experiments, instruments & measurement book

As Easy As … a Click of a Pen


by Abby Pitkowsky

As easy as… a click of a pen. By the end of my day with Deborah Grayson Riegel, that’s precisely how I felt about the role of a congregational consultant. More about the pen later.

About a week ago, in the spirit of interdepartmental collaboration, I had the pleasure to join NCCL for the day at the JCC Harrison as Deborah facilitated a full day training session for madrichim who will play a prominent role in the design of WJTLI – Westchester Jewish Teen Learning Initiative congregations, a new initiative for teens beginning this fall.  Throughout the day we revisited the concept of a “madrich”. This word is usually understood as “guide”. A madrich guides someone with the question “ma (ha)derech?”, literally, “what is the way?” In the design of WJTLI, a good madrich knows that there is not one approach or topic of learning that resonates with everyone. She will get to know her learners and help each one find the derech that suits them best at this point in their journey. This felt so similar to the role we embrace as consultants employing 21st Century Design Principles. Apparently our departments are closer in thinking than one may have presumed. 

Through Deborah’s guidance, we participated in and deconstructed several powerful learning experiences. They may have been designed with teens in mind but as I participated with my congregational learning hat on, it was clear to me that the learning was easily transferable to our work as consultants with Lomed. I’d like to share some of my important take-aways that hold value for our work in Congregational Learning:

Consultants should believe that their client:

o   Is naturally creative on their own. 

o   Is resourceful.

o   Is capable of moving to something better.  

Consultants should distinguish between coaching and:

o   Therapy. 

o   Problem solving 

Consultants use the art of generative coaching questions.

o   This is significantly different from other questioning processes.

o   The value of a good generative question is worth its weight in gold!

At the end of the day, Deborah gave us a custom made pen (I told you I would get back to the pen, didn’t I?). It has a rectangular window along the length of the pen.  In the window is a model of good generative question and the click of the pen changes the question. Here are the questions that appear in the pen’s window:

·         What do you want?

·         Why is that important to you?

·         What’s working?  What isn’t?

·         What’s possible?

·         What do you need to move forward?

·         What will you do next?  By when?

Working with a partner, we tried these questions on for size in relation to an area in our own lives that we want to address, such as family, community, finances, health or education. Among all the clicking, questioning and sharing, I found this to be a very valuable exercise and to gain perspective from both vantage points of consultant and client. 

As we look for opportunities for personal change and improvement during these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, try these questions as a tool to examine what you want to change and how you envision getting there.    

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