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    Leadership is about what you DO!

    “Leadership is action, not position.” — Donald H. McGannon, Former CEO, Westinghouse Broadcast Corporation

    Whether you are the board president, the rabbi, rosh yeshiva, CEO — or hold any title that makes people site up and take notice, remember what people really want and need from you — your commitment to roll up your sleeves and participate in a meaningful way.

    I believe that most of us have two fundamental needs, regardless of our role in the organization — the need to benefit and the need to contribute. In fact, when I teach sessions on running effective meetings, those are the two criteria for determining who should attend a meeting. If a meeting participant will neither benefit from nor contribute to a meeting, then give them back their time to do something more useful than sit in on a meeting! Trust me — he or she will thank you for it, and your meeting participants will appreciate a leaner, more focused meeting process.

    Those in Jewish organizational leadership positions often benefit from title, position, status, connections, and paycheck for those in paid positions (and yes, I see you — the one eye-rolling about the idea of benefiting from a Jewish organizational paycheck. But I won’t let you distract me!).

    Here’s the question: does your level of contribution — decisions made, problems solved, resources developed — meet or exceed the benefits you receive from your position? How would your lay or professional counterparts and direct reports answer that if asked about you?

    If you’re not sure, are you willing to ask? If you’re willing to ask, who will you start with? If you’re not willing, why?

    In the words of writer Elbert Hubbard, “Don’t make excuses. Make good.”

    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!

    Make a Difference in Just 15 Minutes


    I was reading my horoscope the other day (OK, admit it….you do it too!).  I love the ones that just get me so specifically and perfectly:  “you are brilliant and will have a very special moment with a handsome stranger today”.   Or the ones that are just so exactly right for me “today you will lose 19 lbs just by eating chocolate”…
    But this one really stopped me in my tracks:
    “The expression is true: The days are long, but the years are short. What can you do for 15 minutes a day that, by this time next year, will have added up to something remarkable?”
    I immediately went to my Blackberry (yes I do have the last working Blackberry in existence!)….today….let’s see….facilitating a Strategic Plan Task Group meeting at the Foodbank, a fundraising 101 class to teach at the Special Olympics, a meeting at the grocery store and a date with a great new novel.  Where oh where can I find that 15 minutes….and whatever can I do with that 15 minutes today that could one day be considered remarkable?
    So, in order to avoid the whole big confusing mess, I decided to go for a walk.  Taking my usual route through the mini-park four blocks from my house, my head hunched into my shoulders to stop the icy cold wind and drizzle from running down my back, I passed by the four usual homeless folks huddled on their benches….cold, wet, miserable….and I just turned myself around, walked on home, heated up a huge pot of soup, put it into four containers, toasted up some crunchy bread, added some power bars, chips, chocolate for good measure, added four pairs of dry socks and went right back to the mini-park and delivered the warmth.  And I looked at my watch….15 minutes had passed….15 minutes to make someone’s horrible terrible miserable day just a little bit better. 
    For me it was just one little 15 minute excursion, but a lovely man in my town took all of his 15 minutes when he learned of the crises with the shelter overflow during the winter and created a program called NEST – Norfolk Ecumenical Shelter Team – a program where many of the synagogues and churches (and even the JCC) in our town each take one or two weeks during the coldest months of the year to open their multi-purpose rooms and kitchens for as many homeless individuals as they can.  He raised the money for mattresses (I use the term ever so loosely…they are actually more like Yoga mats!) to go from multi purpose room to multi purpose room, and the volunteers at the synagogue and/or church and/or JCC do the rest. 
    My friends from my mini-park tell me that everyone loves our synagogue the best because we, surprise, surprise, cook huge dinners stuffing them with hot soups and chicken and yummy desserts and then send them off with five cheese sandwiches the next day all bagged nicely with all kinds of other yummy and useful stuff.   And although the NEST program is replicated in all of our surrounding cities (unfortunately one of the cities begins with a P…not a great acronym!) there are never enough spots.  The street folks come in through a lottery system, causing many to remain on the streets on these miserable nights.
    Which begs the question each and every cold winter night: How come we were all so lucky to win the lottery of life? Why do we get to have lives that give us the world…safety, security, family, friends, sleeping in a warm home each night?  And can we use that simple 15 minutes each day to help someone who has never been, and probably will never be, a winner in the lottery of life?  Can a delivery of a bowl of soup and some dry socks first thing in the morning to some guys who live in the park add up to something remarkable??
    Yes, it surely can.   And so I ask: what can you do for 15 minutes today?

    “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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