At ONEplace, we define leadership as taking full ownership of one’s roles and responsibilities. This includes taking the initiative to:
- Learn what you need to know
- Building relationships necessary to be effective
- Listening & learning from others as well as freely sharing with & teaching others what you know
Effective leadership in any position demands building and nurturing strong collaborative connections. These relationships not only increase one’s capacity to do an excellent job, but they tend to make work much more enjoyable.
Also, one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase your organization’s capacity is through building relationships. Most of us know from experience that working collaboratively with others creates synergy – a dynamic in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This works with teams within an organization as well as collaborations between organizations.
As you may have guessed, encouraging strong collaborative relationships within the nonprofit sector is one of our top strategies at ONEplace. We deliberately present workshops and other events to encourage, promote and opportunify strong collaborative connections, such as: solving problems together (Nov 4), nurturing young donors (Nov 5), connecting with nonprofit colleagues (Nov 18), or building a stronger board (Nov 20).
Make building strong collaborative connections part of your personal strategy. It will raise your awareness, and you’ll find that every day presents relationship-building opportunities.
During our recent Supervision Series, Paul Knudstrup (Midwest Consulting Group) addressed an issue that plagues many managers: delegation.
He recommended having clear criteria for what you can delegate (e.g., repetitive tasks) and what cannot be delegated (e.g., the top 10% of critical activities). Then, list your tasks and identify those that others can do. For each delegate-able task, identify who can do it and what training they would need.
When you approach the person, describe the task for them and let them do their own analysis of the task before you explain the details. This helps assess understanding and engagement. Secure their clear understanding of what’s being assigned and when it’s due, provide training, and then check-in early and often enough to make any necessary adjustments.
One final word: don’t snatch the task back. Once you delegate a task, work with them to get up to speed. It will take extra time in the short-term. In the long-term, it will not only save you time but help develop your staff.
This month we sat down with Michelle Karpinksi who was named Executive Director of Pretty Lake Vacation Camp last spring after spending nine years as VP of Development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She connects the dots between her love for the outdoors and her leadership development.
Tell us how you got to where you are today
Coming to Pretty Lake was like coming home. I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. I strayed from that in college and moved even further away during my early career in broadcasting. I rediscovered the outdoors during my years at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Working as their development officer I tapped into a deep-seated passion. This further developed as I spent time with my husband and sons in boy scouting. It all came together last spring – camping, hiking, nonprofit leadership – when I joined the staff at Pretty Lake.
What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
Kalamazoo is such a cool place. While growing up, we moved a lot, so I would not see many people I knew as I went around town. In Kalamazoo, I go almost anywhere and see people I know. It’s a vibrant community with much to do. It’s also a comfortable size – small enough and big enough.
What guides or principles do you rely most upon?
“Follow your heart.” I do my best to do the right thing for our community and for our kids. It’s not always easy, but it’s a good way to move forward.
What has been one of your biggest learning moments?
No one moment stands out. I’ve learned the most from those challenging moments during my career. I’ll do my best and then take time to evaluate: what went well, what I could do better next time. We did this as a team at the Nature Center after having faced a challenging customer service issue. Taking time to evaluate and learn from the experience has informed my life and career.
What’s an average day like for you at work?
I’m still figuring that out! The typical day is different from season to season, but it’s always busy.
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
There is so much need in the community, I’m continually trying to figure out a way for Pretty Lake to fill that need. We have kids coming to us for summer camp, but they take away so much more than a fun camp experience. The power of the outdoors helps them do better in the classroom and get along better outside the classroom. It also opens them up to experiences they’ve never had before and the opportunity to see themselves succeeding differently than they would in a classroom.
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
I read – a lot. I have sites I follow online plus I take advantage of area conferences. As a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), I need to get my CEU’s to stay current. That drives a portion of my professional development. Since becoming an executive director, the new challenges now on my plate also drive much of my learning. My motto is: stay open and embrace change.
What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?
Find that thing that gets your juices flowing. Nonprofit careers are not the path to wealth but they offer a path to a rich life, and that path is easier is your passion is engaged. Many jobs (e.g., development) require a skill set that can be used in a variety of settings (university, arts, outdoors), but a job that doesn’t tap into your passion will burn you out. Build your skills and connect with your passion.
What hobby or outside interests do you really like?
I enjoy backpacking, snowboarding, and biking (all outdoors, of course).
Sometimes the first step is recognizing that there is a first step.
At work, at home, and elsewhere, there are times when I find myself at odds with the situation before me. I’m stuck…befuddled. When I don’t know where to turn, I find that there is one thing that will turn me back around.
Once I accept (i.e., acknowledge) that I am stuck then I know where I am. It drops a pin on the map of my emotional journey, allowing me to better see possible routes out of my funk.
My common sticky places vary from navigating situations that try my values to managing people that try my patience, from my own short-fused stress to long-term challenges of self-care.
In her brief article, 5 Ways to Bring Compassion to Your Working Life, attorney Sara Tollefson describes recent lesson she learned around using compassion to provide better client services. She suggests living your core values, practicing self-care, modeling emotional intelligence and more. I find these to be key to avoid getting stuck.
By taking a moment to observe the landscape and locate myself on it, I find a foothold and can choose to move in a new direction.
Compassion, forgiveness, these are the real, ultimate sources of power for peace and success in life. Dalai Lama
The upcoming ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy offers early career nonprofit professionals an intensive leadership development experience – free of charge.
ONEplace, Kalamazoo County’s management support center for nonprofit organizations, opened in 2009 and has offered the Academy since 2012. The Academy provides emerging community leaders an in-depth exploration of leadership within a nonprofit context. Due to the generous support of area foundations and the Kalamazoo Public Library, all ONEplace services are free.
During the Academy, a variety of experts and practitioners guide the participants through subject matter critical to nonprofit leadership. Participants also engage personal development activities vital to being a leader.
In addition, each participant works with a mentor for the duration of the Academy. The mentor (usually a current executive director) and participant explore topics raised in class and other related issues.
As a result, participants discover their own leadership qualities and challenges through assessments, group discussion, and various participative exercises, and develop a plan for future steps toward leadership.
This competitive program includes nine full-day sessions held monthly from February through November. Prospective participants are encouraged to attend ONEplace Leadership Series and Management Track workshops offered throughout the year to prepare for and supplement this intensive Academy.
More at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA
(Now, how do you feel?)
Opinions fall all over the map related to meetings. Many meetings waste time and money while others hold critical work.
The con side of the debate presents Jason Fried. His TEDx talk, Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work, boasts over 3 million views. He sets out a situation of needless interruption and worthless reporting and then places the blame at the collective feet of managers and meetings. He goes overboard (a bit) but raises points that warrant our consideration.
On the pro side of the debate sits Patrick Lencioni. In his book, The Advantage, he makes the case for having more meetings. He prefers single topic meetings with only the necessary people present. Review his Five Tips for Better Meetings in light of your current meeting practices.
Regardless where you pin yourself on the meeting map, you know that you have a next meeting coming soon. Why not make it a better experience for all concerned.
In a recent workshop, the instructor asked, "How many of you have a colleague outside of your organization that you can confide in regarding work issues?" Only two out of approximately 40 raised their hands.
A few days later, I spoke with an executive director who talked of not having work related support. “There’s just no one I can talk to who will understand.”
I consider this a critical issue to our sector’s effectiveness and sustainability. Leaders working in a vacuum, without open discussion or candid feedback, eventually lose perspective and misread the landscape. It drains the integrity not just from their unsupported leadership but from our community’s organizations.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Within that same week, I spoke to another executive director who told of regular discussions with a mentor. “Leaving those discussions, I feel empty, revived, and ready to face the next thing.”
Personally, I find work-related support from a group of regional nonprofit leaders that meets quarterly. This occurs in a retreat setting over a weekend. It offers not only a chance to talk but also to reflect, take stock, and sharpen my focus for the quarter ahead.
Support may take varied shapes and come in different ways, but it must be found. Where do you find your support? Where would you like to find it?
Pursuing answers to these questions may make all the difference to your career…and to your organization.
Many nonprofit staff supervise others, manage programs, or both. Acquiring and honing management skills form a continuous process and a cornerstone of organizational effectiveness.
Our ONEplace Essentials program addresses your and your staff’s basic management skill development needs. Every month, we’ll offer at least one Management Track workshop focused on skills critical to your success.
For example, we recently held a video series on event management (July), a workshop on team building (Aug), and our Supervision Series (Sep/Oct). In the coming months, we’ll offer workshops on communication skills (Oct), problem solving (Nov), decision making (Dec), project management (Jan), and more.
Spending valuable time on professional development is essential to your career growth and your organization’s development. By scheduling our Management Track workshops further in advance, you can better plan and coordinate your professional development activities and get dates on your calendar.
Plus, we encourage Management Track workshops as preparation for (and follow-up to) a Leadership Academy experience.
Our goal is to develop Essentials into a menu of workshops that you can count on each year. Of course, we’ll adjust, tweak, and alter based upon your good feedback. Thanks!
[list of Management Track workshops]
Late last month, over twenty participants (mostly executive directors and board members) gathered for a workshop on Attaining Sustainability. After an engaging discussion, we reviewed ten indicators showing that an organization is in a sustainable position. These include:
- Leaders champion cause & purpose
- Clear strategies
- Effective programs & periodic evaluation
- Single, clean, up-to-date patron database
- Fund development plan that realistically projects revenue for three years
- Communications that connect with target audience(s)
- Leaders exercise influence not control, share knowledge and information
- Budget to handle cash flow, build reserve, and meet short-term capital needs
- Succession plans (short-term and long-term) for all key roles
- Leaders are willing to do the right thing and stop doing the wrong thing
The discussion ended with this somewhat surprising insight: all of these indicators reside within the organization’s control. Participants left with the understanding that, over time, they can build – and maintain – a sustainable organization.
In a recent interview, former President Bill Clinton discussed ten years of working on global initiatives. After enumerating the significant changes that have marked the last decade – increased reach of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), rise of social media, and diffusion of power – he made this bottom-line statement:
The only thing that really works in the modern world is cooperation.
In his foundation’s work they see that those efforts with at least one partnership between a corporation and NGO consistently do better than those without. And when you add governmental cooperation to mix, they do even better. He concluded:
If you want to have an effort that’s effective, you must be more inclusive.
This international dynamic is scalable. I’ve seen it manifest itself on teams, in organizations, and within neighborhoods and communities. It begins with a shared sense of cause and a common vision of our shared future. And, we’re beginning to understand this. Clinton pointed out that, today, we know that we’re interdependent, but we’re only about half way there to embracing that fact.
So, how do we become more inclusive?
I’m sure there’s no one right recipe, and it will take a lot of trial and error. Clinton acknowledges that we have to accept that we may not win every battle. Further, he encourages having patience, ridding ourselves of arrogance, dealing in facts rather than impressions, and relying upon cooperation.
Once again, it’s all about relationships.