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KHRMA Day of Service

The Kalamazoo Human Resource Management Association (KHRMA) in association with ONEplace will be offering assistance to area nonprofits in July for Human Resource related questions.

Members of KHRMA have offered to volunteer a few hours of their time in July to assist with Human Resource projects or issues that they may have. Last year's inaugural program saw KHRMA members helping with everything from areas of a strategic plan to handbooks to onboarding practices.

If you are with a nonprofit in the Kalamazoo area and are interested in receiving assistance, please email Ben Cohen, the KHRMA Community Relations Chair, with your name, organization, and a description of your requested assistance. Ben will assign a KHRMA volunteer to assist you, and they will reach out to you directly to schedule a time to help.

Ben's contact information is or (269) 552-3248 (office). If you're unsure about anything, please also feel free to reach out to Ben.

Please have all requests in by Friday, June 12, 2015. Thank you!

Resolve That Workplace Conflict (Yes, You!)

I am finally coming to understand that conflict at work is unavoidable. Even though I am extremely conflict-averse, sometimes misunderstandings just happen. My experiences have been fairly run-of-mill; I’ve had collaborators surprise me with an offhand comment, and even had clients become hostile for no apparent reason. Most times workplace conflict ends up with all parties walking away hurt and upset.

 "Charging Bull" by "Prayitnophotography" is licensed under CC by 2.0
I'm willing to bet that "hurt and upset" rank among the least productive emotions for working towards reconciliation. Often it feels easier to complain about the situation with friends and hope you can avoid the other person around the office. But I want to challenge that. What if we empower ourselves to believe that resolving the issue is as much your responsibility as it is the other person's? Here's why: your personal comfort at work depends on your ability to communicate. This is true of everything else -- getting the right desk chair, getting help on a difficult project -- so why should interpersonal issues be any different?

Moving towards reconciliation often feels impossible if the incident was highly emotional. So how do you move past that? Thom mentioned a concept other day that stuck with me: sit across the table from yourself. Multiple studies show that we all have blind spots when it comes to our behavior. So, "sit across" from yourself and trade your first-person perspective with a third-person narrative. Write down what happened as if you were not at all involved, and then read the story.  Trying out this exercise could put you in the proper headspace to broach reconciliation. Or maybe it could be a tool you use to decide if you want to involve a mediator.

No matter what happens, I've come to see that you cannot control anyone else. So, if you approach the idea of a resolution with an open mind, your work environment will be so much the better for it.

Between reality and illusion

I’m puzzled. As a fan of management and leadership, I like to think that plans and strategies matter. After studying trends and doing analysis, it seems we should have a good read on things and be able to set a course of action that will lead to success. This however is what Daniel Kahneman calls, “the illusion of understanding.”

In his recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he returns time and again to remind us that having a grasp of things is more a security blanket than a reality. Illusions of understanding are comforting and reduce the anxiety surrounding uncertainty. They also feed our need for order and fairness. But they’re not reality. 

Kahneman says, “We all have a need for the reassuring message that actions have appropriate consequences, and that success will reward wisdom and courage. Many business books are tailor-made to satisfy this need.”

He goes on to say that for all our efforts, the data shows that we only do a little better (or sometimes a little worse) than chance.

So, at times, just when I think, “I got it,” I also realize that I don’t “got it.”

Perhaps it’s best to keep one eye on the long-term goal – that point on the horizon – while managing the current situation as it presents itself…without trying to figure it out, or “get it.” I don’t know. I’m still working on this.

Your thoughts?



Where work happens

You’re reading this right now. I’m glad. Part of my work is to study, reflect upon our work, find connections and insights, and then share them with you. It’s fun for me. But I’ll let you in on a little secret:

I’m writing at home.

That’s right. What you’re reading now was written over a couple of early mornings in my family room at home. That’s when I write. Why? I find the early morning a time of clarity and creativity. Plus it’s completely uninterrupted time.

Where do you find uninterrupted time?

In 2010, Jason Fried did a TED talk on Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work. For ten years, he posed a question to business people (both nonprofit and for-profit): Where do you go when you really need to get something done? Answers included “the porch, the deck, the kitchen…the basement, the coffee shop, the library,” or “Well, it doesn’t really matter where I am, as long as it’s really early in the morning or really late at night or on the weekends.”

You almost never hear, “the office.”

(Of course, there are jobs where the work can only be done in the office. Those notwithstanding, it plays on the perception of where we can “get something done.”)

In an attempt to reclaim quality work time at the office, Jason suggests No Talk Thursdays, emailing rather than stopping by another’s office, and eliminating unneeded meetings.

For me, it’s a matter of knowing how I best work and scheduling my week accordingly. Writing in the early morning is fun for me – I like to do it. I also need uninterrupted blocks of time at work, so we schedule those into our workweek. If your calendar is not fully in your control, ask for the time you need or at least understand and explain the time cost of an assigned project or task.

What else would you suggest? How do you manage your time?



Lunch & Learn at ONEplace

At our workshops and peer learning groups, I enjoy watching participants share ideas, insights, and resources. When the room buzzes with energized voices from people perched on the edge of their seats, it’s fun. And I learn a lot.

This is my vision for our new Lunch & Learn events coming in May. Our Lunch & Learns start at 12:05 and end at 12:55 pm. The session opens with a brief presentation of the topic followed by a facilitated discussion. The goal is to not just share our knowledge but to go deeper into the subject. My hope is that each person leaves with a greater understanding and feeling challenged to take the next step related to the day’s concern.

This month, our Lunch & Learns focus on people topics. On May 21, we’ll explore Giving & Getting Feedback, and on May 27, we’ll tackle Managing Expectations.

Each Lunch & Learn is limited to 12 participants so that everyone can fully engage the discussion. Also, it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag-lunch). We’ll provide our usual water station.

Just ONEthing - May 2015

Last week, Kevin Brozovich, Founder and Chief People Officer at HRM Innovations, led a Management Track workshop on HR Essentials. During the session, we spent a chunk of time on the hiring process – especially the interview.

A surprising number of interviewers take an unstructured approach to the interview. These commonly begin with light conversation and eventually get into some more formal questions. Kevin noted that, when using this unstructured approach, the interviewer often decides on a candidate within the first few minutes of the interview – the more personal connections with the candidate, the more favorable the impression.

The unstructured approach raises significant concerns. The selection may be based more upon personal affinity rather than qualifications for the job. Plus, it may undermine efforts to build a diverse workforce as we gravitate toward people like us. Even greater concern arises if only one person conducts the interview.

A structured interview (same questions in the same order) offers a more uniform approach to the process, and studies show a much higher validity with a structured interview (0.51 vs. 0.14 with unstructured). Also, conducting an interview with a panel of interviewers improves the quality of the process even more.

For more on HR, read Kevin’s blog.

Latte with James Mattox

James Mattox is a Kalamazoo native who is the founder of A's for J's, an incentive program for high school freshman that currently operates at Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix. James manages and funds the program while working another full-time job – and he is happy to do it. Read on to find out more about this enterprising professional and what he's planning next.



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

Making a change in the kid’s lives…I’m just trying to be a difference-maker, and trying to be a part of this new wave of education. No one I know is doing this [kind of work].

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?

A little bit of both. I attended Lincoln International Studies School and started using Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish when I was in kindergarten. We were one of the first testing sites for that program. At first I hated it, but as I got older I was happy that I learned it because I still know Spanish to this day. I’m trying to repeat that by finding a way to get the kids excited about learning.   

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

Making the news was the biggest stepping stone for me. It got me out there and paved the path for me to do what I’m doing. Last August, right before school started, News 3 had me on talking about A’s for J’s. At that time [my program] wasn’t in any schools, but I believe that interview is what got the ball rolling.  I’ve been trying to get A’s for J's into [KPS] for two years.

A reporter for Channel 3 came into my other job. I told him about A’s for J’s—I had the proposal, the pros and cons and what I wanted to do all ready for him--and he loved the idea. It moved very quickly. I met him on a Tuesday, and I was interviewed on Friday. I’m so blessed. ONEplace is also a big help. The KICtalks event was a great chance for me.

 4.     Do you know many young business owners personally? Does that make your job more challenging/simpler?

I don’t know any other young business owners. I don’t really think about it is as a challenge. I do my homework, I study, and I’m always willing to learn new things. I don’t think I know it all. If there was someone I knew I’d hope I could learn from them. So, in a way, it is a disadvantage because I’m learning everything by myself.

5.     What do you think is one of the biggest barriers as a millennial/early career professional?    

Honestly, not graduating from college is a big barrier because it’s hard for people to take me seriously. I try to plead my case and say that it wasn’t for me. I took some very good classes, like Business Management and Public Speaking but I didn’t graduate. So it’s hard to get people to listen to you and to take you seriously.

6.     What is a project related to your job that you’re currently working on and are excited about?

I have an app coming out in late August called Wowzers. It will have a whole series of games that will teach kids math. It will show the kids that learning is fun. When I thought about what made me love learning math, I realized it was a computer game that I loved called Math Munchers, and it helped me grow as a person. This is another way I can make a difference in a kid’s life, and I know that apps are the new wave of learning. I’m currently developing the content, so I’m in stage 2 of 10.

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

Kalamazoo comes together when we need to. The people here are great, and it’s just a good people to grow up and raise a family. I love being a Kalamazoo native.

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

“Whatever the mind can perceive, it can achieve.” That’s from the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and I read this book over and over.

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

Talking to people! I love taking to people—I could speak to 30,000 people and wouldn’t get nervous at all.

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

I love video games, and watching inspirational speeches. I do that a lot, like watching Steve Jobs…learning from my elders and those who came before me.

11.  Lastly, how do you take your coffee?

 I don’t like coffee, but I enjoy cappuccinos – only in the winter, though.


Why we serve

At ONEplace we have the opportunity and honor to have extended conversations with many who devote their career to the nonprofit sector. One of my favorite questions is, “What attracted you to do this work?” The answers vary in detail, but a consistent theme runs through virtually all of them:

It’s not work. It’s what I love to do.

That point resounded loud and clear at last week’s 30th Annual STAR Awards. Since its inception, Volunteer Kalamazoo and MLive Media Group/Kalamazoo Gazette have co-sponsored the annual STAR (Sharing Time and Resources) Awards program to recognize the contributions of the outstanding volunteers who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism – a spirit embodied by Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Elaine VanLeeuwen.

In case you missed it, Mrs. VanLeeuwen served as a foster parent for 52 years and cared for nearly 500 children. MLive reports her story and many of the things she said in her acceptance speech. Yet the one thing she said that stood out to me was,

I don’t deserve any praise. It was something I enjoyed doing.

Over the years, many psychologists and others have explored the question, “Why do human beings do good things?” Altruism poses an evolutionary conundrum: how does it serve my preservation to risk myself for others?

Steve Taylor (Leeds Metropolitan University) suggests that we don’t need to try to explain away altruism, figuring out how it serves our best interest. He says that our “altruism is an expression our most fundamental nature – that of connectedness.” So, we should celebrate it.

Thankfully, the STAR Awards did just that.



Advocacy Institute

The Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Institute is a beginning-level program for organizations that are ready to engage in advocacy but need the skills to do so. It is designed to enhance your nonprofit’s capacity to impact public policy at the local, state and federal levels. Michigan Nonprofit Association has contracted with Erin Skene-Pratt to facilitate the sessions. During the five month program, you and your peers will learn how to engage in policy work with specific strategies tailored for your community.

The Institute will include:

  Individualized course learning plan 

  Five group sessions covering the following topics with customized content:

  • June 16, 1-4 pm: “How and Why of Advocacy”
  • July 28, 1-4 pm: “Systems and Process: How to institutionalize Public Policy in Your Organization”
  • August 25, 1-4 pm: “Effective Techniques for Engaging Policymakers”
  • September 22, 1-4 pm: “Engaging Your Team to Affect Change” 
  • October 20, 9 am-4 pm: “Funding Your Advocacy Efforts” 

  Monthly one-on-one conference calls with the instructor, Erin Skene-Pratt 

  Individualized organizational advocacy action plan

Upon completion of the program, you will have a customized advocacy action plan that includes specific objectives for building your organization’s capacity to advocate.

Registration is limited to 10 organizations. Organizations are required to assign a representative from the staff and one from the board of directors to participate in all aspects of the Institute. It is estimated that each participant will spend about 10 hours per month on this course. Organizations must be members of Michigan Nonprofit Association. The cost to participate is $100 per organization.

If you and a board member are interested in participating in the Institute, please request an application and submit by Monday, May 11.

Questions? Contact Erin Skene-Pratt, facilitator, at or Thom Andrews, at

How to Thoughtfully Add to Your Plate

Around ONEplace, we joke that we don't have a slow season and that probably applies to most nonprofits. As you well know, many in the nonprofit sector are stretched thin. Even with a stuffed workload, most of us are presented with opportunities to do more, either at work or in the community. Join this committee! Help plan the company picnic!

 "Macaron" by "jonastana" is licensed under CC2.0

These opportunities present a specific challenge for early career professionals. We've been trained that taking on added work-related responsibilities shows our supervisors initiative and commitment. Plus, many post-workday activities, like volunteering, help grow your resume. Neither of these advantages account for burnout, or the potential to waste your time. As I've experienced both scenarios, I've made a commitment to myself to be more discerning. Before putting new things on my plate, I ask myself these three questions:


1. Will this commitment help me reach a personal/professional goal? If taking on a new responsibility bears so few benefits that you're really on the fence, or worse, could actively harm you, pass on it.

2. Does this have a fixed date of participation or is it on-going? Sometimes, new opportunities might mean significant amounts of stress, but also have a clear end date. For example, helping organize your neighborhood's garage sales might cost you three Saturday afternoons, but once the event is over, your schedule can revert back to normal.

3. Will this opportunity require that I use existing skillsets, or help me build new ones? This question is really helpful for me when I'm being sold on something that is "easy" or "stress-free." Whether you're trying to impress your current boss or future ones, if an activity seems simple, it will probably look that way on your resume.


There is no easy way to decide, but these questions allow me to think more deeply so that I can ultimately arrive at a thoughtful decision. Now I feel more confident about when and why to add to my plate.