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Leggo my ego

I enjoy basketball. While some individual players stand out, it’s the performance of the team that decides the game: working together, anticipating each other’s moves, and sharing the spotlight. Sure it takes practice, but it takes more than practice.

It takes trust.

On a team, trust means…

 

  • You hold one another accountable without assigning blame
  • You willingly give and receive extra efforts without keeping track
  • Knowing that the team has your back, you take risks without guilt
  • You communicate openly and directly with your teammates without fear

 

…and you do it all for your mission…for your cause.

Being on a team requires us to extend beyond ourselves. In our recent workshop on Mindfulness in the Workplace, Eric Nelson provided a compelling research- and case-based argument for mindfulness practice. The benefits were so varied and plentiful, I finally asked, “What’s the downside?” Without hesitation, he responded, “It challenges your identity.”

Mindfulness practice makes us face our assumptions and how they often differ from others’ assumptions. It chips away at our ego and helps us recognize how much we need each other to achieve better understanding as well as better performance. By letting go of our need to be right, we free ourselves to be correct. We free ourselves to trust.

I’ve written before on ways to build trust. Yet, these efforts falter when individuals stay wedded to their own assumptions and agendas. The more we understand ourselves and let go of our own egos, the more we open ourselves to trust our teammates. And that’s a step we must take on our own.

The ball is in your court.

Best,

Thom


You're welcome

I expect that every organization and business strives to be hospitable. We want staff, clients, visitors, supporters, and vendors to feel welcomed and comfortable in our place and at our events. Yet, even with best of intentions, we may run into times when we’re stumped.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Some situations may throw us for a loop. Many of us have faltered around language issues, physical challenges, cognitive disabilities, cultural misunderstandings and more.

We can take steps to prepare ourselves and our organizations to be hospitable in these situations: glean your staff’s wisdom by initiating the discussion; identify gaps in understanding and then research and share information at staff meetings; and take advantage of workshops offered by area agencies.

This week, ONEplace welcomes Allison Hammond (Arcadia Institute) to explore Supporting People with Disabilities in your Organization. Allison will help us discover how we can successfully include people with disabilities as participants, volunteers and employees. Plus she will highlight resources to assess and support our ongoing efforts.

Most of us desire an open and welcoming community. It starts with each of us creating that environment right where we are.

Best,

Thom


Board training increases impact

According to Building the Governance Partnership, “Board members often don’t know what they don’t know.” As the seat of authority in most nonprofits, it’s critical that board members clearly understand what’s expected of them and how to fulfill those expectations.

At ONEplace, our goal is to make sure we’re focusing our limited time and energy on areas of highest impact. Since embarking on basic board training, we’re finding this to be one of those high impact areas. 

Initially, we simply responded to what was requested. This usually included a basic overview of board responsibilities with a little extra time spent on one or two items (e.g., fundraising or being a good ambassador). Having now met with over 30 organizations and conducted 16 onsite training events, we’ve developed a broader-based approach.

Every quarter we offer Board Membership 101. This late afternoon workshop provides board members and prospective board members with an overview of board responsibilities. It also serves as an encouragement to nonprofits to supplement this experience with their own, more specific, training and orientation.

Onsite training events (commonly at a board meeting) tailor the content to the needs of the specific board. These events are also much more participative. Providing your board with a common training experience greatly increases retention and application as reminders pop up at almost every subsequent meeting.

The program rounds out with two additional services. First, we continue to provide a place where board and staff may discuss new concerns and challenges and gather helpful resources. And second, we provide facilitation services to help boards discuss difficult or sensitive issues.

For more information, please contact us: oneplace@kpl.gov or 269-553-7910.


Just ONEthing - Dec 2014

Last month, we hosted a Chronicle of Philanthropy video titled, Building Long-term Ties with Young Donors. It discussed data from the Millennial Alumni Report and how it related to nurturing the loyalty of young donors. The video noted the strong philanthropic tendency of Millennials in volunteering (86% would volunteer) as well as donating (75% donate).

Enjoyable experiences with the organization, an opportunity to give back, and the ability to designate donations to a specific program motivate Millennial philanthropy. Millennials also want to see results. 

Social media (especially Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) is tops in providing Millennials with stories, behind the scenes info, and successes. To maximize reach, the presenters suggest creating an Online Ambassador Program. The program engages volunteers in generating Shares and Retweets, and it’s considered a “must” for any online campaign.

Email continues to be the primary communication channel for calls to action and appeals. Emails should be very short with bold highlights and a soft ask (e.g., donate button).

The bottom line for Millennials (as for older donors) is to ask. Many reported that they didn’t give simply because they hadn’t been asked.


Latte with Mikki Henry

 LatteWithThis month is our first installment of Latte With. I will sit down with an early career professional who works in Kalamazoo's nonprofit sector to discuss their professional lives, goals, and experiences.

My first conversation was with Mikki Henry, Youth Outreach Associate at Kalamazoo Public Library. Mikki coordinates Ready to Read,  KPL's early childhood literacy program.

 

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

I would say the fact that I feel that my position allows me the opportunity to have a profound impact in the life of another person. 

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


In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. My parents and various other relatives were always very good about sharing their love of reading with my brothers and me and taking us to the library routinely. So I have almost always loved books and loved sharing them with others. My later education wouldn't necessarily have led me to this position though my job experiences did.

What has been one of your most impactful professional experiences?

This is a difficult question. My last three positions have all been impactful for very different reasons but I'll focus on just one. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a position as a teacher's aide in the English department of a public school in Madrid. I very quickly figured out that each teacher I worked with had a different idea about what my job was. In one class I might just correct homework, while in another I took half the class to another room and went over the day's lesson with them. It was a lesson in adaptability.

Moving to Spain was also a complete change for me. The whole experience was intimidating and at times overwhelming, but I think it is experiences like this that help inspire confidence in yourself.

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

There are a handful of early career professionals here. I guess I'm not sure how it impacts my job. I would definitely say that I have benefitted from working with others who are further along in their careers.

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

A big misconception seems to be that millennials are lazy or rather, lazier than previous generations. Scott Hess makes some good points about this in his TEDx talk Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them. He observes that Gen X was also labeled lazy by the previous generation.

I would say that laziness is a personal attribute, not a generational one, but also that it seems to be human tendency to make things as efficient and convenient as possible. So, in a way it makes sense that every generation seems to have a worse work ethic than the last given that every generation probably benefits from new technology that makes life easier.

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


I guess I'm not sure if this counts as a professional development experience but during my year with AmeriCorps we were required to attend a certain amount of trainings. One of these training opportunities happened to be attending the Diversity Lecture Series which is hosted each year by Grand Rapids Community College. Another AmeriCorps member and I ended up going to a talk by Susan Cain about her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking that was part of this lecture series. I would point to this as an impactful professional experience because not only did I realize that I am something of an introvert but the lecture was also very informative about how introverts work best and how they relate to other people.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

The emphasis the entire community seems to place on the value of education.

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

I once worked at a fairly upscale restaurant as a hostess. I have to admit, I didn't particularly like the job or the people I worked for, but one day my supervisor pulled me aside and expressed the importance of displaying confidence even when you don't feel it. Of course, there are times when it's probably a good idea to express a lack of confidence, but strangely, that moment has stuck with me. I often reflect on it before things like interviews and presentations.

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

I would say that despite being a bit introverted I am a fairly friendly person and that is one talent I get to use in this position since I work with a number of community partners.

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

I enjoy getting lost in a good book when I have the chance.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?

I like to drink it strong but with milk, cream, or almond milk if I can get my hands on it.


On track

Are you staying on track? Perhaps you’re getting on track. You may even be off track, sidetracked, or more akin to General Halftrack. In any event, it’s good to know where you are and where you are headed.

What’s dodgy about our work is that it often moves in cycles. As one friend of mine will say, “I’m doing what I always do in December.” Just as we cycle in and out of seasons and improve the appointed tasks with each go around, we also can revisit basic management skills and improve them.

This is why ONEplace offers Management Track workshops. These events address skills and processes fundamental to nonprofit management. They also provide opportunities to develop, hone, and refine our skills and offer teams opportunities to learn skills together (which improves application and retention).

Upcoming Management Track workshops include:

Decision Making (12/4) – a decision making process for individuals and teams that focuses on good data and clearly documents process and results

Design, Funding & Constructing Facilities that Fit (1/15) – if you are considering a renovation or building project, this will help you navigate the details

Project Management (1/22) – a time-tested approach to projects that facilitates focused definition, detailed planning, and well-managed implementation

Emergency Action Planning (2/25) – emergencies will happen and this workshop ensures that you know how to plan, prepare, and care for the unexpected

Good leaders continually learn new things as well as refine and deepen that which is already known. They travel a track that doesn’t go in circles; rather, it spirals to ever-deeper understanding.

Best,

Thom


How About a December Resolution?

Most of us wouldn't call the holiday season relaxing, especially for nonprofits with year-end campaigns to run. One way I divert some of the anxiety that goes along with hectic year-end events is by setting a small, yet achievable goal with a December 31 deadline. There is something distinctly satisfying about bringing in the New Year on the heels of a personal accomplishment. Below are five steps that have helped me set and accomplish my December resolutions.

 
 Ballon Banner

1. When setting your goal, avoid your Achilles Heel -- for now. Choose something less intimidating that will also have a noticeable impact. For example, you might want to limit the time you spend replying to emails.

2.Select the issue that you can easily measure. Goals related to thoughts and emotions are tougher; i.e. "I will not respond rudely to the client who always calls me screaming," is more difficult to measure than something like "I will thank every client for calling."

3. Say what you will do. It may seem trite, but words have power. When you mentally tell yourself not to do something--"I will not let my paperwork pile up"-- it implicitly adds pressure and negativity to the task at hand.  Your goal should be an action you will take.

4. Ensure accountability. I don't think setting any goal is the difficult part, but rather, remembering the goal and sticking to it. My favorite method of accountability is other people. I tell a couple of close friends about my goal, and when they ask me about it, I can either share the good news, or thank them for the reminder.

5. Adjust, adjust, adjust. You can't know how realistic your goal is until you actually try to accomplish it. If eating lunch away from your desk every day isn't possible, adjust your goal to one day. Then, go back to step 4 and secure lunch plans with a colleague every week.

 

 What has been your experience with goal-setting? What's your process?

 


The human economy

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dov Seidman observes that we’re moving into a human economy. Having once been an agrarian economy and then an industrial economy, followed by an information economy, we now are transitioning into a human economy where successful employees leverage their creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit.

Seidman quotes Peter Drucker (Effective Executive, 1967) in support for committing to values and connecting with purpose in the workplace. He describes Drucker as being ahead of his time. I think he was simply more attuned to his people than the flavor of his time.

Successful leaders throughout the 20th century valued the human element. Look at Jim Collins’ list of top CEO’s and you’ll find several who built long-lasting organizations that valued their people more than their profit.

What they recognized is that – be it agrarian, industrial, information or human – each was an economy, i.e., “a system of interaction and exchange.” Regardless of what commodity is being traded, it’s people that perform the interactions and exchanges. It’s people that make any economy tick.

Seidman also points out that the systems are changing. Business and organizational policies and practices are valuing the human element more, and business schools are also attending more to developing so-called “soft skills.”

More and more, institutions are recognizing what many business writers keep claiming: it’s all about relationships. It’s true now, and it has been true for decades. Perhaps mainstream leadership thought is catching up with this.

Best,

Thom


People we need

One of the joys of working at ONEplace is the opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people: from long-term nonprofit leaders to those incubating start-ups; from seasoned board members to neighborhood advisory councils; from funders sitting on millions of dollars to social entrepreneurs sitting on a single idea. From all these discussions and more, I’ve realized one undeniable fact:

Each person brings a critically important contribution to the discussion.

This is not about asking “Who’s not at the table?” or making sure the discussion includes “representative voices.” This is about recognizing that every discussion is ill-informed because voices will always be missing. It’s also about making the effort to go beyond representative voices and seek out, invite, and create an environment safe enough for each critically important perspective to be raised.

We’re doing this on a few fronts, at ONEplace and in community centers. It takes time – sometimes years – to get acquainted and develop readiness, and then more time to build trust. But, as they say, “In five years it will be 2019 either way, so we might as well start.”

Posing open, honest questions that draw out the diversity of perspectives brings new light to the matter at hand. Just as light from one angle illuminates only part of a structure and casts shadows on other parts, light from many angles removes the shadows and illuminates the whole.

And, when I catch a glimpse of the whole, I realize the specious nature of the phase, “people in need.”

Rather, I desire to participate in the diverse circle which hosts people we need. In this circle, there is no teacher or student, no grantor or grantee, no provider or client. In this circle, each person claims, “There are eyes that see things I don’t see, ears that hear sounds I don’t hear, and hearts that bear burdens I don’t bear.”

Until every light shines, unencumbered, we’re all left in the dark.

Best,

Thom


Got a minute?

When we think of organizational values, words like honesty, integrity, and service generally surface. Generosity is not commonly listed, unless it's United Way campaign time.

Yet, in the book, Change Anything, the authors give a nod to generosity when they discuss getting one’s career on track. Identifying what separates the best from the rest, they list three things: know your stuff, focus on the right stuff, and build a reputation for being helpful. 

They look to "Individuals who are singled out by their colleagues as the go-to folks in the company" and say that "people describe them as experts who are generous with their time."

We also know them by other descriptions: team players, mission-focused, and helpful. "Theirs is not primarily a self-serving motivation. Top people are widely known...because they help others solve their problems."

Of course, one pitfall here is trying to use generosity as a means of getting ahead. At the heart of it, generosity is about placing your focus outside self, outside organization, and on to the greater purpose, the greater cause. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more we focus on the greater goal beyond our organization, the better it is for our organization and career.

Another pitfall is helping so much that one’s own work doesn't get done. Certainly, boundaries must be observed. Remember, the second point above was "focus on the right stuff."

So, next time you hear someone say, "Got a minute?" hear it as an opportunity to connect with a colleague, further your mission, and contribute to a generous workplace culture.

Best,

Thom