Last weekend, in an uncharacteristic burst of energy, I decided to tackle the piles of clutter that threatened to overtake our front entrance hall and my bedroom bookcase. Despite the fact that I knew this would thrill my (orderly and neat) husband, Michael, I decided not to announce that I was going to do it. I just did it. I managed to get the many non-book stacks of stuff off of my bookshelf and into my office/bathroom/garbage without anyone noticing what I was up to. I then went to tackle the front hall, where I had dumped everything from makeup and office supplies to spare keys and headphones (so that’s where they were!) and had promptly forgotten where they were.
This was where I got careless. I stopped being so quiet. And I got caught.
“Wow,” said Michael to me, eying surfaces he hadn’t seen in weeks. “You look like you’re on a roll!”
“Yup,” I said, “I’m getting my act together.”
And that’s when Michael committed the fundamental sin that partners, parents, bosses and co-workers make every single day:
Since you’re in an organizing mood, I have a great project in the basement for you when you’re done with this.
As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. HUGE!”
What was Michael’s egregious error?
by Noa Peri-Jensch
This past Saturday, I was listening to a Bar Mitzvah boy at our synagogue. He spoke about the most important mitzvah of ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ He explained that we should love and accept others’ shortfalls just as we accept our own.
“Easier said than done,” whispered the man sitting behind me. “Easier said than done.”
As a coach, I often hear from clients that life would be so much easier if only difficult colleagues, employees, customers and bosses didn’t surround them. And while it’s fair to assume that every workplace has a few challenging people, working with difficult people in your own Jewish community can be especially hard. When every aspect of our lives is deeply intertwined, from work to our personal relationships, we realize that the person we fought with at last week’s board meeting is now sitting next to us at Shabbat dinner.
A “difficult” personality is better described as a “very different” personality from us. Even a great friend can be a challenging co-worker if your work styles don’t align. But before you deal with a difficult person, you need to deal with yourself first by asking:
- Why does this person bother me?
- What do I need in order to feel more comfortable dealing with this person? Do I need them to listen to me? Do I need to better understand their intentions? Do I need our work relationship to be more flexible? More stable? More task-focused or more people focused?
- What can I do to communicate this need?
- What about me could be bothering my co-worker?
- Is our issue resolvable? Is it worth resolving?
Early in my career, I was introduced to the Myers Briggs personality assessment. After taking it, I gained a great amount of insight into not only myself, but also my group of “difficult people.” Here are a few common examples of how our personality profiles can lead to a difficult relationship:
Introvert/Extrovert: Some people are more centered and productive when they work alone in a quiet environment. Others cannot function on a task without bouncing ideas off other people. If a very social extroverted personality tries to “think out loud” with a very introverted focused on internal processing, they will feel rejected if the introvert does not show enthusiasm and make minimal comment. An introvert trying to focus their mind on organizing their thoughts will feel frustrated, resentful, and drained by a more sociable co-workers constant “interruptions”.
Which one are you? Which one is your difficult person?
Sensor/Intuitive: Some prefer to look at the facts and details, and others are more interested in the big picture and its general impact. When a sensor watches a co-worker’s eyes glaze over as he relays all the vital data he collected, he may assume that the other person finds his report boring or unimportant. However, it can be just the opposite. An intuitive personality is often so busy trying to turn these tiny facts into a big, meaningful picture that she can become overwhelmed, lost, and shut down in frustration. On the other hand, if an intuitive person goes directly to the end result, a sensor may become anxious without seeing the data that led to that result.
Which one are you? Which one is your difficult person?
Rational/Values: As if things were not complex enough, people differ even further in how they process decisions they make. Some people make decisions and base their opinions on rational, analytical thought. They are very comfortable in the realm of cause and effect. Other people base the same choices on their personal values and how the topic at hand will affect others.
Which one are you? Which one is your difficult person?
Organized/Spontaneous: Some people can change at a moment’s notice. They are constantly adapting and changing their work to reflect the needs of that exact moment. Other people, however, prefer stability and predictability. They want to make a detailed plan of action for the next six months. That spontaneous co-worker may wrestle with the needs and demands of their hyper-organized partner. They may even feel the organized person is too rigid.
Which one are you? Which one is your difficult person?
Clearly, neither side is right or wrong. However, these differences can create challenges in working with those who are different! This essential difference in perspective can lead to a difficult relationship.
Working with difficult personalities does not need to be so challenging. Next time you encounter a difficult personality, remember that you might also be difficult for them! Look at your own personality profile and how it might be the reason for the clash.
If working with difficult people still feels “easier said than done,” register for our webinar on Dealing with Difficult People on Thursday, May 21.
“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry A. Kissinger
When you think about leaders you admire – whether it’s Moses or Miriam, the CEO of your organization or the president of your Board – you likely see in them several well-known and well-regarded leadership skills and attributes: vision, passion, confidence, strategic thinking, conflict management, results-orientation, integrity, decision-making and more.
These leadership traits make up a critical combination of competence, commitment and character – and hopefully, you demonstrate many of these yourself whether you hold a leadership title or not.
But there’s one more crucial leadership trait that, according to Harvard University business professor and social psychologist Ann Cuddy, can make all the difference between you and your organization being loved or loathed. And more importantly, it’s a trait that everyone in your organization who interfaces with customers, members, donors, or prospects needs to cultivate if they don’t have it already.
What’s in the secret leadership sauce?
The added ingredient associated with the most effective leaders of our organizations is Warmth. Warmth is the very first trait that people perceive about us, and based on that initial reading – whether we like it or not – people decide whether our intentions are positive or negative.
Warmth is considered more important and more influential than competence (our ability to do the job). And while the people with whom we work may forgive us for a breach in competence, studies show that “a single instance of negative-warmth behavior is likely to irredeemably categorize the perpetrator as a cold person.”
So what does that mean? It means that your front office staff member who gets things done but has a brusque tone is costing your organization credibility. It means that a supervisor who is brilliant at the technical aspects of her job but who is described as having an “edge” is costing you staff morale. It means that the fundraiser on your team whose numbers are good but who also rubs some donors and prospects the wrong way is costing you money.
It means that every single member of your organization needs to know that making people feel included, engaged, respected – and cared about – is a part of his or her job description.
Here are 10 ways to increase feelings of warmth among your team, in the organization, and with customers, members, donors, and prospects:
- Increase the number of agenda-free “casual conversations” you have.
- Give others your complete attention (no cell phones, emails, looking over their shoulders for someone more interesting, etc.).
- Be curious about other people’s work and non-work activities.
- Share your own personal and professional challenges with your colleagues.
- Demonstrate empathy for others’ challenges.
- Let rumors, gossip and bad news die at your desk.
- Be willing to apologize when you make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings.
- Trust others and be trustworthy yourself.
- Use inviting body language, such as eye contact, smiling and nodding.
- Explain your intentions to others when making decisions or taking actions that affect them.
If you, your team and your leaders could use some help getting even warmer this summer, email us at email@example.com.
Now here’s a sentence you don’t hear too often the week after Passover: “I’ve dropped 17 pounds.”
But I’m saying it – loud and proud.
Now of course, I must admit that the week before Passover, I was also down 17 pounds, but for me, maintaining my weight loss over a holiday not widely known for its health benefits is a victory.
I also admit that I’ve lost 17 pounds before. Many, many times. So what makes this weight loss different from all others? This time, I used the same coaching approach on myself that I teach in the Jewish Coaching Academy and that I use with my clients to anticipate obstacles.
Whether our task is losing weight, beginning a new fundraising campaign, kicking off a professional development program, doing performance reviews, or anything that we’re starting – or starting again – we need to reflect on the common stumbling blocks that get put before us, by ourselves or others:
- How committed we really are to doing the work or making a change.
- How many other things we’re also committed to right now.
- How “secretly committed” we are to maintaining the current situation.
- How hard or complex it is.
- How much time it’s going to take.
- How many things we couldn’t have anticipated (or could have but didn’t).
- How much energy it requires.
- How quickly or easily we may get discouraged.
- How challenging it may be to get others on board, or who else we needed on board but didn’t realize.
- How powerful the voices in our head can be that stop us from being bold and moving forward.
When we skip thinking and talking about these blind spots, we increase the chances that our efforts will fail, that folks will become frustrated, and that we will have to go back to square one – again. When we consider and admit these stumbling blocks to ourselves and to others, we’re far more likely to move forward with eyes wide open and success in our view.
“Anticipating Obstacles” is only one of the 10 skills that I teach in the Jewish Coaching Academy, a 10 hour blended-learning program that teaches coaching skills through a Jewish lens to professional and volunteer leaders. Over 100 people have graduated from our program – and our next public program is on Thursday, May 7th in New Jersey.
Our early bird special ends Friday, April 17!
If you work or volunteer for a non-profit organization, chances are, you get excited when people make contributions. Contributions of time and talent mean that the work gets done. Contributions of ideas mean that new perspectives and opportunities emerge. And contributions of money mean that your mission and vision can be realized.
And where else should you be looking for contributions? Wherever you hear the words fault and blame.
Those two words, fault and blame, immediately put people immediately on the defensive, create divisiveness in teams, and make people feel untrusted and untrusting. Cut them out and replace them with the word contribution. When you ask people to think about what contributed to a problem, as well as how they themselves might have contributed to the problem, and who else (including, perhaps, you) had a contribution to this problem, it lowers the heat of the conversation and reminds people that challenging situations are complex, with many players. In fact, I ask my coaching clients to practice the habit of naming their own contribution first when speaking with their team or direct reports, which makes people feel more comfortable admitting their own contributions.
Contributions can range from communicating unclear expectations, setting unreasonable timelines, micromanaging (or under-leading), a lack of follow-up or follow-through, allowing scope-creep, a missed opportunity to offer feedback, ignoring the warning signs, or a failure to speak up or speak out. Contributions can be big or small – and yet, every contribution matters. (Sound familiar?)
The next time a difficult conversation or situation arises, ask yourself, “what was the other person’s contribution to this?” AND ask yourself, “what was mine?”
Fault and blame make people want to stop contributing time, talent, ideas and money. Contribution begets contributions.
So what’s yours?
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything.
How to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear clothes…
You may ask how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.
But it’s a tradition!” – Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
We all know that traditions can be sacred. We also know that traditions can be comforting. But when you think about some of the interpersonal and institutional “traditions” that our organizations uphold, they can feel crazy-making and soul-sucking.
Traditions like what? Like:
“We openly and honestly express our opinions…unless we’re talking to someone who can write a big check.”
“Supervision meetings are the first to get cancelled when something’s got to give.”
“We talk about the importance of work-life balance but reward those who come early, stay late, and are on e-mail ‘round the clock.”
We call these traditions our organizations’ “culture,” as in, “that’s the culture around here.” And we often say we want to change the culture, and then get defeated when we feel like it will take too long, or we don’t have the authority, or we can’t get the buy-in.
My take: stop trying to change your culture (“the way we do things around here”), and start working to change your climate (“the way I do things around here”). Think about how you speak, behave, and interact with others, as well as the messages you share about your colleagues, volunteers, organization, and community, and focus on contributing something powerfully positive. Ask that the people with whom you work directly do the same. You may not be able to create a massive shift in the well-worn traditions of your organization, but you can certainly make a healthy and helpful difference right now in the work and lives of the people you touch everyday.
After all, as David Ben-Gurion remarked, “Tradition must be a springboard into the future, not an armchair for repose.”
by Deborah Grayson Riegel, MSW, PCC, MyJewishCoach.com
Every year for the past three years, our kids’ supply list has included three-ring binders, colored dividers, and calculators. This year is no different.
Every year for the past eight years, our kids’ backpacks have been filled with index cards, highlighters, pencils and tissue boxes. And this year is no different.
Every year for the past 11 years (since my twins were two), their curriculum has been filled with learning in both Hebrew and English, in both secular and Jewish subjects, and their calendar was blocked off for both national and Jewish holidays. Every year my son Jacob has gone off to the first day of school with a kippah on his head, while my daughter Sophie hoped that she could get away without wearing a skirt for Shabbat on Fridays.
But not this year.
For the first time ever, our kids will be attending public school instead of a Jewish preschool or a day school. The decision was deeply personal and painful — the kind that kept me and my husband Michael up many nights wondering if this was the right thing for our children and for our family. What made the choice hardest was that we adored our Jewish day school, we loved the families we shared sports teams and Shabbat dinners with, and we felt like we were a part of a Jewish community that was a warm and wonderful fit for our values and interests. And despite all that, when we really, truly thought about what was best and what was next for our two children (just for our two — not for anybody else’s), the answer in our heart of hearts wasn’t Jewish day school anymore. It had served our children’s and family’s needs beautifully…until it didn’t. The “why” feels irrelevant. The “now what,” however, feels very, very real.
So what’s the big deal? Our kids, like millions of others, will attend their local public schools for the next five years. They’ll make new friends (as will I, my wise daughter re-assured me), they’ll play on new sports teams, they’ll have a quicker commute, more local friends, and (to my son’s delight) they can take meat for lunch. It will be fine.
But I’m not fine. I mean, I know in my heart and my gut that this was the right decision, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not still mourning what we had, and, if I’m being honest, who we were as a Jewish day school family.
What we had was an immediate school community based on shared Jewish values, a collective commitment to putting our money where our morals were, and a hub for social action and the pursuit of justice locally, nationally, in Israel and around the world. What if in our new school all we have in common with the other families is a zip code and complaints about the sanitation department refusing to recycle?
Who we were was a family that wore its involvement in and commitment to Judaism on its sleeve, across the calendar(s), through its checkbook, in every homework assignment and lunch bag, and more. What if our involvement starts to flag and our commitment begins to wane without the structure that Jewish day school brings?
I recognize the anticipatory anxiety I have now that I didn’t have back when we were a Jewish day school family (was it only this past June?) is partially rooted in wanting to know how we will keep our kids Jewishly educated, active, involved and interested. It is also rooted in the admission I’ve made to myself that making a single monumental choice to send our kids to Jewish day school meant that the parents got to “coast” a little bit Jewishly. It was easy enough for us to say to ourselves, “What else do we need to do here? We’re a day school (AND a Jewish summer camp) family. Isn’t that enough? Dayenu!”
Well, here we are at the start of a new school year, and a new chapter in our lives as a Jewish family. Who knows what it will bring? I can anticipate a few things, of course: Our children will grumble about Friday school days that go until 3 pm (even in the winter) and they will need to tell their friends during sleepovers and parties that they can’t have the Buffalo wings because they keep kosher. Our children will also be exposed to new subjects and electives that weren’t available to them before, due to the time restraints of a dual Hebrew-English curriculum. The parents will need to actively invite both new friends and old for Shabbat dinners, and will commit to putting up a Sukkah (not me – my husband) even if we’re one of the few families or only family at their new school who does so. We will all need to find ways to discuss what’s happening in Israel on a regular basis, especially since this won’t be a daily discussion at school. We will need to blaze a new path for what we do and who we are as a committed Jewish family without the structure and support of being a day school family. We will all need to learn some new ways of Jewish being, doing, thinking, believing and belonging.
It’s back to school for all of us. In many more ways than we could have imagined.
- How can we improve our volunteer – professional partnerships?
- How can I reduce my stress at work?
- How can I communicate more compassionately with my children?
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