The Expert Neophyte

In my professional life, I take comfort AND yield countless benefits, from approaching things as a hungry collaborator who doesn’t know more than you do, no matter what the organizational chart says. I internally (and sometimes externally) overtly identify as a neophyte  (with extensive experience in leadership behind me), on a wide variety of subjects. I find this tactic not only propels my openness to learning and growth, but helps me perform with my ego checked at the door long before a project actually begins. (The more egos that can be checked at the door, obviously, produce fun and successful teamwork.) This often creates a level playing field, and an empowered ensemble that implements great work.

I think aspiring to be an “expert neophyte” is a wise and beneficial approach that invariably produces both qualitative and quantitative results. With the intentional practice of “assertive humility” I have found great joy in playing well with others. It has also opened up a world of genius ideas through meaningful collaboration.  The best work happens in cohesive, communicative and respectful teams. (Duh.)

Plus, sometimes, your idea is far better than mine. Either that, or I have an amazing idea that you and the team improve upon.

Several years ago, while working at a previous organization, a semi-reluctant leader transitioned into the executive director position. I was (and still am) very supportive of this nonprofit leader and friend.

While we were in the thick of this significant leadership transition, I learned about my love for doing all within my power to make other people look amazing. This was pivotal for me, because I had been out in front for most of my life. While being 100% external facing on a public level had a few perks I enjoyed, it was nothing compared to the return on investment I received, working behind the scenes to elevate others.

In truth, there hasn’t been anything sweeter for me professionally, than dedicating myself to helping other people thrive. For me, this is a no-brainer. I recommend working this way for anyone in a leadership position or really, anyone with a job at all. Better still, when I released my need for receipt of credit or applause from others, my work became sublime. I have found the real professional “cash & prizes” exist when the whole team and whole organization receive applause and credit for great work coming to fruition.

This Friday, it will be Friday the 13th. It’s also Simchat Torah AND my one year anniversary at ORT. Neophyte that I am, I believe this is the perfect TRY-fecta –

I’m TRYing, and it’s really taking effect.

In one year’s time, I have been lucky enough to move through gigantic organizational transition without thinking too much. I’ve been lucky enough to help build up the region, clarify the ORT brand and its mind blowing case for support. The very best aspect of all, is that I get to bear witness to enormous growth in our executive board and other lay leadership.

I am a just a player in this incredible ensemble. Okay, sometimes, I direct or guide, but mostly, I watch them grow. There is nothing better. Nothing.

This morning, I was sitting in a campaign meeting, and as I listened to the committee leadership, I was thoroughly impressed and overjoyed by the great work they are doing. I know I help guide the trajectory, but the increased cultivation, stewardship and creativity that is becoming fluid and dynamic for them, makes me love my position at ORT more than just about anything else I’ve ever done professionally.

THIS is everything. It never, ever gets old for this neophyte.

So, as I approach my one year anniversary, I’d like to dedicate my professional enjoyment and my own development to the lay leaders of ORT, old and new.

There is nothing ordinary or ORTinary about being at ORT.

Humble, grateful and new. Very new.



Author: PKW

Writer, Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer, Fundraiser, Strategist, Listener, and Lover of Humans. My love for humans and relationship building are a part of every single thing I do, except for maybe using the bathroom.

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