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Neuroplasticity

Leader development sits at the core of all our efforts. At ONEplace, we define a leader as someone who takes full responsibility and ownership for his/her role, developing the skills, knowledge, connections and awareness needed to fulfill that role, listens and learns from others, and teaches and shares with others. Or, to put it in a phrase:

Leaders keep learning.

An article in the recent McKinsey Quarterly reminded me of a fascinating, yet disturbing aspect of learning: neuroplasticity. It fascinates me because, thanks to fMRI’s and other imaging techniques, we’re being flooded with new insights and knowledge. It disturbs me because, like many of you, I continue to draw upon concepts of the hardwired brain, left-brain/right-brain preferences, and the fine art of multitasking – all which have been debunked.

Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change its physical structure and functional organization – changed the game.

We now know that the brain rewires itself (makes new neural connections) when we learn new things. This happens at any age. We also know that everyone utilizes both sides of their brains without strict preferences and, in fact, the brain is more active than we previously thought. Further, calming practices (such as mindfulness or meditation) actually generate more brain matter in the executive functioning areas of the brain giving us a greater capacity for complex thinking. Again, this happens at any age.

Recent brain research offers us more and more insights into brain functioning, learning capacity, and so much more. Furthermore, it’s giving us direction in what we can do to keep our minds sharp and nimble (e.g., See Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains). 

All this reminds me of a humbling and challenging notion: knowledge is dynamic.

Facts change. Theories come and go. Best practices become past practices. And radical notions end up being mainstream. The world, with all its varied and wonderful parts, keeps changing. And the good news is: your brain can handle it.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Keep up on brain research and effective brain building practices at SharpBrains.com


One nation...indivisible

Emerging from this July Fourth weekend, one phrase sticks with me.

“One nation...indivisible”

We say it in the Pledge of Allegiance as both an aspiration and recognition that, once the debate is done, the votes are tallied, and the commitments are made, we act as one. On the world stage, there is only one USA voice.

This understanding is scalable, too.

It’s true for states, cities, neighborhoods, organizations, boards, senior management teams, departments, and even individuals. Each may puzzle out its myriad of daily routines, acute concerns and seasonal celebrations. Internal debates may rage on, but the entity acts as one.

Leaders know this. 

Leaders occupy seats both in the balcony and on the stage, observing the forest and navigating amongst the trees. They know this about their organizations: presenting unified services to the public while dismantling silos in-house. They know this about their boards and leadership teams: encouraging stakeholders with a focused message while mining productive conflict and encouraging debate inside the conference room. 

They also know this about themselves.

Leaders in any position recognize that we bring all of who we are to every situation. We may separate and compartmentalize our activities, behaviors, concerns, et al to analyze and understand them. Yet, on the ground, where life is lived, we must acknowledge and manage the swirling, indivisible mix of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; choose our path; and move forward. We may understand things in categories, but we function as one.

One nation (one city, one organization, one board, one person), indivisible: it’s how we want it, and it’s how it is.

Best,

Thom


The power of coffee

“I’m having coffee with….”

How often do you say that? Monthly? Every other week? Weekly? More?

Having coffee, tea, lunch, a drink, etc. with a nonprofit colleague means you’re making connections, and these connections energize your work and your organization.

Even if the conversation is purely social, you’re deepening your relationship. This makes it more likely that you’ll pick up the phone and call this person when you need to sound out an idea or concern. You’ll also be on each other’s radars when a future conversation touches on an issue or opportunity of mutual interest.

The idea of “building your network” sometimes gets a slimy reputation when it’s seen as serving one’s own interests and careers. Don’t throw out the proverbial toddler with the mud puddle! Developing relationships across the nonprofit sector, and especially your particular corner of the sector, is critical to your organization’s impact and your cause’s success.

The ROI on relationship building is huge and…better yet…it compounds. Don’t believe me? Not sure where to start? Ask me to coffee and I’ll explain it…ask nicely and I’ll buy.

Best,

Thom


Courage to Lead

When this email arrives in your inbox, I’ll be on retreat with a several others. Called Courage to Lead, this retreat creates space for each person to relax, rest, and listen to the quiet voice of their own wisdom.

I cherish these times.

For the past two years, I’ve been on retreat at least once every quarter. It’s an opportunity to declutter, recharge, and reconnect with what’s important. It helps me align my deeply held values with my actions and activities…to merge soul and role.

It’s also something I can carry with me. The retreat works on the principles of the Circle of Trust as developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal in Seattle. These principles (e.g., extend hospitality, listen deeply, ask open honest questions, maintain confidentiality) can be carried and practiced outside the retreat center – in the home, in the workplace…anywhere. And yet...

their power is greatest on retreat – in a community of solitudes.

You know this. You’ve experienced the synergy of several people working together. Each has his/her own unique task or challenge, but the energy of everyone doing their work creates a spirit that motivates and sustains. It’s awesome and invigorating.

This week’s retreat is a pilot for ONEplace. We’ll evaluate the experience and plan how to move forward from here. I anticipate other Courage & Renewal experiences to come through ONEplace in the near future. 

Stay tuned.


Just ONEthing - July 2015

Last week, Tamela Spicer (The Intentional Catalyst) presented a Management Track workshop on Event Management. During the session, we dissected the finer points of holding a fundraising event. Here are a few points to consider.

First, it’s all in the planning. My experience with nonprofits (and everyone else) is that we commonly don’t think through the details before taking on a new project. Tamela supported that opinion and advocated detailed planning (don’t forget the post-event follow-ups in the plan) and document everything as you work the plan. It helps track this event and plan for the next one.

A second key to success is making sure your volunteers have a great experience…a Wow! experience. This is respect and good hospitality for the volunteers, and it’s a great investment in building your reputation. Give them a great answer to the inevitable question, “How’d it go?” If this is done well, then recruiting volunteers for the next event will be that much easier.

One more highlight: make sure your event shows your core purpose. It can be popular and fun, but if people don’t know what they’re supporting then you’ve done little to connect with that donor.

And a final word: don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If you meet all your goals, you may have planned too easy.


3 rules of marketing

Like most of you, I struggle with how to get the word out. How do I best let people know about the services we offer and encourage them to take advantage of them? Marketing. It’s important, yet it’s elusive and often stays on the back burner.

In a recent Entrepreneur article, Jurgen Appelo points out that we no longer need broadcast-based marketing (“Hello everyone! This is what we do!! We are very cool and awesome! Hello?!”).

He sets out 3 rules of marketing for the 21st century:

Pull, don’t push. Make sure that people can find you using Google, social network and/or market places. Attract them with great content.

Show, don’t tell. Make sure people can see with their own eyes that you are awesome. Those who are cool and remarkable don’t need to say it.

Share, don’t beg. Don’t annoy everyone with 20th-century marketing tactics. Thanks to transparency, when you behave like a beggar, everyone will know.”

Two comments. First, I must underscore Appelo’s assumption that your marketing includes “great content” and that your organization is “cool,” “remarkable,” and “transparent.” Great marketing cannot make up for a great organization, so your best marketing strategy begins with becoming a great organization.

Second, if I could add one more word to his list, it would be targeting. Marketing is no longer a numbers game – connecting with 0.5% of a huge mailing list. Rather, it’s a strategic game – smaller lists, higher response rates.

Strategy requires more thought, more planning, more testing, more tracking. Yet, over time, we’ll learn where our audience resides and what messages motivate response. In short, we’ll become more relevant.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Find out more by participating in the upcoming Marketing Makeover 2015 webinar.


Building collaborative connections

We’re all working together, that’s the secret. Sam Walton

Collaboration is about being who you are and speaking what you see. Lynn Serafinn

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Henry Ford

[add your own synergy-laden quote]

For the past three years, one of our key strategies has been to encourage strong, collaborative connections. As one executive director is fond of telling me, “If you want to increase your organization’s capacity, collaborate.” 

Collaboration and cooperation is something we encourage, but it’s also something we practice.

In the past, ONEplace has cooperated with the Arts Council, Volunteer Kalamazoo, the Cultural Data Project, Kalamazoo Bar Association, and others to bring workshops and service opportunities to the nonprofit sector. Looking ahead, upcoming collaborative efforts at ONEplace include:

By working together we can move the needle on some of the most entrenched issues facing our community. I know many of your organizations are doing this. Please use the Comment tool and let us know how you’re building strong, collaborative connections.


Coffee with Jan Barker

This month we spoke with Jan Barker, CEO at Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan and discovered how Girl Scouts has influenced her at various stages of her life.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I traveled to Michigan from my native Florida and developed a real appreciation for the changing seasons, so I decided to make Michigan my new home. After working for Michigan State University Extension Services for 15 years, I accepted the Chief Executive Officer job with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. I am committed to helping girls gain leadership skills so they can make the world a better place.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

The area is beautiful with interesting topography and clean lakes. As a student of botany, I am intrigued with the flora and fauna native to Michigan. I also love the culture and having access to big city amenities without the big city hassles like traffic congestion. The people in Southwestern Michigan are generous and caring which is how it earned its reputation as a can-do and caring community that I am proud to be a part of.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

Learn as much as you can, share it for the good of all, try to find the positive in everything, and have fun while you’re doing it.

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

My father taught me to be curious and patient. Because of his interest in how things work I am always taking a deeper dive to get a better understanding of how things are built and how they run.

My father quietly set the example that a person can do anything if they work hard. My mother was my Girl Scout leader and she taught me that girls can do anything. She created an environment focused on having fun while learning new things. This gave me a passion for life and learning.

The people I work with everyday teach me so much. They have great ideas for helping girls grow and learn skills that will prepare them to be leaders in all areas of their lives. I admire their selflessness and think they are some of the most dedicated and committed people I know.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

I was a very shy child which made reaching out to others and joining in activities a struggle. My time in Girl Scouts taught me skills which gave me the confidence to be courageous and get involved. I carry those lessons with me to this day.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

I travel between 5 offices throughout mid-Michigan: Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Lansing, Jackson and Saginaw. Our staffing model is very customer-focused so I spend time in the communities we serve meeting people, and sharing news about the bold impact Girl Scouting has on both girls and volunteers.

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

Ways to improve, projects needing more attention and are my children safe and happy?

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

I read and read and read.

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

Stay focused on making the world better and don’t worry about the money. You don’t go into nonprofit work to become a millionaire. You do it because you want to make someone else’s life better. You will make many contributions by persevering and maintaining your focus. As a young, single mother of two when I was starting a career in the nonprofit sector, I was challenged every day to find a healthy balance between my family and work responsibilities. I found that adding an element of fun and accumulating experiences has made each of my jobs easier.

What would you most like to do?

  • To stay vibrant and energized spend time outdoors
  • Visit The American Camellia Society Garden at Masse Lane near Warner-Robins, GA. Make sure to see the Japanese Garden.
  • See the magic at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, FL
  • Read something by Julia Child or Graham Greene in a hammock
  • There is great value in traveling and refreshing your perspective with time-off on an adventure.
  • Count on great ideas and fresh brilliance to come. 
  • Be curious, get curious, spread curiosity.
  • I encourage my staff to live out loud, and to bring their very best to work and family every day.

What hobbies or outside interests do you enjoy?

I love to cook. I have cookbooks containing recipes from all over the world which help me to develop an appreciation for other cultures. I use these recipes to make food to share with family and friends. Cooking, science and botany have helped me learn about the world.

Anything else?

Being a mother to a daughter and son who have become amazing adults keeps me centered and grounded. My kids and my husband form the nucleus of a family that supports and cares for me. They challenge me every day to be bold and take chances.


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 bcohen@rosestreetadvisors.com 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!


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?

Best,

Thom