Monday, April 28, 2008

Personality and Professionalism

This is a slight turn in the direction of my usual blogs but I thought it was an interesting topic to discuss. I’m hoping for my first comments, so speak up!

Have you ever taken a personality test like Myers-Briggs? If you haven’t, I highly suggest finding an on-line version. Try this site While these tests are not a firm definition of who you are, they can be interesting especially when thinking about it in terms of your professional life.

So, is your curiosity building? Would you like to know my own Myers-Briggs results? Well, here you go. ISFJ: Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. Basically this means, I’m a fairly quiet person, who likes having a small group of friends. I am responsible, conscientious, painstaking, loyal, and work very hard to have an orderly and harmonious environment at home and work.

I have often thought about these traits and how they impact my professional career. My transition to consultancy has shown me just how well-acquainted my personality is for this profession. Because I thrive in an organized environment, what better place to work than my own home? My attention to detail and conscientiousness works well with keeping track of my own projects and basically working on my own most days.

On the flip-side, there are aspects of my personality that challenge me (sometimes on a daily basis) in my professional life. Being an introvert requires me to push myself in large groups and networking situations. Additionally, grant writing is often like putting a puzzle together and my trait of “feeling” is more concerned with the person or circumstances than uncovering the logic. Now while this trait helps me with telling the story and appealing to emotions, there are times when I struggle with exerting analytical and logic skills. So, I have to push myself in this area, reminding myself to act and think more like my husband!

My encouragement for the day is to take the test or dig up your results if it has been a while. Then think about how these personality traits impact your professional life and how you may be challenged in some areas or motivated by others. Work with confidence in who you are!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I have realized that being a consultant (particularly the kind that works from their home) requires a strong sense of individuality and the ability to function independently. My personality has always been conducive to working or spending time on my own, but this new profession has required me to stretch those boundaries. Sure, I have accountability and human interaction, but my days are basically my own to form. For a writer, this is a dream world.

Reflecting on this new-found independence, I am also recognizing the importance for consultants to capitalize on their unique traits and especially, their independence. We function in a unique manner. We can accomplish a great deal in a coffee shop and are not bound by the constraints of the corporate world. If a deadline needs to be met, we meet it. We plug in the iPod, sit in our solitary world and get down to business. This freedom allows us to work in just about any location at any time of day (provided we have Internet access.) Our flexible nature is a true selling point. As I continue adjusting to this style of working, the more I will value it and thrive in it.

So, we are independent, flexible and willing to work strange hours at even stranger locations, if needed. But we are also a good team. Remember: no man is an island. While I have come to enjoy my new found freedom and independence, I rely on the support of my co-workers to remain sharp. Forming relationships with other consultants can also serve as a great support and networking tool.

I think my biggest piece of advice for the week is to make the most of the time you have to work independently but never under-estimate the importance of the people put in place to support you. And… go ahead and spy on your neighbors if you are working from home, I won’t judge you. We all need a little free entertainment, right?!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

10-Year Reunion

The process of PR is a new one for me. I have never worked for a company that chose to have my picture taken, write my bio and hire a PR professional to advertise me across the city. I must admit, it is a nice feeling. Little did I know the impact the press release would have in only a matter of days.

I received a message from my high school principal, stating that he received my press release and would like to speak with me. After returning the call, we arranged a day to meet at my high school. Even though I drive past my high school on a regular basis, there is a definite nostalgic feeling about setting foot on those grounds and meeting with the principal. Fortunately for me, I was not a “trouble-maker” in school, so this was an easy reunion.

After forty years of serving as high school principal, this great man is now acting as Director of Alumni Relations. So, it was fitting we should reconnect in this manner. Our meeting also included the Director of Institutional Advancement, who expressed a need for the school to pursue additional funding through grant proposals.

Before I knew it I was selling the wonderful resources of Parmelee Consulting to my high school. I am a little surprised by my own new sales skills. When you truly believe in the product and couple those beliefs with a desire to help an organization achieve their goals, the selling part can be pretty easy. This also is a new phenomenon for me. (Although my dad might say he always knew I could “sell”, coming from the salesman himself.) And I plan on continuing these efforts of connecting a need with an appropriate service and connecting people with people. I am learning that the process of consultancy is more relational than I realized. This works well for me.

Finally, being the willing soul I am, I agreed to plan my class’ 10-year reunion in 2009! Come on, who argues with the principal? I figure I’m either a glutton for punishment or truly willing to help people connect.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From Past to Present

My experience in the non-profit world could be described as working in the trenches of social services. These were years I highly regard, as I feel it best prepared me to do the work I’m doing today. And as I transition to a new career and a new way of life, I remember those experiences and use them to the best of my abilities.

Finding your niche in any place of employment is incredibly important. I’m just fine with being the social worker turned consultant. The abilities I can provide are unique. During a recent interview with a non-profit client my educational and professional background was greatly appreciated, I consider this progress. The Executive Director, who also has a Master of Social Work degree, appeared pleased and relaxed by our similarities. By having the chance to explain my non-profit background, I believe I gained more credibility as the “new consultant”. I am now a consultant who can truly relate to the direct service providers.

Instead of moving away from my past professional experiences, I am combining my past and my present. I believe this combination will help me better serve our non-profit clients. For example, my ability to “tell your story and fund your mission” comes from a very hands-on opinion. I understand the challenges the clients and the staff face in social services. Because I understand these challenges, I consider it a responsibility to first-handedly describe the need.

Networking and selling has never been one of my strengths or even my desires. But now I’m finding myself moving through those opportunities with more ease and assurance. I credit this to my confidence in Parmelee and finally combining my education and experience.

While my consultant skills continue to be honed, I will always rely on my social service background to guide my processes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Consultant’s First Year: The Blog

Note: This blog has been transformed into a platform for journaling one previous nonprofit practitioner's journey into the world of consulting. In January 2008, Parmelee Consulting Group, Inc. welcomed our newest team member, Heidi Kelly. We have asked her to chronicle her first year in this blog. We are confident we will all learn something from her experiences!

Welcome to my first blog entry, my first blog experience, and the beginning of my journey as a consultant. Then the true journey will begin – I hope you will join me. I promise it will be a mixture of entertainment, insight, education, motivation, and maybe we’ll all form some connections along the way.

I am the newest member of Parmelee Consulting Group, Inc. Ah, I hear the “guinea pig” comments beginning already. But actually I welcome the challenge and the assignment. Writing grant proposals is a highly stylized form of writing, but this blog will give me the opportunity to “free flow” a bit (within reason). It will also allow me the opportunity to share my experience of transitioning from direct practice in non-profits to consultancy. And believe me, the first four weeks on the job have already been a true learning and growing experience, which I highly value.

In the film Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character told his young pupil, to write well you must write the first draft with your heart and the second draft with your head. “The first key to writing is to write, not to think”, he stated. Oddly enough, I saw this movie the week I started working at Parmelee. Full-time writing requires fierce determination – to simply write. My first hurdle in switching to the “consultancy world” and writing full-time, is finding that balance between head and heart, now from the position of the consultant and not the practitioner. While I have written grant proposals for the non-profits I’ve previously worked for, sitting on the other side of the table gives the process a brand new meaning.

In my second week, I observed a program audit for a local social service agency. As the individual interviews were performed, I reminded myself of the unique situation I am now in. I have been on both sides of the interview – answering the questions in my previous position, and now, sharing the responsibility of asking the questions. I felt a bond with the clients. I understood their anxiety and desire to clearly answer the questions.

As the consultant, I learned the importance of clearly stating the goals or purpose of the interview, in order to lessen any anxiety and encourage confidentiality. I also recognized the importance of closely listening to an individual’s response to their question, as it might lead you to ask other questions. I was encouraged by the similarities this process of asking questions and actively listening shared with my previous role of counseling.

Now, if I pay close attention to this experience and others that will surely occur in the future, I will learn my own unique art of consultancy - to balance experience from “both worlds” and combine them for a profitable end result.

I want to grow as a writer and a professional consultant. I want to write with the right combination of head and heart. I want to remember my experiences in the non-profit world in order to apply them to my future as a consultant. So, stay tuned… each Monday a new blog will be posted. Follow along the journey with me – maybe we’ll all learn something!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Is That a Conflict of Interest?

In a recent meeting with a potential client, the question came up, as it often does, about conflict of interest. "Now, you wouldn't work with (fill in the blank) while you were working with us, would you?"

For the sake of discussion, let's assume the agency in question is a domestic violence shelter. So, would it be a conflict of interest if Parmelee Consulting Group, Inc. wrote grants for two domestic violence shelters at the same time?

We say no.

Why? Because we are not the programs, we simply write about them. Our expertise provides the same opportunity to each nonprofit to tell their story in a clear, concise and compelling manner. The variable in that formula is always the programs themselves (or the organization itself).

We don't promise to raise money. We promise to tell the best story possible about your organization or program--given the information available. So, you want to be competitive and successful in the grant seeking process? Keep good records about who you serve, when, how often, what the outcomes are and who else funds it. The more accurate, up to date and organized your information is, the stronger proposal we can produce.

Let's take domestic violence provider A and provider B. We write for both, we allocate the same amount of time for both and they are both applying to the same funder. Provider A gives us a clear outline of the program goals and objectives. They have demographic information on the clients served and detailed information on outcomes. They have an existing relationship with the funder and a member of their board is friends with someone on the foundation's board.

Provider B lack demographic information on clients served. They once wrote goals and objectives for the program, but they have since been retired to a binder on the shelf. Now, the program just floats along meeting client needs as they come up. They have never approached this funder and their organization is not well-known in the community.

We tell the story for both. But as you can see, there are many factors in each scenario that are clearly outside of our control. Sure, in the long run we can help Provider B successfully address many of those issues and make their future proposals far more competitive, but this proposal is due in two weeks!

Each agency is different. You are only as good as you are, and we can just help make you better--but not something different.

One last thing to keep in mind, if you are working with a consultant and concerned about conflicts one of two things may be going on. First, you may find that you would truly be more comfortable having someone inside of your organization oversee the project (as most of us work with more than one client at a time).

Second, you may need a new consultant. Consultants should not be sharing information about other clients. While I wouldn't encourage operating in a cloak of secrecy, I will say that the last thing your consultant should be discussing with you is his or her other clients!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Could you use an extra staff person...or two...or your organization?

The AmeriCorps state grant is open! An article in a recent newsletter published by Indiana's Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives describes the program as this:

"AmeriCorp grants are generally awarded to eligible organizations to recruit, train and manage AmeriCorp members who address unmet community needs. AmeriCorp members are individuals who engage in community service. Members may receive a living allowance during their term of service. Upon successful completion of their service members receive an education aware from the National Service Trust."

One of our clients was recently notified they would benefit from the support of three AmeriCorp members over the next year. Using the talents that each AmeriCorp member brings to the table, the organization has expanded its plans for 2007-08, including increased fund raising efforts!

For more information about how your organization could benefit from the efforts of an AmeriCorp member, contact:

Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
Indiana Government Center South
302 West Washington Street, Rm. E012
Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: 317-232-2503
F: 317-233-5660