3 Ways to Work More Transparently – and How It Will Help Your Congregation

Inside Leadership

3 Ways to Work More Transparently – and How It Will Help Your Congregation

Person on a dock holding a clear pane of glass as if to represent transparency

“Sharing work as it develops enables you to reflect on your work. It brings stakeholders into work early to provide feedback and assistance. It encourages you to be purposeful and effective in your work. Importantly it also enables others to develop a passive awareness of your work progress and to learn from how you do your work.” (Simon Terry, organizational consultant and writer).

There are so many benefits to be found for congregations if we can learn to work toward better transparency and collaboration between our lay and professional leadership teams. When we are more transparent, we collaborate more effectively. If we purposefully share our work in progress and invite more people into our work processes, we can get more work done in a shorter period of time. Our work can have greater impact, and we can save both time and money.

When we know that other leaders have access to our work, our work will most likely reflect their interests and concerns. If, for example, we know the rabbi has access to our plans for a New Member Shabbat, then we will make sure our ideas reflect what we think the rabbi is going to want to see in that program.

Additionally, when others can access our work, they become aware of projects we are working on and how those projects might connect to their work. They may not become deeply engaged with our work and may not provide feedback, but they are aware, and that awareness will be reflected in their work.

Think of a congregational committee or task force meeting. What usually happens? Typically, an agenda is written and shared with everyone at the meeting. Attendees participate in discussions, set goals, receive assignments, and take notes. After the meeting, attendees and committee members receive meeting minutes, and someone presents a report at the next board meeting, which may be anywhere from two to six weeks away.

This is all well and good, and certainly, our congregations have been effectively serving the Reform Jewish world for generations using this approach. But how can we work with more transparency and be more collaborative in our work?

1. Identify opportunities for collaboration through your agenda.

Before the meeting, review your agenda. How might the work and conversations of your committee or task force impact other committees or task forces at your congregation? Recognizing those connections, use your agenda review as an opportunity to make sure other teams are aware of what you’re working on and invite their input and collaboration.

2. Share meeting minutes immediately.

There’s no need to wait until the next board meeting to report about your task force’s work. Get in the habit of sharing information with other leaders immediately, on an ongoing basis, instead of waiting to make a carefully prepared presentation at the board meeting. Right away, send the minutes to the entire board and other leaders – and be purposeful about making sure leaders of other teams are aware of how your projects may connect to their work. By waiting until the next board meeting, the work of your team may be done, so instead, encourage other leaders to get back to you immediately, in real time, so your work reflects their interests and concerns.

3. Work out loud.

Don’t keep your work to yourself or wait until you’re presenting to the board to hear the dreaded words, “We tried that before, and it didn’t work then. Why would it work now?” Let the board know what you’re working on and give them access to the work itself. Invite their participation, encourage their feedback, incorporate their suggestions, and welcome their challenges – and make sure your work addresses possible concerns before it even gets to the board.

Collaborating in a visible, transparent way will help make your congregation work smoother and smarter when the time comes to plan broader initiatives – including your annual meeting. Information will be easier to collect, varying opinions will be easier to represent, and unwelcome surprises will be easier to avoid.

Engaging in open, honest discussions with a diverse, connected network of people will make for an improved, more positive work process. Conversations can stay focused on key visionary, strategic initiatives rather than dealing with projects some people were unaware of, and updates some people did not receive.

Make no mistake, being more transparent and collaborative can be difficult. We surrender a little bit of our ego and leverage when we open ourselves up to correction and criticism. We want our work to be done before it is seen by others; we want our work to reflect the very best of who we are and what we know. This sense of self-preservation and protection may serve our selves and souls well, but it gets in the way of us working more effectively on behalf of the congregation.

So share what you know and what you’re working on. Encourage feedback. Connect to work being done by others. Let their work inform your work, and save time while being more effective. Share more. Collaborate more. Be more transparent.

To create a private discussion and collaboration network in The Tent for the exclusive use of your congregation’s leadership, fill out our form. You can use this platform to ensure that the work done in your congregation is visible to your entire leadership.

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Larry Glickman, FTA, is the director of Network Engagement and Collaboration for the Union for Reform Judaism. Prior to joining the URJ in April 2013, Larry worked as a synagogue executive director for 10 years, most recently at Temple Chai in Long Grove, IL, and served as a board member and officer for the National Association for Temple Administration.

Larry Glickman, FTA

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