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.
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.
Last Thursday I enjoyed gathering at ONEplace with around 50 others to again explore the topic of community alignment. We spent good time hearing aspirations from each person, reviewing some statistics and concepts, and then engaging conversations – both in small groups and large group. At the end of the session, one thing was very clear to me.
We will never achieve community alignment.
I don’t see this as bad news or a negative statement. It’s simply grasping the fact that getting the 75,000 people who live in Kalamazoo or the 250,000 who live in Kalamazoo County to align around a common care may be an unrealistic expectation. And, even if we did agree on something (e.g., education is important), wouldn’t it be so high level, so unspecific as to appear unactionable?
We may never achieve community alignment as long as we define “community” as including thousands of people. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell referred to Dunbar’s Law which says that once you hit 150 people, it’s time to start another community or open another location. Why? No one individual can be in relationship (i.e., in community) with more than 150 people. It’s too overwhelming.
Further, with 150 people we can achieve alignment at a deeper, more specific, more actionable level. A level where people can connect and impact can be felt.
Another relevant fact is that each of us lives within several communities. We have our neighborhood community, our work community, our religious community, our civic communities, our families, our friends, and more. Because we’re part of several communities, these various groups – aligned within themselves – may become interaligned due to our involvement in all of them.
(yes, I made up the word interaligned…don’t look it up)
So, a series of aligned communities may become interaligned as an individual takes part in all of them and carries their messages from one to another and another. This cross-germination may not align the wider community very specifically, but it may get it moving in the same general direction.
I’m still working on this one. It’s all to say that perhaps we’re expecting too much from community alignment and need to encourage a network of action-oriented interaligned communities.
What do you think?
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.
If you’ve been to one of my workshops, you probably heard a fair bit about “focus:” focused attention, focused direction, focused purpose, etc. In the spirit of “practice what you teach,” here’s a look at how we’re bringing focus to our workshop schedule.
In the coming weeks, you’ll begin to see workshops identified as part of a series or a track (e.g., Supervision Series, Fundraising Series, Management Track). You’ll also notice that these events will be announced further in advance. By taking these steps, you’ll be able to:
- Go deeper into the subject matter
- Plan to attend with a nonprofit colleague or co-worker to enhance your learning and application
- Get workshop dates on your calendar before it fills up
It’s our intention to schedule a specific series during a time when many may be working on the topic (e.g., a fundraising series in October, prior to the year-end campaign). As always, your feedback and suggestions will help hone this schedule over time.
I’ll have more on this as it unfolds through the fall. Until then,
Late last month, Alice Kemerling and Alisa Carrel (Gilmore Keyboard Festival) offered a Voice from the Field workshop on securing corporate sponsorships. They used several vignettes from their years of practice to drive home the point that “sponsorships grow out of connections.”
In addition to the obvious connection of board member or staff member to corporate representative, they reminded us that we need to be mindful of the connections within the potential sponsor’s network: clients, vendors, colleagues, and professional services (attorney, accountant, real estate agent, etc.).
A potential sponsor may open the door to a roomful of others, but s/he will be protective of those relationships. So, Alice and Alisa suggested that we be willing to spend months getting to know a potential sponsor, even inviting them to participate in the benefits of sponsorship even before they sign on. They will discover how best to use those perks to the benefit of their own organization (e.g., treat clients, reward employees, court potential accounts).
Bottom line: there’s so much more to a sponsorship than the one relationship, yet that’s where it begins.
For some reason, the summer-to-fall transition seems to be rather momentous. Perhaps it’s the start of school (and all the programming related to schools) that makes this so. In any event, it’s often a time when we take stock of where we are and where we’re headed.
So, this month we’re having (virtual) coffee with you! We invite you to take a moment to explore one or more of the questions that we often pose to our featured guest. Share one of your answers by leaving a comment here or posting it on our LinkedIn group, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection. (You’ll find one of my answers on LinkedIn!)
Use it as a conversation starter at the upcoming Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE gathering (Sept 3): “Did you answer one of the coffee questions last week?”
What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
What has been one of your biggest learning moments?
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
What hobby or outside interests do you enjoy?
Let’s face it. Many meetings are yawners: proposal presented followed by a bit of discussion followed by unanimous approval. Rinse & repeat.
Several years ago I found myself in a meeting that was much more fun: tensions were high, voices were raised, passions flared, people paced. In the end, good decisions were made.
What made it fun is that we were working together for a common goal. Each person in the room knew and trusted that there were no hidden agendas. We all wanted the same outcome. We just needed to hammer out the best way to get there.
I did myself a favor recently and re-read Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage. In this book, he offers practical, sound analysis and guidance in developing a cohesive team. His entire approach puts vulnerability-based trust as the foundational layer. With a basis of trust, a team can grow through constructive conflict and clear commitment. Team members that trust one another hold each other accountable to deliver the results for which they – as a team – bear full responsibility.
A trusting team is a rare commodity yet critical for long-term success. I’m pleased that Pinky McPherson will be offering Building a Cohesive Team (Aug 27) as part of our ongoing Leadership Series. I hope you’ll be able to attend.