The Markers Tell All

Comparison to the Water Cycle: Relationship should be Circular, Sustainable, and Reciprocal

By: Kristin Clements-Effner, MSW  Training Coordinator/Cofounder

This past week we had a dynamic training with a group of young professionals that are entering the world of nonprofits and have been serving around the city this year.  The training topic was “Managing Up” and of course the training would not be complete without the drawing of pictures and lots of laughs.  Our request to this eclectic and dynamic group of professionals was to draw us what their perfect employee/supervisor relationship would look like.  Lets just say we had pictures from the Water Cycle, to Nicki Minaj, to a person on an island by themself with a life line to the office.

One thing was clear, young professionals know what they want in a supervisor and know when they have hit the supervisor jackpot.  My observation from the presentations of their drawings was that if one of them had a supervisor meeting their needs, they spoke of their experience with enthusiasm and passion.  There was a definite consensus among the group about what their ideal workplace situation would be.  And the survey says….

1. Teamwork and Trust: Both the employee and supervisor are seen as equals in achieving success and completing projects.

2. No Micromanaging Please:  Young professionals want a task with clear expectations, but then want the freedom to be creative and accomplish the task in their own way.

3. Communication…Communication…Communication:  Open and positive communication is essential to a young employee feeling valued and knowing where they stand.  Positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback on performance.

4.  Flexibility:  Everyone has different work styles, times of productivity, and levels of efficiency in completing a task.  Flexibility in scheduling and moving to a more task based workplace would allow young professionals to have life/work balance and not have to stare at their computer screen just because they have to stay til 5pm.

We joke about how much our training participants dig coloring and drawing, but every time it lends itself to great insight into how employees feel and how to make a thriving workplace that fully engages all employees.

If you are a young professional, stay tuned for our “Managing Up” Public Training this Spring so you can cultivate a great employee/supervisor relationship.

Seeking a professional relationship with equality and free exchange of ideas.

A relationship based on trust, good communication, and room for autonomy and creativity.

Supervisor provides support and delegates tasks; employee can be productive and has the freedom to be himself.

Posted in Catalyst X-Change, Engagement, Generations in the Workplace, Millennials, Next Generation Leadership | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Peer-to-Peer Mentoring: A Solution to Helicopter Parenting

Written by: Melissa Noyes

I came across an article last night on NPR that talked about helicopter parents in the workplace.  (You can read the article here).   Helicopter parenting is an issue that comes up frequently during our trainings centered around generations in the workplace–although until last night all the feedback we’d received had been about helicopter parents in the college scene.

If you haven’t heard the term “helicopter parenting,” it refers to parents who are so overly involved in their children’s lives that they have the tendency to 1. hover and constantly check in on their kids, and 2. sweep in and rescue their kids as to prevent them from failing.  It seems to be a trend with parents of Millennials.  The most common example we hear is about parents calling or emailing professors to ask why their (adult) child failed a test or received a bad grade on a paper and requesting that the grade be changed (to an “A” of course).  Now it seems as though these same helicopter parents are buzzing along with their children into the workplace.

Am I shocked? No.  Am I appalled?  Yes.

Parents of Millennials have a done a lot of things right.  They’ve given us ample opportunities to explore, create, and find our strengths.  They’ve told us we’re amazing and can do anything we set our minds to and have supported us through everything–from the first day of kindergarten to the first day of our first real job after college.  However, some parents of Millennials have never let their kids fail.  They’ve wanted us to succeed so much that they’ll do anything to help.  Supportive? Yep.  Helpful? No.  This support sometimes comes at the expense of the development of critical skills like self-sufficiency and the ability the handle failure, and creates a sense of entitlement.  I’d even wager a guess that there are many Millennials out there who are completely able to handle their own lives, but their parents are afraid to let go.

So what can we do?

As an older member of the Millennial generation, I feel as though it’s our responsibility to start mentoring our younger counterparts.  Many Millennials may have never developed important skills like self-motivation, accountability, and the ability to advocate for oneself.  As older Millennials, we’ve been out of college for almost a decade and have had the opportunity to develop these skills.  We’ve achieved great things and celebrated our successes.  We’ve fallen flat on our faces and learned from our failures.

I would encourage all Millennials to seek out the fresh faces in your workplace and start cultivating relationships with them.  Volunteer at college campuses.  Mentor a high schooler.  Peer-to-peer mentoring relationships can provide Millennials with the opportunity to learn from one another and provides a safe, comfortable space for Millennials to discuss real issues that affect our generation.  A strong relationship with a peer who is navigating adulthood successfully can help eliminate the need for helicopter parents.  As younger Millennials find their feet and their voice, they won’t need parents to advocate for them.

It’s time for helicopter parents to come in for a landing.  But don’t worry, your kid will be fine.  We got this.

Posted in Baby Boomers, Generations in the Workplace, Millennials | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What happens after the Super Bowl? It is up to you.

By: Kristin Clements-Effner, MSW  Training Coordinator/Cofounder

Over the past week, I haven’t been anywhere without talk of the Super Bowl and questions about when I am going to the NFL Experience.  You can’t go anywhere in the city and escape the Super Bowl banners and hype.  I will admit I am not a football fan and don’t really get into major sporting events; however, I can’t deny the level of city spirit that has seemed to rise up over the past week.  I know that the concerts are fun and the excitement can be intoxicating, as we build up to the game.  However, I can’t help but ask myself what happens when the tents come down and the banners are removed.  The celebrities will roll out-of-town and the jerseys will be put away for another season, but we would be sorry if we didn’t see the opportunity that this brings to reenergize residents about how great the city could be.

Indianapolis is a wonderful  place and all too often we drive in for work and make that long commute back home, turning our eyes and ears to the challenges that we face.  I want us to reflect on all the excitement this week and the pride that was awakened to capitalize on our desire to be apart of something big.  Let’s all join together to continually celebrate the good things in the city by supporting our local businesses and organizations throughout the year to make a vibrant community.  Let us remember that we are a piece of continuing this effort past a big game and more fully engaging ourselves in the city.  I hope this is just the beginning of those of us that call this city home seeing that it is worth investing in with our time, our talents, and our treasures.  So as you munch on the chips and dip and pick your favorite commercial of the evening, ask yourself; “What can I do to make this city even better?”

Posted in Catalyst X-Change, Engagement, Social Responsibility, Uncategorized, Volunteering, World Change | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Managing Up: A Smart Strategy for Young Professionals

By: Melissa Noyes

While creating tailor-made trainings for local nonprofits, we often come across new ideas and concepts.  Our latest find is the concept of “managing up.”  This isn’t a term that I had ever heard before, but after a little bit of research, found that it’s something that’s all over the web (and the business world), and can be a smart strategy for young professionals.

What is “managing up?”  Basically, managing up is way to get the best outcomes for you, for your boss, and for your organization.  Managing up is about building a relationship with your supervisor that facilitates both understanding and cooperation.  Managing up is NOT about sucking up or brown-nosing; it’s about understanding your boss and responding to his/her needs, strengths, and preferences.  By framing the way you communicate and the tasks/projects you take on in terms of what your boss is most interested in, you can work smarter.  And working smarter means less hours, more flexibility, and the ability to be creative.

Here are some strategies for managing up:

1. Know your boss and what matters to them most in the workplace.  Use time with your supervisor wisely in order to learn what they value and what matters most to them about their work.  What mark do they want to leave on the organization?  This is important, especially in the nonprofit world.

2. Communication is key.  Know how your boss likes to give and receive information.  If they prefer phone calls–call them.  Emails?  Email them.  Know whether they like a lot of details or just a few.  Communicating with them in the way they prefer will ensure that your ideas are heard and considered.  Not sure how to tell what they prefer? Watch how they communicate with other employees and with their boss.

3. Be proactive on work tasks and share successes.  Communicate with your boss about your progress while completing a project, and share challenges as soon as they arise.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you encounter a challenge and make sure to ask your supervisor about their past experience or how they would handle a similar situation.  When a project ends well, make sure to share your success with your supervisor.  Demonstrating success and the ability to take initiative and responsibility, you can begin to ask for more responsibilities and new tasks.

4. Create a reciprocal relationship based on trust and commitment.  The first step to establishing a good relationship is setting expectations.  Work with your supervisor to create a list of objectives (both yours and theirs).  Talk about what they expect from you and what you can expect from them.  Know what the organization expects from you as well so you can work toward meeting larger-scale objectives as well.  Learn from your supervisor’s experiences.  Sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves in the shoes of someone older, but it’s important.  Showing interest in your supervisor’s background and their story helps to establish trust and good communication.  Be open to learning from their experiences, their successes, and their failures.  Know their leadership style and yours.  This will help you to approach them in a way that plays to their strengths.

Utilizing these skills and strategies can help to create a positive mentoring relationship with your supervisor.  It can lead to a relationship that is built on trust and good communication.  You are also building your professional skills and taking on new tasks and responsibilities.  In a nonprofit world where many young professionals feel stuck or stagnant, managing up can help to refresh your experience and allow you to take on new experiences.

Posted in Generations in the Workplace, Millennials, Next Generation Leadership | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sign Up Now: Continuum of Engagement Bootcamp

By: Kristin Clements-Effner, MSW  Training Coordinator/Cofounder

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing our perspective of a “continuum of engagement”.  We believe that when organizations take down the silos and begin to interconnect all individuals that care about their mission, we build dynamic organizations that meaningfully engage the community in their operations.  This concept allows organizations to work smarter not harder in the long-term and will lead to truly embedding the community within our vision for Indianapolis and beyond.  The question of the day; however, is how do I create this continuum?  Here are some places to start:

1. Identify all of the key stakeholders that currently work with staff, volunteers, donors, and board of directors.

2.  Begin to assess your current community engagement practices, paying close attention to how the stakeholders connect to one another.  A key question is: How do we define supporter and how do our supporters connect to one another?

3. The key stakeholders that are charged with organizing the different supporter groups need to come together and begin to discuss opportunities to collaborate with one another and ideas for supporter connection.

4.  Create a plan that outlines tasks, timeframes, and people responsible.  Be sure to clearly state what your organizational objectives are regarding connecting supporters to make sure you can measure success.

These four steps are not the answer to creating a continuum, but will get you on your way to creating a continuum of engagement for your organization that makes sense.  It is a process and will take time to change imbedded ideas of how we engage community members because this is paradigm shift.

Catalyst X-Change is committed to helping organizations achieve this continuum, so we are holding a “Continuum of Engagement” Bootcamp at the End of Spring.  We would love for you to join us for our 5 part series that will ultimately lead to your organization more fully incorporating the community in your activities.  There are only 10 to 15 spots for nonprofit organizations, so if you are interested in this opportunity please email Kristin at

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This Meeting is Called to Order: Board Members as Organizational Supporters

Written by: Melissa Noyes, MSW

A Board of Directors is an integral part of any nonprofit organization.  The Board provides governance and support in all aspects of organizational operations.  Nonprofits tend to have an idea of what an ideal board member would be–their vocation, their connections, their community involvement, their level of support, etc.  We’ve found that larger organizations tend to gravitate toward individuals with strong connections and the ability to provide financial support, either through their personal donations or through their business contacts, and focus on the financial as the main area of engagement.

While financial support is a worthy (and necessary) part of board involvement and engagement, it’s important to look at engagement from many perspectives.  Many boards have members who are engaged financially, but may not be very engaged in other areas.  If we judge a board member just by their ability to contribute, we tend to miss out on other qualities that are crucial to the sustainability of an organization.  Engaging your board in all facets of the organization can bring about a stronger feeling of engagement.

Our challenge for boards is this–engage your members in all facets of the organization.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do they know what it’s like to volunteer?  If not, host an event where the board meets your volunteers or provide opportunities for board members to volunteer.  Volunteering provides an opportunity for a board member to connect more deeply with the mission of an organization.
  • Do they know what your staff members do on a daily basis?  It’s easy to overlook day-to-day operations when your main concern as a board member is overall governance.  Provide opportunities for board members to connect with staff either through events or one-on-one connections, possibly even shadowing a staff member for a day.
  • Are board members mentors?  If not, connecting board members with staff who are seeking mentors is a great opportunity to further engage your board.  It also makes the board seem less elusive to your staff.

The other side of the board member coin is recruitment.  Changing the way we approach recruitment can create a positive change in the level of engagement on a board.  Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does your board create a job description when there is a vacancy?  This is the easiest way to pinpoint exactly what the board is looking for.
  • Does the board include younger professionals/younger people?  Younger people may not be able to make the kind of personal contribution usually expected of a board member, but they often come with connections and the ability to engage those connections in your mission.  This means fundraising–just not in the way we normally think about it.  Young people can also bring fresh ideas and creativity to all aspects of board operation.
  • Does the board reach out to existing supporters when recruiting new members?  This can include existing volunteers and donors within the organization.  They are already engaged and may be looking to boost their level of involvement and gain leadership skills.

These are just a few ideas for increasing the level of engagement on your board.  A “continuum of engagement” will only work if board members are fully engaged as organizational supporters and are connected to other supporters.

How engaged is your organization’s board? Has your organization tried any of these ideas? What are other ways your board engages with your organization?

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Show Me The Money

By:Kristin Clements-Effner, MSW   Training Coordinator/Cofounder

We all know of that famous scene in Jerry McGuire where the main characters are screaming, “Show me the money!”  In an indirect way, nonprofits have been screaming this phrase since the beginning of time as we all know that money is needed to keep the doors open and help the community.  However, in our efforts to make ends meet organizations have become hyperfixated on how an individual can give them money (Checks of over $1000 only please) and in the process have let authentic engagement and relationship go by the wayside with donors. 

Today’s donors, especially younger individuals, want a relationship with an organization and desire being more than a check.  Donors want to know what their money is doing for your organization and how it impacts your mission, even if it was the $25 they had left over at the end of the month. 

Nonprofits should be thinking about long-term sustainability and building relationships with all donors, regardless of the size of the donation, to ensure they are creating supporters over the years.  As a relationship builds, donations will increase and their willingness to spread the word to friends and family about what making an investment with your organization means will increase the number of donors supporting your work.

How do you build this relationship?  Invite donors to special one day volunteering events where they get to see their money in action, provide hand written thank you notes and more personalized asks (This would not be your general mailer), treat all donors the same regardless of the contribution amount they were able to give.

The “continuum of engagement” involves moving past seeing donors as dollars and seeing them as people.  The continuum strives to intertwine donors into all levels of engagement within your programs, so they are not just a name on address label but a part of the fabric of your organization.

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