Posts Tagged ‘change’


Introducing Hayim’s Blog (Formerly “Tools for Shuls”) + Special Offer!

Posted on: July 25th, 2011 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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I’m incredibly excited to launch my new blog!  I placed blogging on hold so that I could focus more attention on my book and building my business.  And, I came to recognize that my Tools for Shuls blog was now too narrowly focused.

So much has changed in the Jewish world since I first started blogging a couple of years ago! The economic recession’s impact on the Jewish community, the fractured relationship between parts of the American Jewish community and Israel, the level of civil discussion within our own Jewish community-just to name a few!  “Tools for Shuls” inaccurately suggested by its title that some quick fixes in synagogues could address these issues, so resetting my blog, while launching the new website for the Herring Consulting Network, seemed timely.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, what can you expect to see that’s different? And for those who are new, what is this blog all about? The general focus is on developing leaders for the synagogue, Jewish communal and non-profit world who want to create the future that they hope to see, instead of waiting for the future to happen to them. For me, that’s a good working definition of leaders: people who dream big about tomorrow and create their tomorrows today.

You can expect two posts approximately every 10 days. One will relate to aspects of leadership. The other will ask you to comment on trends and issues related to your synagogue or organization. I envision the blog as a space for collaboration, where people can exchange ideas and experiences about leading organizations, and where they can pose questions to a diverse audience. So let’s start the conversation by asking:

Special limited offer:
All those who comment on this week’s question will be entered into a drawing for a free consulting session!*  There will be three different levels awarded:  One three-hour session, one two-hour session, and one one-hour session.  The drawing will take place on August 17, 2011, and winners will be notified via email.  So go ahead, share your responses by commenting below and you might win!

I look forward to resuming the conversation with you.


Rabbi Hayim Herring


*Consulting sessions will be given via conference call and will be scheduled according to Rabbi Herring’s availability.  Sessions are non-transferable and not redeemable for any cash value.

A Passion to Serve

Posted on: June 25th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

This post is personal because it concerns my family – not my genetic family, but my spiritual family.  I’m referring to congregational rabbis (although I also feel that anyone who serves the Jewish community in a professional capacity is a part of my family). While some colleagues remain secure in their jobs, many are feeling anxiety about their future. They watch others who have had their positions eliminated or reduced.  And a good number of rabbis, from what I’m hearing, are unsure about what to do to create a more secure congregation, or to prepare for a future in which there might not be one available for them. People who study for congregational life feel called by God. If they can’t serve a congregation, how can they fulfill a calling which possesses them?

I empathize with my colleagues because I have been through a number of professional transitions. In some of them I have felt a greater sense of calling, in others less so. I understand the feeling and perception that only a congregational setting allows for that kind of ongoing intensity of Divine purpose. In addition, schools and other Jewish institutions where rabbis have traditionally found employment are experiencing similar downsizing, leaving congregational rabbis with even fewer options.

I’ll be participating soon in a program where this issue will be explored. Clearly, congregations are not going to disappear. But the congregational rabbinate is experiencing the same kind of structural change that most industries and professions are feeling. So I am turning to you for ideas about how rabbinic colleagues can prepare for a future which may hold part-time congregational work, rabbinic work outside of the congregation, or a job in the for-profit or general non-profit sector.

Rabbinical training is a precious experience, taking between five and six years. While rabbis don’t seek congregations for financial reasons, they still have financial obligations which they must meet: repayment of academic loans, the cost of day schools and Jewish camps, giving tzedakah… and the list goes on. Rabbinical education is a tremendous resource for the Jewish community as no other kind of education offers similar depth and breath. In this time of tectonic shifts in the Jewish world, we have to make sure we have enough rabbis to provide guidance and leadership based on the legacy of our tradition, but they also have to know that they have a reasonable chance to find employment.

So what advice can you offer rabbis who dreamed of serving in the congregational world for their entire lives, but now find themselves in a profession which is undergoing a profound transition?  Do you have personal experience to share?  This is definitely a question that requires our collective wisdom!

Thank you for your help.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

image: articulatematter

Terrific or Terrifying? Technology’s Impact on Your Organization

Posted on: May 12th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Item: in 1986, I purchased a desktop computer manufactured by Leading Edge (which would now have to be called Dead Edge—the company didn’t last long) and an Epson dot matrix printer for about $2200. The computer was state of the art, came with 2 megabytes of RAM which I upgraded to 4, a monitor on which amber-colored words appeared and, when I inserted a second floppy disk, a fairly sophisticated spell-check program. As I write this entry, I am sitting on an airplane, using a laptop. One person is watching a movie on his handheld device, another is listening to songs, and although it’s dark, the cabin is aglow with other laptops or net books. All of these small, portable devices are exponentially more powerful than my first electronically tethered desktop, which didn’t move more than a few inches because it was plugged into a wall outlet.
My point? As much as we may sometimes wish it, technology is not going away and is literally embedded in most aspects of life already. In fact, it’s literally embedded in many bodies—insulin pumps, pacemakers, replacement parts (we are just seeing the beginning of how technology will allow for body-morphing for the masses for non-medical purposes).  So while hardware and software applications will continue to change and mature, the communications environment in which we live is here to stay.
From what I observe, there are many digital addicts who are always on. That means that they expect near-immediate responses when they send you a question, want you to help them solve a problem or simply want to send a greeting. The ding of an email or voice mail notification can create a near-Pavlovian response on our part, we feel like me must acknowledge the email moments after it comes, perhaps at the expense of deeper thought. 
I’d like to start a conversation with you now by asking two questions:

  1. Are you satisfied with how your synagogue manages to keep up with the rapid flow of technological changes?
  2. What technological changes has your synagogue made within the last five years, and have these changes delivered what they promised?

Thanks for what I’m sure will be another provocative discussion!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

image from 

Excellence or Perfection Paralysis?

Posted on: February 6th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great… Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for the good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good–and that is their main problem.

These are the opening, memorable words in the now classic business book by Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap….and Others Don’t. Collins reminds those of us in the non-profit world as well that we should never simply strive to be just good as an organization but always aspire to become great.  Always aspire toward greatness—is that realistic? I believe that it is—in fact, the answer should be a resounding “yes” in almost everything that happens in a non-profit organization, especially in a religious institution. After all, faith-based organizations rest on the belief that they can model a microcosm of a more ideal community.  Therefore, we should substitute the achievement of just good for great as our overall organizational benchmark. 

If you’re still not convinced of the merits of the aspiration toward greatness, think of it this way: in developing a funding request for an innovative program, would you strive to develop a good proposal or a great proposal?

However, there’s a big difference between reaching for greatness and waiting for perfection.  While people know that perfection is unattainable, they sometimes develop perfection paralysis–the need to polish every word and idea, the desire to anticipate every contingency related to change.  Understandably, individuals involved in nonprofit work need to be very diligent about wisely spending donor dollars and volunteer energy.  But much time can be wasted in trying to create a perfect change process.  Therefore, it is better to achieve 80% of your desired results with excellence than 100% of your desired outcomes with the impossible goal of perfection.  You will accomplish much more, sustain the energy of volunteers and staff and maintain the interest of funders. 

So here’s where I would especially like your opinion: assuming no additional funding, as greatness is an attitude and attribute that isn’t for sale, what would it take to turn your synagogue or organization from a really good one to a great one?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

The Challenge of Innovation and Communication!

Posted on: January 30th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Here’s one of my favorite stories about the challenges of communicating:

A lawyer was interviewing a man regarding his decision to divorce his wife, and asked, “What are the grounds for your divorce?”
He replied, “I have about 5 acres.”
“No,” he said, “I mean, what’s the foundation of this case?”
“It is made of concrete” he responded.
He said, “Do you have a grudge?”
“Yes,” he replied, “it can hold two cars.”
“Sir, does your wife beat you up?”
“Yes,” he said “several times a week she gets up earlier than I do.”
Finally, in frustration, the lawyer asked, “Why do you want a divorce?”
Looking perplexed, he answered, “My wife says I don’t communicate well.”

According to the Jewish tradition, God did not communicate with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai only once. Rather, the classical rabbis teach that every day God’s voice still emanates from Mount Sinai. (Pirkei Avot 6:2)

Without stretching this analogy, there is something important to learn from this rabbinic teaching: communicating once about critical matters is not enough. No matter how many times you think you have clearly explained a change-related matter, you probably need to continue working at it.

Often, there is a small cadre of people directly assigned with implementing a change and they’ve probably been working at it for some time. They are close to it and understand from the inside out. But, it probably took this group some time to gain clarity on their mandate for change. So if even those who are most intimately associated with the change require time to digest it, consider how much effort is really required to communicate on a broader level.

There are a few strategies that can help you communicate effectively:

When I Googled “communications strategies,” I received 36,800,000 hits—a sign of the challenge of communicating in a multi-media, information-saturated age. So here’s my question: what are the most effective means you’ve found to communicate a change?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Support, Support, Support!

Posted on: January 22nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

In order for any kind of change effort to succeed, you have to do more than provide a clear, positive verbal and visual message about the intended change. You also need to help the people who are on the front lines of change become successful.  While it is important to set goals and expectations about the intended outcomes of the change, it’s equally important to support them with the resources to make the leap from doing things how they are currently done to conducting business in a new manner.

Why? Because those responsible for implementing the change are likely to feel incompetent for a period of time, as they let go of the old (which they were good at) and embrace the new (for which it will take time to gain proficiency). During this transition, they need to have the technical support to help them gain mastery of a new skill or process, and the emotional support to let them know that they have permission to ask questions, to make mistakes and to feel frustrated as they transition from how things were done to how things will be done.

For example, let’s look at the adoption of new technologies.  People have different levels of comfort with technology: as a general rule of thumb, the younger the individual, the greater the comfort level. When congregations decide to invest in new technologies, like advanced phone systems, computer software or even photocopiers, they budget for equipment but may not budget sufficient funds for training staff on the new equipment.  Moreover, board members may have unrealistic expectations about the timetable for efficiencies that the new technology promises.  As a result, feelings of frustration on the part of staff and lay leadership occur, causing some to question the need for the investments or the abilities of this staff.  So remember, when investing in any kind of change process, allow time and support for people to adjustments to their new circumstances.

I’d like to hear your story about trying to innovate in your congregation.  What were you trying to achieve that was different?  In hindsight, do you feel that an appropriate amount of support was offered?  What would you do differently next time?  Thanks in advance, for sharing your insights!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Want Change? Think and Speak Positive!

Posted on: December 29th, 2008 by Hayim Herring No Comments

In my last post, I explained why pictures, images and other visuals are so critical to any process of change. But words matter just as much when it comes to initiating and sustaining change. In striving for that desired new future, you have to describe it in emotionally-positive verbal messages.

I want to stress the importance of the message being positive, because message makers often choose fear as the emotion of choice when it comes to talking about change. “If we don’t increase membership revenue by instituting a new dues structure, we’re going to have to cut programs and services.” Contrast that negative message with, “If we start to utilize the talents of our volunteers more systematically, we can we maintain and even increase the array of programs and services we offer.”

Note that both messages have the same goal in mind—to at least maintain the current level of activity. The difference is that the first one draws upon desperation (a worst case scenario of what will happen), the second upon aspiration (using our potential to maintain and even exceed who we are).

Fear does have a place in fostering change. For example, it’s prudent in these times to make sure that security procedures are in place for emergencies. But the problem with an over reliance upon fear is that it often begets only immediate compliance. By focusing on hope about a better future, we become emotionally inspired to bring the best of ourselves to the process. Whoever said that the carrot is better than the stick was indeed correct!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

We Know Change is Hard—But Why?

Posted on: December 15th, 2008 by Hayim Herring No Comments

When asked why change takes so long, we’re often given the proverbial answer, “Because change is hard.” Okay—we all know that change is difficult. But that answer doesn’t get us very far in understanding how to facilitate change. It’s the follow up question, “Why is change so hard?,” that is more fruitful because it generates insights about the root difficulties of change.

Researchers suggest that change is so hard because people carry a picture of the present inside of their heads. This picture blocks the view of what the future might look like. As we live in the present, our assumptions, behaviors and mental images of the present exercise a strong grip on our imaginations and shield against new possibilities emerging in our minds.

That’s why so many advertisements feature “before” and “after” pictures of individuals who have undergone some kind of cosmetic intervention.  Think of the difference in the power between hearing that someone named Jim has decreased lost 50 pounds and then seeing two picture of a shirtless Jim, one at 200 pounds side-by-side with the new Jim at a svelte 150 pounds. No words can dramatize this radical picture of change.

Or, let’s take an example from a building campaign. Why is it that architects will build models of buildings with capital improvements and that members will create some sort of graphic allowing people to see how far they have to go to reach their financial goal? It’s because pictures enable us to glimpse the future in a way that words cannot.

One of the strategies for increasing the ability of people to visualize change is to literally give them a picture of what change will look like. Otherwise, no matter how frequently you try, their picture of the present will override a picture of a new and improved future.

Here are two items that I’d like to hear from you about:

  1. Can you relate a story about how visual images have worked to support change in your congregation or organization?
  2. What other explanations do you have as to why change is so hard?

Rabbi Hayim Herring