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Listening is so important. In a world where there is so much chatter (both in-person and virtually) the learned skill of listening is crucial, especially in fields where we depend on building relationships.

This past week I had the opportunity to take part in a Think Tank for heads of the Schechter Schools along with leadership from Prizmah and organizations of the Conservative Movement. The group engaged in serious discussion about their schools, the role of partnerships and the acknowledgement that, although tied together by the name Schechter, many differences abide.  I was amazed at what I gleaned by not saying very much (which is not always easy for me). I focused on listening.

In Melissa Daimler’s article in Harvard Business Review Listening Is an Overlooked Tool she describes 3 methods of listening that create an environment of safety.  The one I used at the Think Tank she refers to as 360 listening. You’re not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it — and, even better, what they’re not saying, like when they get energized about certain topics or when they pause and talk around others.

I was able to hear the passion that leaders expressed when discussing what were framed as the “the shared missions” of Schechter schools and the “burning challenges.” I felt some of what was not said as well, and could hear the need for support, for leadership and for guidance. I heard the desire of the leaders of the movements to re-engage with day schools and felt the question of how we would make that happen.

This week, one of Seth Godin’s posts was entitled Different People Hear Differently.  One line that resonated with me in light of the Think Tank was “what we do with the words after we say them.”  We have an opportunity now to take what we heard and make some hard decisions. Who will guide the next steps? How will we form partnerships that are mutually beneficial? In the words of Chancellor Arnold Eisen how will our Schechter schools be the beacon for the message that  Jewish is one way of being a human being and we are all needed, right now, to be present and bring justice and compassion to our world. The Schechter schools create a space where this way of life can be a reality.  

I am ready to listen to the next step of the journey, and ready to add my voice when it is time to speak.