Opinion: Leading with Optimism

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Opinion: Leading with Optimism

Championing the growth and ambition of professionals in the Jewish charity sector with a groundbreaking employee experience survey

Michelle Janes, Lead, a division of the Jewish Leadership Council


Leading is tough at the best of times. It requires resilience and a considerable personal reserve of optimism – especially when leading through crisis and uncertainty.

Leading with optimism isn’t just about naïve positivity though. It’s about being aware of the reality of a situation, understanding the bigger picture, exploring possibilities and taking action.

Optimism and realism can coexist and both hold value.

We hear from those who choose to work in community organisations that they do so to serve their community and contribute to the success and sustainability of our services. Simultaneously, we hear about their appetite for development, the thirst for prospects in their role, their ambition to succeed and excel. Service and ambition, both things are true.

Michelle Janes

As we face new difficulties, distinct from those of the past years of the pandemic, we can still find reasons to be hopeful.

We know, for example, that recruitment and retention in the charity sector is a current challenge but we also know that there are hundreds of skilled and dedicated people working professionally in our community organisations.

Five years ago, I talked with the team at Lead (the leadership development division of the Jewish Leadership Council) about gathering Jewish Community Professionals together. Our aim was to provide a space for networking and idea sharing among professionals from across the community.

We believed that this would foster a sense of value and investment in their professional roles and development.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, during 2020 and 2021, we successfully organised two online conferences, over the last week we held our second set of in-person conferences in London and Manchester, welcoming over 200 individuals.

I feel immense pride as I witness this seedling of an idea taking root and growing in our community. There may be challenges but there are also wonderful things to be optimistic about.

In the face of an uncertain economic landscape, where many individuals face hardships and organisations face significant recruitment challenges, it is important that we deepen our understanding and find tangible solutions.

This is why, alongside our ever-growing opportunities to bring community professionals together, comes the launch of a ground-breaking employee experience survey in partnership with US organisation Leading Edge. This pilot survey gives us the chance to work with community organisations to understand, analyse and consider key areas of strength as well as opportunities for growth. This will inform strategic planning of provision to further support the development of the landscape in the UK Jewish charity sector. Twenty organisations have already signed up to take part.

The survey focuses on key engagement factors with questions exploring various aspects of employee experience, including what they value from their workplaces, what motivates them to stay and how they feel about their prospective development in their role and organisation. Results of the survey will allow participating organisations to benchmark their data against equivalent UK-wide results by sector and comparable global counterparts.

It will help us understand key drivers and opportunities to attract and retain highly skilled talent while supporting organisations to develop and improve and plant more seeds of possibility that will allow the community and the individuals working within it to thrive. See thejlc.org/leadingedge

  • Michelle Janes is co-Chief Executive of the JLC and Executive Director of Lead
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