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    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 New Year of Positive Thinking

    31065533_sHaving a positive workplace doesn’t mean waking up to your alarm clock playing Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” song every morning, nor does it mean greeting your colleagues with a “welcome to Disneyworld!” smile every day. This is not always perceived positive, and in fact, it can be downright annoying. However, when your work culture isn’t positive, it has a direct affect on your physical and emotional life. Cultivating a positive workplace requires first understanding that without it, work becomes meaningless, motivation drops and engagement disappears.

    Positivity allows for creativity, big picture thinking and openness to new ideas, which leads to a successful organization.

    I first learned about positive thinking as a child from my father who created a very special bedtime ritual (which I’ve adopted with my girls years later). Every night, my father would ask me “Noa, what kind of dream would you like to have tonight?” In most cases, my answer was to live in a candy store! At that point, my dad would pretend that there was an invisible zipper on my forehead which he would slowly unzip, and whisper my dream to my subconscious. Then he would hurry to zip up the invisible zipper so the dream wouldn’t escape and I would close my eyes and immediately immerse myself in thoughts of my candy store and everything that I get to do there and then I would fall into a sweet sleep.

    So what do dreams of endless candy have to do with having a positive mindset at work? I learned that being able to “choose” my dreams as a child developed into having the ability to choose my thoughts as well as my moods as an adult. Positivity is, in fact, both a mindset and a skillset. We can all cultivate positivity through the choices we make, the perspectives we choose, the behaviors we engage in, the conversations we have, as well as those who choose not to engage in.

    While it is much easier to have a positive outlook when times are good, it’s even more important to focus on positive thinking when things go wrong. Many of us have serious and urgent problems. We experience disappointments, heartaches, rejections, and stress on a daily basis. While we don’t want to pretend that our problems aren’t real , “sugar coat” them or withdraw into denial, we can still approach solutions in a positive manner.

    Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness explains that stress is an inevitable part of work. It can be obstacle to growth but it can also be the fuel for it.

    His suggestion to working stress in a positive manner is to make a list of all the stresses you’re under and place them in two groups – the ones you can control (unfinished tasks, inbox) and those you can’t control (the stock market, politics in Iran). You then are being asked to choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. This is what signals your brain to shift to a positive, productive mind-set.

    Most people believe that success preceded happiness. “Once we reach our campaign target, then I’ll be happy”, or “Once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”. However success is a moving target – as soon as we hit our target, we raise it again and the happiness that results from success is gone.

    Similarly to training our muscles at the gym, recent research on neuroplasticity, shows that it is not so different than training our brain to be more positive.

    Here are a few things that we all can do each day to help our brain cultivate more positivity in our work and life:

    • Writing down three things we are grateful for.
    • Acknowledging someone else for doing/being good.
    • Exercise for 10-30 minutes.
    • Meditate anywhere for two minutes.
    • Describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours in a journal.

    Even by choosing one of the above as a new habit and repeat it for three weeks, will show improvement in your levels of positive and engagement.

    Growing up in the 1970s, neither my dad or I knew anything about “positive psychology” and the “happiness factor”, but somehow, we knew how to apply these principles.

    As you are gearing up for a new day at work, remember that you can’t have a positive work environment with a negative mind. Training your brain to look for the positive outcomes in each situation and your positive contribution to taking one step towards solution will help you enormously in cultivating a positive day.

    When Getting Along Is Easier Said than Done

    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.


    “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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