Collaboration

Recently I gave a brief talk to InterCom, the regional group for communications professionals. The topic was collaborative organizations, using our Midwest Consulting Group as a model. We believe MCG is the oldest virtual corporation in Michigan, and probably one of the oldest in the U.S. Building business through collaboration is what we have been about since 1990. The bright, diverse, neat-to-hang-out-with people who make up MCG are involved in both individual and collective projects and collaborating has become part and parcel of how we operate. Clients and projects may differ considerably, but working, thinking, planning together has become part of our hardwiring. The common denominator is helping organizations, individual professionals, and teams get great at what they do.

Whether it’s helping a nonprofit agency to create a strategic plan, guiding a university faculty member through the process of publishing in an academic journal, helping create a brand identity for a business or nonprofit, coaching executives and professionals, teaching and training people to be better supervisors, managers, and leaders or creating a comprehensive management development program  . . . the commitment to collaborate, cooperate, and help each other grow our businesses is in everything we do.

Who are you collaborating with? And what have you achieved through collaboration? Would be an interesting discussion, I think.

Exciting Times

Organizations in all parts of the economy, at least those that made it through the Great Recession, are running pretty lean at this point. During the Recession organizations tightened their belts, reduced or eliminated  discretionary spending, and concentrated on survival. Positions were eliminated, projects scaled back or postponed, and in many cases headcount reduced. The organizations that survived are now leaner, more thoughtfully focused on core products and services, and have a changed workload distributed across a smaller number of heads, hands, and hearts. Whether you think the result is positive or not, it represents reality. The question now is, “How can we be successful over time in a rapidly changing world? ”

We see changing roles, expectations and challenges for supervisors, managers, and professionals all around us. Responsibilities and assignments change frequently, priorites are moving targets, and everyone is required to grow and adapt all the time. The increased pace and changing demands requires an adaptive and flexible approach at all organizational levels, and that means life-long, continuous learning.

Knowing what is needed for the future is only possible through knowing where you are right now. That’s where 360-degree assessments like the Management-Leadership Practices Inventory come in. They provide a baseline of valid, reliable feedback to serve as the foundation for an individual, team, or organization development plan. Click here for more information on the assessment tools we use; we know they work.

In addition to the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy, we are currently completing a 360-degree management and leadership assessment process for two large teams. In both cases the organizations recognized that the need to invest in professional development was long overdue. Helping our clients to adapt and change – and being part of the individual and team growth that results – is exciting, rewarding and just plain cool!

What is your organization doing to develop the skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed today and tomorrow?

Colleagues

What is a “colleague”? In the broadest sense it’s a term we use for someone we work with and value. Still, it has come to mean much more than that to me. When I think of my own colleagues, I see people with whom I work, sure. But more importantly, I see friends. Individuals with their own interests, yet we share interests in some areas. Over the years we become more than people who “work together” – we become friends. We look for ways to collaborate (another lovely word) with each other, to support and encourage each other, to be there when things don’t go quite the way we had hoped or intended. And occasionally to provide that poke, prod, nudge in the direction of our true purpose when we get a little off-track.

I am blessed with superb colleagues and friends within the virtual organization we call Midwest Consulting Group, Inc. And over the years I’ve also developed a wonderful network of colleagues across the country. The times we spend together are among the best of times.

To all my colleagues and friends, I wish the very best for all of us in 2012. And Thank You for being part of my life.

How about your colleagues? When was the last time you thanked them for being among that special group we call . . . colleagues.

Retreating to the Front

This summer has provided several opportunities to leave work behind for several days at a time. Some time to myself to relax and reflect. Some time with colleagues thinking, planning, and collaborating together. The experience reinforced for me the wisdom of stepping backward to go forward. The opportunity to gain some perspective on the past year, look ahead to the next 12-18 months, and give some thought to the longer term future helped me to celebrate accomplishments, clarify values and priorities, set goals, and do some planning for myself and our business. It was a great experience.

How many of us set aside time to really step back to gain perspective on a regular basis? We all know the value of reflection and but it is often hard to “get away” from the daily rush and workload. We suggest an annual multi-day retreat such as I did a few weeks ago; it works wonders. But . . . you have to get it on your schedule and then actually do it!

When will you invest in yourself, your relationships, your business, and your future? Is it time for you to Retreat to the Front?

New Toys & Tech

Skill 1 – Breaking in a New Tool

I’ve long been a fan of David Allen’s approach to Managing Yourself – what I call Skill 1. And since I’m also a long time fan of new technological tools (OK – toys) I keep an eye out for ways to streamline my own self-management “system.” A key ingredient to any effective system is to have a comprehensive overview of all the things on my plate (my commitments, projects, and next actions) and all the things on my radar screen (things I’d like to have, learn, or do at some point, just not right now).

Once AT&T was able to offer service in our semi-rural area we jumped at the chance to switch from our Palm TXs to iPhones after making sure the iPhone could sync with MS Outlook. I checked the Internet to see what ad-ons might be available to help manage and sort Tasks (the iPhone operating system ignores Outlook Tasks). It looks like 2Do from Guided Ways Technology may well be the answer, but we’ll see as we go along.

Being effective at Skill 1 means always looking for ways to improve your personal management system. Fortunately, for me that means trying out new toys and tech. Unfortunately, it takes time and mindshare to do that.

What self-management tools are you using these days?  Drop by and leave a comment; I’d love to know what you use and what works for you.

For more information on Skill 1 and Managing Yourself, order your copy of “The 8 Essential Skills” from Amazon.com. today! You’ll be glad you did!

And while you’re at it, stop by our web site and learn more about our approach to Personal Productivity.

A Labor Day Thought

Since most of us spend a large portion of our waking hours working at whatever it is we do, it makes sense to do something that makes you happy, whole, complete, and satisfied. Labor Day, along with the start of the post-summer, let’s-get-busy fall season, is a good time to take a look at what you’re doing when you “work.” Might even be a good time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I doing what I truly want to be doing?
  • Am I proud of what I do – the results I produce?
  • Am I proud of the organization in which I work?
  • What am I committed to achieve by the end of the next quarter?
  • What longer-range goals, projects, and challenges are important to me now?

Those are a few questions that come to my mind. How about you? What questions would you like to answer for yourself?

And for every leader who is committed to a true partnership  between labor and management . . . Thank you!

8 Essential Skills for Nonprofit Managers

For those of you managing nonprofit organizations – we’ve been asked to develop a 5-session workshop series for our friends at ONEplace@KPL. This series is designed for entry to middle-level directors and managers in all areas of nonprofit organizations (executives, programs, services, administrations, operations, fund development, communications—anyone who supervises others). Each session will be 2.5 hours and will run on five successive Monday’s from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Interested? You can learn more by visiting the workshop announcement and topic schedule at ONEplace.  And while you’re visiting, don’t forget to check out the rest of what Bobbe Luce, her staff, and her network are doing – it’s great stuff!

Next Time: More Communications Stories from the Trenches.

PS – watch for my upcoming interview about “The 8 Essential Skills” on Mary Jo Asmus’ outstanding blog, Leadership Solutions.

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