Posts Tagged ‘Governance’

 

Stop Meeting Malaise and Board Boredom

Posted on: March 1st, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Tapping a Pencil

From Rennett Stowe On flickr

If you’re a staff member of an organization or synagogue, three dreaded words are “weekly staff meeting.” If you’re a board member, you may not have the same feeling about attending scheduled board meetings, but being at one is probably not on your Top 10 favorite things to do. Why do we allow ourselves to suffer often from board boredom and meeting malaise?

Board and staff meetings are unfulfilling because they are unproductive. Updates that could happen electronically take up too much meeting time. Information that only a couple of people need monopolize staff discussions. Even when meetings are run efficiently, they are not necessarily productive. That’s because essential, strategic issues that require multiple perspectives are not discussed. Instead, meetings become focused on the here and now–here’s how we did it the last time, and now we’re going to do it this way (which is often only incrementally different). The result—people at meeting develop inventive surreptitious ways to check email on their smart phones.

So here’s a challenge for you: cut your meetings by 30% on a trial basis of 6 months. That decrease can take different forms. It can mean shortening existing meetings by 30% or decreasing the number of meetings on your calendar by that number.  I can’t guarantee it, but it’s highly probable that you will be much more happy and productive.

For more ideas on how to make the most of meetings, you can read my new book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life.

B’shalom,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Making Better Use of Jewish Real Estate: Inspired by the Past

Posted on: March 25th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.
The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.
The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.
The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers non-profits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.
In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?
Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).
Rabbi Hayim Herring

I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.

The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.

The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.

The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers nonprofits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.

In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.com.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?

Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Boards Gone Wild or Why Organizational Values Matter!

Posted on: February 22nd, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Mission, vision, values….sometimes this last item—values—is omitted from an organization’s foundational documents. Speaking directly, this is a mistake. I say this definitively because I’ve attended too many meetings in synagogues and other Jewish organizations that desperately needed some guidance in Jewish values.

Of course, I’ve also worked with many committees and boards marked by thoughtfulness, caring, dedication to the work, sensitivity and decency. I don’t want to minimize these experiences, which draw in many others to become volunteers for Jewish organizations. But I’ve also lost count of the number of times of people who were great volunteers left a synagogue because it actually threatened their positive, spiritual feelings.

Sad to say, I’ve heard or seen demeaning speech, hypocrisy, selfish behavior, verbally bullying, shouting and I am appalled to admit—an out-of-control individual hurl an object at another person (more than once). In beginning my consultancy practice, I’ve even been warned by caring colleagues to make sure to develop some portion of my clientele outside of the Jewish community because they find it too emotionally difficult to work exclusively within the Jewish community.

That’s why I advocate for groups creating a values statement. A values statement is a list of ideals to which anyone involved in an organization agrees to commit. It is a purposeful declaration of how people in the organization will treat one another and represent themselves to the broader public in carrying out their work. What are some of the typical statements that appear on those organizations which have a statement of values?

While non-sectarian organizations will likely exclude the first value, they still capture its major implications in the second.

As with mission and vision statements, so go values statements: if they aren’t regularly referenced, they won’t influence the culture of the organization. But when they are, and when people are held accountable for their behavior when a value is modeled or violated, others will learn that values aren’t mere organizational window dressing.

Does your organization have a values statement? Would you please share it with us on this blog or send us a link to an electronic copy? What is your experience with values statements—have they helped to maintain civility in the way that your church, synagogue or organization operates?

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Mission: Impossible or Possible?

Posted on: February 5th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

It’s legitimate to ask the question, “Why does a congregation need to define its mission?” After all, shouldn’t a congregation’s mission be “to live the word of Torah/Scripture in the world?” On a basic level, that’s true.  But if the mission of the congregation is so amorphous, it will resemble an amoeba trying to move in different directions at the same time.

I like the definition that Rabbi David Teutsch uses in his book, Making a Difference.  A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.  He writes, “…a strong organization articulates both articulates a picture of the world it is attempting to create and its own particular role in creating it (p.81). Any mission answers the question, why do you exist as an organization?  You can also think of a mission statement as a tombstone.  If your congregation was to leave this world, what epitaph would people write about it?

The skepticism about the need for a clear mission may be related to bad experiences in trying to craft one.  Or, it may reflect the reality that once the work of defining the congregation’s mission is complete, no one really seems to use it.  However, defining and periodically refining your mission can be incredibly powerful for your congregation.

How many times has someone approached congregational leaders with a “good idea,” and was even willing to back it with resources?  If you don’t have a clearly defined mission, you may be tempted to agree to it because of the allure of funding. But that’s a scenario which you will wind up regretting.  Why? Because no major organizational decision should be taken unless it is aligned with your organization’s mission. One of the essential tasks of senior professional and volunteer leaders is to exist in a way that is always faithful to its mission.  With that kind of consistency, your mission will become a driving force for maximizing the impact that you are congregation will have in the world.

Here are some examples of mission statements that can really serve as clear guides to organizational purpose:

What has your experience been with congregational mission statements? Also—I’d love you to submit what you think is an exemplary organizational mission statement. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, President, Herring Consulting Network

hayim@herringconsultingnetwork.com

photo from flickr.com, smallritual

Who Is Your Governator?

Posted on: January 28th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Congregational governance-what do you think of when you hear this phrase? Does the image of endless committee meetings come to mind? What about board meetings that result in squabbling? Is it clear when staff should take the lead on an issue and volunteers should? You want a true partnership between volunteers and staff, but the goal of sharing governance responsibilities seems elusive.

I’ll be writing about the issue of governance for the next several weeks, so I’ll begin with a general definition. Governance is the term that encompasses how staff members and volunteers conduct the work of the congregation with one another, with the congregation and with the broader community in a way that fulfills their legal, ethical and spiritual responsibilities.

Some congregational leaders-both professional and lay-characterize governance as the “business” side of the organization. They have an explicit or implicit understanding that staff members should steer clear of governance issues. That is a guaranteed recipe for dysfunction. The other side of the coin is when clergy members arrogate too much power for themselves, with the leadership’s tacit agreement, and undermine the governance structures in the congregation. That scenario usually ends in destruction. So if you have one person who is perceived to be the congregational “governator,” you have a problem!

High-achieving, dynamic, healthy congregations emerge from a partnership between staff and lay leaders in how they govern the congregation. And the congregational board is at the heart of that relationship. Based on my observations and experience, I will even go one step further: vital institutions are always characterized by effective board leadership, and organizations with weak board leadership will muddle through at best. My impression is that most congregational boards are just adequate. That is not to say that talented individuals don’t serve on synagogue boards-they definitely do! But, as a board, the sum of parts is less than the whole and over time, the mediocre quality of boards drives out the excellence that a board is capable of achieving.

 So take a look at your own community and assess which organizations or congregations seem to be doing relatively well. What do you know about their board leadership? How do staff and volunteers work together? Is governance transparent or is there a perception that only a few privileged individuals are involved in decision-making?

 I also want to invite you to ask your own questions about governance-what will help you raise the level of congregational governance? There’s much riding on these issues, especially in this turbulent time for organizations.

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring