Tuesday, December 12, 2017


One of you wrote anonymously in response to Comments about the deteriorating circumstances in one of our major communities the following:
"As comments relate to the current complement of C suite executives in the Federation system, let us remember that you get what you develop. Capable professionals must be trained, gain experience and be nurtured by our Federations so that individuals understand just what Federations are sanctioned to do. Parachuting hasn't and will not work. There is no question that "outside" candidates are bright, caring and exceptional, but do they understand the work of Federation? Is it fair to those individuals and our Federations to have on the job learning? Many federations have gone adrift simply because their leaders do not understand the work. Keep hiring academics, attorneys, real estate developers and individuals from United Ways and that is what you'll get. Federations should fill a certain role but if leadership, both volunteer and professional, don't understand the "job" should we be surprised by the results. Volunteer leadership take note. Our collective relevance depends on it." 
I often wish you would attach your names to the Comments --in particular when they are as incisive as was this one.

Back in the day, when Jerry Silverman was hired I wasn't the only one, in 20/20 foresight, predicting the disaster that would soon follow. But we should all remember that this hire offered a cautionary tale. This "outside the box" hire was intended to offer the "new paradigm" not just for JFNA but for the federation system. The same ignorance of the experience that Kathy Manning and her claque first decided to set set aside, JFNA, with Silverman in tow, began to suggest to federation after federation that this was the way to go...the only way to go. When JFNA-Mandel was hired to lead federations in their CEO searches, the direction they would preach was to go the "Jerry way" -- never once considering the disaster that JFNA had become under his leadership. Those qualified by their federation training, CEO aspirants were counseled against applying for positions that ultimately went to those with no (or minimal) federation experience -- some even secretly blackballed because in the exercise of their current federation professional roles, they had questioned some action of JFNA. 

And, the results as they say, speak for themselves.

And position after position were filled by good people who just did not and, as our Commentator pointed out so well, "do not understand the work," just as Jerry didn't and doesn't. I don't have data to support my conclusion, but based on just observation of the comings and goings, the average tenure of these newbies who spoke not a word of the lingua franca of federation is far less than that of those who entered parallel positions with a broad federation experience.

One of my great disappointments over the "Silverman era" was the demonstrable fact that Jerry came into the position without a clue what "collective responsibility" meant and, eight years later, still doesn't. And not a single lay Board Chair over his contract and extension seemed to know or care either. Thus, the Global Planning Table which, if conceived, planned and implemented consistent with federation values, might have had a chance of success, instead disappeared under its Rube Goldberg design, while proposing a series of Signature Initiatives which stood collective responsibility on its head. (You can still get a glimpse of what I mean by taking a peak at I-rep, the sole, surviving coalition of the willing born of the still-born GPT). 

So it has come to pass that the paradigm that the Silverman hiring was to be for the future of federation CEOs has proved to be not a model of excellence but the opposite.

Pitiful. Pitiable.



Anonymous said...

Thanks Richard. In hindsight we have [hopefully] learned about the often disaster of parachuting in outsiders - whether as Federation CEO's or, at times, as JFNA or Jewish Agency Board Chairs. The latter, good people out of their depth.

At the time we were also blind sighted by the meaningful growth of FJC during Silverman's tenure. In hindsight, that appears to Silverman simply being in the right place at the right time. With a proven ability to talk a good game, it wasn't difficult for the shoe salesman to achieve success. But JFNA- unlike FJC- is not out in the philanthropic marketplace directly raising money. Perhaps if it was, Silverman's pitiful job performance wouldn't be so disgraceful.

The clock is ticking. The current board is either unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes. The too powerful LCE's won't rattle the boat because they're busy planning their retirements. And the board chair spends his time in fantasy land.

Anonymous said...

I think that Anon 7:00 is giving Jerry a bit too much credit regarding his tenure at FJC.
It would appear that the search committee didn't do any diligence regarding Jerry's management skills, etc. So why take at face value that it was under his leadership that FJC had meaningful growth?
Being in the right place at the right time appears to be Jerry's true talent. Witness his ability to be at JFNA at the right time when nobody seems to care about performance measurements and accountability. Precisely the things that I'll bet he sold the committee on when he was interviewed.

Anonymous said...

It is fine to look for people who know how to think outside the box but they should also at least have a clue about what has been and is going on inside tha box.