Picturing Organizational Teshuvah

Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by Hayim Herring
Touch Up Work

Image from flickr user "Shavar Ross"

Why are “before” and “after” pictures frequently used in ads for products that promise to help people improve some aspect of their appearance? Because a new, positive image can motivate a change in behavior.  For example: a photo of a person who is out of shape is placed next to that same individual after he or she undertakes a challenging exercise regimen; now, that person looks fit enough for the Olympics.  Who doesn’t want to look like that!?

Advertisements that use pictures correctly recognize that visualizing the benefits of a changed behavior is more powerful than just verbally describing them.  Imagining an “improved” self can be a catalyst for initial change.

Personal change and organizational change are similar in this regard. People who participate regularly in congregational or organizational life already carry a positive picture within their minds.  Those who participate less frequently likely carry a negative picture on the subconscious level.  You can start them on a path of greater involvement by helping them change their mental image of synagogue or organizational life.

If you want to test this observation, here’s an exercise to try with your staff, board or some other committee.  Have markers and flip chart paper with a sticky back at your next meeting.  Then, ask board members to draw a picture of the image that comes to mind when describing their synagogue or organization.  Those drawings will tell you quite a bit about their emotional attachment.  I would even suggest that you place those pictures up on the wall at each meeting.

As a leader, it’s important to surface your own picture first and then discover the pictures that others maintain internally.

Challenge your leadership to develop a repertoire of images that are positive, energetic and creative.  Then, in addition to verbalizing any changes you wish to make in this coming new year, reference the mental pictures of your organization as well.  You will find that these pictures will help you achieve the change that you seek.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah,

Rabbi Hayim Herring


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