Where Do You Find Faith?

I look to the Heavens and see God there, waiting patiently.

Shabbat starts tonight. For so many people the quiet doesn’t bring a respite from the toil of the workweek. For them the stillness brings back pain. Pain they would rather ignore.

I remember when my father in law, a”h, went to assisted living. 

He promptly acted like he belonged there. You would never know if he was sitting quietly all day along with the other people as if he belonged, but didn’t. As if he wasn’t fully aware, but was. 

I think he simply did not want us to have to worry about him.

Looking back on the people who we encountered there, how many were trying to forget all the bad memories that sitting quietly all day can bring?

Trauma lives forever in the body. That is the sad truth. The most one can do is acknowledge one’s feelings and sit with them.

Where do you find your faith?

This Shabbat I hope that you don’t need to. I hope He reaches out and holds your hand. Finds you.
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons photo by geralt via Pixabay.  https://pixabay.com/en/clouds-landscape-beyond-sky-rays-2709662/

Becoming Brand-Driven: A Cure For What Ails You

The key difference between the terms "brand management" and "management" is the term "brand." Here, we use it to refer to the intangible value added by the customer's feelings toward the organization--a combination of awareness, trust, loyalty and positive identification. While visual and verbal symbols matter (the logo and the tagline), they are only a limited expression of the entity.

Yes, Marketing Is Management -- and Vice Versa

  • Branding is everything: Because customers include everyone who deals with the organization, branding actually encompasses all facets of operations.
  • Cutting costs matters: The point of branding is to add value. You want to find and leverage value where it lives while minimizing time spent on wasted efforts. 

5 Symptoms of a Problem

    1. Employees are there for the paycheck only. Morale is poor. They're disengaged, unenthusiastic, inexplicably angry. 
    2. Executives manage upward well, but have lost touch with the customer. They tend to deny negative feedback. They do not have a clear understanding of results. When something goes wrong, it's everyone else's fault but their own. 
    3. The organization seems to drift. It goes from initiative to initiative with no real anchor or compass.
    4. Innovation is stagnant. People are afraid to share new ideas or important feedback. Collaboration is discouraged.
    5. Team members struggle to imagine what the organization might look like in the future.  Privately they wonder whether it might even go extinct. 

    3 Things That Need To Happen To Get Back On Track

    1. Alignment: The business strategy must affect the behavior of employees on a day-to-day level. The two should move in lock step at all times, but they're also fluid. If you change the strategy, behavior changes and vice versa.  
    2. Ruthlessly customer-centric: The brand-centric organization is by definition customer-centric because the customer is the entire reason that the organization exists. As such, if any aspect of operations detracts from the customer experience, it is either excised or modified to the maximum extent possible. 
    3. Employees first: The brand at its core is about intangible value. This kind of value is created, produced consistently, and improved upon by human beings. As such, they are the primary audience (even though they appear to cost money). 

    How To Institutionalize It

    • Top-down and side-to-side: In order for branding to work, the head of the organization must take the lead, supported by a committee of senior executives.
    • Clearly defined roles: The job of the leader and the committee is to jointly determine what the brand stands for, establish what that means in terms of practical day-to-day operating principles, and create a structure within which people can “live the brand” within the structure of their jobs. 

    5 Things To Put In Your Brand Manifesto

    Brand structure starts with a "manifesto." It is a sacred document, an organizational Constitution, and defines:

    1. Vision: What difference do we seek to make in the world?
    2. Mission: How will we make the vision happen? 
    3. Values: What do we truly believe, on a serious and deep level, that informs and affects every aspect of the work that we do?
    4. Rules of behavior: What do we expect from you, and what can get you kicked out of town?
    5. Accountability measures: The brand makes a promise, and accordingly its key stakeholders are given certain rights of redress. What are those? Spell it out. These measures should include the general principles of compensation that the organization applies.

    The brand is about something higher than a specific product or service. As such, it does not need to get into a laundry list of competitors. 

    Culture, The Secret Weapon

    There is no way to "write down" your culture, but without knowing what this "secret sauce" actually is, the organization is doomed to fail. 

    When you make crystal clear who you are and why you stand on this Earth today, this enables people at all levels of the organization to make simple decisions quickly and identify complex matters requiring the engagement of others. 

    When you make the brand truly accountable, people are free to interact with it, knowing that their rights are protected by an organization that says what it means and means what it says. 

    Proof of Concept

    How do you know your brand has gotten better? Over time, the strategy yields fruit. Employees are proud to be associated with it, they are proud of their good work and they are proud of the people they work with. The air you breathe feels clean, safe and productive. And in a way that seems very natural, the organization regularly parts ways with people and projects that aren't a good fit, while building on the success of others.


    Posted July 25, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. This document is released by the author into the public domain. Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia

    A Warm and Welcoming Members-Only Shul Meeting

    It was a tossup as to whether we would go to the special shul membership meeting last night. Hadn’t there been enough unpleasantness?

    “But this is all there is, OK? When one of us dies (God forbid but nobody lives forever), these are the people who will help to bury them.”

    Such is decision-making here. The most morbid scenario wins.

    “But no running your mouth like you did the last time, and making a whole scene.”

    “I promise,” I said and as usual was thinking, “except if...”

    He gave me a sidelong glance as if to say “I know you have your fingers crossed behind your back but fine, we’ll go anyway.”

    Well I guess they anticipated a ruckus because there were not one, but two security guards. They stood there flanking the doors as if expecting a riot.

    And I was scared. Personally. This was such new ground for me. You have to know I did not even go to synagogue for many years. It was just too awful. All the judging eyes. The dynamics. The fear of not being good enough. The closeted nature of being less than fully Orthodox in a very strict community.

    We moved near Magen David and I didn’t even know what to do about shul. It was my daughter who picked it.

    There was no rabbi at the time, or they were between rabbis. I was fine with that. I tend to think we over-value them. 

    The rabbi is not this magical figure, but we always seem to need a false god to worship. You need someone to do specific things, like say the prayers and read from the Torah. Supervise the food, and render halachic decisions. If you’re in the hospital, God forbid, a chaplain.

    There is a difference between the rabbi and a rebbe, of course. The rebbe is a figure who is highly advanced in terms of their character development—he is not just learned. The rebbe is there for the people at all stages of life. He is a mystical and mythical figure.

    The Lubavitcher rebbe, may he rest in peace,was my rebbe. I cry for the loss even now.

    So we go to the meeting and being very security conscious I practically jump every time I hear the door creak open. But it is just other members, running late.

    The shul president gave a relatively straightforward linear presentation as to the chronology of recent events and where we stand today. The rabbi simply didn’t want to stay there full-time; it seemed to me that he wanted to embark on a larger project, something connected to halachic reform, or modernization, or call it whatever you want. He didn’t want to lie to the people about his future plans. Kol HaKavod.

    It was clear that they tried to keep him. I will say that for me, this would have been fine as how often do I go to shul and how involved am I in volunteering? Not much. 

    And the rabbi and his wife were there for us when we needed them. They brought spirituality and community. Plus, anytime there was a concern about the safety or wellbeing of children, there was no question that the children came 100% first.

    The leadership and selflessness displayed by the Board impressed me. I was raised to look out for myself. That is not what these people do. 

    I remembered a line from the show “Transparent,” where the Israeli bodyguard is talking to the young American Jew who can’t understand how everyone in Israel spends three years in the army: “It’s about thinking about something larger than yourself.”

    The people had an opportunity to ask questions and make comments, each in turn. There were clear ground rules: No shouting allowed; take your turn. All questions were encouraged and allowed. All rumors were listened to and addressed.

    I though to myself more than once that you can’t take the people you love for granted; you can’t take your shul for granted; you can’t take for granted that the religious lessons you learned in school will be taught the same way somewhere else. It’s up to you to invest, not complain.

    Our shul is one of those places that is really about the shul, not the rabbi. Our community is investing in a process of soul-searching.

    Someone made an excellent comment. “The shul must decide if it is primarily a religious institution or a cultural one.” In other words, are we there to provide an Orthodox synagogue experience? Or are we there to provide a place for Sephardic kin to get together and shmooze?

    I do not think you have to choose between the two. But I do think that you have to choose whether the shul is Orthodox or not (clearly yes, although the members may not practice fully; I don’t). And that the pulpit should not be a place to push anyone’s agendas—or build personal brands.
    Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

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