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Coffee with Anne Wend Lipsey

This month we sit down with Anne Wend Lipsey, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in secondary education, and then my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor. After studying Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, I worked for an organization doing home repair for senior citizens in Detroit. The community-based group did good work helping to keep people in their homes. We moved back to Kalamazoo, and I got involved with Ministry with Community as it was starting. I worked with their Center City Housing (precursor to Housing Resources, Inc) and with the beginning stages of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF). With KLF I helped facilitate conversations involving soup kitchens and the role of Ministry and KLF with prepared meals. After spending six months working at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, I applied to KLF and became their second office person. During this time (1984-91), KLF was very grassroots, so we did it all – from office to warehouse. I then worked for about seven years with United Way and about five years with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. During these years I got a comprehensive view of the area’s nonprofit sector and the particular experience of observing nonprofit leaders. I returned to KLF in 2003 – still a grassroots effort – and took on the task of developing it into a more stable, long-term organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

Kalamazoo is my hometown. While I’ve lived other places, there’s just something special about Kalamazoo. People here care about the broader community. They’re willing to struggle with the big questions and take on the big issues. At the same time, there are pockets of really cool activity going on here. And it’s accessible. Kalamazoo is big enough to have Peace Jam host Nobel Peace Prize laureates and yet small enough to get from here to there without fighting traffic.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I rely on groups: an incredible staff that consistently does great work, a dynamic board that asks the tough questions, and a volunteer corps that operates out of caring passion. The combination creates a great energy that’s bigger and different than any of them could do on their own.

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

Bob Rasmussen was pastor of North Presbyterian Church when Ministry with Community was starting. He’s a friend and set me on the right path. I worked with Ann Marston on allocations at United Way. She was a strong advocate of nonprofit organizations and knew their importance to the community. My husband, Sandy Lipsey, has the ability to listen deeply. He helps me get to the other side of the hysteria. And my parents: my dad taught at WMU and my mom worked with substance abuse prevention. I grew up during a wild and wonderful time when you needed to take sides, and my parents taught me to be on the side of social justice – the side of “we,” not “me.”

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

First, there’s my rev-up time when I touch base across the organization on items of the day. There’s time spent interfacing with the board – as a whole, in committees, or in individual meetings – as we continue navigating the transition from grassroots to stable, dynamic organization. I spend time on fund development: writing newsletter articles or thank you notes, visiting donors, or talking to groups about KLF. Finally, there’s checking progress on items I’ve delegated to other staff.

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

The primary challenge: people are food insecure. We’re doing more advocacy than ever. We no longer talk about putting ourselves out of business, because the situation is not improving. For example, how do you stand up to cuts proposed in the Farm Bill? It’s the injustice of it all.

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

ONEplace provides incredible resources for the nuts and bolts of nonprofits. I also stay connected with national organizations – the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America – plus regional ones as well – the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank Council of South Central Michigan. I’m more an observer now but did spend time on the board of the Food Bank of Michigan. I also keep in touch with others that provide emergency relief services in our area.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Listen, listen, listen, listen. I’m centered in the belief that it is with others that we find wisdom, perseverance, and strength to carry on. The other piece is to have fun with each other – with staff, with volunteers, even with the board. We’re all a part of this community. We’re all in this together.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

I’m a potter (I make weird pots). I also garden, read mystery novels, and spend time with my grandchildren.

Anything else?

Push out your timeframe. Find one place to naggle at the edge. What does it look like over a long period of time? Accomplish something today and then build upon that.


Building Connections

As the folks gathered for a recent ONEplace event, one participant told me of a collaboration he and another participant would be doing this spring. The collaboration came about, he said, because they met at ONEplace.

My response: “BOO-YAH!”

Connecting you with your nonprofit colleagues sits at the core of our operation. At every event, you’re invited to meet the other participants, talk with them, and discover how you can resource one another. Be it in small groups, workshop discussions, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gatherings, or on LinkedIn, the connections you make will serve your career, strengthen your organization, and increase your community impact.

How do you connect with your colleagues – within your organization, within similar organizations, within the wider nonprofit community? How could you benefit from increasing the number or frequency of your connections?

Mark your calendars for our next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering, Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30 pm. Arrange to meet someone there, plan to introduce yourself to someone. In other words, make it work for you.


Just ONEthing - Jan 2014

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!

This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.

More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).


ONEplace Top Ten(s)

In the spirit of year-end reflections, Adam and I decided to share our Top Ten list. We recognize that people vote with their attendance and with their post-session evaluations, so we did two lists. Therefore, based upon your evaluations and attendance, here are your top rated workshops from 2013. (drumroll please)

By evaluation

  1. Support from Millennials (3.19.13) 100%
  2. Project Management (12.3.13) 99%
  3. Real & Relevant Messaging (6.25.13) 98%
  4. Learn for Life & Career (9.5.13) 98%
  5. LinkedIn Best Practices (4.17.13) 97%
  6. Management Series 2: Leading & Empowering (11.4.13) 97%
  7. Video will Work for You (6.11.13) 96%
  8. Manage by Improvisation (10.8.13) 96%
  9. Free/cheap Web Tools (12.4.13) 96%
  10. Promote the CAUSE or DIE (12.10.13) 96%

By attendance

  1. MCACA Grant Workshop (7/29/2013) 47
  2. Your Community Alignment (11/6/2013) 37
  3. Michael Gallery Workshop (7/11/2013) 30
  4. Supervision Series 2: Message, Method & Tools (9/16/2013) 27
  5. Penelope Burk: Get your message heard (2/14/2013) 26
  6. KADI Training (1/16/2013) 24
  7. Supervision Series 3: Performance Management (9/23/2013) 24
  8. Take the Lead: Influence (2/13/2013) 23
  9. How to Win Grants (4/11/2013) 23
  10. Effective Meetings (3/13/2013) 22

Thank you for all you do to support, encourage and enrich our community. You’re amazing people doing amazing work.

Happy New Year!

Thom


The Looonnnnggggg View

As we approach the end of the year, two things commonly happen – we rush through last minute holiday details and we pause to reflect on the past year. It’s a holiday twist on “hurry up and wait.

Of course, some last minute activities cannot be avoided. It seems that every event, project, and multi-faceted effort involves last minute details. We anticipate them, plan for them, and then crank ‘em out. These “hurry up” tasks simply cannot be done any earlier.

The “wait” tasks – often weightier, developmental activities that take time and long-term commitment – cannot be so quickly cranked out. These demand top priority, our first and best energy, and regular time on our calendar.

I’m talking about the kind of activities that populate Stephen Covey’s Important-Not Urgent quadrant. They bring vision and perspective. They develop balance, discipline, and self-control.

In summarizing these, Covey writes

What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact. Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pg. 154)

So, how would you answer Covey’s question? Or, in the spirit of the season, try this: instead of looking forward, first take a look back. What, during this past year or in previous years, have you done on a regular basis that made a tremendous positive difference in your life? Name your success, celebrate it, and learn from it. And then look ahead and see how you can build on it.

That’s taking the long view – small, consistent steps over a long period of time. It’s the key to great board development, great fundraising, great public relations, great programs…indeed, it’s the key to being great.

Best,

Thom


Up your rep

Every nonprofit desires a strong public reputation.

One recipe for increasing an organization’s civic stature is to: 

  1. identify your community’s long-term, well-funded priority, and then
  2. help it be successful while staying true to your mission.

The result is that the organization:

  • does what it does best
  • builds strong alliances with other organizations, businesses, and agencies
  • enjoys endorsements from community leaders as an example to be followed

In most communities this is a near-impossible task because there are no long-term, well-funded priorities. The priorities change with each new administration or budget cycle.

Not so in Kalamazoo County. We share a common vision – a sustainable culture of learning at home, in school, at work and throughout the community. Its pillars are the Kalamazoo Promise and The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, but its active participants populate a very long list. And, make no mistake, the effort is well funded, and we’re in it for the long haul.

Recent recognition from the Lumina Foundation and Dan Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, Inc., indicates that we’re moving in a good direction. Cardinali writes:

What's tremendously encouraging to me is the way that the entire community is coming together in support of the public schools. In Kalamazoo, public education is everyone's business. The silos that separate schools, businesses and civic organizations are coming down as everyone accepts a shared responsibility to prepare young people for a successful, productive life. In other words, Kalamazoo is re-forming its sense of community, not just reforming its schools. (read full post)

Are we on the right path? Yes…for now. But there’s a long way to go and the path twists and turns. And, it has no end. We just need to keep moving forward.

Will you and your organization be satisfied walking the sidelines or being an armchair quarterback to this adventure? I hope not. Get in the game! Claim the vision as your own, and offer your best. The least it will do is up your rep.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Kalamazoo is among 20 communities selected by the Lumina Foundation for project to boost college success (read article).


Small Group Update

Many people find that having a small group of trusted colleagues contributes to the foundation of their success. These take various forms: master mind groups, personal boards of directors, content-area small groups, sector-based small groups, and more. Some last for a few months and others continue for years.

What’s clear is that having a mutually supportive network of trusted colleagues is critical to personal development. At ONEplace, we’ve just completed piloting a mindfulness small group and we’re currently facilitating two other small groups. We’re learning as we go, but we’re already seeing promising results, such as: focused, in depth exploration of real, current issues; development of personal practices that reduce stress; and deepening relationships with nonprofit colleagues.

Would you like to participate in a small group? Do you know 2, 3 or 4 others who also may be interested? Here’s how ONEplace can assist:

  • Additional recruitment & scheduling of meetings
  • Host meetings
  • Facilitation of the group process & plan
  • Any needed follow-up

At our first meetings, the group decides how frequently they’ll meet and the number of meetings involved in the initial commitment (e.g., meet monthly for six months).

Please email me (thoma@kpl.gov) with your thoughts and interest. We’ll launch new groups in January.


Just ONEthing - Dec 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and others who attended our community alignment workshop on November 6. During this time, Suprotik posed the question, What are the barriers to your operating at maximum potential? Among the responses came these insights:

  • We think we have to do it all vs. working smarter
  • Organizational tunnel vision – we don’t see the full picture
  • We work in silos and will collaborate only so far. We stop when we fear losing funding
  • We may use the same terms, but we have differing definitions of those terms - misunderstanding
  • We often reinvent the wheel, trying to solve issues by ourselves when someone already has the answer
  • Always done it this way vs. Willingness to change

Suprotik offered that what works best for any specific community is found in the intersection of Best Practices (success in many communities), Local Data (trends unique to our community), and Local Voices (from people nearest the issues).


Coffee with Mitch Wilson

This month we sit down with Mitch Wilson, Executive Director of Pretty Lake Camp.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I “grew up” in the corporate environment as an IT professional and manager most of my career. Most of my time was spent with Pfizer and its legacy companies (Pharmacia, Upjohn) along with being an independent consultant. In 2008, I was part of the “right sizing” effort locally, which opened up a number of new opportunities for me. I had two criteria in re-evaluating my career – I wanted to find an organization that I feel I could add value to and also have a passion for work every day. Pretty Lake Camp was looking for a new Executive Director at that time. They took a bit of a chance on me as I wasn’t a “typical” non-profit leader. I like to think it was a good move for both of us.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I grew up in Kalamazoo and also have spent most of my adult life here. There is just so much opportunity here and the commitment to make the community thrive is fantastic. The Promise, WMU, Kalamazoo College – it is such a great learning community, and the revival of downtown has been awesome to watch. There is a lot of upside to our great community.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

It has to be the Golden Rule – especially since the summer staff this year presented me with the Golden Rule award. Treat others well, respect what others do, and in return, you will be treated well. Be honest and truthful. Every summer, I hand out “The Golden Rule in Practice” to our staff which is a list of phrases of how to personally conduct yourself. My two favorites are the last two on the list: “If it will brighten someone’s day, say it”, and “If you can help someone, do it.”

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

My parents and my wife Sarah. My parents taught me to be positive, help others when you can, and that the glass is always half full. Sarah taught me about passion for a career and helping children. She was a phenomenal educator as a middle school math teacher (now retired) – very creative, great sense of humor, yet held her students accountable. She inspired me to take my current role at Pretty Lake.

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

Where ever you work, whether it’s a for-profit or non-profit, it’s always about the people in the organization. It’s being able to understand not only how a person fits in the organization, but how their personal life impacts their work. It’s very satisfying to see people in your organization have success, but also very hard when a person doesn’t work out or doesn’t fit. Building a good, cohesive team takes time, energy, and patience, and the willingness to listen and coach people in your organization.

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

ONEplace and The Johnson Center in Grand Rapids are two of my favorite organizations. The education and training provided by each at a great price (free at ONEplace) are great resources for our community. I also just try to network with other leaders to find out what works – and doesn’t work for each of them. The Michigan Nonprofit Association and their annual conference is another great resource.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Probably because of my background, I don’t like to differentiate between the “for profit” and “nonprofit” sectors. It’s true that the revenue sources are different, but at the end of the day, it’s about managing people, functions, and financials with your available resources. My advice is to think a little more out of the box and use good ideas from wherever they come from.

What do you geek?

As I have my whole life, I still play golf competitively and enjoy the challenges that it brings. Over the last couple of years, I have taken on triathlons as very much a beginner. I also really love to scuba dive.


Synergies

“Two heads are better than one” (as long as they’re not banging against one another).

Better answers don’t come simply by having more people in the room. To ensure the synergy of many minds or multiple efforts, you need a process or guide, something that facilitates the act of “working together.”

Synergy is a theme that runs through much of our December programming.

Small adjustments to activity or perspective often make big differences in how well we work together. Consider taking a closer look at how you can synergize your efforts.

Best,

Thom


Many thanks

Thanksgiving fast approaches. So, this week I’ll simply share with you three Work-Related Gratefuls (WRGs, pronounced wergs).

1. ONEplace colleagues – It’s great to work with people you enjoy and admire, and I’m grateful to work with Adam McFarlin. Many of ONEplace’s innovations these past months are his contributions. I also am grateful for colleagues past, Bailey Mead and Bobbe Luce, whose contributions continue to benefit our nonprofit sector.

2. Consultant network – Talent abounds in so many corners of our county. Our consultant network includes smart, insightful, dedicated, and innovative persons who put the meat and muscle into ONEplace workshops, Leadership Academy, and more. I’m grateful and honored to work with them.

3. Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – While I’m grateful for every dedicated nonprofit staff, board member, and volunteer, I especially want to thank those who connect through the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – both the LinkedIn group and our LIVE gatherings. Taking time to meet, share and regularly connect with your nonprofit colleagues illustrates your grasp of the long view and your commitment to collective impact.

I could go on, but three is a good number. Plus, why should I have all the fun – what are your WRGs?

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thom


Trust connections

In a video I recently viewed, Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, offers her five attributes of trustworthy leadership: question ourselves, develop and attend to solid partnerships, avoid the use of force except as a last resort, value differences not only as a source of respect but as a source of creative information, and create a community.

Certainly, others may vary their own trustworthy leadership list, but I find that in leadership, as in many other areas, it all comes down to relationships. The connections we build over the course of our careers make all the difference in our individual success as well as our organization’s impact.

Our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE events were created as a venue for you to make and strengthen connections with your nonprofit colleagues. Along with its sibling, the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LinkedIn group, they provide opportunities to meet, discuss, ask questions, share resources, and support one another.

I hope you’ll stop by the upcoming LIVE gathering on Wednesday, November 20. We’re here from 4:30 – 6 pm.

Best,

Thom


Inter(active)dependence

I get jazzed when I'm part of a group that's getting deep in the hoo-ha on issues that matter. Last week (Nov 6), we had moments of that during our Community Alignment workshop.

During the discussion, Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh (Kalamazoo Community Foundation) offered three keen insights that brought this elusive topic into clearer view.

Community alignment is an act of our will
We choose to be aligned or not. There's no magic formula or moment when all falls into place. Alignment occurs when two or more organizations set their intentions to a common outcome and consent to common goals; when we choose to combine our power to do good and to do it well.

Community alignment is about a better way to connect us
Our work takes on greater meaning when it engages us in something bigger than ourselves or our organizations. When we choose to align around these larger goals, the connections we make are stronger and deeper. They withstand conflict and debate, and they surround us with the net of support required to pursue transformational change.

Community alignment begins by starting conversations with people we don't know
While we acknowledge the truth that "we're all in this together," we often don't recognize that "all" includes those voices not being heard. Aligning with those we know takes work. Seeking those we don't know - but need to know - requires curiosity as well as vulnerability. Let's keep asking, "Who's not at the table?" And then, offer them a chair.

We live in a dynamic community - a living system in constant flux. In such a place, community alignment is not something to be attained so much as to be pursued (like "the pursuit of happiness"). At best we'll achieve moments - moments when months of effort from many people results in lives being changed...improved...transformed. At the end of the day, that's something to celebrate!

Then, tomorrow, we do it all over again.

Best,

Thom


Help!

Once again, a challenge arrives that stops you in your tracks. What do you do? Where do you turn?

   Help! I need somebody

You’re the only one in your organization who does this work – a lone ranger. Be it fundraising, communications, executive leadership, program manager – you need to talk through this challenge with someone who gets it.

   Help! Not just anybody

After combing the internet, you find information. Some of it may be helpful…you’re just not sure. The more info you find, the more you time you spend, generates as many questions as it does possible answers. So frustrating!

   Help! You know I need someone

Do not hesitate to contact ONEplace. We were created by area foundations and nonprofit leaders to offer direct assistance to nonprofit staff and volunteers. You face a challenge and you need to talk it through, to make sense of it, and to set a reasonable course of action. Don’t remain stuck – call (269-553-7899) or email (oneplace@kpl.gov).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Enjoy this video of the Beatles singing “Help” at Shea Stadium.


Executing Leaders

It’s Halloween! So I bow to the gruesome and gory and offer a gallowed twist to basic leadership practices.

Hang’em High – Put your clean & dirty laundry high on the line for all to see. Transparency is a must and leaders should be the first to admit mistakes and offer second chances.

Stake in the Heart – Plant your stake (i.e., take a stand) aligned with your passion. A misplaced stake will burn you out, and unplanted stakes mean you and your organization stand for nothing.

Firing Squad – Keep the right people on the bus in the right seats and fire those who shouldn’t be on the bus. Make the difficult decision and do it compassionately and appropriately – but do it. Not taking action frustrates the people you want to keep and it holds back the operation.

Off with their Heads – Big-headed egos must go! And, the bigger they are, the harder they’ll fall. It’s not about you (the leader), and it’s not even about your organization. It’s about your mission and the collective impact you can make aligned with others who share your vision.

Leaders who execute well not only know what to do, they have the fortitude to do it.


Just ONEthing - Oct 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from Dann Sytsma and Brian Lam (aka, Improv Effects) who led our Manage by Improvisation workshop. Through a series of improv games and exercises we learned the power of: 

  • affirming what the other person says and then adding to it 
  • making strong choices in the moment 
  • having fun

One participant emailed us two days after the workshop to add to comments made on the evaluation. The participant wrote: “The improv practices we learned are highly applicable to my job, particularly to the collaborative aspects of the work I do.”

ONEplace offers the improv workshop again on January 23, 2014. Registrations open in late November.


Coffee with Sid Ellis

This month, we sit down with Sid Ellis, Executive Director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center (BACC), and talk about his career path, his passion for theatre arts, and his love for Kalamazoo.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I have been doing Community Theater for over 20 years: directing, acting and writing; and was a professional actor with a group called “The Mad Hatters.” I have performed professional storytelling and puppetry for 15 years. I also served as Video Director for Christian Life Center for 12 years and have been a producer at the Public Media Network for over 20 years. I received my BA in Business Management from Spring Arbor University in 2007. The BA degree and my experience in the community enabled me to get the position at BACC.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

First, it’s the opportunity in the arts and the showcasing of the variety of fine and performance arts in the community. I also love downtown Kalamazoo, especially in the spring & summer when it’s so alive with activity. Top it off with the events that happen at WMU and K College.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I am a servant leader and I love working with people in the community who are making a difference whether it’s in the arts or for social reasons. I love helping people accomplish their goals, especially in the arts.

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

Pastor Joel Brooks, Jr. has been a great mentor for me and he strongly encouraged me to write my ideas and goals down. He said, it will not start happening in you if you don’t write it down, and he was right.

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

Developing youth programs for middle and high school age youth has been a challenge. Sometimes we are able to collaborate with other organizations, yet the students usually come on a drop-in basis and are not consistent enough to generate a solid program.

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

Since our events and programs are so diverse, it is hard to stay up-to-date. Plus, as the only paid staff member, I’m involved in all aspects of the organization including: grant writing, fund development, program development and implementation, and handling the day to day office responsibilities. So, I utilize ONEplace and its opportunities and information. I also try to review other organizations’ information on the internet. Facebook has been a big help in getting information.

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

Build relationships and collaborations. Make sure the collaborations are a win-win situation and not just you helping someone else; make sure your organization is going to gain something from it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but do improve on it. A lot of times there are organizations already doing what you are doing; find out how you can work together.

What do you geek?

Acting, directing, storytelling and puppetry.


Focus

Autofocus used to bug me. I’d take a picture of two people standing side-by-side, and invariably the camera would capture the detail of the plant centered behind them and blur their faces.

I eventually learned the trick of autofocus, but it still bothered me. The auto feature distracted me from my desired focus of attention.

Now, more than ever, distractions abound. Our attention gets pulled in several directions every minute. Yet, research and practical experience show time again that our ability to focus – to pay attention in the right way, at the right time – is critical for success.

Focus not only directs our attention, it also brings things into clear view. As the detail sharpens, we discern where to invest our time, our energy, even our very lives. Clarity draws us toward our center.

Our organizations have a center – it’s usually captured in the mission statement. Each of us also has something inside that knows when we’re in the center – when we’re on the beam or off the beam. In accepting that knowledge and pursuing that center, we find our passion, our bliss, our happiness.

Allowing ourselves this journey requires a self-acceptance that allows for the mistakes we’ll make along the way. It requires courage as we put ourselves out there and learn in public. And it requires a focus gained from self-reflection (i.e., set manually) rather than dictated from outside ourselves (i.e., autofocus).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Here’s a brief clip of Daniel Goleman speaking on focus – watch clip


It's a matter of trust

A few weeks ago during my regular LinkedIn perusal, I came across Marilyn Hewson’s (CEO Lockheed Martin) article on building trust. A quick look piqued my interest, but I wondered if her clearly numbered five principles would be yet another example of off-the-shelf leader hoo-ha. They had that look about them.

Upon reading the article, I saw that her principles were not steps or techniques to be learned & implemented but depths of character to be developed – values, vision, honesty, and gratitude. Building trust is not so much a matter of strategy or tactic but a matter of being trustworthy.

Think of someone you’ve learned to trust. Why did you come to trust this person?

In many cases, trust directly descends from integrity. For me, a person’s integrity stems from the fact that they live an integrated life – what you see if what you get…there are no masks or veneers. It’s what Nan Russell calls authentically showing up. [read her article on trust in the workplace]

In short, building trust is, for the most part, not something you do but a consequence of who you are. We’ll explore this more in an upcoming workshop, Build Trust – Manage Conflict, on October 30.

Best,

Thom


Movement in the making

Have we forgotten what leadership looks like? Is there a global crisis of leadership? Does it really matter?

In Forbes last week, Mike Myatt answers all the above with a resounding YES! In his article, A Crisis of Leadership – What’s Next? he claims that poor leadership is a systemic problem and so pervasive that we can no longer recognize good leadership. Further, he points to poor leadership as crippling businesses, ruining economies, destroying families, and possibly bringing the demise of nations.

Then he asks, “What do we do about it?”

Myatt calls for a Leadership Movement. Rather than pointing the finger at others, he calls on each of us to require more of ourselves, to take the lead in not only calling out poor leaders but in practicing leadership that values performance above rhetoric, forward progress above positional argument, compassion above ego, and openness above the need to be right.

“We must once and for all learn that what we fail to require of ourselves will be hard to ask from others.”

Much of this rings true to me. It captures the importance and urgency I feel, and it reflects much of why we’re focusing on leadership development at ONEplace. Imagine the collective impact achieved by a nonprofit sector not characterized by a few standout leaders, but led by persons who – to a one – embraced the values above. That’s a vision worth working toward.

Perhaps we should start a movement…

Best,

Thom

P.S. KPL & ONEplace are closed Monday Oct 14 for a library staff day, and ONEplace staff are attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) conference on Tue & Wed, Oct 15-16. Consider attending our Debrief of MNA on October 23.


Emotional Courage

“It needed to be said.”

That one statement summed up the difference between another dance-around-the-issue meeting and a truly productive discussion. Persons willing to say what needed to be said.

Why does this seem such a rare occurrence? In his article, Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail, Peter Bregman suggests that, for many, “the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage.” Many just aren’t willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying what needs to be said.

This maxim not only applies to the one willing to break the ice – the rebel or outlier who may easily be ignored – but it also applies to the one willing to back the first one up. This first follower provides validity and serves to make the new issue a topic of discussion rather than a side comment.

Emotional courage, as Bregman says in his insightful article, is the difference between knowing and doing. All leaders know what to do. “What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical.”

Developing emotional courage cannot be accomplished in a workshop or week away. It requires long-term development. How do you (or How would you like to…) develop your emotional courage?

Best,

Thom


Work it

I recall several years ago, closing my hotel room door and leaving the last of five regional conferences. Over the previous two years we had identified needs, set agendas, found venues, developed promotions, and guided registrations. Now it was done, and it felt great.

There's a time to plan and a time to do, and, for many, October is a doing time. This is the time that your plan comes alive, becoming a guiding light. It not only tells you what to do and when to do it, but also lets you see how the varieties of tasks relate to one another.

Keeping this valuable knowledge off the shelf and front of mind ensures that the small but often substantive decisions you make along the way furthers your mission.

Plan the work, and then work the plan. If your plan is incomplete, then take time now to complete it. It's important to know where you're headed.

Then enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Best,

Thom


Coffee with Ann Rohrbaugh

In this inaugural installment of our Coffee series, it seems fitting that we sit down with Ann Rohrbaugh, Director of the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL), and talk about her years at KPL. Having started as an aide in the bookmobile department while still at WMU, Ann held several positions and became director in 2005.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I came to Western Michigan University (WMU) for graduate school in library science and expected I’d be here for a year! While at WMU, I had a part-time job in the reference department at KPL. When I graduated there happened to be an opening and I was offered a reference librarian position. From that position I became acting department head, then eventually to the library office in a variety of positions until I became director in 2005. Along the way, I returned to WMU and earned a masters in library administration, a degree program like library science that is no longer offered there.

Why do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I expected to be here a year but clearly I’m here for the long haul! It has been a wonderful community in which to settle in, raise a family. I love the size of the community, the wide variety of activities, and of course, the strong support for libraries and learning.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I certainly reply upon professional standards for the library profession….open access; freedom to read, listen, and view; the library bill of rights. I’ve learned to trust my instincts too – I think that comes increasingly with experience and a sense for what will serve our community best.

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

Mentors early in my career certainly were staff at KPL, especially the Head of the Reference Department and later the library director. From both of them I learned how to operate within an organization, the importance of the long-range view, and appropriate risk taking.

What’s an average day like for you at the Kalamazoo Public Library?

Nine department heads report to me and I meet with each of them most every week, so most days I have one or two standing meetings. I’m usually preparing for some upcoming meeting or event, I often have an outside meeting AND I try to find time to sit at my desk and work….plan for our monthly board meeting, write my weekly blog, make progress on the ‘big-picture’ items. Some days email can be overwhelming – good and bad!

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

My overarching concern is the financial uncertainty facing public libraries in Michigan. On a shorter term basis, staff issues sometimes make me restless at night.

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

I read the standard library publications and listservs, attend state and local conferences, talk informally with colleagues. Equally important in the library field is staying current generally – technology, current events and trends, government development that could impact us, local news. That’s a challenge but I do read a lot both professionally and, of course, for pleasure.

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

I’d offer two pieces of advice: network with others both in your field and in related fields, both locally and at some distance. My small group of Michigan library directors of similar size public libraries has been invaluable both professionally and personally. We offer advice and support to each other. Second, live a balanced life. Nonprofit work can be all-consuming, don’t let it become so for you.

What do you geek?

I geek baking! I no longer select cookbooks for the library’s collection, but I still browse them frequently. I bake often, but now that our kids are grown and live elsewhere, I have to share it with others. Fortunately many baked items freeze well.

Anything else?

Enjoy what you do and if you don’t look for something else.


Just ONEthing - Sep 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we will highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight has to do with volunteers and volunteer management. At our supervisor training, Paul Knudstrup shared the rule of thirds related to volunteer management. 

  • One-third will do what you ask, high quality and on time 
  • One-third will do what you ask, but they need a few reminders 
  • One-third will not follow-through on your requests

Each year, you do what you do to thank all of your volunteers, and you invite the two-thirds who did what you asked to volunteer again next year. Then, you recruit new volunteers to fill out the roster.

Over time, you build a strong corps of loyal, trustworthy volunteers.


On Leadership - Sep 2013

Leadership development is becoming ONEplace’s cornerstone. Why this focus?

We’re targeting leadership development because of overwhelming evidence that leadership – both executive and non-executive – sits at the hub of effectiveness. People take their cues from the top. No major initiative ever succeeds without the leader’s support. And every unit – from task force to board – relies on effective leadership.

As a result, ONEplace will change over the next three years. Changes we’ve made to date include:

  • Increased management/leadership workshops during the year
  • Increased online information and fewer webinars
  • Created environments for connecting with nonprofit colleagues online (LinkedIn group) and face-to-face (quarterly gatherings)
  • Pilot testing small group leadership intensives
  • Increased communication with you

As we endeavor to encourage and equip your long-term leadership development needs, we welcome and will solicit your feedback and suggestions. As always, our goal is your success.

Upcoming ONEplace Leadership Series workshops:


One step...one step...one step...

I love checking things off my list. I love it so much that I add quickly-done things to my list just so I can check them off. Feeling the rush of placing another Check Mark (oh yes, I capitalized it) on this week’s list, I briefly bask in a business buzz.

Now it’s Friday – the week’s end. I’m looking back at the past few days – what’s done, what’s yet to do. Admiring each Check Mark on the list, I pause and puzzle over how puny each accomplishment appears. No one task seemed to do anything of great substance; rather, each task simply moved an effort one little step forward.

Indeed, accomplishments of great substance – such as eating the proverbial pachyderm – are done one step at a time…and often by more than one person or one team or even one organization. Collective impact moves the big issues.

So, each day we move forward, one step by one step. We communicate, person by person. We ask, question by question. We explore, issue by issue – each conversation, each action, each insight contributing a thin layer of substance and understanding.

Eventually, the big issue falls. But it was the daily nudge that brought that issue to the edge.

As they say, the dollar’s in the details, life’s in the little things, and Check Marks ROCK! So, I think that I’ll go make my To Do List for next week.

Best,

Thom


Need a New Direction?

Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”

If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a new direction - time for a turnaround.

Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.

Strong leadership delivers
* a single, unified vision
* a positive, forward-looking face to outside world
* courageous decision-making

Disciplined management delivers
* obsessive focus on the mission
* a feasible plan toward sustainability
* short-term needs handled with long-term perspective

Institutional marketing delivers
* A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
* One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
* One spokesperson who controls the media message

Right-sized fundraising delivers
* Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
* Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
* Increased revenue

Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.

ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).

Best,

Thom

Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.


Tear Down that Wall

ONEplace renovations commence this week. While the conference room remains intact, the walls surrounding the center are coming down. With books boxed, computers carted and pamphlets packed, we’re ready for the walls to fall.

In light of our renovation, it’s tempting to play with the metaphor of “tearing down walls to embrace a broader perspective.” Indeed, creating opportunities for you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues holds a prominent position in our current plan. And, already, several important connections and insights have come about as a result of networking at events and online. Even so, I’ll avoid that temptation.

It’s also quite enticing to conjure the image of “looking out beyond the resource into the wider world.” You know, mapping new ideas and tools on to the current landscape, keeping a long-term view during short-term highs & lows, and continually asking “who else needs to be at the table for this discussion?” Very enticing, but not worth pursuing.

I could, of course, look to an outcome of the renovation – a focused collection, displayed at eye level with featured titles that get to the heart of current professional development needs. But, it’s too early for that.

So, for now, I’ll just leave it as “pardon our dust.”

Wait! Perhaps I should write on the power of asking forgiveness for those little things that….

Maybe next time,

Thom


Here we go again

Let’s be real…for many of us, September starts the program year. In addition to school, many programs, seasons, and endeavors of all sorts begin in the fall.

As I launch into this year, I look forward to the activities, the people, the fun, the challenges, and all the ups and downs. I make plans secure in the knowledge that few things go as planned. I set a course confident that I will, more than once, find myself off course. I claim a vision encouraged by the surety of surprising twists and turns.

Emboldened by the barriers, hurdles and miscues that lie ahead, I open my eyes wide and dive right in. But, that’s leadership – keeping the endeavor mission-focused over the long haul while events and circumstances (largely beyond our control) would draw it off course.

Fortunately, while we may feel isolated from time to time, none of us have to face our challenges alone. My greatest joy over the past year at ONEplace has been the daily confirmation that all of us in the nonprofit community are on the same team. Every engaging post-workshop Q&A session, discussion, and counseling interaction draws upon a shared commitment to building a Greater Kalamazoo. We’re on the same team – not by virtue of common funders but because of a common passion and our common commitment to live, work, play and thrive in this place we all call home.

So, here we go. Another year kicks off promising nothing more than the opportunity to engage. Go for it!

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
English Proverb

Best,

Thom


Board Learning

According to Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, each board is responsible for keeping itself competent. This is done through good recruitment and good training.

When boards act, they act as one, so it’s often helpful for them to learn and grow together as one. These common experiences not only provide useful governance tools but the board also grows together – deepening relationships and building trust. It adds effectiveness and satisfaction to their work.

Boards rarely have extra time, so ONEplace works with executive directors and board leadership to target training on specific, high priority concerns. Further, we follow up to help ensure that the change you desire comes to pass.

Each nonprofit board is as unique as the organization it governs. Sometimes, our board members need more than prior board experience to navigate your board’s particular challenges. We’re here to help.


Organizational Learning

While staff development line items wither on many of our budgets, we still know that attending to our team’s learning promotes job satisfaction and increases productivity.

In a January 2012 Forbes article, Josh Bersin says that the days of the formalized training programs in big corporate universities are gone. Today, many high performing companies use “formalized informal learning programs” that mix on-the-job learning with coaching and performance support.

Does your organization’s training program need some attention? We work with those responsible for staff training (e.g. Executive Directors or Human Resource Directors) to help organize learning programs. Together, we balance learning opportunities from your industry, from internal resources and from ONEplace to provide a comprehensive approach to staff learning.

Whether your program is well-established or more of a thought bubble, I suggest you read Peter Senge and the Learning Organization. It’s lengthy, but it provides an excellent summary of Senge’s 1990 seminal work, The Fifth Discipline, and offers lessons learned from those who’ve used it.


Your Personal Learning

Books, articles, blogs, on-the-job research, peer discussions, workshops, and time to think – these and more all play a role in your learning. And there’s more than enough from which to choose.

Do you have a personal learning plan? What are your career goals? A personal learning plan (a.k.a., professional development plan or action plan) focuses your learning so that you can select an effective balance of resources to meet your goals.

To assist you in preparing a personal learning plan, we provide a template you can use, workshops on personal learning, and we’re happy to meet with you to help focus your goals.

The key is finding what works best for you at this time in your life, and then cultivating a balance of new knowledge, skill development, and personal development. You learn something new every day. Being intentional about your learning will greatly increase your retention.


e-Gad

Under the category, “Can’t leave well enough alone,” we're shaking up our communications…but only slightly.

Avid ONEplace email watchers know that, every other Monday, our eNews brought you this blog, job postings, and programming for the upcoming three weeks. On the off-Monday, our This Week email listed programs just for the week ahead.

In an act worthy of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial, we combined the two to create our new This Week (which is basically a weekly eNews using This Week as the title).

Why make such a dramatic change?

First, new jobs are posted every week, so it makes sense to include the link each week. Second, listing three weeks of programming each week saves you time and clicks. And third, using the name This Week rather than eNews, saves confusion with our new ONEplace NEWSletter.

That’s right – this Thursday marks the inaugural NEWSletter designed to keep you informed on where we're headed and how you can best utilize our programs and services. It’ll be brief. To the point. And helpful. If not, we’ll stop doing it.

Best,

Thom


The Core Issue

Leadership resides at the core of our failure or our success. If incompetent, it ruins us. If ineffective, it holds us back. If satisfactory, it moves us forward. If exemplary, it takes us beyond our imagination.  

We need satisfactory leadership. 

One of my college professors offered our computer science class some excellent counsel when he said, “To succeed you don’t need to over-achieve at your job – just do it right.” We need leaders who just do it right.  

Lou Salza, Headmaster of Cleveland’s Lawrence School, defines leaders as 

 …people with a professional, personal, and passionate commitment to solving a problem about which they possess a commanding and deep understanding. “Professional” means they have studied the problem and have a sense of what works and doesn’t. “Personal” means that they are all in—and willing to burn out to succeed. “Passionate” means that it is not about them as people. It is about the mission—solving the problem. 

Satisfactory leaders embrace the first two of Lou’s three qualifications. They know their stuff, and they know how to deliver in a professional way. Further, they pour their lives into it – what Jim Collins describes as fanatic ambition for the cause. 

Leaders who take their fanatic ambition beyond themselves, their careers and even their organizations, and focus on the organization’s mission, become exemplary leaders. These rare individuals embody the paradox of Collins’ Level Five Leadership – fanatic professional ambition and extreme personal humility. They connect with others who share their vision, and, together, they deliver transformative community impact. They also care deeply for their people – staff, board, volunteers & supporters – knowing that “organizations” don’t succeed, people do. 

We value and are grateful for the leaders we have in our community, but our shared dilemma – here and throughout the country – is the need for more satisfactory leaders. While much time and money is spent on leadership development, we still find ourselves lacking.  

In her book, The End of Leadership, Harvard professor Barbara Kellerman offers her critique of the leadership industry and suggests that we need to recognize that leadership development is a long-term proposition (not the result of a brief series of workshops designed in a one-size-fits-all fashion), and, more pointedly, we need to stop ignoring and start addressing leadership that is ineffective or incompetent. 

As we look ahead, ONEplace commits to a three-year plan of establishing long-term leadership development beginning with a balance of workshops and various small group intensives. Further, we’re expanding our board of director services to help boards better develop themselves as well as their organizations.  

Leadership is our core issue. Let’s stay connected to build strong leadership over the years to come. 

Best, 

Thom 


Expanded Services This Fall

Fall kicks off expanded and more targeted services from ONEplace to you.

First, our programming focuses more on leadership development. Our ONEplace Leadership Series workshops bring executive and non-executive leadership information, skills, and processes to you every month. Plus, in addition to the annual ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy (info coming in September), we’re offering intentional small group intensives beginning this fall. Small groups are forming around mindfulness based learning, case study based learning, and content area based learning.

Expanded Board of Director services also start this fall including workshops, customized training, and direct assistance. Sit down with ONEplace staff to discuss your specific needs and challenges, and together we’ll develop an approach to work for you.

Explore an array of information and instruction on our website. We’re curating general information and providing it 24/7 on our website, as downloadable PDFs, and via video. As a result, this information sits at your fingertips and reaches those of you who can’t always get away from work to attend a class.

Finally, you can keep up on emerging services and local area nonprofit issues through ONEplace NEWSletter, our new monthly newsletter. Launching on August 29, NEWSletter offers you news of developing resources and services to strengthen your skills, your staff, and your organization.

Your success defines our commitment – year round professional development, free of charge. See you soon!

Best,

Thom


Small Group Leadership Intensives

ONEplace pilot tests Small Group Leadership Intensives this fall and invites your participation.

Groups will be formed to ensure similar levels of interest, experience and expertise among the participants. Our hope is that group participants

  • engage deeper learning of their current leadership practice
  • gain insights into their leadership development needs
  • develop strong ties with their nonprofit colleagues

If you are interested in finding out more about the groups and possible participation, please email us.


Let's Get Together

Lunch…coffee…a meeting…a walk. When we get together we have a reason. The activity creates a context and sets a tone for the interaction.

On August 14, ONEplace holds its second Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE gathering. The context is nonprofit and the tone is mutual support.

Sure, there will be snacks, but best of all, your nonprofit colleagues will be there – those who value referral networks, desire a deeper community connection, and want to accelerate their organization’s impact.

We all seek stronger ties to our colleagues and community. But one evening alone won’t do it. According to “The Real Purpose of Networking,” the most common mistake that individuals make after attending a networking event is not following up. So, put some time on your Aug 15 calendar for follow up.

Stronger collaborative networks open communications, save time, and make us all more effective. But, like most things of value, they require little bits of attention over a long period of time. So, take an hour or so on August 14 to invest in your future…and have a good time doing it.

Best,

Thom


TGI...

I’m writing this on Friday, and I’m grateful. So, recalling an exercise from a Forbes article on gratitude in business, I wrote out 25 things I’m grateful for (try it – takes less than five minutes).

Sixteen of my 25 were people – mostly groups of people. Connecting with these groups and the individuals within them fill my days with amazing experiences. Each brings perspective, offers insight and contributes in ways no other could. My life – our collective lives – would be less without any one of them.

Having completed my first year at ONEplace, I write reports, close out books and evaluate efforts – administrivia. These will be duly noted, mapped on to multi-year trends, and subsequently filed. Indeed, they’re important (I saw the webinar). But they never fully capture the vitality I see every day in the eyes, gestures, and spirit of our nonprofit professionals and volunteers.

So, while I add my voice to the weekly TGIF chorus, I’ll take a brief solo to say, “TGI…you!”

Best,

Thom


Hey - you got the time?

Most of you are aware that ONEplace offers its programs and services at no cost to the participants. It’s all foundation funded to provide year-round professional development and assistance to the entire nonprofit sector.

Of course, there is a cost to you – your time. So, we strive to honor your time commitment to the best of our ability. In July we’re conducting some time experiments – that is, we’re trying new time slots for some of our events.

Previous surveys indicate a stronger preference for early in the day or later in the day. So, we have scheduled four events in new time slots: 

  July 17 Thank You Letters = Future Gifts at 9 – 10:30 am 
  July 24 Mission Driven & Vision Focused at 4 – 5:30 pm 
  July 25 Plan Your Year-End Fundraising at 9 – 10:30 am 
  July 31 How to Write Faster at 9 – 10:30 am

Further, we condensed a couple of webinars worth of info into a shorter, instructor-led workshop format and scheduled it at an early lunch hour: July 23 Great Short Writing at 11 am – 12 noon.

Finally, we continue to add more to our website (24/7 availability) from ONEpages to video instruction. And more to come!

We’ll continue work with you (face-to-face, via LinkedIn, via surveys) to accommodate your needs and schedules. As always, feel free to contact me with your suggestions, questions, and concerns.

Best,

Thom


What's the Problem?

“Try this – it worked last time.”
“Marvin had a similar problem. How did he fix it?”
“Just smack it!”

How often do we take a trial and error approach to fixing problems? It’s good to draw on our expertise and past experience, but every attempted fix costs time and money. So, we can’t afford to just wing it.

In these situations, a rational, step-by-step process provides great assistance. Throughout my career I’ve used a problem management process individually or with a group to address situations large and small. I’ve also taught this process several times to various management teams.

On Wednesday, June 19, I’m offering a Group Problem Solving workshop at ONEplace. This 90-minute session explores how to fully describe a problem, identify possible causes, evaluate those causes and confirm the true cause. The process helps us gather solid data and avoid common pitfalls.

While not panacea’s, processes like these are helpful management tools and set a thoughtful, logical tone to addressing challenges of all sorts.

Best,

Thom


Congratulations, 2013 ONLA Graduates!

Congratulations to the 2013 class of the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy!

ONLA


The Academy included ten full-day sessions covering over 20 topics related to running a nonprofit organization. Each participant also engaged a mentor relationship with a current nonprofit executive director.

Instructors include many of Kalamazoo’s top consultants in nonprofit law, governance, human resources, cultural competence, program evaluation, fundraising, and communications. The experience also included occasional panel discussions with those working in the field.
 

The Academy class of 2013 includes:

Sonja Dean, Michigan LISC
Kara Haas, Kellogg Biological Station
Mark Hudgins, Heritage Community
Christine Jacobsen, Ministry with Community
Jennifer Johnson, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes
Celine Keizer, Community Homeworks
Katie Marchal, Community Healing Centers
Jennifer Miller, Senior Services
Petra Morey, MRC Industries
Christine Murphy, Transformations Spirituality Center
Dallas Oberlee, WE Upjohn Institute/Michigan Works!
Brian Penny, Senior Services
Catherine Pinto, AACORN Farm
Keith Platte, Urban Alliance
Judith Rambow, Kalamazoo Public Library
Joan VanSickler, Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo
Jennifer Welles, Housing Resources, Inc
Dana White, Heritage Community

Launched in 2012, the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy addresses the need for developing nonprofit executive leadership as this sector anticipates upcoming Baby Boomer retirements. The Academy’s third session begins in January 2014. Application information will be available in September. More information is available at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA.


Survey says...

I’ve read it yet again in another leadership book. This time the quote reads, “…no technique can substitute for face-to-face human interaction.”*

That’s why we scheduled the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE event earlier this month, to provide an environment for us to connect, get to know each other, and learn from one another. Our post-event survey provided great feedback on the event.

72% responded to the survey
86% said that the reason they went was to meet people & network
88% rated the event high overall
99% said that they would like to meet either quarterly (57%) or bi-annually (22%)
96% said that the best time to meet was after 4 pm

Overall, comments were positive and encouraging.

“I met several people that I will connect with again.”
“Perfect set-up with tables, chairs and pens/paper.”
“This event was great and I look forward to connecting with community leaders at future events.”

With the strong response and high preference for quarterly gatherings, we’ll stay with Wednesday evening and meet again in August, followed by a pre-holiday gathering in November. So, mark your calendars for Wed August 14, 4:30 – 6 pm and Wed November 20, 4:30 – 6 pm.

Stay connected!

Thom

*Quote from “The Leadership Challenge” 3rd edition, by James Kouzes & Barry Posner, page 181


Once upon a time...

When I hear the phrase, “once upon a time,” I immediately relax, settle into my chair, and focus my attention on what’s coming next. I’m about to hear a story. 

Stories form the foundation of virtually all our entertainment and learning. All TV series, movies, and books (even most non-fiction) are stories. Songs, lectures, dances, and many paintings evoke stories. It’s how we convey information and instruction, and it’s how we turn information into meaning,  

Communicating with donors and other stakeholders requires us to tell stories. Yet, many of us struggle with where to start, how to gather stories, and how best to tell them. 

Over the next few weeks, ONEplace offers events targeted on this challenge. Great Stores = Connection (May 29) provides interview questions to draw out information and tips on how to engage staff in gathering good stories. Plus, we’ll look at several examples.  

In Assess Your Qualitative Impact (May 30), Demarra Gardner shows us how to evaluate our organization’s programs and services, drawing out the information that paints a comprehensive picture of how we are fulfilling our mission. 

ONEplace also explores two arenas for telling your story with How to Win Corporate Grants (May 21) and Asking for a Legacy Gift (June 6). 

Our stories carry power – power to inspire, encourage and motivate. No other medium comes close. Make it work for you. 

Best, 

Thom 


Stepping Out

I recently met a person online (it’s not what you think). It was a local business relationship, but the first several interactions were on email…and it got off to a rocky start…I think.  

You see, I wasn’t sure. It felt weird – like we weren’t connecting. But I didn’t know if the other person felt that way. Her emails generally came from a mobile device, so perhaps the shortness I sensed was due to her being busy or not-so-quick at thumb-typing.  

I tried calling, but we only exchanged brief voicemails. I needed to connect with her, but did she want to? Was this going to work? Should I just let it go? Though unsettled, I ventured to the meeting ready to navigate what I assumed would be choppy relational waters.  

We met. At first the discussion focused on the business matter at hand, and then things relaxed a bit. By the end of the meeting, we were fast friends. Two weeks later we had a follow-up meeting that was fun and productive.  

Since then, despite all the emails, to do’s, and stacks waiting for me on my desk, I’ve put a higher priority on meeting people face-to-face. In this short time, both efficiency and effectiveness have increased as well as job satisfaction. This experience reinforces what I’ve always known: while relationships can be sustained electronically, they deepen through personal interaction.  

But, I’m just one voice on the matter. What do you think?  

Best,  

Thom  

P.S. Here’s a related quote from film producer and author Peter Guber: “Nothing replaces being in the same room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other's micro-expressions.” 

Book

Tell to Win 

9780307587954


Achieving Buy In

How do you achieve clarity on gnarly issues?

As highly-wired, multi-networked, resource-rich folks we likely turn to our various webs of family and friends as well as books and blogs. Yet, we may be overlooking the most powerful teacher of all – ourselves.

When my son was a preschooler, he simply would not act on a suggestion or direction from me until he had made it his own. His entire body revealed his process from “I’m not so sure” to “maybe” to “I have decided that I’ll do this.” It had to make sense to him and, in essence, become his idea.

As adults, I observe (in myself and others) that we’re little different. Simply being advised or directed toward a certain solution or course of action doesn’t mean we’ll blindly give our assent. It needs to make sense to us. Often, this is a quick bit of consideration. But on those complex, many-layered issues, we need more.

Many authors suggest steps we can take, and our Achieving Clarity ONEpage resource provides a brief digest of these. Yet, outside sources alone don’t motivate action. Until we take the time to individually consider, mull and reflect – listening to the guide within – we will not commit to serious action.

When we want to achieve “buy in” with an individual or group, the critical step is not telling, it’s listening. How do you best listen to your inner guide?

Best,

Thom

Book

A Hidden Wholeness
9780787971007

Personal Learning Network

Who is in your learning network?
Who do you learn from on a regular basis?
Who do you turn to for your own professional development?

These are the questions that educator Dr. Mark Wagner poses at the beginning of his seminars on personal learning networks. He finds that, with so many of us working as “lone rangers” in our given organizations, we best keep our edge by building our own networks of learning or growth.

While ONEplace can play an integral role in your professional development, each of us needs to build our own dynamic learning network. Fortunately, the online connections available to all of us make this less of a challenge. Indeed, the greatest challenge may be the overwhelming amount of available information and connections.

While Dr. Wagner offers us some clear direction to building our personal learning networks, it’s important to keep some guidelines in mind.

First, your network is for you. Don’t follow someone on Twitter because other people do or don’t give in to the temptation to grade yourself by the number of connections or comments or likes on Facebook or LinkedIn. This is your learning network, so make sure it is serving your learning needs.

Second, your needs change so let your network change, too. Follow a thought leader’s posts and blogs as long as they are helpful. Some writers keep rehashing their insights, so after a few weeks, you know their perspective and can move on. Sometimes, you may wish to simply get new voices into your learning mix, so shake up the roster. The point is to freely adjust the mix to meet your changing needs.

Third, keep your network manageable. There is only so much that any one person can digest, so keep the number of blogs, tweets, groups, etc. within reason. Make sure the ones you follow give you the highest quality information, best connections, and most insightful conversations.

Take these three guidelines and Dr. Wagner’s information with you by downloading our ONEpage resource, Personal Learning Network.

Best,

Thom

Book

Inside Drucker’s Brain

9781591842224

 


Spring cleaning

The calendar says that spring has sprung, and my seasonal clock tells me it’s time to clean, organize, and plan ahead.

Years ago I learned that if you want to be ready for the fall, you better have it all in place by Memorial Day. Summer is its own thing, and, for some, there’s a mystical time-space leap from May to September. So, if you’re not on their radar before June, you’re scrambling in September.

In the month ahead, ONEplace assists your spring cleaning and planning in communications (Your Communications Calendar, April 9) and in fundraising (Long-Term Development Plan, April 23).

We’re also taking a new look at nonprofit uses for social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter Basics, April 2 and LinkedIn Groups for Nonprofits, April 10).

Finally, our annual surveys are hitting inboxes. Please let us know your thoughts and needs so we can best meet your needs this summer, fall, and beyond.

Best,

Thom

Book

The nonprofit strategy revolution
9780940069718

Of Babies and Bathwater

Some things get undeserved bad raps. We get stymied or frustrated by something, so we cast it aside rather than fix, adjust or redirect.

Can you say, “strategic planning?” How about “performance appraisals”…or “meetings?”

Faulty leadership most often suffers not from a lack of know-how but from a lack of execution. We often know what to do, but, for various reasons, we simply do not follow through. So, we place the blame on the thing we won’t do and dismiss it.

This won’t do. Let’s throw a life preserver out to these water-treading children, pull them ashore, and do the work that needs to be done:
- Setting an intentional path toward increased community impact through strategic planning 
- Nurturing our staff’s professional development through meaningful performance appraisals
- Taking the time to check-in, to resolve tactical issues, to make strategic decisions, and to grow together as a cohesive organization through effective meeting practices

Begin right away. You can start by reclaiming the importance of meetings by attending Effective Meetings on Wednesday, March 13. This session goes beyond agendas and timely minutes to getting the right people in the right place addressing the right issues.

Best,

Thom

Improve Your Touch

We often hear phrases such as, “keep in touch,” “losing touch” or “stay in touch.” It’s about connecting with people and maintaining relationships.

A former colleague of mine frequently referred to a “touch” as any contact with a customer (i.e., client, patron, donor, funder, etc.). She recognized that the frequency and quality of our touches directly relates to the effectiveness of our organizations.

March at ONEplace is all about improving our touches. We will address issues of direct communication (Email Newsletters – Feb 26) and mass communication (MLive Update – Mar 14), donor recognition and formal gatherings (Effective Meetings – Mar 13).

Later in the month we continue with a look at connecting with Millenials (Mar 19), using LinkedIn & Twitter (Mar 27) and your overall communications personality (Mar 20).

Another phrase I often hear is: “It’s all about relationships.” Whether your focus is fundraising, communications, management, or leadership, developing and maintaining key relationships sits at the core of your effectiveness. So, plan now to take advantage of the above professional development opportunities.

Best,

Thom

Book

Customer Once, Client Forever
9780938721826

Building Trust

Your leadership team – even if only two people – forms the core of your organization. Everyone and everything take their cues from this group. So, it is vital that this team be solid and completely transparent.

In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni outlines four disciplines leading to organizational health: build a cohesive team, create clarity, overcommunicate clarity and reinforce clarity. He suggests that the two bedrock principles of building a cohesive team are developing trust and managing conflict.

If you’re like me, you are vigorously nodding your head. A leader’s failure to execute most often centers on his/her failure to build trust in the first place. Without trust, debates on critical issues disintegrate to manipulation and even winning at all costs.

Our ONEplace Leadership Series addresses these issues in the upcoming Take the Lead: Influence workshop (Feb 13). I encourage you to participate or, if unavailable, let me know your top leadership challenges. We’ll find resources and events to address your most pressing needs.

Best,

Thom

Book

The Advantage

9780470941522


Groupthink

Using groups to solve problems, make decisions, and set strategy generally leads to better outcomes. However, history recounts instance after horrible instance where businesses were ruined and lives were lost due to a phenomenon known as groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when a group of people make a disastrous decision due to a desire for harmony or conformity. It’s a controversial topic, and the subject continues to get attention. More than 20 major studies on aspects of groupthink have been published since 2009.

One of the earliest and most influential researchers in this area, Irving Janis (Yale University), devised ways of preventing groupthink. In reviewing these, I found these basic threads: use a process that maximizes objectivity, ensure all available information is gathered (facts & informed opinions), evaluate all reasonable alternatives, and assess risks before committing.

Our ONEplace Leadership Series offers management processes that help on many fronts – including the prevention of groupthink. The next offering in this series (Group Decision Making on Jan 31) addresses this particular dynamic most directly. Coming next month, we will tackle Effective Meetings. Please consider attending these workshops.

Best,

Thom

Thriving in Uncertain Times

One of my favorite authors is Jim Collins. His newest release, Great by Choice, addresses the question: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

Using a comparison study method as he did in Good to Great, Collins demonstrates the value of strong values, consistently applied and the importance of a long-term approach to mission-driven work. As he nears the close of the book, he reiterates one of the main lessons from his previous work: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

What conscious choice has your organization made – what is its mission? Do you know it? Does everyone on the staff and board know it? Is it engraved on their hearts?

What impact (or difference) does your organization make in the lives of your target audience(s)? How do you know that? Are all of your programs and activities contributing to this impact or could some be changed or abandoned?

To succeed in times such as these – indeed, at any time – tough questions need to be addressed. Clarity and focus on mission & purpose is the first step to a thriving organization.

Best,

Thom

Jim Collins provides a Good to Great Diagnostic Tool that you may use to assess where your organization is on its journey to being great. When there are differences between businesses and nonprofit (social sector) organizations, he points these out. Find the tool at http://www.jimcollins.com/tools/diagnostic-tool.pdf

Book

Great by choice
0062120999