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About J. Shane Mercer

I am the digital marketing specialist at The Village Family Service Center. Keep up with Village news and events at https://www.facebook.com/thevillagefamily and on Twitter at @VillageFamily

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.

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.

Minimize your focus to maximize your time at work


By Dawn Kaiser
Village Business Institute

Tell the truth: Do you answer your emails while talking to others on the phone or even during conference calls? Do you try to eat and work at your desk at the same time? Do you bring your laptop with you to training sessions and then pretend to take notes while you surf the net or work on other documents?

It’s not surprising that we are feeling overwhelmed and burned out because we are not mastering our time. Instead we are spending too many hours juggling too many things all at once for an extended period of time, which adds stress to our levels.

When you try to do too many things at one time, we actually drain our energy level over the course of the day. The best way for you to re-energize and refuel yourself is to actually do the opposite of what most individuals do and that is to minimize your focus in order to maximize your time. I know this from my own experience both in and outside of work. When I focus without interruption and concentrate on doing one thing at a time I get two to three times more work accomplished. This also allows me to then take a break and step away from desk in order to find a sense of real renewal. This isn’t an easy discipline to practice because our culture lifts up the multi-taskers, but truly when you start to look at the time management of highly successful people we find that they are able to set boundaries when it comes to their time that allow them to focus and bring their best to the table.

Here are a couple behaviors that are worthwhile disciplines to establish in your daily routines.

  1. Focus on getting information out before taking in. Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, encourages folks to work on an important project for 60-90 minutes before they check their email in the morning. Spend that time distraction free and then, once done, take a quick break and notice the difference in your energy.
  2. Identify your ONE Thing. Last year I came across a question from Gary Keller, the co-founder of the Keller Williams Realty. It changed how I tackled my day. He challenges individuals to ask “what’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Instead of worrying about a laundry list of tasks, you prioritize each activity and take them one at a time in order to move forward.
  3. Set aside thinking/quiet time. Each day create at least one time during the day when you stop working and spend time thinking or being quiet. Let your mind unwind and process all the information that has come in both directly and indirectly. Some of my best ideas come when I am the most still, which is not to say this is an easy discipline but it definitely helps me to get re-energized and be creative.

Stop living your life trying to do multiple things at once. We need to slow down in order to be our best selves and, rather than allow the time to master us, master our time.

For more tips and tricks on how to maximize your time, sign up for Dawn’s “Time Mastery” webinar at thevbistore.com.


VBI corporate trainer Dawn Kaiser

Author Bio
As an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Trainer with The Village Business Institute, Dawn Kaiser lives her passion–to energize, encourage and equip others to live their strongest lives now. She is a motivational speaker, writer, teacher, and positive-thinker extraordinaire. She draws on more than 12 years of experience in the Human Resource/Organizational Development field, a Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of MN Duluth and a Masters of Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is also a certified HR Professional and a life-long learner.

Dawn is available to speak nationwide. For more info, visit Dawn’s website.

Grief and Loss in the Workplace


By Denise Hellekson
Clinical Associate, Village Business Institute

When I sit down to write a blog post, I always ask myself a couple questions. “What seems relevant?” “What have I been seeing and experiencing in the workplace?” This month the answer that came to me was grief and loss. I have watched friends and clients experiencing the loss of loved ones, health, relationships, and jobs. I have visited companies that have lost valued employees, I have read in the paper and seen on the nightly news, stories of loss impacting organizations and individuals alike, and I have struggled with my own loss experiences.

Grief and loss aren’t the first things that come to mind when we think of work. But loss is an inevitable part of life, and we feel its effects wherever we go. Considering how much of our time we spend at work and the close bonds that develop when we are working together toward the same goals, it makes sense that grief impacts our work life as well as our personal life.

When we are experiencing challenging times of loss, it can be easy to forget how grief affects us or what to expect. So, for those of you that might be struggling, let me help you remember in hopes of easing your worries and helping you cope.

When we experience loss, it’s easy to forget how grief affects us and what to expect. Here are a few reminders I hope will ease your worries and help you cope.

Grief is a normal, natural response to all losses in life. While understanding grief doesn’t make the pain go away, it may be helpful to know that deep, sometimes frightening reactions, are not unusual. As difficult as it may seem, we need to grieve—it is important to experience the pain and to express our emotions after a loss. When we avoid or deny the pain, we stop the healing process and leave ourselves vulnerable to physical and emotional distress.

Grief triggers grief. It is not unusual to have memories or flashbacks of other losses in our life when we are grieving a current loss. It doesn’t mean we haven’t worked through the other loss. Allow yourself to express and release the emotions that come up, and to honor the feelings without judgment.

Most of us have heard of the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Knowing about the stages can be helpful in normalizing an experience that doesn’t feel normal. Most of us don’t feel “like ourselves” when we are grieving. We can feel like we are not in control of our emotions, and we can be shaken by the quickly changing and intense emotions that come up.

Remembering the typical stages of grief can help us to move through the process with less fear. However, keep in mind that these stages are not necessarily linear or chronological (“I’ve been really angry this week so I should be in bargaining mode next week”). They are fluid; you may experience all of the stages or just some of them, and they last as long as they last. Do not add additional pressure and false expectations by giving yourself a timeline to grieve. There is no statute of limitations on grief, so be in the moment and know you will feel better when you feel better.

Along with the stages of grief there are also common symptoms such as shock and denial, sadness, guilt, anger, and fear. Physical symptoms may include muscle tension, sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite. Again, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling without judgment. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, it depends on many factors. Listen to yourself and trust what you feel compelled to do.

I remember recently when I was processing my own grief, I felt compelled to stay home, turn on soothing music, and make soup; lots of it. I didn’t want to eat it (I gave a lot away to friends and family) but it was the act of preparing something that brought me back to times when I felt nurtured and taken care of; it was an act of nurturing myself and creating a safe place to feel my vulnerability.

The bottom line is, while there are typical stages and common symptoms to the process, grief is unique to the person experiencing it. Honor your own process. Remember, too, that you may have a different grief reaction with each loss because you are reacting to a new and different loss.

Other Self Care Tips:

  • Take care of yourself. Grief is hard work, so try to get sufficient sleep, eat nutritious foods, and practice stress management.
  • Avoid being self-critical.
  • Don’t buy into other’s expectations of how you should grieve. Trust yourself and do what feels right for you.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Use your support systems and access additional community support as needed (support groups; counseling; etc.).
  • Find healthy ways to express your emotions. Cry, journal, talk to people you trust, use creative outlets, engage in physical activity to work through anger, etc.

Support for Co-Worker’s:

  • Keep in mind we each have our own unique experience when grieving.
  • Don’t compare your grief reactions to those of your co-workers; there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Don’t take it personally if co-workers are acting differently.
  • Communicate! Eliminate the stress of the unknown as much as possible. Let others know where you are at when it is appropriate, “I don’t think I’ll join you for lunch today. I’m feeling really sad and just need some time to myself. Let’s do lunch later this week.”
  • Be supportive. When you see others who seem to be having a difficult day, ask rather than assume. “You seem to be having a tough time this morning, is there anything I can do to help?” Grief can feel very isolating because it is so unique to each of us. Support and encouragement can go a long way in helping us heal.

One more thing to keep in mind for those of you who are experiencing the loss of someone you care about—as you move through the stages of grief (and you will), remember that your loved one is not connected to your mourning; your loved one is connected to you. As you begin to feel the light come back into your world, let it. Don’t be afraid that you are letting go of the person you care about by letting go of the pain. As Helen Keller once said, “Those we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose…for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”


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.


The Village Business Institute’s unique team of professionals improve individual and organizational performance through business and organizational solutions. We serve both public and private organizations

VBI solutions include an employee assistance program, coaching, organizational development and strategic planning, workplace mediation, human resource consultation, critical incident stress management, management and employee training, career transition and outplacement services, and specialized services for nonprofits.

How avoiding “Why?” can improve your business communication


By John E. Trombley, MMgt
The Village Business Institute

In my last blog post, “A better question to ask,” I explored the metamorphosis I experienced when I learned to ask myself the question, “What?” versus “Why?” Today, I want to visit with you about the difference in those two simple questions as they apply to what we ask other people.

We’re not talking rocket science here, but as I am fond of saying—the really important things in life are simple, but the simple things are hard to do because they require us to discipline ourselves to make a change. In this case, what I am suggesting is making a minor adjustment—flipping a switch—in the way we talk to other people.

The impact of changing how we ask a question of the people around us is no less profound than when we changed the questions we asked ourselves. Let me give you an example. You’re working on a project with a few co-workers and you meet once a week to compare individual progress. One coworker has taken an unorthodox approach to the project, which you find both intriguing and provocative. You’re excited about the possibilities, so naturally you are curious to learn more about what this person is thinking and how they came to take this particular approach. So you simply ask, “Why did you do it that way, Charlie?” The next thing you know, Charlie goes on the defense and the climate in the room quickly turns from collegial to adversarial. You find yourself trying to back pedal out of a very uncomfortable conversation without really understanding how you got there.

So what happened? Think about the last time someone asked you why you did something. How did it make you feel? Did you feel as though you were being challenged to defend your work? To many people, that is exactly what it feels like. It’s as though what they did wasn’t good enough or was wrong in some way, when often times the person asking the question just wants to learn more. Now, you can blow this off by thinking that some people just need to get thicker skin, but if you really care about how you come across to other people and you recognize the power of building respectful relationships, you might try asking a slightly different question: one that will open the other person up rather than shut them down.

The next time you find yourself about to ask why someone did something, try asking something like this: “Did you get the results you were hoping for?” How we say what we say is just as important as what we say – and maybe even more important! Before you ask a question, think about what you are trying to accomplish or learn in the course of the conversation and consider if your question will produce the desired response. You just might find yourself engaging in a more profitable conversation.


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.
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