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How to Become a Feedback Magnet (Video)

Feedback concept with hand pressing a button“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”

Elon Musk

“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”

Albert Einstein

Question to Sheryl Sandberg: “What’s the number one thing you look for in someone who can scale with a company?”

Her answer:

“Someone who takes feedback well. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

The ability to give feedback is a critical skill for leaders and teams, and plenty of us have received training and coaching on how to do exactly that. The ability to receive feedback is an equally important skill, and yet very few of us have learned how to do that without:

  • Defensiveness (“That’s just not true!”)
  • Dismissal (“Who are YOU to tell me that?”)
  • Distain (“Ugh. I don’t want to hear this.”)
  • Distortion (“This must mean I am a horrible person.”)
  • Discounting (“It’s no big deal.”)

Why does this matter? Because studies show that feedback seekers experience greater job satisfaction, lower turnover, adapt faster in a new organization or new role, demonstrate greater creativity on the job, and have higher performance ratings, especially if they seek out NEGATIVE feedback.

Who wouldn’t want that?

In my recent Harvard Business Review Facebook Live presentation on “How to Give and Receive Feedback”, I share user-friendly tips, tools and techniques for how to make feedback (both giving and receiving) less stressful and more successful. More than 84,500 viewers worldwide have watched this in the past few weeks – and have sent me their feedback – and I invite you to do so, too. Email me to

HBR Live: Giving & Receiving Feedback

I partnered with Harvard Business Review for Live presentation on giving and receiving feedback effectively.

Play the video to learn about:

  • The benefits and challenges of giving feedback
  • How to know when it’s the right time to give feedback
  • Debunking the infamous “feedback sandwich”
  • The 5 elements of a feedback conversation
  • How to receive feedback

I also answered live audience questions, including how to soften the potential sting of constructive feedback.

Your Personal Invitation is Inside: Harvard Business Review, Facebook, and YOU!


The man who can’t accept criticism can’t become great. – Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav 

  • Does giving feedback make you sweat?
  • Does getting feedback make you sweat even more?
  • Does your organization give feedback only during annual performance reviews?
  • Would your professionals rather eat a bug than give lay leaders direct feedback – and
    vice versa?
  • Does your culture feel too “nice” for negative feedback?

If any of these sounds like you, you’re invited to get some new skills, perspectives and confidence around giving and receiving feedback.

Please join me and Harvard Business Review for “How to Give and Receive Effective Feedback,” a 30-minute Facebook Live event beginning at 10 am EST on Thursday, December 15th.  I’ll be sharing my top tips, tools and techniques, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and get some direction and support.

Click here to visit Harvard Business Review’s Facebook page to join me. 

Click here to add this complimentary event to your calendar.

The Swastika at My Kids’ School

Last Friday afternoon, I received an email from my kids’ school informing parents that a swastika had been discovered on the wall of the faculty bathroom.
I felt:
…and that was just the beginning.

I also felt:
Inspired…that my family and I could talk about the impact of this honestly and openly
Relieved…that nobody was physically hurt
Hopeful…that the school administration would take aggressive measures to find the culprit
Compassionate…towards others who are also feeling threatened or unsafe
Touched…at how many friends and family members reached out to us
Open…to how others experienced this incident
Energized…to give more tzedakah to causes that protect the vulnerable
Protective…of my family and community
Proud…to be a Jew

A Ladino Proverb reminds us: “Who is blind? Who declines to see light.” And while there is no part of me that believes that a swastika at school is, in any way, positive or productive, there is a part of me that can simultaneously see the positivity and productivity that can result from such a terrible blow.

I am committed to bringing more positivity and productivity to the world, and I am eager to start now. Please read and share this complimentary chapter, How to Create Positivity at Work from my Little Book of Big Ideas for Jewish Professionals.

To Your Success without the Tsuris,


“Introducing…Another Boring Speaker”

“Introducing…Another Boring Speaker”

In the next two weeks, I will be a keynote speaker at the American Heart Association’s annual conference, as well as a breakout session speaker at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association conference. In both cases, I’ve sent my speaker introduction ahead of time as requested – and in both cases, I’m praying for the best (which includes reminding the MC that my last name sounds like “Regal”, not “Rye-gull”).

Let’s face it: none of us would introduce a guest speaker as “Another Boring Speaker”. And, of course, none of us who speak in front of groups would ever want to be introduced that way (could you imagine?) But, more often than not, the introduction of a speaker is treated as an afterthought rather than as an opportunity to excite, engage and even create a little suspense about what’s to come. A speaker introduction is an advertisement – and you want to sell both the sizzle and the steak!

Want to know how to wow your audience before the speaker even takes the stage? Here’s my new Harvard Business Review article, “How to Memorably Introduce Another Speaker”.

Want to know where I’ll be introduced next?

New Orleans | St. Louis| South Florida | San Francisco| Detroit| New York | New Jersey | Boston | Rochester, NY

Don’t see your city there?  Let’s talk!

15 Ways to Break the Law of the Instrument

Hammer, 3D rendering isolated on white backgroundPsychologist Abraham Maslow once famously remarked: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That’s known as The Law of the Instrument – and many of us have one or two well-worn instruments, tools, and approaches that we use to help our colleagues, friends and family solve problems.

I know this first-hand: A decade ago after I graduated from coaching school I realized that my version of The Law of the Instrument was, “When what you are is a coach, every problem looks coachable.” Since one of the most useful tools in the coaching toolkit is curiosity, I asked a lot of questions. I mean, a LOT of questions. It got to the point that I would ask my kids, “How was your day at school?” or “What would you like for dinner?” and would hear, in response, “Are you trying to coach me???”

Point taken. Even though Albert Einstein himself said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning,” the people around me said, “Please give your questioning a rest.”

Now, ten years and hundreds of clients later, I now have a wide range of instruments that I can use to be helpful, depending on whether someone wants direction, advice, support, empathy, instruction, problem-solving or yes, coaching. And it took a lot of work to cultivate a toolkit where I could feel equally comfortable pulling out any instrument and using it well.  But the most important development for me was not assuming that I knew what help my client, colleague, friend or kid wanted or needed, but offering them a robust list of helpful approaches from which they could choose. Chances are, you have one or two well-worn instruments that you use regularly (such as problem-solving or brainstorming) and it might be time for you to add some new ones to your toolkit.

You might like the feel of a new instrument in your hand – and you might be able to help the people you work, volunteer and live with might have a breakthrough that wouldn’t have been possible with the tools you’ve been using.

Ready to break the Law of the Instrument? Here is my list of 15 new ones to offer:

  1. Listen without judgment
  2. Ask open-ended questions
  3. Play “Devil’s Advocate”
  4. Brainstorm 50 new ideas
  5. Empathize
  6. Connect you to an expert in the field
  7. Teach you a skill
  8. Share my own experience/path
  9. Give a pep talk/cheerlead
  10. Help you prioritize
  11. Take notes while you download your thoughts
  12. Help you develop evaluation criteria
  13. Do it along side you
  14. Send you articles, videos and other resources
  15. Fix it for you

What are some other instruments you use? Post below.

What I Learned about Motivation on My Summer Vacation

I’ve just returned from a two-week vacation in Israel, Jordan and Spain – and I am writing this email saddled with incredible jet lag, some squishy new love handles made from gelato, falafel and Manchego cheese, and many beautiful memories to last a lifetime.Deb_Jacob_Camels

What made this trip so special for me? My sole travel companion was my 15-year-old son, Jacob.

I knew that we would both enjoy sampling the local cuisines (luckily, gelato is always a local cuisine), taking history tours, shopping, swimming, and just wandering around. And I also knew that this trip would benefit from planning beyond flights, excursions, and lodging. It would require us to shift from a task focus (the what, where, when, and how of getting the trip off the ground) to a relationship focus (the who we were — separately and together – and why we were choosing to do this together.)

Admittedly, it’s that kind of focus that busy, driven people who are motivated by getting things crossed off their to-do lists often neglect — and the costs of that neglect include the loss of connection, collaboration, ownership, engagement, and meaning.

I didn’t want to look back on this trip and only be proud of what we did, where we went and how we got there. I wanted to look back on this trip and be proud of who we were and what we built together.

Can you think of a partnership or team you work on (or live with) that could benefit from a little more of that?

Here are 10 questions I asked my son and myself before our trip that you can bring to your next staff meeting, board meeting or Labor Day vacation.

  1. What’s our purpose for doing this?
  2. What could we do that would have each of us jump out of bed in the morning with excitement to get started?
  3. What would make each of us want to crawl back into bed and say, “I’ll pass”?
  4. What have we done in the past that we want to make sure we repeat?
  5. What have we done in the past that we want to make sure we don’t repeat?
  6. What do we each want to learn/get better at/get smarter about?
  7. How might we veto something that one of us really doesn’t like/doesn’t want to do?
  8. How should we let the other person know when we’re feeling stressed/sad/tired/overwhelmed/frustrated?
  9. How should we ask for personal time/space without it feeling “personal”?
  10. What would we want our sound bite about this [project/task/challenge/opportunity/trip] to be a month after? Six months after? A year after? 10 years after?

38 Ways to Say No (and Still Preserve the Relationship)

1. I’m not available then, but could be available on (insert date)no buttonWould that date work?

2. Oh, I will be so disappointed to miss this!

3. While I would love to do that for you, [insert type of priorities] preclude it. I hope you understand.

4. I am so flattered that you asked but unfortunately cannot do that. Can I help you brainstorm someone who might be available?

5. Normally, I would say yes, but I have already committed to ________ at the same time.

6. Right now, I am saying no to all invitations (on this topic, at this timeframe, etc.).

7. I need to decline, but warmly request that you keep me in mind for future meetings/events. Would you please reach out again?

8. I try very hard not to make commitments I will likely need to cancel, and because of the timing here, I would likely need to cancel at the last minute, leaving you in a last-minute scramble to find someone else. Because of that, I will need to say no.

9. That sounds like a fantastic event/opportunity/cause, and I know that I will be sorry to miss it.

10. I cannot attend in person, but I wonder how I can help in some other way. Should we brainstorm ideas?

11. I don’t feel that this is the right fit for me. Can I share with you the kinds of project or priorities that DO feel like a good fit for you to know for down the road?

12. I am so grateful for the opportunity and for you thinking of me. However, I am in demand at the moment with appointments made months ago. I can also recommend x and y and z, who would be great

13. I can’t, but let me take a look at who might be available to fill in for me.

14. My schedule is completely booked for the next {insert timeframe}. Would you please reach back out after then?

15. I am so sorry to decline but I have a prior engagement. Here’s what I’d like to do, though: let me put a note in our files indicating that I needed to turn this request down so that next time, I can move your request to the front of the line.

16. Right now, I am only accepting requests related to X priority. Since this request seems to be about Y priority, let me put you in touch with someone who handles Y.

17. I have reached my [weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual] quota for [speaking engagements, consulting, meetings, panels, rallies, etc.]. Things should open up again by [insert month]. Please reach back out to me then.

18. I hate to admit this but I have already said yes to two events that day, and will need to cancel at least one of those. I don’t want to cancel two.

19. I have recently had some unexpected events come up and so I won’t be scheduling anything new at this time.

20. I will be out of town.

21. I don’t do X, as a rule.

22. I’m good at X, but not great at it. Let me suggest some people who are great at it.

23. It sounds like our budgets aren’t in the same ballpark. If you have flexibility, terrific. And if not, I completely understand and know that you’ll find someone great within your price-range.

24. I will need more information to make a decision. Can you please send me….?

25. I adore the cause, but simply can’t commit right now/I need to decline.

26. I don’t know and I don’t want to hold you up so feel free to ask someone else.

27. You’re so kind to think of me. Thank you. Sadly, I need to decline.

28. Not this time. When’s the next opportunity available for something like this?

29. If only I had a clone then I could be in two places at once!

30. I am heads-down on a project right now, and won’t be coming up for air for the next [insert timeframe].

31. When do you need to know by? I ask because if it’s in the next {week/month/quarter], I will need to say no.

32. Right now, I am only saying yes to very select opportunities that fall into [insert area of focus], and unfortunately this doesn’t meet the criteria.

33. I’m not available for that, but I know someone who is working on a common agenda/goal/objective. Let me connect you!

34. Others have made similar requests, and I have said no to all of those.

35. X is my top priority right now, so I am devoting all of my time to that.

36. With x # of this type of request coming in every month, I have had to limit the number of acceptances in order to make time for other business. I am at my limit.

37. I have committed to my clients that X would be my leading priority this year. For that reason, I will need to say no to this invitation in order to make good on my commitment.

38. Thank you so much, but no.
…and just for fun…

10 Things NOT to Say

1. You’re joking, right?

2. I have commitment issues.

3. This request is below my pay grade.

4. I wish I had the luxury of entertaining such a whimsical request.

5. What do I have to say to get you to understand that NO means NO?

6. I no longer commit to causes that make me feel like a hypocrite.

7. As if!

8. Sure, at half-past never.

9. Yuck!

10. N to the O.

The Power of a Six Word Ask

Hand arrange wood letters as Six word

By Guest Maven Alina Gerlovin Spaulding

It is legend that Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in just 6 words… to which he responded: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

There’s a terrific story about Earnest Hemingway, which, like most stories about him, begins as a bar brawl.

Years later, Smith Magazine challenged readers to write their memoirs in 6 words.  Nearly overnight, there were so many compelling responses, that they published a book called: Not Quite What I Was Planning.

A dear friend and fellow philanthropist and fundraiser, Alison Lebovitz, ran a program by which I was completely taken.  In a room full of female leaders, she said: “everyone has a story, what’s yours?”  She challenged us to introduce ourselves, in just six words.  Although nearly every person in the room was a friend of mine, I learned more in the brevity and intention of those six-word introductions than I may have ever learned in years of friendship.  The most important aspects were distilled and communicated.

I started using this technique with other groups… I asked a group of day school heads to capture the mission of their school in 6 words: “Keep climbing, the view is awesome.”  And for a new, low-cost private school, in New York, we heard “It’s affordable, go have another kid!”  When I asked a group of teen leaders to tell me a 6-word story about how they intend to change the world, one teen said: “I don’t now where to start.”  Someone who did this project with Dr. Ruth said that her story was: “I wish for everyone, great sex!”

I know a very quick thinking, impatient rabbi who said, “I got it in 5”.  These two made me smile: “My life made my therapist laugh” and “fourth choice to prom, still overcompensating”.

Here are some other examples that might resonate:

The work we do is sacred.

We help Jews, wherever they are.

My community is a global one.

Why Federation? I can give directly.

LOVE the J! Ask me Y!

Another generation, hanging at the JCC.

Thank G-d for non-Jewish members!

There’s something magical about the ease and brevity of this task.  Now, when I start working on a development project, I ask the team or the leader to give me the mission of the project in 6 words.  They always laugh, but when they actually get it, it opens a new dimension.  What’s the story of your passion?

If you’d like to learn how to create critical messaging for different types of donors and prospects, become more comfortable (and successful) at asking, and learn how to steward your donors for the long haul, join me for my four week online Maven Class: Donor Development Strategies for Breakthrough Results starting this spring. Early-bird registration now available!

A Great Way to Use $10,000 That You Don’t Have

By Guest Maven Beth Steinhorn

As a nonprofit leader, you likely know many people who are passionate about your mission. You hopefully also know that passionate people are more likely to share their time and talent (not to mention their treasure) with your organization.

How can you best tap into that passion so that these individuals can be involved in ways that are truly helpful in addressing organizational needs?

Start by generating a list of organizational needs. What skills or talents would benefit you and your department in achieving your highest priorities?

If that question is difficult, then try this “$10,000 Question”:

Imagine that an anonymous donor just contributed $10,000 to your department for the sole purpose of hiring a part time contractor for one project or activity over the next 12 months. Whom would you hire?

Amazingly, that question really gets the ideas flowing! And, what’s more amazing is that 95% of the time, there are passionate, skilled volunteers in your world who have the skills and interest to take on one of those tasks. Furthermore, they won’t require the $10,000 – though they will require an investment of time and support in developing and nurturing a successful staff-volunteer partnership.

Here are a few roles that volunteer partners can fulfill:

  • Consultant: Provide professional skills and/or content expertise
  • Coach/Mentor: Share wisdom, advice, and support in a specialty area
  • Trainer: Impart knowledge and understand adult learning
  • Evaluator: Assess results and impact for the purpose of quality improvement
  • Project Manager: Facilitate a process from beginning to end
  • Team Leader: Volunteers leading volunteers and creating team culture

What type of partner could help you achieve your goals, build your capacity so your job is easier, and make a difference for your organization and community?  Reimagine what partnership can look like… and the possibilities are endless.

Are you registered for our “Powerful Partnerships: Creating High Impact Staff-Volunteer Partnerships” class?

If you work with volunteers, you know that the relationship is only as good as your expectations, communications and celebrations. But how much time are you putting into making that work? Whether your answer is “not enough!” or “too much!”, this online course will help you be more strategic and thoughtful in creating mutually satisfying partnerships that last.

Classes start March 30 reserve your spot by clicking here NOW!

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“Deb has been a respected speaker and facilitator for a number of our JCC conferences over the past few years. While I've heard about her energy, hard work in preparing, and meaningful content, it took her recent keynote speech at our annual JCCs of North America Professional Conference to make me realize what an incredible asset she is. Watching her present a content-filled, energetic, and personalized session -- without using any notes -- was very impressive. Deb is a multi-talented, serious, and impactful presenter."

– Allan Finkelstein, Past President and CEO, JCC Association of North America

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