Three Recent Unsolicited Testimonials — 2 from recent clients, 1 from a current one
Here are three recent unsolicited testimonials that I appreciate very much. The first is from a seasoned performing arts organization Executive Director, a client who wrote a referral note when asked by a colleague about where to find strategic planning and facilitation consulting help: “. . . my favorite and above anyone, has been Jeff Schwartz — innovative, understanding trends, works well with gaining consensus, and will taper his costs to the organization’s needs.”
The second is from a different nonprofit’s Acting Executive Director, who received coaching assistance during a period of organizational, professional, and personal transition. She writes, “I just want to say how incredibly valuable it is to me to have you as a guide and thought-partner through all of this. Your support, wisdom and questions [and] . . . the ways that you’ve framed our conversations about you helping me in figuring out things that I already on some level know feels very resonant with some of [Brene Brown's] theories on one of the guideposts to whole-hearted living being about trusting instinct. I feel like the ways you’ve pushed me to grow on have been immensely valuable and i would even say transformative.”
The third is from a board member of another nonprofit upon receipt of the strategic plan that Kela prepared (in consultation with the organization) following facilitation of the board-staff joint strategic planning retreat. “Whew! . . . That is some document! And it is a helluva road map for us if we will only find the horses to pull us along. Absolutely wonderful work!. . . Thanks again for all you have done and continue to do for us. You have been a super guide.”
As organizational effectiveness consultant/executive coach:
“Jeff’s approach to problem-framing and problem-solving quickly stimulates clarity and insight and drives toward effective solutions. After two conversations with Jeff I had a fresh approach to my concerns which enabled me to work with the other leaders in [our organization] and shift our circumstances into a much more positive position within a few months. . . . Jeff is equal parts Han Solo and Yoda: he has technology for problem-solving that will get you somewhere, but you also find out that the force was within you already.” – Board Chair, DC area nonprofit
“Jeff‘s coaching helped me solve my most complex challenge on arriving at a new company: how to restructure a multi-faceted, geographically dispersed, and loosely coordinated organization into a cohesive team. Using the concept of co-intelligence and drawing on the strengths of many players, we organized the department to achieve several extraordinary successes. Jeff also helped me reshape the organization’s culture : from a top-down structure to a higher performing open environment, based on techniques of ‘fierce conversation’ that invites, celebrates, and benefits from diversity across all dimensions.” - Vice President and General Counsel, Fortune 200 Company.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Jeff’s ability as an executive coach. First and foremost, he is fully engaged and ‘present’ in every conversation. He listens extremely well. Secondly, he does not attempt to impose a strict system or his own set of beliefs, but rather seems to adapt his plan to the specific needs of those with which he works. This makes people feel comfortable and they quickly realize that Jeff is invested in their success. In fact, he genuinely feels passionate about his client’s success. He is, therefore, effective with a wide range of clients from the more timid executive to the more assertive. Lastly, I believe that Jeff possesses a great deal of wisdom.” Board Chair of Nonprofit Family Support Organization.
“Jeff [offered] a new way of thinking about my organization. Through his insights I began to see a world outside of the treadmill that I ran to get and keep foundations supporting our underpaid staff. Jeff had a vision for how to develop an entrepreneurial aspect to the program that would help us to both raise money differently and to think differently about ourselves as providers of innovative youth programming. This shift was a huge first step towards sustaining and growing the organization. . . . He was able to spend time with each staff person, to listen well to the current culture of the organization, and to create a plan based on our needs and capabilities. He once told me that I was the most valuable resource in the organization and that if we were to have any strategy for growth at all, it needed to start with making sure I was happy and supported. It is this capacity to be both strategic and caring that makes Jeff such an amazing advocate for non-profit organizations that are often driven by small groups of driven and overworked people. Jeff defies any one category and once committed to an organization he seems to immediately become an amazing advocate, fundraiser, consultant and ultimately friend.” - Executive Director, neighborhood after school arts, tutoring and mentoring nonprofit
” Jeff has now been working with [organization] and me personally for a couple of years and it has been organizational and life changing. I have been privileged to work with several coaches prior to working with Jeff and I can say that he is the best I have come to know. He now focuses almost exclusively on non-profits working with organizations that have a mission for which he has a passion.” – Executive Director, statewide social services and family support nonprofit
“Jeff provided a consultation which enabled me to sort out what I had not been able to anywhere else. His thorough understanding of the workings of industry-standard processes and his perceptive ability to hear deep, internal personal struggles allowed me to untangle the interaction between those two and move forward with a plan to respond to each. His help was distinctive, thorough, gracious, and on-point.” - State nonprofit – religious leader
“I was amazed by the breadth/scope of things you’ve done, but most of all, I discerned a rare depth of warmth and insight. . . . I told [my supervisor] that I felt you possessed a deep human wisdom or sagacity—a genuineness and ability to connect. I felt enriched, encouraged, and warmed by your comments. So thank you.” - Member of Senior Leadership Team, nonprofit organization
“It has been very beneficial receiving your coaching support. Your input and expertise is very much valued and I know that your resources and recommendations have helped to provide me with a better foundation to build from as a nonprofit developing leader. The level of patience, keen listening skills, and sage advice that you have provided in the effort of better understanding me as an individual have provided customized coaching that I felt was helpful for my personal and professional growth.” New Development Director, nonprofit human services organization.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I could NOT have done this without you. I needed your support, your help with the financial reporting, your willingness and ability to bring in [a key expert in organizational finance], your gentle pragmatism. The confidence I brought into the bank meeting today was because you were, in essence, sitting right beside me. I know there are still some rough waters ahead — I am feeling better about handling them . . . with your guidance.” -- New Nonprofit Executive Director, after successfully renegotiating the terms of the organization’s loan agreement with its bank.
“Thank you so much for your excellent presentation at the [Foundation sponsored] Meeting. Your session [on executive coaching -- what it is, how it works, how to find a great executive coach] truly gave participants a new way to think about how best to benefit from coaching. It was a creative session that was well received. . . . You are a tremendous resource for us.” - Executive Director, University Center on Public and Nonprofit Leadership.
“Thank you for investing your time with me to help me consider my opportunities for growth both personally and professionally. In two short sessions, I feel my life has opened up and I now have the courage to consider paths that are more closely aligned with my passions. . . . [After describing several resources that immediately materialized 'from the Universe' following the second coaching session,] Okay . . . are you brilliant, amazingly insightful and spot on to your ‘universe’ comments? I stood there stunned by the sheer appearance of intention realized. . . . [T]hank you for your inspiration, guidance, and incredible insight. You have changed my life and my perspective on the countless opportunities and choices that lie ahead of me.” – Chief Operating Officer, nonprofit human services organization.
“Having successfully established and run a non-profit himself, Mr. Schwartz offers a unique and invaluable perspective and provides a host of effective and efficient tools. Jeff brings sophisticated mainland experience, and large organization know-how while also holding thoughtful respect for local culture and compassionate sensitivity to small organization issues. . . . Jeff Schwartz is one-of-a-kind and we are grateful to have benefited from his wisdom, experience, dedication, passion, generosity and very special spirit.” – Executive Director, Hawaii nonprofit youth development organization
“I’m really not sure I could have successfully navigated the situation [with the Board] that had and was developing around me without your invaluable input . . . . I felt I had tried everything I knew how to do and – short of running out the door – I simply wasn’t sure which way to turn. Your focus and encouragement saved me from making a premature decision by myself and gave me the assistance and counsel I needed so desperately. I am grateful and on my way. Thank you so much, Jeff. I am eager, by the way, to have your continued guidance . . . thanks again for propping me up, aiming me in the right direction, and shoving me out the door.” - Executive Director, nonprofit regional child development organization.
“Your presentation, case studies, small group discussion processes, feedback and facilitation were so concise, clear, well-organized, and distilled that I learned as much, if not more, in one day in your Governance and Board Development workshop than I did in almost two years working with [a leading nonprofit organizational effectiveness consulting group]. - Executive Leader, statewide human service nonprofit.
“Please pass along to [foundation program officer's name] and your board of directors my deep gratitude for the Executive Development Grant used to engage Jeff Schwartz of Kela Associates. This consulting engagement for Executive Leadership Development has been one of the most important decisions of my six and a half years at [name of nonprofit]. . . . In summary, Jeff’s presence in the life of the leadership of [nonprofit] and me personally has been a blessing. While I would love for the Foundation to provide funding for Executive Coaching in future years, we have built some funding into our 2010 budget to continue our relationship with him on a somewhat smaller scale. I consider Jeff and Kela Associates to be one of the strongest assets [our organization] now ‘takes to market’ building our capacity for growth and change.” - Nonprofit human services organization Executive Director.
“I want to thank you so much for your help. I really like how you work with [name of nonprofit]. It may be a model to consider writing up somewhere as I think it is somewhat unique: A coach that is first a coach for the [organization], and also an individual coach who takes into account the strengths, weaknesses, insights, etc of the individuals and melds them into success for all involved. Your ability to build trust, offer insights, and provide assistance seems unique and rare.” - Nonprofit Chief Operating Officer.
“From the very first meeting with Jeff, I recognized that this would be a supportive but challenging process. [As a new Executive Director], I would have to let go of old ways of thinking, responding and in the very execution my job. Through the weekly interactions by phone and email and through a variety of reading materials, I was able to let go of the previous (negative) misconceptions I had about my own abilities and capture a clearer understanding of what my board and the organization required of me as [the organization] evolved. The experience was life-changing in that cemented my role and my purpose within the organization, but the changes went beyond that by spilling over into all areas of my life thus creating a more confident and poised person. . . . I can attest that the process is not easy but I would not have traded the experience for anything.” - Executive Director, Hawaii Nonprofit Family Services Organization
Evaluation: Participant evaluations of Jeff’s interactive workshop on peer coaching for the emerging leaders program of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington rated the workshop as 4.78 on average with 4 being “Good” and 5 (the highest rating) being “Very Good.”
As multi-party meeting facilitator, strategic planner, and co-intelligence consultant:
“In the past when we’ve completed strategic planning retreats I just have felt that those were three days of my life I’d never recover. But this time my feeling is that we have made tremendous progress — we have put to rest old, unproductive controversies and are now headed toward ensuring the sustainability of this organization for the next 80 years.” – Board member, nonprofit organization after board-staff strategic planning retreat.
” . . . the retreat was by far the best retreat I have ever participated in during my [30 plus year] career. The level of participation and the Board’s understanding of the issues were a testament to the pre-planning and event execution. Job well done. . . I do hope we get a chance to work together in the future.” Business planning consultant to nonprofit following completion of 2.5 day board-staff strategic planning retreat.
Evaluation: The 34 evaluations by board, staff, and consultants for the retreat discussed in the two comments above rated the facilitation an average 4.5 on a scale of 0-5 with 4 being ”very good” and 5 being “outstanding/excellent”. Participants rated “results achieved” by the strategic planning meeting as 4.47 on the same scale, and gave the overall retreat a 4.65 rating.
“I hope I speak for all of us when I say that you have ‘saved’ us from what was nothing less than a slow ‘death spiral.’ I think we have made enormous progress in a number of ways, thanks to your efforts in helping us to see what all of us ‘knew in our hearts’ but which no one was brave enough to openly address. I believe we are now able to speak openly, among other issues, about structural deficits, co-intelligence and the need for ‘respect’ for others’ points of views, that disagreement doesn’t need to be unpleasant. I think many of us feel better ‘armed’ to deal with these issues.”- Nonprofit Board Member following completion of a three-meeting strategic planning process.
“We are truly blessed to have had the foresight to hire Jeff to help guide us through the Strategic Plan and thus forward to the future.” – Board member letter to the Chair
“Day One [the first day of the retreat that you facilitated] was great. We enjoyed working with you as well and appreciate how much time you put into the preparation. . . . Thank you again for your time, patience, and excellent work on Thursday. I received a great deal of positive feedback from our team about your work. I am so pleased with how everything went.” - Executive Director, nonprofit organization designated as fiscal agent for multi-organization collaborative.
“Constructive, positive, and skillful facilitation of sensitive and confrontational matters, and historically difficult personalities.” – - Hawaii Nonprofit Executive Director after a Board retreat.
“You did an excellent job [facilitating] our retreat.” -- Vice Chair, regional nonprofit.
“The Board Re-Group [to reassess strategy that you helped plan and facilitated] was a major factor in our success this year. Thanks for all your support.” – Executive Director, nonprofit educational and advocacy organization.
“Jeff has made a tremendous impact on my understanding of the merger and functions of the board as well as guiding us to become a whole and successful new board. Jeff has kept us on course and helped us realize what it is that we want to become and where we want to go. That he is also been available to assist us in processing the upcoming campaign has been an added bonus.” - Member of the Board of Trustees, nonprofit social services organization after facilitation of the retreat of the board
“I do not often find strategic planning efforts particularly rewarding, but you brought broad expertise, mediation skills and stamina to the process, and I was amply rewarded for spending the time on this effort. Humor helped, too.” - Self-designated “Curmudgeon” member of a nonprofit board
“Thank you so much for your great facilitation, insight, and participation in our program committee meeting on Tuesday. Though it wasn’t a very long meeting (and I wish we had more time to spend with you), it was key in getting our heads straight on how to assess and proceed in our quest to improve our programs and ensure our reach to families is effective and efficient!” - Chair, Board Program Committee, nonprofit human services organization
“Thanks so much for your help [facilitating our Strategic Planning Board meeting] yesterday. You did a fantastic job.” – Board Chair, nonprofit environmental education, conservation, and support organization
“Our retreat was OUTSTANDING. Thank you for providing such an excellent tool. I appreciate all the support you have given me because it is multiplying to everyone on the team.” - Team Leader, Healthy Families, Nonprofit Social Services agency. -
As foundation program officer/grant maker:
“Jeff has brought so much energy, intellect, and compassion to our work that it is literally helping to transform the way we operate. His work products are unsurpassed for completeness, timeliness, and relevance. . . . and, more than any other single employee [he] has set the tone for collegiality and Foundation-first.” - Supervisor, Fannie Mae Foundation
“Jeff’s steady and often behind-the-scenes efforts to create co-intelligence have greatly contributed to the substantive outcomes of the Foundation’s multiple strategies. Through active listening and strategic inquiry, Jeff asks the critical questions that have focused others and lead to the results we are all looking for.” -- Colleague, Fannie Mae Foundation
“I’ve said this over and over again, so maybe you’ll tire of hearing it, but your support and encouragement for our work has been absolutely incredible.” - Executive Director, nonprofit affordable housing finance organization
“Fannie Mae Foundation’s loss is Kela’s gain! You’ve been great to work with – thanks so much for your help, especially in our work together to advance [a common project].” - Senior VP, national affordable husing foundation partner
“Jeff is an exceptional mentor, colleague, and supervisor, who has helped me become much more effective in my work at the Foundation. Even before he became my supervisor, Jeff offered me both opportunities and guidance that inspired me to work smarter and harder. His honest and timely feedback has not always been easy to hear but has always been offered in a supportive way. Most of all, Jeff sees himself as a continuing learner and actively seeks feedback from others to help him improve his own performance. His openness about his own growth is a lesson for all of us in both humility and perseverance.” - Program manager, Fannie Mae Foundation
“Jeff was my manager at Jellinek, Schwartz & Connolly, Inc., a highly successful [environmental] consulting firm he and his partners sold several years ago. In addition to working for Jeff, he served as my mentor in many ways. I learned more about business, professionalism, and integrity from Jeff than anyone else. It’s because of him I tried a new industry and was successful. My success in Costa Rica [starting several new businesses there], where I’ve learned that I have what a it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, was largely because of what I saw Jeff do at his company. Thanks Jeff! – Social entrepreneur, Costa Rica, former manager at environmental consulting firm
“Jeff, I wanted to share some good news and say thank you. I was recently promoted to Vice President, Corporate Partnerships at [a national environmental protection organization]. I’m now leading a team of over 40 people and the youngest member of the organization’s executive team. Your coaching early in my career helped put me on the pathway to this dream job. Thank you.” – Former research associate and project manager at environmental consulting firm.
As career coach and transition counselor
“Thank you so much for your feedback. It’s incredibly helpful to me and I will most certainly revise my resume and send it back to you this week. . . . Thank you so much again for all your helpful suggestions! Not a single career counselor has given me such good input. “ - Recent grad school graduate in Hawaii
“Your experience, keen insight, listening skills, and sounding board expertise are top shelf. . . . You’ve helped me believe that I could make agreements with my board that I never thought possible, and since I’ve come to believe them to be possible, I’ve been amazed to find that I really have made them happen. Not only have we worked out the timing and conditions of my departure that went way beyond what I thought possible, but they have put in place an active search committee for my successor and agreed to the retirement date that I insisted upon. What’s more, the board has indicated that they want to enter into a retainer with me to help with fundraising in the future and to support the new Executive Director as much as he/she wants. It’s everything I hoped for and more. “ – Transitioning Executive Director, Midwest area nonprofit