“For every beginning is difficult”

AND NOW — if you will now take upon yourselves the observance of My commandments, it will be pleasant (easy) to you from now and henceforth, for every beginning is difficult (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 19:5:1).

Earlier this week, I stepped (dove headfirst) into an executive director role and for months prior, I’d been obsessing about the great Rabbi Ishmael and the short quote (and surrounding text) from the Midrashim. In a nutshell, “For every beginning is difficult,” raced through my head constantly. Continue reading ““For every beginning is difficult””

May our New Year be sweet, creative & strategic:

V E R Y.

I’m thinking that in 5779 , we will need to be extra resourceful and creative. Thus far, 5778 has been okay, but fraught with steep challenges. (I won’t delve into politics, grief or human rights violations in this post.) I like to think of 5778 as, “paying our dues in research, development, patience and strategy.” Continue reading “May our New Year be sweet, creative & strategic:”

The Icky Shtick of an “Inclusive” Clique

I will always be a student and I like that about me. I may even be addicted to learning new things, including, but not limited to learning new things about myself. (The good, the bad and the ugly.)

For as long as I have been a sponge for learning, I have been especially invested in social justice and human rights. (Even before I knew what they were called, or the endless lesson plans that accompany human rights.)

Over the years and lately, I have had the good fortune to hear (and learn), a great deal about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Even though I had ample training on it, my learning AND my questions have really skyrocketed in the past few months.

While in “Inclusion School,” I have also had an opportunity to tour some of the hottest Chicago tech companies who pride themselves, and maybe even boast a little, on superior workplace diversity and inclusion.

Some of these companies are, by a long shot, the finest working environments I have ever seen. The physical spaces are welcoming, comfy and designed for collaboration.

YUM.

Here is the bad news, and the reason why I haven’t mentioned any specific companies or actual people I am learning from…

I am hard-pressed to find my population. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of women, but what I can’t seem to find in these tech companies, and I am looking EVERYWHERE, are women above 50 years of age. To be honest, in one company, I don’t think I saw any men over 50 either and if we are really going to get into the nitty gritty, I can’t be sure if I saw ANY women over 40 years of age.

Look, I am not getting down on tech companies. I love tech companies.

I am, however, interested in where women over 50 years of age are within these hot tech companies. I am even more fascinated with the external corporate messaging of infallible dedication to workplace diversity and inclusion and yet, where are women like me?

There are no accusations here on these very successful tech companies, but I sure would like to review the actual diversity data from corporations who tout diversity and inclusion in their workplace. Perhaps their 50 and 60-somethings are working remotely or are in a less public place, but I doubt the latter as the work-spaces I have toured are wide open.

As you may or may not know, I believe ageism is myopically immature and downright wrong.

I realize that we all have biases. I do too, but, if you pride yourself on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or within social justice for that matter, please take a long, honest look. If you can’t seem to find women like me, or care about the rights of women like me… check yourself and your actual commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Plus, I have no doubt that real diversity and inclusion, with a smorgasbord of different ages, races, religions, genders, socioeconomic statuses, etc. just has to be the best place to work AND the best place to be a lifelong student.

 

 

 

 

We aren’t “Schnorrers.” We create “Shidduchs!”

We create a perfect match

schnor·rer

also shnor·rer (shnôr′ər)n. Slang:One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others; a parasite.

A PARASITE.

In the past, I’ve heard fundraisers referred to as “schnorrers,” by a few well-meaning donors, donor prospects, colleagues and friends. Of course, many times, they’re just trying to have fun with me and fellow fundraisers. I don’t think they realize how, in actuality, most fundraisers are really the absolute opposite of “schnorrers.”

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an unstoppable fire in my belly to help others and to do whatever I can to repair the world. I am also driven to do whatever is within my power to help make organizations I’m involved in better and stronger. Like so many fundraisers I know, I have always loved people, building relationships and doing whatever I can to find the perfect fit for a donor to match up with a mission and/or program and vice-versa.

I was raised with a lot of Yiddish growing up. To me, it is absolutely the happiest, most fun language, ever. When you exclaim something in Yiddish, you don’t necessarily have to know Yiddish to get the gist of what someone is saying.

I think a more appropriate Yiddish word for us fundraisers is, “Shidduch” creator!

shid·duch

(shidəKH, SHiˈdo͞oKH)n. an arranged marriage (Jewish), One who creates a “shidduch” or perfect match.

This is how I see and implement fundraising in my work and from so many of my esteemed colleagues. Our goal is to seek a perfect match for each donor and the donor always comes first. Our job is to fulfill whatever they have brewing in their kishkes. (Look up kishke on your own.)

So… the next time you meet with a fundraiser, or are casually hanging out with one, please don’t call us “schnorrers.” Not only do we really not like it, but it is not typical or even accurate. (For most of us.)

You may not want to call us anything that includes the word “shidduch,” either. At least not loudly. It’s one of the rare Yiddish words that sounds a wee bit more like an unpleasant English word than it sounds like, “matchmaker.”

Of course, you can call me a “Shidduch” creator anytime.

Thanks for letting me kvetch about this unpleasant stereotype and I hope we can kibbitz soon.

Perhaps I can make the right match for you. 💙💚❤💛🧡💜

Acing the Test of Great Leadership

*DISCLAIMER: I may be wrong.

*OTHER DISCLAIMER: I may not be wrong.

*OTHER OTHER DISCLAIMER: It doesn’t matter.

*OTHER OTHER OTHER DISCLAIMER, or, DISCLAIMER CUBED: Great leaders only ace the leadership test if they do NOT seek credit for acing the test.

Without appearing old and crusty, I’ve been around. I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two. Perhaps more than most people, I have walked through a diverse and wonderfully colorful career path.

I have adored some career choices more than others. To date, (and no, I don’t enjoy dating, but that’s a different article), I am wholly in love with and immersed in learning from the good, the bad and the ugly of pretty much everything.

For whatever reason, and I will mention some of what I believe are the reasons, I have often evolved into a leader, even though this is something I have fought against for much of my life.

While I have sometimes felt pressured to accept a leadership position or be fired, I think I am starting to understand what I believe are extremely valuable (essential) qualities of very strong leadership. Here goes: (Also, don’t forget my disclaimers, okay?)

  • A great leader does not need to take credit or receive much in the way of applause
  • A great leader never considers a brilliant idea stolen, and nor does she/he become offended, when a colleague claims idea as her/his own, but rather views it as a positive that collaborative systems are working well
  • A great leader meets people exactly where they are and implements actions based on realistic factors (I struggle with the second part of this one!)
  • A great leader, while always seeing a holistic view, creates and develops accessible systems in order to raise up all individuals and the organization as a whole
  • A great leader takes calculated risks and accepts the heat when they don’t fly
  • A great leader is appropriately transparent and accountable, internally and externally
  • A great leader elevates others and recognizes that this estimable action improves the leader as a leader!
  • A great leader knows that the very best ideas and systems are successful only through collaboration
  • A great leader has a healthy sense of boundaries, but NEVER buys into hierarchy
  • A great leader celebrates victories but does not claim victory as her/his own
  • A great leader takes it on the chin for the greater good of the team and proceeds to shift the group, into a positive direction
  • A great leader is either organized, or wise enough to locate all aspects of organization in order to run things well
  • A great leader has vision, compassion and clarity
  • A great leader needs help and asks for it
  • A great leader plays to strengths and helps stretch weaker muscles, in her/himself and others
  • A great leader values and fosters professional development for all
  • A great leader almost always finds the calm within a storm
  • A great leader is realistic and accepting about her/his own weaknesses and is selectively and strategically transparent about them, in order to elevate the collective group and organization
  • A great leader celebrates being a part of something far bigger than her/himself. (A great leader is right-sized)
  • A great leader is strategic and tactical or, is surrounded by others who are strategic and tactical (which is an excellent strategy.)
  • A great leader implements and follows an accessible, realistic organizational strategic plan
  • A great leader is hungry to learn from others and invariably, does
  • A great leader is responsible and enthusiastic about mentoring other great leaders
  • A great leader is many times, not located at the top of an organizational chart, and doesn’t really care

Whoa. There’s more, but I’m exhausted.

I have observed outstanding leadership on a few occasions, but not as often as I’d like to. Egos and/or arduous work to hide a leader’s weaknesses, lack of systems creation and/or implementation gets in the way. Many times, leaders who are labeled as leaders, can feel burdened by or anxious about their title, so they define and focus on what they think a leader is supposed to look like, rather than keeping her/his eyes on what’s really essential.

I am interested in learning from great leaders and also from the not so great leaders. In fact, I really love and embrace both facets of professional growth as they are invaluable lessons on what to do and what not to do.

Maybe that’s why I might be a leader at my core, as much as I prefer standing behind other leaders.

Either way, I’m being led to the next right move.

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. Continue reading “The Expert Neophyte”

Shards of Glass in the Sandbox

Throughout most days, I find myself happiest when I feel like a kid playing in the sandbox with my friends. I often feel this way at work.

Sometimes, I get sad because I usually like to build BIG sandcastles and share my shovel and pail with everyone. Others don’t always want to build and share like I do. If I’ve had enough sleep and a good meal before I play in the sandbox, I tend to move right through these conflicts. If I am hangry, I periodically feel like throwing sand and stomping off in a huff because people won’t build and share nicely the way I do. Continue reading “Shards of Glass in the Sandbox”