ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

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.

ThomA

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.

ThomA

Coffee with Sid Ellis

This month, we sit down with Sid Ellis, Executive Director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center (BACC), and talk about his career path, his passion for theatre arts, and his love for Kalamazoo.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I have been doing Community Theater for over 20 years: directing, acting and writing; and was a professional actor with a group called “The Mad Hatters.” I have performed professional storytelling and puppetry for 15 years. I also served as Video Director for Christian Life Center for 12 years and have been a producer at the Public Media Network for over 20 years. I received my BA in Business Management from Spring Arbor University in 2007. The BA degree and my experience in the community enabled me to get the position at BACC.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

First, it’s the opportunity in the arts and the showcasing of the variety of fine and performance arts in the community. I also love downtown Kalamazoo, especially in the spring & summer when it’s so alive with activity. Top it off with the events that happen at WMU and K College.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I am a servant leader and I love working with people in the community who are making a difference whether it’s in the arts or for social reasons. I love helping people accomplish their goals, especially in the arts.

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

Pastor Joel Brooks, Jr. has been a great mentor for me and he strongly encouraged me to write my ideas and goals down. He said, it will not start happening in you if you don’t write it down, and he was right.

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

Developing youth programs for middle and high school age youth has been a challenge. Sometimes we are able to collaborate with other organizations, yet the students usually come on a drop-in basis and are not consistent enough to generate a solid program.

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

Since our events and programs are so diverse, it is hard to stay up-to-date. Plus, as the only paid staff member, I’m involved in all aspects of the organization including: grant writing, fund development, program development and implementation, and handling the day to day office responsibilities. So, I utilize ONEplace and its opportunities and information. I also try to review other organizations’ information on the internet. Facebook has been a big help in getting information.

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

Build relationships and collaborations. Make sure the collaborations are a win-win situation and not just you helping someone else; make sure your organization is going to gain something from it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but do improve on it. A lot of times there are organizations already doing what you are doing; find out how you can work together.

What do you geek?

Acting, directing, storytelling and puppetry.

ThomA

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

ThomA

It's a matter of trust

A few weeks ago during my regular LinkedIn perusal, I came across Marilyn Hewson’s (CEO Lockheed Martin) article on building trust. A quick look piqued my interest, but I wondered if her clearly numbered five principles would be yet another example of off-the-shelf leader hoo-ha. They had that look about them.

Upon reading the article, I saw that her principles were not steps or techniques to be learned & implemented but depths of character to be developed – values, vision, honesty, and gratitude. Building trust is not so much a matter of strategy or tactic but a matter of being trustworthy.

Think of someone you’ve learned to trust. Why did you come to trust this person?

In many cases, trust directly descends from integrity. For me, a person’s integrity stems from the fact that they live an integrated life – what you see if what you get…there are no masks or veneers. It’s what Nan Russell calls authentically showing up. [read her article on trust in the workplace]

In short, building trust is, for the most part, not something you do but a consequence of who you are. We’ll explore this more in an upcoming workshop, Build Trust – Manage Conflict, on October 30.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Movement in the making

Have we forgotten what leadership looks like? Is there a global crisis of leadership? Does it really matter?

In Forbes last week, Mike Myatt answers all the above with a resounding YES! In his article, A Crisis of Leadership – What’s Next? he claims that poor leadership is a systemic problem and so pervasive that we can no longer recognize good leadership. Further, he points to poor leadership as crippling businesses, ruining economies, destroying families, and possibly bringing the demise of nations.

Then he asks, “What do we do about it?”

Myatt calls for a Leadership Movement. Rather than pointing the finger at others, he calls on each of us to require more of ourselves, to take the lead in not only calling out poor leaders but in practicing leadership that values performance above rhetoric, forward progress above positional argument, compassion above ego, and openness above the need to be right.

“We must once and for all learn that what we fail to require of ourselves will be hard to ask from others.”

Much of this rings true to me. It captures the importance and urgency I feel, and it reflects much of why we’re focusing on leadership development at ONEplace. Imagine the collective impact achieved by a nonprofit sector not characterized by a few standout leaders, but led by persons who – to a one – embraced the values above. That’s a vision worth working toward.

Perhaps we should start a movement…

Best,

Thom

P.S. KPL & ONEplace are closed Monday Oct 14 for a library staff day, and ONEplace staff are attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) conference on Tue & Wed, Oct 15-16. Consider attending our Debrief of MNA on October 23.

ThomA

Emotional Courage

“It needed to be said.”

That one statement summed up the difference between another dance-around-the-issue meeting and a truly productive discussion. Persons willing to say what needed to be said.

Why does this seem such a rare occurrence? In his article, Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail, Peter Bregman suggests that, for many, “the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage.” Many just aren’t willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying what needs to be said.

This maxim not only applies to the one willing to break the ice – the rebel or outlier who may easily be ignored – but it also applies to the one willing to back the first one up. This first follower provides validity and serves to make the new issue a topic of discussion rather than a side comment.

Emotional courage, as Bregman says in his insightful article, is the difference between knowing and doing. All leaders know what to do. “What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical.”

Developing emotional courage cannot be accomplished in a workshop or week away. It requires long-term development. How do you (or How would you like to…) develop your emotional courage?

Best,

Thom

ThomA