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Sometimes the first step is recognizing that there is a first step.

At work, at home, and elsewhere, there are times when I find myself at odds with the situation before me. I’m stuck…befuddled. When I don’t know where to turn, I find that there is one thing that will turn me back around.

Acceptance

Once I accept (i.e., acknowledge) that I am stuck then I know where I am. It drops a pin on the map of my emotional journey, allowing me to better see possible routes out of my funk.

My common sticky places vary from navigating situations that try my values to managing people that try my patience, from my own short-fused stress to long-term challenges of self-care.

In her brief article, 5 Ways to Bring Compassion to Your Working Life, attorney Sara Tollefson describes recent lesson she learned around using compassion to provide better client services. She suggests living your core values, practicing self-care, modeling emotional intelligence and more. I find these to be key to avoid getting stuck.

By taking a moment to observe the landscape and locate myself on it, I find a foothold and can choose to move in a new direction.

Compassion, forgiveness, these are the real, ultimate sources of power for peace and success in life. Dalai Lama


ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy

The upcoming ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy offers early career nonprofit professionals an intensive leadership development experience – free of charge.

ONEplace, Kalamazoo County’s management support center for nonprofit organizations, opened in 2009 and has offered the Academy since 2012. The Academy provides emerging community leaders an in-depth exploration of leadership within a nonprofit context. Due to the generous support of area foundations and the Kalamazoo Public Library, all ONEplace services are free.

During the Academy, a variety of experts and practitioners guide the participants through subject matter critical to nonprofit leadership. Participants also engage personal development activities vital to being a leader.

In addition, each participant works with a mentor for the duration of the Academy. The mentor (usually a current executive director) and participant explore topics raised in class and other related issues.

As a result, participants discover their own leadership qualities and challenges through assessments, group discussion, and various participative exercises, and develop a plan for future steps toward leadership.

This competitive program includes nine full-day sessions held monthly from February through November. Prospective participants are encouraged to attend ONEplace Leadership Series and Management Track workshops offered throughout the year to prepare for and supplement this intensive Academy.

More at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA


Pinned

Meetings.

(Now, how do you feel?)

Opinions fall all over the map related to meetings. Many meetings waste time and money while others hold critical work.

The con side of the debate presents Jason Fried. His TEDx talk, Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work, boasts over 3 million views. He sets out a situation of needless interruption and worthless reporting and then places the blame at the collective feet of managers and meetings. He goes overboard (a bit) but raises points that warrant our consideration.

On the pro side of the debate sits Patrick Lencioni. In his book, The Advantage, he makes the case for having more meetings. He prefers single topic meetings with only the necessary people present. Review his Five Tips for Better Meetings in light of your current meeting practices.

Regardless where you pin yourself on the meeting map, you know that you have a next meeting coming soon. Why not make it a better experience for all concerned.

Best,

Thom


Where do you find support?

In a recent workshop, the instructor asked, "How many of you have a colleague outside of your organization that you can confide in regarding work issues?" Only two out of approximately 40 raised their hands.

A few days later, I spoke with an executive director who talked of not having work related support. “There’s just no one I can talk to who will understand.”

I consider this a critical issue to our sector’s effectiveness and sustainability. Leaders working in a vacuum, without open discussion or candid feedback, eventually lose perspective and misread the landscape. It drains the integrity not just from their unsupported leadership but from our community’s organizations.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Within that same week, I spoke to another executive director who told of regular discussions with a mentor. “Leaving those discussions, I feel empty, revived, and ready to face the next thing.”

Personally, I find work-related support from a group of regional nonprofit leaders that meets quarterly. This occurs in a retreat setting over a weekend. It offers not only a chance to talk but also to reflect, take stock, and sharpen my focus for the quarter ahead.

Support may take varied shapes and come in different ways, but it must be found. Where do you find your support? Where would you like to find it?

Pursuing answers to these questions may make all the difference to your career…and to your organization.

Best,

Thom


Get on the Management Track

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]


Just ONEthing - Oct 2014

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.


Effective cooperation

In a recent interview, former President Bill Clinton discussed ten years of working on global initiatives. After enumerating the significant changes that have marked the last decade – increased reach of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), rise of social media, and diffusion of power – he made this bottom-line statement:

The only thing that really works in the modern world is cooperation.

In his foundation’s work they see that those efforts with at least one partnership between a corporation and NGO consistently do better than those without. And when you add governmental cooperation to mix, they do even better. He concluded:

If you want to have an effort that’s effective, you must be more inclusive.

This international dynamic is scalable. I’ve seen it manifest itself on teams, in organizations, and within neighborhoods and communities. It begins with a shared sense of cause and a common vision of our shared future. And, we’re beginning to understand this. Clinton pointed out that, today, we know that we’re interdependent, but we’re only about half way there to embracing that fact.

So, how do we become more inclusive?

I’m sure there’s no one right recipe, and it will take a lot of trial and error. Clinton acknowledges that we have to accept that we may not win every battle. Further, he encourages having patience, ridding ourselves of arrogance, dealing in facts rather than impressions, and relying upon cooperation.

Once again, it’s all about relationships. 


Clarity over certainty

One lesson regularly presents itself to me in a variety of forms – the importance of clarity over and above certainty.

Without going into all the gory details, suffice it to say that processes have stalled waiting for every last fact to be gathered, people have adorned their arguments with extraneous and jargonistic detail to prove the absolute rightness of their point of view, and meetings have been endlessly prolonged while meaningless minutia was debated. It’s exhausting!

In his book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni names “choosing certainty over clarity” as temptation number three. While he affirms the importance of working with good information, he argues that many of us (CEO or not) take pride in our analytical skills and keen insights. Consequently, we spend too much time honing even-more-finely-detailed analyses into conclusions that get a nod but don’t move our organizations forward. Further, the higher impact issues before the group are left to the final few minutes of an already-too-long meeting.

Clarity, in contrast, means that you take a stand, and people understand the argument being made. They know points on which they agree and, perhaps more important, points on which they disagree. To speak clearly, however, requires us to set aside our fear of being wrong (or, at least, not-completely-right) and willingly invite others to challenge and improve our arguments.

Also, clarity makes accountability possible. Clarity of mission and purpose as well as clarity on individual roles and responsibilities means everyone knows why we exist, where we’re headed and who’s doing what. Everyone knows what’s expected and each person participates in keeping the organization on track.

In the study, Fearless Journeys, the researchers describe how several orchestras took on innovative ideas to invigorate their organizations. In the closing, the writer observed that what made all the difference was NOT the choice each made, but the fact that they dared to choose.

Best,

Thom


Glad you asked

A frequent question at ONEplace is some version of: how do I deal with this person?

Supervision is something many of us do, yet few (if any) of us received formal education in supervising. Instead, we learn “on the job” or through work-related training opportunities.

And we want this training. Our upcoming Supervision Series is already filled and each session has a waiting list. This tells me that more and more people are interested in becoming better managers.

One key to excellent management is asking the right questions. Good questions will improve your decision making, increase employee engagement, and build a more knowledgeable workforce. Check out Gary Cohen’s article on Just Ask Leadership (based upon his book). It provides a primer on how to ask the right questions.

To further support your work, we’ll unveil our Management Track in a couple of weeks. This ongoing series of workshops explores issues and skills critical to the work of management and supervision. And, wouldn’t you know it, many of these skills hinge on asking the right questions.

Check out the article and watch for our Management Track announcement later this month. Also, ask more questions – you’ll be glad you did.

Best,

Thom


Work in progress

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an idea that keeps popping into my head again and again. I’m reading an article and (pop!) there it is. I’m discussing a fundraising concern and (pop!). I’m leading a workshop and (pop!) then (pop!) and (pop!) again. It’s this:

Stewardship is greater than Achievement (or, for you mathletes Stewardship > Achievement)

Let me unpack this a bit. According to my friends Merriam & Webster, stewardship is the job of being responsible for something, and achievement is the act of accomplishing something. For me, stewardship puts an emphasis on long-term organizational sustainability. It’s an orientation that reminds me that I’m responsible for the organization in my care – that it operates efficiently, treats people well, and stays on track to fulfill its purpose.

Stewardship strikes at the heart of what Jim Collins (Good to Great) calls Level 5 Leadership, a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. It connects us with something larger than ourselves – a timeline of stewards who have held or will hold our position and a greater cause that’s shared among several organizations. It also keeps us ever-mindful of the future, “the domain of leaders” (The Leadership Challenge).

Of course, we still need to achieve. We must meet objectives, reach goals, and make budgets. We also want to keep in mind that, in our what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, achievements are often short-lived, may be reversed, and tend to focus on individuals. Emphasizing achievement over stewardship may make for an upbeat annual meeting, but it risks sacrificing long-term impact for short-term gain.

So, what does this mean to you and me? Well, that’s why this post is titled, Work in progress. I have thoughts – mostly scattered – and would enjoy an opportunity to pursue them with you.

When you read “Stewardship > Achievement” what pops into your mind?

Best,

Thom