Friday, March 14, 2008

The Committee Members' Hat Trick

Every time I think I know a thing or two about volunteerism in the Jewish community, I talk to someone who knows at least three or more things that I never could have articulated as beautifully.

Yesterday, I sat down with my dynamic, discerning and damn smart shul President, Liz Kislik. While our primary objective was to brainstorm ideas for increasing synagogue membership, we covered various topics, as two professional consultants moonlighting as Jewish communal lay leaders/mothers/wives, etc. are inclined to do.

There were many moments of genius from Liz -- and here is just one that I am feeling selfless about sharing:

Liz's Three (but not only) Criteria for Committee Members

1) A positive attitude and a general sense of optimism

2) The ability to make intelligent and logical arguments

3) At least one other person should be willing to work with them!

Why do I love these? Because somewhere, between strict checklists of criteria and simple prayer for participation among the breathing, we just know at a gut level that Liz's criteria are what we are really looking for.

How else do I know these hold holy water? Because if you think about your committees that are not working, chances are you've got folks on them that are violating between 1 and 3 of these criteria. your President as smart as mine?


Monday, March 10, 2008

Get Off Your But!

Ask anyone who does improv about their first class, and chances are, they'll tell you they learned to play "Yes, And..."

"Yes, And..." is a classic exercise that sets up a fundamental condition for improvisers to collaborate together on stage: agreeing to move the agenda or scene forward.

So for example, if I start a scene with, "Did you hear about the tornado coming our way?" the next player might say, "Yeah, and it's supposed to wipe out all of our power for a month!" It takes the premise I set up -- and moves it ahead.

It's the opposite of "Yes, But" which denies the "reality" that one player has established:

"Did you hear about the tornado coming our way?"
"Yeah, but it's not a big deal."

See how that kind of sucks the wind out of everything? (Pun intended, I guess.) Where do we go from there?

Try these on for size:

"I love you, but..."
"You're doing good work, but..."
"I'd like to give you a raise, but..."

Hmmm...warm fuzzies, anyone?

This week at work: Try to count how many "buts" you use that discount, block or deny progress. See where you can use "and" to gain agreement and commitment, and add to someone's idea.

Will it make a difference? Yes, AND... (you can fill that one in for me after you try it!)


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Professionals and Lay Leaders: Together Again

Every time I get a call to do a training session on "Lay Pro Relations" this is what happens:

1) I get excited because I love the topic
2) I ask the organizer of the event to please change the title of the session

Why? Because I think Lay Pro Relations already implies that there's something wrong, something that needs fixing, something that's inherently tough. It kind of sounds like "Marriage Counseling" -- which I am sure can and should be used to strengthen good marriages, but it just sounds...problematic.

While on my website, I use the header "Lay Pro Relations" so that people can find it using their language, I call the session "Lay Pro Partnerships". Partnership implies something collaborative, healthy and constructive, don't you think? And that's what I teach -- how to make the volunteer and professional partnership one of communicated expectations, role clarity, shared vision, attention to how the relationship is working, understanding and appreciating differences, collaboration, recognition, etc. Not hand to hand combat. Not geared up for battle. And not assuming guilt until innocence is proven.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's My Birthday!

As a Jew, I observe Rosh Hashanah as a chance to set goals for the New Year.
As an American, I observe January 1st as a chance to set goals for the New Year.
As a coach, I observe every day as a chance to set goals for a New Year.

Of course, today is my birthday, and it's another terrific opportunity.

When I work with my clients on behavioral change, we usually break it down into three categories:


Here's mine for my "Double Chai"* birthday:

Start: Writing thank you notes more consistently
Stop: Hoarding my frequent flier miles -- and USE them
Continue: Not taking phone calls or checking emails when my kids come home from school

What would you like to START, STOP and CONTINUE?


*Thanks to Debbi Roshfeld from UJC's Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence for framing my 36th birthday so Jewishly and beautifully!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eat, Eat! A Lesson on Networking

"More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject." Peter Drucker

Lunch? Dinner? Who has the time?

Well, the Jewish mother in me says, "You gotta eat!" The organizational coach in me says, "If you're gonna eat, you might as well eat strategically!" No, strategic eating doesn't mean making sure that your meal has vegetables, protein and carbs (but don't tell that to my nutritionist). It means using your "down time" for a higher purpose.

I know this is not new. There are books about it, like "Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time" by by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.

But in the same that NBC TV calls their re-runs "New To You" if you haven't already seen them, if you're not already actively networking, then this is, in fact, New To You.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. If your network were "perfect" what three things would be different for you?
  2. Where do you want to go in 6 months? a year? 3 years?
  3. Who specifically can help you get there? How?
  4. What's keeping you from taking a more active role in your own development?

...and one more:

5. Who in your existing network is draining you rather than giving you energy, and what might you do about this?


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Take this Job and...Describe It? Part II

So, more on the importance of job descriptions...(what am I talking about? check out part one here)

Benefit #3: Rarely does a new-hire have every piece of knowledge, skill, and attitude needed for success. By using job descriptions as a check sheet for training, employees learn what they need to do. A collection of well-written job descriptions provide direction for future learning, too. New and seasoned volunteers deserve training and education as well. Take your board, for example. Board member job descriptions will (read:should) include a part about fundraising responsibilities. Does that mean that every board member knows how to solicit a priori? Of course not! But if it's in the job description, then a board member should 1) know it's a-coming and 2) rightfully expect to be trained on how to do it! For a sample board member job description, post on this blog and I'll put one up!

Benefit #4: Finally, job descriptions are great for structuring performance evaluations. Most company's performance evaluation forms are severely overly-generic. Accordingly, employees aren't sure just what they must do to get a stellar review. Not reviewing your volunteers? I would say "tsk tsk", but who needs more Jewish guilt? Your volunteers need to be assessed, just like your staff does. Most volunteers want to be rewarded, positively reinforced, and recognized -- just like staff -- but a blanket "good job!" doesn't give them useful information about what specifically is working, and what could use additional attention.


Take this Job and...Describe It? Part I

I'm often curious how my TIVO comes up with my personalized recommendations for shows "she" thinks I would like -- and judging from suggestions ranging from the romantic Sense and Sensibility to the demolition of Holmes on Homes, "she" must find me quite a puzzlement. It's mutual, honey.

In contrast, I am rarely curious -- and usually pleased -- with how my LinkedIn profile generates suggested articles for me. Here's a recent one about job descriptions that I enjoyed, and thought you might like as well. My additions are in red.

(From Dan Bobinksi's Workplace Excellence)

A well-written job description is your key to saving hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars -- for the recruitment, retention and development of paid staff, as well as volunteer leadership.

Here are two benefits -- more to come in the next posting!

Benefit #1: Clear, specific job descriptions make it easy to create interview questions that weed out applicants who don't match - and identify ones who do. Deb's note: Think about how to apply this for volunteer positions as well. Ever try to "fire" a volunteer? It's not pretty -- and it can often be avoided by putting the right people in the right positions in the first place.

Benefit #2: Even the best, most engaged new-hire becomes bored and disengaged if he doesn't think he's contributing to something bigger than himself. Written job descriptions are foundational for helping people see how their work fits into the bigger picture. Keep in mind that job descriptions can and should be a living document -- and should be used beyond hiring and performance evaluations. When used effectively, they can frequently reinforce the context for work. Volunteer job descriptions can similarly reinforce the context and importance of work, and can be used to begin a conversation about whether a volunteer is ready to move on to another, more engaging assignment.

Check back for 2 more benefits later in the week.