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