Stress management is extremely important for both physical and mental health. One of the biggest sources of stress is usually work related.

Work stress can be cause by many different things:

Being underpaid. It is hard to manage stress when you do not know how you will afford your next bill.

You are overwhelmed or have unclear duties. Too big a workload can be very stressful; as can inconsistent job descriptions. 

Feeling stuck. Maybe there is not much room to advance, or you have no say in your assigned projects. These can make you feel stuck and cause a lot of stress.

Conflict with coworkers. Having bad blood between yourself and your colleagues is a huge stress trigger. If you do not get along with the people you work with, it is next to impossible to keep working with them.

Struggling with perfectionism. Sometimes being a perfectionist only causes undue stress on your part. 

All of these are very valid stress triggers.

How can you avoid these and other causes? Below are several helpful ways to practice stress management at work. 

The first thing to know is how to recognize the ways your personality and past experiences affect your reactions to stress triggers. Take some time for self reflection, and take note of what situations trigger you the most and how you react to them. Make a journal for a few weeks to record this. Doing this will help you on your way to creating the right stress management plan for you.

Some basic stress management techniques to try at work are:

Take a deep breath.

This will give you a moment to cool off and collect yourself. Performing an action like this rather than knee jerk reacting to a situation is a much better response. Act instead of reacting. 

Organize your station and remove distractions.

Having a messy work space can be a big contributor to stress. Organize the clutter and get rid of anything that can cause unnecessary distractions. This will make it much easier to be successful and productive.

Prioritize and stick to a schedule.

Being scattered and not knowing when to do what can be very stressful. Keep a detailed calendar and notes on what you need to do, and when it should be completed. Be sure that you are getting enough rest and food to function at your peak. 

See the big picture.

When you focus on one specific thing for too long, it can make it seem much more complicated than it really is. Take a step back and look at it from an objective point of view. This makes it much easier to sort things to do into small steps and set realistic goals for yourself.

Get comfortable.

If there is anything that will make you more susceptible to stress, it is discomfort. Make sure you have a comfortable work environment. Ergonomic chairs and equipment are great additions to any job and will help you focus better whatever you do. It is important to listen to the signals your body sends you when it comes to stress management. If you are comfortable, you know that something else is causing that ache you are feeling. 

Ask for help if you need it.

Needing help does not make you a failure. You can be confident in your abilities, as well as ask for help when you need to. Everyone needs help sometimes, and it is always better to ask for it than to really fail trying to do it all yourself. Sometimes all you need is a pair of fresh eyes to show you something you may be missing.

Demonstrate healthy responses.

Rather than going home and eating a bunch of comfort food, consider doing a quick jog around the block. Exercise is a great release of stress, and is good for your physical health. Another healthy form of stress management is to learn proper communication skills. This will help you express any issues with your fellow coworkers and management.

Stress can create several physical and mental issues ranging from inconvenient to life threatening.

Practicing stress management can help you avoid these risks:

  • Stomach pain/nausea/heartburn
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping/fatigue 
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Headaches/brain damage
  • Acne
  • Irritability 
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of focus
  • Hair loss
  • Tooth grinding
  • Infertility

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of stress management. Don’t see your location? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

 

In order for a workplace to function efficiently, it is vital for its leadership to be strong and effective. An effective leader has several specific qualities that make them truly successful in how they run their team. So what are these traits?

Below, you will find seven traits of an effective leader, and why these traits create powerful leaders. 

Maturity. 

An effective leader knows how to process stress and frustration in a healthy way. They do not get flustered or lose their temper. A good leader has excellent communication skills and can properly express how their team can improve. There is a level of focus in an effective leader that helps them be able to quickly solve issues without any drama. 

Enthusiasm. 

A passionate leader is an effective leader. They must be passionate about the company they work for, and the overall goals set forth by it. A successful leader can push through longer days while motivating their team with natural charisma and energy. 

Self-Assurance. 

Effective leaders have indomitable confidence and are not discouraged by possible setbacks. They quickly recover from mistakes, take responsibility, and help their teams retain focus on the tasks at hand. Confidence without arrogance is a vital trait of an effective leader.

Integrity. 

The best leaders follow a firm code of ethics. They avoid taking shortcuts, and do not take part in shady business strategies/dealings. Leaders who have integrity will always speak directly, keep their promises, and demonstrate loyalty to their company as well as their team. They will always follow through with what they say they are going to do. 

Encouraging.

Positive reinforcement fosters a desire to succeed throughout any team. A leader who recognizes good work and gives out genuine praise will encourage their team to grow better and better. A team that feels unappreciated will stagnate; and the quality of work will decline. An effective leader motivates, empowers, and inspires their team to go above and beyond. 

Exemplary. 

The most successful leaders lead by example. They stand with their teams, rather than on top of them. A truly effective leader has the ability to understand each role their team members fulfill. In this way, they can show support and empathy through any work-related struggles their team may face. They will lead by example, and pull their weight rather than leaving their team to fend for themselves with no guidance. Knowing the ins and outs of the tasks at hand allows them to be able to create a successful team no matter their individual learning styles. 

Open. 

Respected leaders know the value of other perspectives. They can be approached with ideas and suggestions submitted by their team. Effective leaders always encourage their teams to find ways of becoming more efficient and successful. An unapproachable leader creates a tense and stilted work environment where team members do not feel valued—just frustrated. 

Now that you know the traits of an effective leader, you are capable of growing into one yourself. Always be considerate and thoughtful of your actions as a leader, and you will soon become the effective leader you have always wanted to be. 

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of being an effective leader. Don’t see your location? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

Employee focus groups are far more useful than you may realize. It can be difficult to consider the employees who work under you when you are so heavily involved with the responsibilities of running a business. However, it is imperative to keep these people more in mind. These are the people working hard to continue your success and the goals of your company.

What can you do to make sure their voices are heard? How do you know if you are doing your best as an employer? The answer is simple…

Employee focus groups. They only requires consistency and follow through.Then, you will soon have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your employees are happy working with and for you. 

What is an employee focus group?

An employee focus group is when employees of a business are brought together to discuss specific/critical issues.

An effective employee focus group is typically held after what is known as an employee survey. 

These are usually made up of a variety of questions that employees can answer anonymously. 

This allows upper management to gauge the overall morale, satisfaction, and chemistry of their teams.

Why should you have them?

The three main takeaways of holding regular employee focus groups are:

  1. Efficiency.  When everything can be freely discussed and out in the open, employees feel heard and like they matter. This facilitates efficiency because individuals will be able to focus on their jobs—rather than unresolved workplace issues. If employees are not allowed the freedom to express problems and ideas, it may cause a build up of frustration. Frustration leads to careless mistakes, tension, and a frequent turnover of new employees due to quitting and/or firing. Focused employees are efficient employees. 
  2. Engagement.  Studies have found that employees are twelve times more engaged when they feel validated through open discussion, and consistent resolution of work-related issues. Employee surveys and focus groups are useless if they are never followed up with. It is very important to create an environment of open communication and well-planned resolutions to critical issues. 
  3. Energy.  Morale is boosted when employees have been able to get their ideas and/or struggles off their chests. When a team has regularly scheduled employee focus groups, they know their workplace has an open door policy on expressing work-related issues. This allows them to relax and feel like they matter and are of value to the company they work for. When employees feel valued, their energy is going to be positively affected. This will also promote a stronger mentality of teamwork and togetherness between employees. 

Some other benefits of having regular employee focus groups are:

  • Brainstorming from the people who know the ins and outs of the company best.
  • The capacity to keep a long-term team is exponentially increased. 
  • Promoting from within is much easier since it is easy to gauge who has the best ideas and skills for certain tasks and positions.
  • It becomes much easier to identify and fix weaknesses within the structure of the business.

Now that you know why employee focus groups are so important, you need to know how to execute them properly.

How to hold a focus groups:

Employee surveys and subsequent focus groups should be held on a regular basis that suits the environment. This could be any time period from weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. You must decide based on the size and nature of your business what kind of timing works best for your team. 

When you do have these employee focus groups, it is important to host them with a member of upper management who:

  • Is not the direct manger of the team, but still knows them and is respected by them. This encourages the employees to feel comfortable speaking freely.
  • Has had training in running similar meetings, and knows how to do guided discussions. This will keep the conversation flowing in the most focused and productive way.
  • Can remain objective and professional through even interpersonal issues between team members... This will ensure the proper steps be taken to follow workplace regulations and avoid larger issues. 

Consistent communication and commitment to following through are the keys of successful employee focus groups. Armed with all this knowledge of how they can greatly improve your business. You will soon be able to build an all star team that works like a well oiled machine!

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of employee focus groups. Don’t see your location? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

Goal setting is important in all aspects of life, and especially in business. Goals create a direct channel of focus and productivity until completed within a certain time period. Goal setting for your business, as well as your employees, will be massively profitable for your overall success. 

How can you begin goal setting for your business?

The first step is to study your growth so far. Find out how quickly and by how much your business has grown each year, or month. The timing depends on how long your business has actually been generating profit. 

Now that you know the average pace of success, you can create a goal plan for expanding that growth and improving it. You will also have found any weak spots in the company’s infrastructure that you can create smaller goals to fix. 

While building your goals, be sure to take into account the abilities of your employees... Know their limitations as well as their strengths, so you can create a solid foundation to set your goals on. Setting attainable and reasonable goals ensures that your team—and your business—is set up for the maximum amount of success. 

Finally, having a set of short-term goals leading up to long-term goals is the best way to properly execute them. Going step by step will almost always be the smarter and more successful way to go. Having both will also create a very clear path to completion and growth.

Now the you know how to set goals, you need to know why they are so important. Having a “why” is part of the motivation to keep goal setting, succeeding, and repeating. There is no question that setting goals will greatly benefit your company and your employees. 

Below are several specific benefits to really show off just how helpful it really is: 

  • It focuses and channels the attention and productivity of your employees. Setting goals for your business will set your team on a clear path towards their own success within your company—and therefore yours overall. 
  • Having goals makes people figure out the most effective process to complete them. This will encourage your team to become more efficient, and will help all aspects of your business run much more smoothly. 
  • A smooth operation means a much better flow of profit. More money means more benefits for all. You can even use profit goals as incentives and bonuses for your employees to work towards. It is important that team members feel like they are succeeding and are rewarded for their efforts.

Goal setting is also a very good way to prepare for any issues that arise. 

  • Proper planning can show you all the different paths for your business, and how to prepare for all the outcomes. This will ensure that you have a contingency plan for any speed bumps and/or changes in direction.
  • Having a team with a common goal will improve communication exponentially. If everyone is out for the same thing, then they will all work together to achieve it. Your team will become experts at communicating with each other, and at creating the best processes for success.
  • When employees have the ability to communicate their goals well, they learn how to function as a more tightly knit team... This allows them to hold each other accountable, and to improve their productivity. Goals will cement your team together into an unstoppable force that will grow your business’ success.
  • Clear goals are a great way to build up sustained momentum for your business. If you are always moving forward no matter what, you will reach each and every goal you set. Completed goals equal growth and success at nearly any imaginable rate. 
  • An entire company’s worth of employees working towards the same goal will open up all kinds of perspectives. All these perspectives and ideas add up to creating the bigger picture of your business workings. This gives you a three hundred and sixty degree view of the growth and success of your company. 

It is clear there are endless ways that goal setting will make your business, and its employees, strong and successful. Be sure you take advantage of all these benefits and more as you build and grow your company. 

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of goal setting. Don’t see your location? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

Proper communication in the workplace is extremely important. It can prevent all kinds of misunderstandings, creates a happy work environment, and helps shape team individuals into a cohesive unit. 

Many people work long hours with the same people each day. This greatly increases the probability of communication breakdowns, and small misunderstandings creating rifts throughout the whole environment.

Below are steps you can take as a team to foster proper communication with each other at work. 

Politeness

The first step toward effective communication is politeness:

  • Greet your coworkers with a smile and a kind word each day. Starting work on a positive note will set the stage for a happy and productive day.
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you” when making requests or receiving help. This will make your teammates feel respected and appreciated. 
  • Listen when your coworkers speak to you. Be aware that hearing is not the same as really listening. You should be engaged in the conversation when speaking with any colleague.
  • Be respectful. Showing respect to your teammates will open the door to proper communication between all of you. 
  • Use constructive feedback rather than always being critical. People who feel like nothing they do is right, will lose motivation and get discouraged. This leads to frustrated teammates and possibly their quitting—leaving the rest of the team short handed. 
  • Pay attention to other’s needs. If you see a coworker struggling with something, do not just ignore them. Offer to help. Make sure not to be condescending when doing this. 
  • Avoid “water cooler gossip.” No one appreciates being talked about behind their back—especially about personal issues. Do not participate in rumors, and keep business told to you in confidence to yourself. A team who does not trust each other, can never function to the best of its ability. 

Being polite and respectful to each other paves the way for proper communication through larger issues. It will also facilitate smooth and united internal operations. 

Conflict Resolution 

Despite best efforts, problems can and will arise… So how can you use effective communication to resolve them? Here are five steps to take and solve workplace issues. 

  1. Calmly communicate the problem. Maybe a coworker missed a deadline, or made a rude comment… Big or small, addressing the problem as soon as possible in a respectful manner is the first step to resolution. 
  2. Present a common goal. Whether it is learning to get along for the benefit of the team, or trying to complete a project together—a common goal needs to be communicated.
  3. Acknowledge any hurdles that block you from the goal. It is important to be honest with each other about what could keep you from the goal. Whatever the issue is, it is important to get it out in the open. 
  4. Come up with a plan to get around the hurdles. Apologize and give each other clean slates if it is interpersonal; and if it is a professional problem, figure out the most efficient way to solve it. Maybe you need another team member, help from a supervisor, or a more specific thing… No matter what the case may be, working together to jump those hurdles will make the end result well worth it. 
  5. Agree on your responsibilities and a set completion plan. Delegate. Make an agreement on how to complete and resolve the issue. Do not back out of this once you have settled on it. It is important that you are both able to trust each other to carry out this commitment. 

Multicultural Workplaces

In cases of communicating properly in multicultural work environments, knowledge and sensitivity is key. It is easy to misunderstand attitude and language when teammates have differing cultural perspectives. Employees should be coached on proper communication techniques for all situation.

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of communication. Don’t see your location? Please contact us, and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

In modern society, people of differing cultures and backgrounds have the opportunity to work together like never before. Technology allows all people to connect and achieve all kinds of goals. However, even with all these open doors, misunderstandings can sometimes slip through. An intercultural team is capable of great things when properly managed. It is important to be aware of and acknowledge language, culture, and behavioral differences. Words, ideas, and actions can mean different things to other people.

When managing an intercultural team, it is important to have a plan, embrace differences, and learn to use the diversity as a tool of success. How can you do this?

Ways you can become an effective intercultural team manager:

Create ground rules and consistent procedures that will apply to the entire team.

Do this with your entire intercultural team present, allowing them each to communicate and contribute ideas on how to be the best team they can be. After establishing the norms for the team, check in periodically with everyone to be sure everything is working out properly. Make sure everyone is thriving and that they all feel comfortable voicing their opinions and issues if something is not working for them. 

Clarify roles and goals with your whole intercultural team.

Be sure everyone understands their own jobs, and who they need to consult for other jobs on the team. Break it down into a comprehensive list for everyone to keep so they will have a hard copy of who does what. Helping your team be able to work together easily creates cohesion and a team identity.

It is okay to “over”communicate.

When managing an intercultural team, you can never have too much communication. Always use clear and straightforward language, avoiding idioms or joking sarcasm. Reiterate your points as needed and check that everyone is on the same page. Be patient and kind with team members who may need extra clarification It is to everyone’s best interest that they feel comfortable asking for this. Which leads to:

Keep all necessary information and resources accessible to all members of your intercultural team.

Making things that are needed easily available to everyone will reduce your team’s chances of misunderstandings and mistakes. 

Use team building exercises to encourage your intercultural team to learn how best to work together.

This does not necessarily mean you have to set up a trust fall; you can use almost anything as a team building exercise… As long as you are encouraging them to communicate with each other and work together to resolve small problems. A great way to accomplish this is to have consistent meetings where everyone can see each other and work out any critical issues happening that day/week face to face. 

Promote flexibility, understanding, listening skills, and adaptability among your intercultural team members.

When everyone has the mindset of being open and relaxed, communication is much easier. This attitude will help your employees work together without detrimental friction getting in the way. 

Treat everyone as equals, but customize certain things for certain needs.

With an intercultural team, some members might not want to be in an “employee of the month” spotlight if they are not used to being praised in the workplace. It is important to pay attention to specific and individual preferences when managing this kind of group.

Educate yourself.

Learn the different cultures your team comes from so you can be aware of any possible points of contention between teammates. It is okay to just be aware of the possibilities without addressing them. Not everything applies to everyone from a certain background, so use good judgement and be prepared to step in if needed. 

In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of intercultural teams. Don’t see your location? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

“When did this get so hard?” Ray wonders after a long day of meetings with his team in the US and in phone conferences with his international group. By contrast, he remembers his time as an expatriate a few years prior much more fondly. While working abroad in Brazil, he came to pride himself about his skills at “just picking up” insights on how to work well with his colleagues, suppliers, and clients in this Latin American country. This very capacity got him promoted to his current multi-regional role with contacts not only in Brazil but also in China and a number of European countries. Pondering events in recent weeks, he notices that one of the sources of frustration with his team members is that, unlike him, they have not “naturally” picked up cues about the needs and style differences of their partners from other cultures. Instead, they have settled into blaming performance shortfalls on “difficult foreign” team members. This has to stop, for his own sanity, and for the productivity and health of the team, he resolves.
With this decision made, Ray may be fortunate to have a well-informed international HR function at hand to guide them on how to bring relevant learning tools to his team. Or is in the same boat as many managers and may now not know where to turn and what to look for. So, how could he start?

Are online formats the answer to everything?

Webinars and brief online workshops can be an excellent choice to bring the attention of team members to cultural factors impacting professional behaviors – and to the insight that professionalism is viewed and “done” differently around the world. A compact introduction on Global Intelligence or Communication for High-Performance Internationally can provide first set of ideas for action. Country-specific virtual workshops, for example on Working with Germans, Working with US Americans, or Working with Chinese, contain valuable “food for thought” on specific cultures. Once the “cultural logic” driving an unexpected behavior becomes intelligible, confusion and frustration can begin to recede. The flexibility of delivery in time and place as well as their moderate costs add to the attractiveness of online options.

“They just put it on mute”

For any form of workplace learning, a key challenge is its competition for time and attention with on-going work tasks. Disengaging with an online learning experience is particularly easy – for example, by answering emails while “skim-watching” a session on mute. This pattern of passive and selective attention inhibits fuller learning (with heart and mind), and tends to block out new or challenging ideas, thereby significantly reducing the value which could be derived from a session. Yet, even with these potential issues in mind, an online format may be the only practical option at the time.

Full engagement and “hot” issues

For fully engaging learners, in-person formats can deliver the bigger punch: A customized session can win the audience by focusing closely on the specific questions and “burning” challenges of the learners. Interactive and experiential learning design actively involves learners into a multi-dimensional learning process of heart-mind-and hand (action). Group interaction furthers social learning and peers contribute expanded perspectives. Moreover, a skilled facilitator provides a setting in which some of the more emotionally challenging aspects of human communication can be worked through safely. This is especially important when misunderstandings have already left residues of hurt, anger, distrust or alienation. It is also very relevant when specific solutions need to be “workshopped”.

Smart mix

Ray now gets to review his team situation, weighing performance issues, as well as cost-benefit trade-offs between the different format options. He concludes that he will learn about learning, enrolling himself and select team members into one online offering and a one-day in-person session. With this experience in hand, he feels, that he can make further decisions that will benefit his team. Check out our open enrollment portfolio of webinars, virtual workshops and one-day trainings for a quick jump-start into learning! Of course, we are always happy to talk to you about customized and in-person options, and when these may be the smart choice.

Mary, a highly accomplished engineer and self-made business owner in the US, has received yet another disrespectful email from her young engineers in Poland. She angrily thinks to herself, “I am the owner of this business and they are just driving me mad. Why do they challenge everything?” Mary has confidence that comes from her professional journey as an immigrant to the US with Central American roots. She knows how to assert herself, build credibility, and influence people in a new context. Despite her usual cool, she is baffled by these engineers. Mary’s challenge is unique for her but not unusual in global businesses. People from different cultures work and communicate differently. These differences can create misunderstandings, frustration, friction, lowering of morale, and loss of productivity. What can prepare engineers, managers, or business leaders for the cultural surprises inherent in international projects? What can they do to be ready for the challenges of global leadership?

The Challenges of International Leadership

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, leaders can systematically enhance their capacity to meet the challenges of international leadership. Most leaders have risen to their positions through expertise in a certain field (engineering, finance, sales, etc.), a strong work ethic, and assertiveness. These same traits, however, are often not sufficient, and sometimes they are even counterproductive, to leading across multiple countries which have different cultures, business behaviors, and workplace norms.

Step One: Understanding

The first step is to understand that what got you “here” in the US, will not get you “there” in your international career. This requires a willingness to explore success factors in global leadership that differ from successful traits that are typical for the US.

Step Two: Assessment

An excellent starting point to explore success factors in global leadership is to take an individual assessment on global management competencies. Not only will the results of such an assessment highlight strengths and blind spots, but it also will provide a tangible framework with which to describe what global leadership “is” and how to “do” more of it, and do it well. This could be a good start for Mary too.

Step Three: A Systematic, Longer-Term Approach

Of course, it is very good practice for organizations to take a systematic, longer-term approach to developing global leaders. An integrated approach connecting talent spotting, relevant global leadership development programs, and full alignment of global competency development with performance evaluation and promotion systems is ideal. And getting to this level of organizational practice does not happen overnight.

What the Research Has Shown

Research* has shown time and again that global leaders do not become accomplished in their roles just by “taking a class.” Training can play a useful role – but is frequently inefficient by itself (estimates suggest that only 10% of training expenditure transfer to performance on the job).** For higher performance, developing leaders need to be exposed to a range of feedback and support sources, increasingly more demanding real-life challenges, and opportunities to reflect and “make sense” of their experiences.

Solving Mary’s Dilemma Long Term

Meanwhile, for Mary, managing her team of engineers continues to be messy. Like Mary, many leaders find themselves confronted with challenges which need to be addressed “now” and “just-in-time” options are needed. There are two sides to this situation: Mary, in her role as a global leader, can benefit greatly from global executive coaching. This source of skilled individual support can lead to insights on how the Polish behavior is influenced by both cultural and generational factors in Poland. Mary can also gain a fuller insight into the role her own cultural and communication styles play in the overall dynamics. This opens doors to using a broader, more adaptive set of influencing strategies. In her coaching process, she will likely also discover that her young team in Poland actually needs support in strengthening their culture-crossing team-communication skills. This is the second side of the situation. Support can be provided through a tailored intercultural training on US-Polish interactions in Poland. Both sides can begin to move forward with a higher level of global competence.

Mary is now in a very good position to truly align the team by stepping back to re-set ground rules for the team and its members working with her so that they can fully perform as the smart engineering power-pack that they are.

Looking for global leadership development for your team? Contact us to discuss your goals.

*Osland, Bird, Oddu et.al. (2012), Global Leadership: Research, Practice and Development, 2nd ed., New York, NY: Routledge ** e.g. Grossman and Salas (2011), The transfer of training: what really matters, in: International Journal of Training and Development, vol. 15 (2), pp. 103-120

Local consulting firm, ti communication (tic) provided pro-bono Organizational Development (OD) consulting services to the Farmers Market Fund  (FMF), a Portland-area non-profit organization through the OD Network Community Consulting Project (CCP). The unlikely partnership between an international consulting firm and a local farmer’s market resulted in a re-energizing of the board of directors and the identification of new sources of funding.

Client Background

For a number of years, FMF has been highly impactful in expanding access to local, farm-fresh food to economically disadvantaged populations in rural and urban Oregon with the Double Up Food Bucks program. Qualitative and quantitative data provide strong evidence that families, regional farmers, and farmers markets have all benefited from their efforts.

The Challenge

After losing a major grant due to federal policy changes, the leadership team at the Farmers Market Fund faced charting a course for an altered future for the organization. Going forward, FMF looked for ways to continue with this kind of program but did not want to be highly dependent on one big grant again. Questions were also asked about how to grow resiliently as opportunities arise to do so.

FMF leaders reached out for organization development resources through the OD network community consulting project (CCP) for guidance. The CEO of tic USA, Sabine Amend joined the CCP consulting team to assist with developing future directions and strategy for the Farmers Market Fund.

Our Approach

tic USA CEO, Sabine Amend, leads an organization that is international in its scope of clients and global in its mindset. Doesn’t it make more sense to stay focused on the big picture realm then? Amend does not see it that way. She points out, “Real quality of life happens locally with the fabric of our daily experiences within our close-range communities. And healthy communities are forged through bonds of shared responsibility, care, and communication. That does not change just because I spent last night in a video conference with clients on two other continents.” Rather than leading to detachment, her broad global experiences have convinced her that engaged local communities are vitally important and contribute mental health benefits, social trust, and democratic process skills.

The Solution

In the FMF project, after clarifying the needs of the client further, ti communication conducted detailed interviews and surveys with key stakeholders of the organization, including its board members and important donors. This provided the foundation for the design and facilitation of a one-day, off-site board-strategy workshop. During this workshop, board members explored the future through a combination of scenarios, role-plays, and skills-practices. Maybe most importantly, they engaged in the type of in-depth conversations which rarely occur during the agenda-packed board meetings. After delineating actions, board members left the session hopeful and energized. The consultant team followed up with a report and recommendations as well as with a closing session at a board meeting.

The Results

Since then, FMF staff and board members have taken several steps to implement the ideas generated in the board workshop; they are taking action based on the suggestions in the consultants’ report. FMF is also well on its way towards accessing significant new sources of funding. Congratulations to the board and staff of FMF! And thank you for your on-going work in our communities.

About ti communication, USA

Organization development services for businesses and non-profit organizations, locally and internationally, are part of the tic portfolio. Contact us if you think we can be of service.  If you are a Portland-area non-profit organization with limited resources, consider becoming an ODN CCP client. Detailed information is listed at www.odnoregon.org/community-consulting-project . If you feel inspired by the work of the Farmers Market Fund, please consider making a donation.