Avatar of J. Shane Mercer

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

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.

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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