Challenge Our Talent

Assigning meaningful, difficult and engaging projects sparks a person’s drive to feel autonomous, competent, & belonging. It will motivate them to work hard & achieve. Talent feel valued because we trust, empower, & believe in them.

To challenge the professionals among us who are motivated by such challenges and feel valued when presented with them can be a win-win-win for Jewish life: a win for the Jewish community professional, a win for our institutions, and a win for Jewish life b’gadol (writ large).

Investing in the challenge our talent formula is easily replicable leads to a strong ROI. Engaging employees at all levels through challenge allows them to:

  • honor their own ideas, insights, and perspective on the world
  • allow staff to own the problem and thus be motivated to design and own the solution
  • nurture creativity and empowerment, risk-taking, and learning from our experiences
  • promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills

How We Challenge Our Talent

Challenging Our Talent is a four step process, presented in the schematic below:

With this schematic in mind, we can further dissect this concept. Challenge, as a motivational tool, rests on three legs:

  1. Leg 1. Empowering Professionals’ Creativity
  1. Leg 2. Financial Means that instill a sense of feeling valued and supported
  1. Leg 3. Opportunity to respond to an emerging relevant demand

This connects to three key components of internal motivation, which provides the basic framework to motivate and value our employees through challenge. Psychologist Edward L Deci has explored the nature of internal motivation in his book Why We Do What We Do. Let’s define our terms in light of Deci’s work:

  • “Autonomy –  the universal urge to be causal agents of one’s own life and act in harmony with one’s integrated self; this does not mean to be independent of others.
  • Competence – to seek to control of the outcome and experience mastery.
  • Relatedness (or belonging) – the universal desire to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others.” (Deci, Why We Do What We Do).

Plan of Action:

  1. Ensure any challenge we assign our staff fits the 3 legs-model 1) empower them to be creative, 2) provide sufficient financial resources to carry out the task, and 3) the challenge is relevant and meets a current or emerging need..
  2. Ensure staff have the autonomy to do their work. Give the employee or team space, time, and trust to experiment and take risks, so they feel empowered and free to be creative and make the necessary mistakes in order to learn.
  3. Create an environment for them to feel competent in the challenge. This include providing the adequate resources, training, or professional development needed to obtain or strengthen the requisite skill sets to properly address and meet the challenge.
  4. Nurture a work culture in which staff work collaboratively with each other. Even if the individual prefers to work independently, they should minimally be in connection to another’s work, including supervisors or lay-supporters, to feel they belong to a larger community.
  5. Check in regularly, make them accountable, the conversation around the challenge should be ongoing.

Our Portrait: David Cygeilman

“If I gave you one million dollars to benefit the community, what would you do?”  

Before a local philanthropist asked David Cygeilman this question during a chance meeting in college, he wasn’t planning on becoming a Jewish community professional, let alone establishing and growing Moishe House, one of the most influential Jewish engagement institutions of this generation.

Yet it was this challenge, this invitation to craft a both vision and see it through, to both address and resolve what appeared to be the intractable problem of engaging post-undergraduate young adult Jews into Jewish life, that excited and motivated David. David ultimately accepted this challenge which led the development of Moishe House. David’s motiviations mirror the work of Edward Deci who wrote the book: Why We Do What We Do? and speaks of the importance of fostering one’s internal motivations that are driven by feeling autonomous, competence, and relatedness, or belonging.

Moishe House engages the largely unengaged Jewish population in their twenties and early thirties into active Jewish life. Moishe House is a game changer in today’s Jewish education and engagement landscape. A decade and a half after this challenge was made, 200 communities throughout the world, both big and small, now host a thriving Moishe House, and David continues to lead the effort as Moishe House CEO.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Think about our teams: How might we further a sense of autonomy in our staff through the projects we assign them? Perhaps they can be a project leader, or they can craft a plan of action on their own.
  2. How might we assign work that speaks to a staff person’s competencies and allow them to grow in areas they are excited about, furthering their skill sets and competence?
  3. How can we ensure our staff work together in collaboration, increasing the “relatedness” or belonging of their work experience?