TalentCentrik and What Went Right, the Big Ideas behind the Professional Leaders Project (PLP) and Hillel’s Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service
Article and Big Ideas 3 and 4
by Rhoda Weisman
[Article 1 and Big Idea 1 expressed a non-traditional view that the Jewish community does not have a crisis of young talent. In fact we are rich in them but that we need to be TalentCentrik, making the recruiting and developing of young talent a top priority. Article 2 and Big Idea 2 addresses a central practice in how to build a larger TalentCentrik culture in which both young and seasoned talent thrive.
This is the last article in a 3-part series. Article 3 addresses the two most important success factors in developing, leading and sustaining TalentCentrik organizations where young talent thrive.]
Just before graduation from the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, I received a call from my favorite professor, Larry Sternberg. He asked to meet at his office. I was scared to death. Thoughts of flunking his class and not getting the degree flooded my head. I had come from an outreach background and was not yet confident in this field. “Did I pass,” I asked with a white face? His answer changed the direction of my life. Sit down he growled at me – the way only a caring person can. “Why do you think you failed? Your paper was excellent and you’re just starting. Go to Hillel at UCLA and make a huge difference. Professor xyz from our senior team is going to contact the Hillel Director on our behalf and sing your praises.
I had just learned the two most important lessons for developing young talent. One, community can’t be built alone. And two, everyone needs coaching and mentoring.
Big Idea 3 – Only coaching and mentoring can sustain thriving talent pools.
We can’t see all of our strengths and challenges. Even if we could, what if our thoughts are incorrect? Dr. Daniel G Amen , renowned psychiatrist in his landmark breakthrough book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” writes, “Your thoughts do not always tell the truth. Sometimes they even lie to you.” Who will lift us up when we need support and clarity as Larry did or help gently confront us to move through challenges as other mentors of mine have done?
Two values that set PLP apart was a commitment to 1:1 leadership coaching for all young talent, and tools to create long-lasting mentoring relationships. The former helped talent actualize their potential, optimize their strengths and skills and support them to become high-level leaders in Jewish life. The latter connected them to their colleagues and to seasoned leaders whom they could learn from and reciprocate.
Every month, PLP’s team of coaches listened, questioned, supported, challenged, encouraged insight and opened doors for talent. In the course of speaking, an array of issues and interests arose where coaches offered guidance that helped PLP’ers dramatically improve their standing and positions in Jewish organizations.
Mid-level professionals moved to the C-Suite, others began their own organizations, took executive Board positions and still others applied to top MBA and MPA programs. Approximately 20 % of the volunteers swapped their day jobs for Jewish professional positions. Today PLP’ers are seen in leadership positions all over. The results from systematic 1:1 coaching for young talent exceeded all expectations.
Big Idea 4 – Organizations need operating systems to develop and grow young talent. Without it, the work is disorganized, the quality uneven and there is no mechanism to scale up when talent succeed. It was Larry and his team that had set me up for success, not just Larry.
One of my best professional decisions was creating a team of top Hillel professionals from around the country called JCSC Coordinators. They acted as mentors for the JCSC Fellows and supported the supervisors in their region. The success of the JCSC program had everything to do with the brilliance and passion of its Coordinators: Nancy Berlin Jessica Semel, Debbie Rubenstein, Margo Sack, Rabbi Sue Shifron, Marla Myers and Jeremy Brochin.*
As a team we met weekly by old-fashioned conference call with big cups of coffee, open minds, great respect for one another, a D’var Torah and adherence to the laws of lashon hara. We brainstormed, analyzed, laughed and challenged one another over every aspect of the program to make it better, stronger and more impactful. To ensure we were listening to the Fellows, we invited many of them to speak with us regularly. Our mission was to engage 10’s of 1,000’s of students in Jewish life and we didn’t settle for less.
PLP was built upon this same model and it worked beautifully. The operating team acted as a weekly BrainTrust. Some became Directors of the programs in their geographic regions. Additional thought leaders were added to the team to ensure diversity and included Nancy Berlin, Paul Cohen, Herb Tobin, Sara Adler, Joseph Kohane, Rae Janvey, Sara Meyers, David Cygielman and guests.*
Sometimes systems are in place but often they are not. Just as talent must be invested in, so must the operating system and its leaders. These kinds of systems and teams can be built in just about any organization, small or large. The key is to scale them to generates the goodwill, energy and skill needed to create consistent and excellent results.
Not so long ago there was a plethora of leadership development opportunities. Now there are few and most of our organizations don’t offer this kind of help. Together we must change this reality. Developing TalentCentrik cultures for younger generations to strategically take the reigns of Jewish leadership is everyone’s best hope for the future.
* At different times throughout the program.
Rhoda Weisman is an executive coach and consultant specializing in talent and human capital development in the workplace. Rhoda is the former Founding Executive Director of the Professional Leaders Project and Chief Creative Officer for Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus life where she founded over a dozen talent-based initiatives. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.