down that Wall

ONEplace renovations commence this week. While the conference room remains intact, the walls surrounding the center are coming down. With books boxed, computers carted and pamphlets packed, we’re ready for the walls to fall.

In light of our renovation, it’s tempting to play with the metaphor of “tearing down walls to embrace a broader perspective.” Indeed, creating opportunities for you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues holds a prominent position in our current plan. And, already, several important connections and insights have come about as a result of networking at events and online. Even so, I’ll avoid that temptation.

It’s also quite enticing to conjure the image of “looking out beyond the resource into the wider world.” You know, mapping new ideas and tools on to the current landscape, keeping a long-term view during short-term highs & lows, and continually asking “who else needs to be at the table for this discussion?” Very enticing, but not worth pursuing.

I could, of course, look to an outcome of the renovation – a focused collection, displayed at eye level with featured titles that get to the heart of current professional development needs. But, it’s too early for that.

So, for now, I’ll just leave it as “pardon our dust.”

Wait! Perhaps I should write on the power of asking forgiveness for those little things that….

Maybe next time,

Thom

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