Make your New Year’s resolutions, but don’t forget to celebrate what’s already awesome


The new year is fast approaching. As the celebrations start to wind down, many of us begin to think about our goals and resolutions for the coming year. You can already hear people talking about plans for being thinner, healthier, more productive, more organized, more financially secure, etc etc etc in the coming year. And if you don’t have enough ideas of your own, the media and magazines are brimming with suggestions for how to be new and improved.

Don’t get me wrong, I think setting goals and positive intentions for the coming year can be very useful tools in helping us to move in the direction of our dreams and desires. But it seems to me that many of us, in our efforts to grow, focus too heavily on what we think we need to do better, or what we need to change about ourselves. We can find ourselves in a constant critical state of focusing on where we fell short, or highlighting the personal “flaws “that keep us from being comfortable in our own skin. We begin to look through a lens that eclipses our accomplishments and positive traits, and highlights what we “need” to do quicker, faster, better.

As an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) counselor, I have the great privilege of meeting a wide variety of amazing people who are experiencing a challenge or difficulty in their life. People just like you and me. In hearing their stories and getting to know them, I am frequently struck by their critical attitude toward themselves. Where I see courage, resilience, wisdom, compassion, and strength, they see shortcomings and character flaws. In their efforts to address their concerns, they turn a critical, laser-focused eye on what they did “wrong” and/or what they need to “fix” about themselves. They miss the good stuff; those wonderful qualities and strengths they possess that help them get through tough times and show-up for the people in their world. They don’t see the big picture.

I once worked at an organization that was very focused on evaluation and improvement – of everything, all the time. This sounds like an impressive focus until you realize there was no balance; no looking at what was going well or identifying our accomplishments or focusing on our strengths and building on them. It was all deficit-focused, and we spent tremendous amounts of time planning, implementing, tearing apart, and reinventing our processes. We didn’t give plans enough time to succeed without making more changes. Staff became quickly overwhelmed with always being in a state of change and striving to do better but never quite getting there. As can be expected in such settings, morale began to suffer. I remember sitting in one program improvement meeting after a very challenging year and asking if we could have a moment or two to reflect on what went well, and what we accomplished before launching into the critique/improvement phase.

That is my wish for all of you as the year draws to a close. Before setting your goals and resolutions for 2015, take a moment to look at the big picture; take time to reflect on what you accomplished this year and notice how far you’ve come. Think back for a moment to last December; are you the same person you were then? What has changed? How have you grown? What have you learned? What are you grateful for and what are you passionate about? What would you like to build on and enhance in the coming year? What brings you joy and what would you like to experience more of? What personal strengths do you possess that helped you meet your challenges and goals last year? Take some time to appreciate the uniqueness of you; see the big picture and get comfortable in your own skin. Don’t miss the good stuff! These are the qualities and resources you want to be mindful of and consciously take with you into the next adventure that is 2015. Wishing you all a year of self-discovery and many opportunities to celebrate authentic you.


Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.

 

Diversity and the Power of a Cohesive Work Culture

The United States is a melting pot and mixture of cultures with few other countries matching our diversity. This, in many ways, has made us strong and resilient, but it has also led to conflicts and pain. Workplaces, in the not-too-distant past, often perpetuated cultural divides and treated people differently based on their color, gender, religion, sexuality, and economic status. Such divides still do exist though employers have made great changes in becoming better places for all people to work.

Was government regulation and oversight responsible for the changes in work culture? In many ways, federally mandated initiatives were the catalyst for change; they moved us off center and helped protect people from discrimination. Regulation, though, by itself is never enough. As an example, we still have many communities in our country that are divided by color, religion, and socioeconomic status despite regulations against discrimination in housing.

So what is working in the workplace, beyond regulation, to bring people of different beliefs and world views safely together? Simply stated… economics; it just makes darn good sense to have the largest and most diverse pool of potential workers available to make a company successful. If the best engineer for the job is Hindu and most of your other engineers are of another religion, do you make being Hindu a factor in hiring? No, of course not. Smart and profitable employers make the work culture about the work and hire the best.

How do they do it? Well… fully answering this question would take much more than a couple of paragraphs, though a basic principle does stand out. The principle is this; “All processes, procedures, and policies are founded on the ideal of openness, honesty, and respectful behavior.” Companies who put this principle in action tend to be at the top of the list of best and most profitable places to work. Why don’t all companies practice this principle? Good question—it seems bigotry and prejudices are sometimes stronger than good sense and compassion.

Regulations have also gotten in the way of companies being cohesive work environments. As our country’s population has gotten more diverse, federal mandates have become increasingly seen as hiring quotas based on old demographics. Whether this perception is right or wrong, it exists and can lead to questions about whether an employee was hired just because of their gender, color, or other protected status. The worst case scenario is, those kinds of perceptions can cause a work culture of divisiveness and segregation.

Employers with cohesive work environments make it clear at all levels of the company that their practices in hiring and retaining employees need to be about the whole person — what can they contribute and the question of whether or not they the best person for the job. It takes dedicated time and attention to deal with the very human tendency to want to be with and select people who are like us. This is where solid human resources practices become vital in assuring workplaces make decisions without undue bias and are fair in hiring and promoting employees. Without fairness, it is nearly impossible to develop or maintain a cohesive work culture.

If you want to talk more about work cultures and being the kind of place that hires and retains the best; give us a call at The Village Business Institute – 800-627-8220. We will be delighted to talk with you.


About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and Financial Resource Center programs. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.

Questioning ourselves: Is it truth or fiction, fact or opinion?

When is the last time you heard someone begin an expository discussion with the disclaimer, “Now this is only my opinion and no matter how strongly I believe in it, what I am about to say to you may not be objective or factual, so let the listener beware!”?

I honestly can’t think of a time myself. (But, then, I also can’t remember where I last laid my reading glasses down thinking that I would “obviously” remember that they’re there when I need them.)

How often do you and I forget the difference between what is fact and what is really our opinion about a situation, a person, an institution, or even ourselves — an opinion that may, in fact, have no basis in objective, observable, substantiated behavior? I believe that many times this goes right to the heart of another challenge we all battle in our humanness: assumptions.

The funny thing is we actually believe our own opinions and assumptions so strongly at times that we firmly accept them as infallible truths. “Because I believe it to be so, it is!” If we come to work in the morning and someone doesn’t greet us with a smile and a cheery “Good morning!” how does that affect our day? Are we to assume that people just don’t like us and then walk around with an uninviting scowl on our face all morning just hoping (expecting) someone will notice and ask us what’s wrong? And if they don’t notice, do we chalk that up in the “See, I told you so” column?

You and I have a choice to make with every contact, every conversation, every text message, instant message, or email we take part in. The choice is simple. Will we base our beliefs on assumptions, opinions, and judgments of others, or will we work to “check our assumptions” in order to uncover the hidden truth? If we choose the latter, maybe – just maybe – we might do away with some of the drama and conflict in our lives and be able to enjoy life’s journey a little bit more.

So, here are some tips for wise:

  1. Don’t assume – check your own assumptions.
  2. Don’t declare your opinions as though they are facts.
  3. Don’t believe everything you feel, hear, read, or see.
  4. Learn to listen more, talk less, and seek truth in all you do

About the blogger:
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Institute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

4 lessons that ‘The Voice’ can teach hiring managers

By Dawn Kaiser
The Village Business Institute

I confess I am an avid viewer of The Voice, NBC’s vocal competition television program. Now you might ask why do I like the show? No, it’s not just because of Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, although they are not too shabby to look at. Rather, I think we can learn a great deal from The Voice on how to hire great employees and build stellar teams.

Here are 4 lessons that The Voice can teach hiring managers:

  1. Listen to the individual’s “voice” for qualities and characteristics: The first time The Voice coaches meet the talent is in the “Blind Auditions” where they are not allowed to see the individual. They make their selections based solely on an individual’s voice. This requires that they listen intently to tone, range, breath, and other factors that impact a singer’s success. Imagine how your hiring might improve if you listened this intently when the other person spoke. Define the qualities and characteristics that impact a person’s success in your field or industry, and then listen for them when you interview the individual.
  1. Focus on hiring for potential, not perfection: The coaches don’t select only the singers who have a perfect audition, because honestly very few are perfect. Instead they focus on the potential of the singer. Do they think the singer has the motivation and capability to grow and become a star? The singers they choose might not have the most experience, but drive and determination can take them far. So during your hiring process, keep an open mind when evaluating candidates and be willing to look for those “diamonds in the rough.” You never know, they just might surprise you and become the standout employee you have been looking for.
  1. Hold auditions: The Voice doesn’t hold just one audition, they actually have three rounds before you make the final performances, which is when the public votes. Each round is meant to test the individuals to help the coaches determine which person has what it takes to go all the way. Now I am not saying we should hold singing auditions, although if you are Cold Stone Creamery you might do just that. But for the rest of us–is there a way to have candidates actually show us they have the talent instead of just talking about it. For example, if you are hiring engineers, could they take a coding test, or could would-be project managers try to impress you with some client-project role plays? Think of how you could move past the talk, to make sure the potential employee knows how to walk.
  1. Seek input from others: Especially during the “Battle” and “Knockout” rounds, the team coach on The Voice gets to listen to what his or her fellow coaches have to say about the performances before he or she chooses a winner. As a hiring manager, it is beneficial to include others in the interview process in order to gauge different perspectives on the candidates and hear what they have to say as to the potential for team and organizational fit.

Once you have hired the individual, be willing to focus on helping him or her become a better version of who he or she wants to be. Not only does each individual receive a personal coach on The Voice, but they also get a mentor which varies from team to team, and they can a receive special coaching from a well-known expert right before the last “Knockout Round.” Be willing to invest in your employees and give them the tools, feedback, and opportunities they need to achieve success. If you follow the hiring lessons and engagement strategy included in this article, you might just find you have a team of rising stars who will create magic for your organization just like the talent does on The Voice.

Live Joy-filled. Lead Joy-filled. Serve Joy-filled.


VBI corporate trainer Dawn Kaiser

Author Bio

Dawn Kaiser is an inspirational educator, joyologist, blogger, altruist, and positive thought leader. She specializes in heart-driven leadership, positive psychology and personal achievement. Dawn focuses on helping hundreds of clients all over the world thrive both personally and professionally in life through her work at The Village Business Institute. Find her on Facebook, Twitter (@joyrefueler), LinkedIn or online at www.dawnmkaiser.com.

Professional athletes, domestic violence, and due process

Adrian Peterson in 2011. Photo by Mike Morbeck.

It has been kind of a rough time for fans of professional football. Game statistics and conversations about next week’s match-ups have so often been replaced by reports of players involved in domestic violence and child abuse. The NFL and its culture have been vocally called into question by sports reporters, abuse experts (real and not so real), politicians with a cause, and attention seekers simply looking for some time in the spotlight. Despite the dubious qualifications of some commentators, the accusations themselves are serious and attention does need to be paid to the evidence. Though in the rush to judge, doesn’t it seem like true due process has been forgotten?

Early in my professional career, I worked with victims of physical, sexual, and verbal use. I worked with people whose cases I would not even begin to detail here because of how traumatic they were. Some of the victims had been abused for years. A very natural reaction was to want to punish the alleged perpetrators of the abuse; and the temptation was to do so even before the full situation was known and understood.

Diligent investigation and preponderance of evidence is needed to clearly determine if someone accused of abuse is guilty or innocent. If judged guilty, the question then becomes, “Is this someone who needs to be jailed in order to protect the victim or public?” Cases are often complicated, and, even when the abuser is guilty, punishment does not always serve the best interests of either the victim or the public.

One of my clients was at a stage in his life where he was too old to be a boy and too young to be a man. He had experienced very serious physical abuse at the hands of his father. The dad in this case ended up in jail, in part because of the abuse he dished out, but also due to drug and alcohol issues.

My client – let’s call him Sam – began to act out after his father had gone to jail. Sam’s mom was parenting three other young children and having difficulty making ends meet. She was relying on Sam to be more of a man than he was ready to be. After hearing from other adult family members (not his mom) that his dad was a bad person, Sam came to the conclusion, “If my dad is a bad person, then I must be bad too.” He then acted out that belief by getting into trouble in school and with law enforcement.

While Sam’s mom was angry at what his father had done, she made it clear she did not think of him as a bad person. Their marriage had been mostly positive until the last few years when he began to drink heavily and use amphetamines. She said Sam’s father had come from a family that drank heavily and neglected their children. Her hope was that he would be sent to chemical addiction treatment, which would give him the opportunity to get his life back together. The courts felt that the family needed protection, so they instead sent him to jail.

There are some in my profession who will say Sam’s mom did not have a clear picture of his father and had aligned with the aggressor, also making her a victim. This does happen and is part of what makes due process complicated in these situations.

The reality was that Sam’s father was actually a pretty good man who was suffering from the disease of addiction complicated by his own experiences of trauma. Further due diligence by Children’s Protective Services, encouraged by Sam’s mother and the adolescent treatment program Sam was attending, led to Sam’s father getting help. He got sober and, in dealing with his own past, was able to be a role model to Sam, helping Sam understand that neither he or his father were bad people. Sam was able to get his “act together” and stay out of trouble.

My point in sharing the above case is this: due diligence is important, and it’s important whether it is an accusation of abuse in a family or sexual harassment in a business. Emotionally reacting to evidence and making rash decisions before a thorough investigation often leads to more hurt and pain.

Safety and justice for all parties is important and the severity of a complaint alone is not sufficient reason to discipline or punish. My hope is that your business or organization has in place the policies and personnel to handle complaints efficiently, effectively, and with integrity.

If you want to talk about due process in your work place and explore how you can make it the kind of place people want to work and employees want to stay, give us a call at The Village Business Institute (1-800-627-8220). We will be delighted to talk with you.


About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and Financial Resource Center programs. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.

Village Business Institute offering family mediation to help families with difficult decisions

John Trombley, Organization Development Consultant and Trainer

John Trombley of The Village Business Institute is now offering family mediation, to help families deal difficult or potentially contentious issues. Mediation can be a lower-cost alternative to going to court and potentially allow the individuals involved to retain more control over the outcome.

What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a process of resolving family disputes through the use of a neutral third party, someone who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome. Family mediators help foster discussion and negotiation that allow the participants to develop options, consider alternatives, and find solutions that are acceptable to everyone involved.

Family mediators do not make the decisions. Instead they help move the decision-making process forward and keep it on track.

When is Family Mediation appropriate?
Mediation helps work families work through issues and resolve disputes while avoiding the conflict and arguments that can arise in the midst of difficult or emotionally-charged circumstances and decision-making, such as:

  • Divorce (child-rearing arrangements, child support, spousal maintenance, dividing of property and debt, etc.)
  • Cohabitation and non-marital parenting
  • Estate planning
  • Care of elderly family members
  • Family businesses
  • Probate of estates

Why use a Family Mediator?
Family mediation gives you control, rather than the judge or court, and reduces the expense of court proceedings. When children are involved, family mediation allows for mutual decision-making instead of high-conflict and court-ordered solutions. Family mediation also helps preserve the relationship between the participants, which is especially important when children are involved and ongoing contact between the participants is necessary.

How does Family Mediation Work?
Two hours will be scheduled for your initial mediation session. During the first session, you will spell out your goals for the mediation process. (All of the issues that need to be decided do not have to be included in the mediation. We encourage participants, whenever possible, to work agreements out on their own, and use mediation only for those issues about which they can’t otherwise agree.)

After determining the goals, the mediator will help guide the discussion aimed at helping you reach an agreement on the issues that need to be settled. To the degree that it is possible, a list of points of agreement will be provided to each mediation participant before they leave the session. If an agreement is not reached in all the areas that you wish to settle, additional sessions can be scheduled at that time.

What does it cost?
The Village charges $200/hour for family mediation. Those fees will be collected prior to beginning the mediation session in accordance with The Village’s procedures.

How do I get started?
For more information about VBI’s family mediation, contact John Trombley at (800) 627-8220 or email jtrombley@thevillagefamily.org.


About the Mediator
John E. Trombley is registered as a Qualified Neutral under Minnesota’s ADR Rule 114 with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota, and is trained in Family Mediation through the Mediation Center at the Hamline University School of Law. He is also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management. John has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard — he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with more than 6,200 flying hours.

How to lead like a Roosevelt

VBI corporate trainer Dawn Kaiser

By Dawn Kaiser
The Village Business Institute 

Have you ever had someone you’ve never met influence your life? For me those individuals are the Roosevelts – in particular Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. I remember learning a little bit about Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt in school as we studied the Presidents of the United States, but I don’t ever remember hearing Eleanor’s name. That is until 2002, when Robin Gerber published her book, “Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way.” This remarkable author examined Eleanor’s life and leadership and used these lessons to challenge women everywhere to take greater leadership roles.

I have learned hundreds of lessons as a “student” of Eleanor. Here are just a few.

  1. Be flexible and adaptable: Leaders must be open to change and take decisive, bold action when changes happen in order to lead others through the change versus letting them stay stuck in the past.
  2. Align your values and your projects: No matter what the critics said, Eleanor adhered to her values and made sure that they aligned with the projects she took on as a leader. She did not let others steer her away from doing what she thought was right.
  3. Take personal responsibility: One of my favorite quotes from Gerber’s book is “We are personally responsible for who we become, who we choose to be.” There were many setbacks in Eleanor’s life, but she did not let them stop her from achieving great things. Each of us need to take accountability for the choices we make in life.
  4. Put your heart into your work: Eleanor once said “Work is easier to carry if your heart is involved.” As leaders, we need to lead with compassion, courage and character, all of which require a leader to lead from the heart. Feel free to email me at dkaiser@thevillagefamily.org if you want to read an article I wrote on this topic called “The Heart of a Leader.”
  5. Be an advocate: One of the greatest lessons I learned from Eleanor was to be a voice for and to help those in need. I once googled her name and found out she once belonged to an organization called Altrusa Club of New York City. Then I discovered we had an Altrusa Club here in Fargo. Of course, I quickly joined the local club and now, as acting President, I get to be an advocate for and promote literacy, education and leadership for people in our community and around the world.  Find us on Facebook at Altrusa International of Fargo.

As I mentioned earlier, Eleanor is not the only Roosevelt who has influenced my life. Through Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” I immediately was inspired by an excerpt from Theodore’s speech about the “Man in the Arena,” which reads:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Those amazing and profound words continue to inspire me to take risks as a leader. To forge ahead even when others say it can’t be done or it looks too hard. It gives me the courage to show my vulnerability as a person and as a leader because I do not just want to survive but rather I want to thrive in life and work.

Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932

Finally, Franklin D. Roosevelt has influenced my life not through his well-known quote of “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but rather through his words, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”  This was actually told to me by my dad my senior year of college and he told me that no matter what life brings, there will always be people to help me, I just need to be willing to ask. I don’t know about you, but asking for help is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. As a leader, though, we have to realize we can’t do everything on our own. And when we ask for help, we are inviting people into the journey, the vision, or the project, and it creates a better outcome.

This past weekend I watched Ken Burns’ documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” on PBS and it reminded me again how much these three individuals have influenced my life and my leadership. They are not perfect leaders; nor are we. But each of us are “fellow travelers on the road to a better world.” As you journey through life, think about the legacy you are leaving. Maybe one day someone will write an article about a person who has influenced their life, and the person they mention will be YOU. Live Well. Lead Well. Labor Well.


 Author Bio

Dawn Kaiser is an inspirational educator, joyologist, blogger, altruist and positive thought leader. She specializes in heart-driven leadership, positive psychology and personal achievement. Dawn focuses on helping hundreds of clients all over the world thrive both personally and professionally in life through her work at The Village Business Institute.

Which way do you face when the winds of change blow?

By Denise Hellekson
Clinical Associate at The Village Business Institute 

Change is definitely in the air once again; back to school, busier schedules, less sunlight, cooler temperatures; you can feel the changes coming.

I have been reluctant to let go of the thought and feeling of summer this year. As much as I like the fall season, I just haven’t felt ready for the change. About a week ago, I was in my yard enjoying the warm temperatures, the sunlight and the summer breeze when a neighbor told me one of our other neighbors was going to be moving. My heart dropped.

We live in a nine-unit condominium, and this was the third neighbor in about three months who was leaving.  Most of my neighbors have been here for five-plus years, and it has become familiar, comfortable.

“More changes I’m not ready for,” I thought.

My mind began racing with fears of the unknown; “Who will move in? What if they’re loud or rude? Maybe I should move? Why am I here? How will this work? Not only is summer ending, but now I’ll be stuck with new (translation: bad) neighbors.”

The more irrational my thoughts became, the more I felt myself tensing up from the stress. I felt stuck and powerless, and panic started to set in as I strained to come up with something that would stop the inevitable changes I was dreading. Not so surprisingly, I couldn’t come up with any (hence the word inevitable), which only made me stress more. All I could think was, “I’m not ready! I don’t want my world to change!”

Thankfully, (I think my mindfulness practices are starting to pay off), there was a moment where I could step back and observe my reaction, and I realized this was just fear talking. The moment I became aware of it and could label it, the intensity went away. I felt as if I had been facing into the winds of change and bracing myself against the inevitable, trying not to be knocked-off of my familiar, comfortable place. I realized when I brace myself against the inevitable, I make myself small and close myself off in an effort to cling to what I want (as opposed to what is). I react with sadness, defensiveness and fear to a force that feels much more powerful than me.

A small voice inside of me said, “What if you just turned around? What if you were open to the changes and the new opportunities/possibilities they bring?”

I started to relax. It was a breezy day, and so I did just that; I turned my back to the breeze, closed my eyes, opened my arms and breathed deeply. It felt good. I felt open, and the fear was replaced with anticipation. I realized if I go with the current, I can see what’s coming; I can participate in the changes instead of being backed into them. I felt lighter. I stayed there for a few minutes, feeling the sun and the breeze on my back, and breathing deeply. The sense of well-being stayed with me the rest of the day, and my stress about new neighbors seems to be gone.

But change being what it is; I’ve had a couple of other occasions since that day where I have begun to tense up and brace myself against the unknown. It has helped to remind myself to turn around, breathe deeply, go with the current, and be open.

Which way do you face when the winds of change begin to blow?


Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.

‘Leading Through Change’ webinar Sept. 4

John E. Trombley of The Village Business Institute will offer “Leading Through Change,” a leadership webinar, 11 a.m. – noon, Sept. 4. Click here to register for the webinar.

About the webinar: When we make changes in our organization, we don’t want people to just survive – we want them to thrive. This webinar will help leaders identify things they need to pay attention to for their change initiative to be successful. We will look at the forces impacting people in the change environment and learn ways to harness those forces so people will arrive intact on the far shores of the change process.

About John Trombley: John E. Trombley, MMgt, organization development consultant/trainer with The Village Business Institute.
John Trombley is an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer with The Village Business Institute. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, Trombley served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, he has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas such as leadership development, change management, Leadership Transition processes, managerial coaching and personality assessment workshops among others. Trombley is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

History journey reminds writer of need to nurture connections


Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and 3rd president of the United States

By John E. Trombley, MMgt
The Village Business Institute

 

My wife and I took a much needed vacation to Virginia in May this year, a state with roots deeply planted in our nation’s rich, but relatively young, history. It was just the two of us; no other family members, no obligations, no schedule to follow, and no guilt! In fact, just prior to leaving, I had upgraded my cellphone and messed up connecting my work email to the phone. The serendipity is that I was completely unplugged from work. It was just what the doctor ordered.

For us, we don’t consider trips for weddings, funerals, and family obligations to be in the same category as a true vacation. Not that we have a problem with doing any of those things; it’s just not the same as “getting away from it all.” We just happen to be at a different point in life, I guess, and we have come to realize that the busy-ness of life can easily overwhelm and stifle our ability and desire to be more, well, connected to each other. We’ve come to realize that when we aren’t connected, everything else is affected in the same way.

So there we were in Virginia (“Virginia is for lovers!”) with no relatives in sight and we took time to just be with each other and reconnect those disjointed pieces and parts. Then we began to explore the incredibly rich heritage that was planted by those whose sacrifice made it possible for us to enjoy the splendor and beauty of our nation today. We visited Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and got a glimpse into what it took to survive and thrive 250 years ago at the time of our nation’s birth. We were blown away not only with the history and grandeur of the place, but also with the complexity of what it took to run a household of that size, and the physical labor (provided by slaves) to make it so magnificent and so functional. Clearly today, we all recognize slavery as the abomination that it was. There is no way to justify it. It is also too easy and too simple, to vilify, judge and condemn the practices and beliefs of a people living in a place and time so different from our experiences today. They did what they did because that is what they knew to do. Still, we found ourselves shaking our heads at that sad history and wondered if we, too, would have been any different in our beliefs and attitudes. I’d like to think so, so it was somewhat gratifying to learn that even though Jefferson was a slave owner, he was not in favor of the practice, but found himself trapped in the grim political and fiduciary realities of the day. As a result, the slaves of Monticello were known to be the best treated and best provided for in the region.

Then we stepped even farther back into history as we visited the still very active archeological site of the first successful British colony in America at Jamestown. With history being re-written there almost daily, I began to reflect on what it must have been like in 1607 for those early settlers in what is now known as “Historic Jamestowne;” to leave all that was familiar in England to eke out a meager existence in a new world, knowing they would never see friends and family again. Many of them met an early demise brought on by disease, starvation, or conflict with the native people of the area. Wholly unprepared for what they would face and what it would take to survive, these first settlers were nonetheless intrepid sojourners upon whose sacrifice a nation would be built.

Imagine: No cell phones; no email; no computers; no social media; no TV; no quick trips to the grocery store to stock up on worthless junk food before the next big storm hits; no racing around trying to fill the day with “stuff” in the hopes of finding meaning and purpose; no planning vacations to get away from it all. Just the slow, steady, unrelenting pursuit of trying to stay alive for one more day on a patch of ground smaller than most people have in average-sized neighborhoods today. And we think we have it tough when the power goes out for a couple of hours or the battery in our cell phone dies and we feel so isolated from the rest of the world.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how really fortunate I am to have been born in a day and age when I can do just about anything I want, go just about anywhere I want, and eat just about anything I want, just about any time that I want. I would not have fared well as a Jamestown settler.

Not far from Jamestown we stood on the hallowed grounds of the Battle of Yorktown where the final, decisive battle of the Revolutionary War was fought.  It was here that, for three weeks in the fall of 1781, the Continental and French armies engaged in the grinding resolve of battle to defeat British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, an event that struck at the heart of British power and collective psyche. The trenches and revetments are still there today, along with several cannon pieces and the ghosts of the dead on both sides, and suddenly I sensed the connection to those souls through time and space. In a heartbeat I was hurled back in time and reminded that this same battleground saw even more blood spilled between brothers of a fledgling nation. Less than 80 years later it was the sight of bitter, pitched battles between soldiers of the Union Army and the Confederacy as our young nation struggled to define what was good, right, and just for us as a people.

A profound sense of awe and reverence, and a deep sense of gratitude gripped me like a vise in a way I’ve never quite experienced before, and I realized once again how small and how fragile I really am, and I found myself wanting to ensure the connections in my own life are well-attended, healthy, and less self-focused.

It takes a life-long process of engagement to nurture those relationships that we often take so easily for granted. The busy-ness of life and the mindless running around that we tend to believe is so important to our finding happiness pales when we take the time to listen to the sound of the breeze in the trees, the bird’s song as it flies by, children laughing and squealing with delight, and playing as children do, and, indeed, the sound of our own heartbeat when the silence finally creeps in between our cluttered thoughts and “to do” lists.

Take time today to tell someone you care. Thank someone today for doing what they normally do because you notice it and it makes a difference no matter how great or small. Slow down today to reprioritize your values and connect with people by focusing on them for a change—even if it’s only for a few minutes. Today, breathe in the deep sense of awe, admiration and gratitude for those who have gone before you in nameless, faceless ranks marching off into history – both recent and distant – so that you can have what you have today.

And then today, determine to create a legacy of your own so that others may one day enjoy their lives with a deeper appreciation and sense of wholeness as well. None of us are promised tomorrow. Live life with purpose and passion today; leave nothing to chance!


About the blogger:
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Institute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.