Training & Development

Why Read About Reading?

Because it’s good for your health.

That’s the key message in Read ‘Em & Reap: 6 Science-Backed Ways Reading Puts You on the Road to Achieving More and Living Longer by Tom Collins. [Disclaimer: I was fortunate to review an early draft of the book.]

Collins draws on research from neurology, psychology, cognition, education, and other fields of science to affirm reading’s benefits that positively impact both physical and mental health. Chapter titles include:

    • Reading Reduces Stress
    • Helps You Sleep
    • Improves Your Decision-Making Capacity
    • Makes You a Better Leader

A quick and enjoyable read, this powerful little book offers insight on “deep reading” to find answers and/or explore problems to generate meaning. Its readers will also find an interesting discussion in the print vs. digital debate.

Why I recommend Read ‘Em & Reap

If you’re a hesitant reader, you’ll get the encouragement you need to read more with help on how to develop a proactive reading plan.

If you’re an avid reader, you’ll appreciate the book’s “tips on adding more reading to your life.”

I enjoyed this book because it affirms the benefits of reading on so many levels. I read nonfiction for work to learn more, and I read fiction for pleasure to escape. Now I’m encouraged to go beyond reading just for work and play. Read ‘Em & Reap was the jump-start I needed to expand my reading even more.


Engagement Musings

Not So Different – Helping Children Understand

He’s a writer of a popular blog, a book author, and sports freak.

He’s cofounder of a growing nonprofit that helps others live better.

He’s an in-demand speaker for audiences that range from elementary schools to universities to pharmaceutical companies.

He loves to travel with his girlfriend and his family.

He’s Shane Burcaw, and his new children’s book about what it’s like living with a disability was just released. 

This book is so Shane

Based on the questions he’s typically asked (Why is your head so much bigger than the rest of your body? …  How do you play with your friends? … Do people ever make fun of you?), Shane explains how he lives with spinal muscular atrophy. He describes why and how he relies on his family and friends to help him get dressed, shower, eat, and go to the bathroom — written in his inimitable style — with humor, directness, and a positive attitude.

Shane advocates the “power of positivity” in his writing and his nonprofit, Laughing At My Nightmare, to help others better cope with stress and adversity. Shane wrote his new book to help children understand that people who look different aren’t so different after all.

So many of the social stigmas that people with disabilities face could be squashed if we were able to instill in young people the idea that we are all different; we have different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, and that’s not just okay, it’s beautiful.” 

I highly recommend Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability and have already bought several copies: one for my personal library and the others to share.

It’s a great gift idea for children, schools, and libraries.

Engagement Training & Development

“Hoping to Help” – Lessons in Global Health Volunteering

Whether providing relief after a natural disaster or rendering humanitarian aid to countries in need, we’re familiar with the importance of international medical missions. The inspirational stories told by returning volunteers describe the desperate and challenging needs of the people served and their deep gratitude in receiving medical aid. The volunteers, themselves, are forever changed as a result of their experiences.

Presumably everyone involved benefits from such missions – the countries in need and the volunteers. But to what extent? Beyond the obvious good-will, what’s really happening in these situations and what can we learn from them?

In her new book, Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering, Judith N. Lasker, N.E.H. Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University, explores the benefits and costs of such missions. She studied the impact of short-term (two weeks or less) medical missions through interviews and surveys with three key groups: the sponsoring organizations (religious, educational, non-faith based NGOs, and corporations); the people who volunteer (medical and non-medical); and the host communities. Lasker’s research covered the following:

  • the level of cultural training given to volunteers prior to their trip, ranging from thorough to insufficient background information on the host country’s situation and culture
  • how volunteer resources were deployed
  • the true costs involved, including travel, logistics, medical supplies and equipment etc., and their effects on donors, volunteers, and recipients
  • cultural sensitivity and the resulting impact on volunteers and host countries
  • needs assessments, program measurement, and outcome evaluations
  • capacity-building and the sustainability of such missions.

Was it good for you, too?
The importance of “mutuality,” in which all parties mutually benefit, is a major theme throughout the book. According to Lasker:

“Achieving mutuality is one of the many challenges sponsoring organizations must try to address. Host-community members want more than helpful visitors with skills and resources, although these are valuable and greatly appreciated. They want to be involved in the work programs undertaken by volunteer organizations, and they want to be respected. They want a relationship of equality in which each partner learns from and benefits from the other. … an ongoing relationship of respect, collaboration, and exchange, if not with individual volunteers, at least with the representatives of the [sponsoring] organizations.”

She also explored the elements of cultural sensitivity and understanding, respect, and empathy by volunteers and the sponsoring organizations participating in international missions. Lasker found that:

“to treat the volunteer’s experience or the organization’s reputation or religious priorities as on a par with, or even more important than, the benefits to hosts is to exploit poor communities for the benefit of people from wealthier countries.”

Lessons for other nonprofits
While “Hoping to Help” addresses global health volunteering, many of its recommended practices are applicable to other health and social services nonprofits:

  • Foster mutuality among ALL parties involved, including those who benefit from the mission and those who help support the mission (e.g., volunteers, employees, donors, etc.).
  • Conduct needs assessments with and among those benefiting from the services offered.
  • Strengthen volunteer training and preparation.
  • Maintain continuity of programming/services, as needed.
  • Evaluate process and outcomes, incorporating the results into continuous improvement.
  • Build capacity for the long term.

Sensitivity and empathy are also important for volunteers and nonprofit organizations. Lasker reinforces this by citing the following:

“Without the wisdom of humility, altruistic behavior can lead to self-delusion, compassion can become an obsession, and both may generate a damaging sense of hubris.”  Dr. Jack Coulehan, emeritus professor, Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University.

A valuable reminder for everyone helping anyone.


Employee Turnover Revisited

The economy has changed significantly since the 2008 publication of Leigh Branham’s book, The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Enough so that Branham wrote a second edition of his book based on new data collected from employee exit surveys.

Branham states upfront that the reasons given by employees for leaving their jobs are “fundamentally the same.” What has changed are the implications from the data. For example:

  • Employees are “five times more likely to leave a job because of an internal issue than in response to an outside opportunity …”
  • Since employees don’t just leave for better opportunities (although that’s what they’ll tell the company because it’s easier), most employee turnover is avoidable and potentially preventable.
  • Employees may leave their immediate managers, but they also cite lack of trust in senior leaders as a key reason for disengaging.

Dissatisfaction with pay is cause for some turnover, but more as an emotional issue related to salary fairness than with the actual amount of the salary itself. Branham explains that employees “are bothered by inequity – knowing that they make less than others who are no more qualified, or even less qualified than they are. They feel the injustice of getting the same pay raises as those who have contributed far less to the organization than they have … It all adds up to feeling  ‘less than.’”

If you care about employee retention

This book will help you better understand why employees leave and what you can do about it. Branham shows how to recognize the warning signs that employees are getting ready to exit and shares examples of what employer-of-choice organizations do to minimize turnover. Given employees share responsibility for their own engagement, he also offers suggestions employees can consider before they leave as a last resort.

The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave provides research-based evidence that:

“Most of the reasons employees disengage and leave are consistent, predictable, and avoidable, if the employers have the desire to retain and are willing to invest the time to take preventive or corrective actions.” – Leigh Branham

I strongly recommend Branham’s updated book for managers and business owners who need to address employee retention for a better bottom line.

Engagement Marketing

What They’re Saying About “Share of Mind, Share of Heart”

I’m thrilled with the positive response to my new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits.

I’m honored to share these more detailed book reviews by Ivana Taylor, Small Business Trends, and Wayne Hurlbert, Blog Business World.

Here are several recent reviews that I’m also honored to share.

“With a great passion for (and deep expertise in) nonprofit marketing, Sybil Stershic has written an immensely practical, valuable book. “Share of Mind, Share of Heart” clearly explicates both marketing fundamentals and more sophisticated concepts for nonprofit marketing professionals in plain, easy-to-understand language, with concrete examples.

“Unlike many academic texts on nonprofit marketing, this book is peppered with questions designed to get you thinking tangibly and immediately about how the concepts discussed can be applied directly to the day-to-day business of your organization. I found her insights into internal marketing tools of engagement to be particularly apt and important. Too often in leanly staffed, undercapitalized nonprofits where staff is pressed for time, we overlook this crucial area. Morale and profits suffer as a result, with organizations sometimes seeming disconnected and disengaged from their customers, volunteers, and (in some cases) overall mission.

“‘Share of Mind, Share of Heart’ is a book that should be on the shelf of every nonprofit marketer, both novices and veterans.” Andrew Edmonson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Houston Ballet

“Like the author, I have served on a variety of non-profit boards and counseled them about marketing. I’ve found that the whole idea of marketing is intimidating to many non-profits. They often believe marketing is too complicated for them and requires a commitment of resources (both human and monetary) beyond their capability. This insightful book dispels these fears as myths. Marketing is presented here as it truly ought to be: a simple, people-based idea about creating and communicating value. Each chapter provides an understandable exercise that will cause the reader to pause and reflect upon how to bring the marketing concept to life in any non-profit.”     Frank Haas, Dean of Hospitality, Business and Legal Education, Kapiolani Community College

“Every now and then, you find a book that contains more than a powerful message—it houses a poignant experience. Share of Mind, Share of Heart is an experiential wisdom-sharing tome written for organizations that benefit us all. Full of practical how to’s and laced in the language and philosophy of non-profits, it will open eyes, enhance skills, and enrich outreach.” Chip R. Bell, noted author and consultant, The Chip Bell Group

Special thanks to Andrew, Frank, Chip, Ivana, and Wayne for taking the time to review and share their thoughts on my book!