In this podcast’s first anniversary special, Meny Hoffman talks about servant leadership and the Leaders Forum with Naftali Tessler of Hamaspik of Kings County.
Servant leadership is more than just a buzzword at Hamaspik of Kings County.
As one of the organization’s core values, it reflects not only in the way they’re helping their beneficiaries, but also in the way their leadership team deals with their employees. An integral part of this amazing leadership culture is Naftali Tessler, the organization’s Chief of Staff.
Joining Meny Hoffman for this podcast’s anniversary special, Naftali talks about the leadership culture and core values at Hamaspik. He also talks about how the Leaders Forum helped his personal development as a leader.
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How to Grow and Scale Through Servant Leadership—with Naftali Tessler
Our guest is my dear friend, Naftali Tessler. He’s on the leadership team of Hamaspik of Kings County. He has a strong passion for activism, success, creating an environment of team collaboration, and is very influential in motivating people to do their utmost in service to others. This is a special episode. We recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the show and we asked listeners to go out and promote the show so more people could know and implement the education and information that they learn on the show.
The winner was Naftali Tessler by helping us promote the show to the most people. He didn’t do it for this promotion. He did it because he believes in everything we stand for in helping people learn, grow and lead. That’s exactly what we’re discussing in this episode. We’re discussing as an employee, how he’s able to shine and grow within his organization, the power and the mindset of a leader, how core values need to be developed and so much more. I encourage you to read this episode to the fullest, and also take note of the great resources mentioned in this episode.
Naftali, thank you for joining me on the show.
It’s my pleasure.
We’ve known each other for a few years. The first conversation we had was through a direct message on LinkedIn. I was speaking about the Leaders Forum that we host. We started discussing the topics of something that is discussed there. You attended the Leaders Forum and we saw eye-to-eye because we saw the connection we have towards these topics that were discussed. Our relationship evolved since then. Share with me first, what was your initial thought when you heard about this topic and the Leaders Forum, and what got you excited about it?
It was a post on LinkedIn that I saw and I direct messaged you instantly, “Where I can reach out? I want to discuss it and talk more about it.” I remember that conversation sitting in the office. As soon as I was on the phone with you for a couple of minutes, I told you, “Give me a few minutes. Let me discuss it with my boss.” The executive director at that time Joel Freund gave me the go-ahead, which I’m thankful for Hamaspik. They’re always ready to invest in their people. When I get to the Leaders Forum, I was in a stage where never-ending growth was always within me, but it was the first time it opened up my vision towards leadership and using personal development tools.
For instance, the SWOT analysis, the Hungry, Humble, Smart from Patrick Lencioni, all the other stuff got me. I found that the mission and the content that you deliver are exactly what I’m trying to convey, what I’m living for, and what I’m valuing. If I have somebody doing a great job, why should I reinvent the wheel? I could direct them towards your content when I have conversations with friends, people in the community and at work. At that point, it was the Leaders Forum. I got excited and I think the best compliment that anybody could offer you is another client.
I want to take this opportunity publicly to thank you for the tremendous referrals that you’ve sent our way. We have now done over eighteen of those Leaders Forms and we’re planning one as we speak. A lot of those people that attended afterwards are people that you sent. I want to also thank you on behalf of them, because I always get those feedback from people that took their business to the next level, implement a lot of stuff that they learned and they’re changing lives. The ripple effect of your action of sending people, giving people the information and the education, and they are implementing. They’re changing people’s surroundings and their environments.
It was many years ago and I still have the notes about the Leader Forum, and I still constantly go back to it because those are timeless principles where I could still sometime jump in. Although I could Google and read certain stuff, I want to see how the Ptex Group’s Let’s Talk Business put it down and catered to our community. There are a lot of these kinds of content out there in the world, but to take the content out there, filter it and bring it to us and our community in a way that resonates with us, with our standards, that was the first time I bumped into somebody who could bring it to me in a way that’s catered to our community.
Our last venture, one of the first people that I shared the news that I’m going to be starting a podcast was with you because you kept on asking me, “When are you starting a podcast?” I said, “When I do something, I would like to do it right. I need to prepare myself and have the staff.” This is my opportunity to thank my staff and my team for helping me produce this show. We have been celebrating the first year anniversary and over 50 episodes of this show, and going strong. Thank God, we had tremendous growth and a tremendous following with a lot of great episodes coming our way. One of the things we did was we said, “If people are enjoying and are listening to it, why not more people should know about it?”Not every stumbling block is a reason to quit. Click To Tweet
We did this viral campaign where we said, “We’ll give you the content, go out and tell your people about how much you enjoy the podcast.” We had hundreds of people that put it on WhatsApp status, in social media, email marketing. I want to thank everybody for supporting the cause and helping the community by introducing the podcast for the very first time to many different people. We said I want to be able to interview the winner on the show. I want to give you the opportunity to speak to so much that we want to share. Naftali Tessler, you were the winner of that prize. I know that originally when we discussed doing this prize we said, “The winner will be motivated because they’re able to get their message out in front of thousands of people.”
When I discussed it and you started messaging me about your promotions, you said, “I’m not promoting it because I want to get the prize and have a message that I want thousands of people to hear about my business. I believe in what you’re doing and I want more people to know about it.” That was very humbling for you to say and for me to listen to. Therefore, I feel that the value of people will get on this episode is not just somebody promoting their business and trying to get business out of it, which is great but this is going to be a content-driven conversation.
I want to thank you for that. Let’s dive into it immediately. My first question is, when you speak about leadership and I know that you work for Hamaspik. You mentioned to me that one of the things you like working in that organization is because it aligns with your mission and core values of giving and never-ending growth. Explain to us what that means to you and the average person working a job, how they could utilize something similar to what you’re utilizing so they could put it into action and make a difference?
I’ve learned that the change in your life will only happen when you get out of your comfort zone. I also learned that I constantly have to give. It’s the way I was raised. I don’t remember a Shabbat meal without guests at the table. I’m not talking about a cousin or somebody, but guests from Shabbat kind of people. When somebody rang the bell, it wasn’t how much we gave. It’s how we gave it. If it’s in the winter, let me give you a hot plate of soup. If it’s in the summer, we have a cold small water bottle in the fridge so we could give it along together with a donation. I was raised by giving. When I came into Hamaspik, I came in probably one of the lowest levels as the handyman of the organization back in 2011.
I always try to find opportunities in ways how to give. Let me give all I have. Let me give my entire heart to what I’m doing right now. It might have been fixing the toilet or shoveling the snow in front of a group home, going in Motzei Shabbat right after a storm because the individuals that we serve should be able to go onto the van, go to the day program. By giving all I have to the people we serve, the executive saw something in me and told me, “Hire somebody under you to do the handiwork and the maintenance. Move up and become the manager.” I move up to become the maintenance manager and run construction projects, developing the entire staff and now moving into a leadership role where I’m very involved with the strategy, building the culture and building the people.
I never looked at, “Where could I get tomorrow?” I wanted to seize the opportunity in the seat I am currently in. If I’m now in this seat, how could I do it best? There’s a book that I read by John Miller, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. He’s talking about personal accountability. Sometimes, not everything goes your way. There are struggles and obstacles. You always say, “Not every stumbling block is a reason to quit.”
You got to ask the questions, “What could I do differently? How could I make a difference?” When I took that attitude together with Hamaspik, being the great organization that they are in catering, and one of the main values in Hamaspik is compassion. If you don’t do it for compassion, you don’t do it. It wasn’t done properly or correctly to our standards. Bundling what I was raised on, the effort and the heart that I put in with the recognition that this is exactly what Hamaspik is recognizing, and these are the people that they’re looking for. Together, I was able to elevate and move up. My biggest joy is now that I could coach and develop other people, make sure that the culture is staying a healthy culture.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed and for our readers to take note of what you said is opportunity will come knocking when you are there to support and do the best you could in the current position. Many times, you see somebody getting burnt out on the current position because they’re looking for the next big promotion. They’re not realizing that being burnt out and not doing this position 100% to its fullest extent is hurting them from getting that promotion. Having that mindset of, “In my current position, what could I do best and how could I do it best?” In order to have people recognize and say, “This person is somebody that we could utilize in other parts of the organization. Let’s promote this person to a different department.” That’s one lesson that I took out from what you said.
The other thing is about giving first. From the start of the world, it’s all about giving and getting. That’s the nature of the world. When you give first, and this is Bob Burg’s book about the power of giving, which is when you give first, automatically people realize that you’re there to support them. When you’re there to support them, it opens up opportunities as well. You beautifully said it. For the people that are working for other organizations, that’s a great opportunity.
Every day I get up, the question that I have in my mind is, how could I add value today to whoever I will be in contact with, whoever it might be in the business, out of the business, in the Shul and the community? Even now as I’m talking to you, how could I add value to your audience?
I want to get into a couple of conversations that I think will be very beneficial. The first thing is you’re now a part of a leadership team. You’ve been tasked and involved in building culture and core values. Share with us on a daily basis, what is the mindset of a leader from being part of an organization that has to always be forward-thinking, constantly evolving, improving, and growing? What is that mindset and how could people learn and be the same?
Number one, we have a buzzword, “delegate to elevate.” When you’re a leader, you don’t have to do everything. You have to make sure everything is done. You have to be available for your team. Leadership is servant leadership. You’re here for the team and to serve them. It’s not authority, it’s not like, “I’ve arrived to leadership and now I could dictate and micromanage.” It’s the opposite. You got to be able to set up a system or a way that you would be able to constantly move on. I’ve heard that beautifully in one of your shows. I don’t remember his name but he said, “When you hire an assistant for X amount of dollars, the assistant shouldn’t be worth $20 an hour. If you’re getting paid $100 an hour and you will be able to have a few extra hours because of that assistant, that’s your term of investment.”
That’s the mindset of delegate and elevate, where you could set up systems, hire and delegate. You discussed and have a guide of the five levels of delegation. When you reach the limit to understand properly delegation, then you could be busy with what your task is and what your main focus should be: growth in quality and quantity, and be able to think forward, not be busy being the fireman and putting out fires. There will always be things going on a daily basis, getting busy. It’s not about being busy, it’s about being productive. The only way you could do it is if you have the proper people. Jim Collins quote the saying, “You got to have the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seat.”
That’s the job of a leader. To make sure that the seats are properly defined. You have the right people in the seats so you could constantly be overlooking, and be available for them and constantly grow. When talking about understanding the seats properly, there are a few types of personalities. There is somebody who’s very focused, very organized, knows exactly what they’re going to do on Monday or Tuesday. They’re organized and focused. Some jobs, seats or roles require that versus other roles. It requires the opposite. You got to be able to multitask, think quickly and creatively out of the box. Before we even start thinking of a new hire, we have to have a full job description which is result-oriented and exactly what we want to accomplish with this role.
Also, the traits, personalities, and skills that this person who’s going to sit in the seat needs to have. We recently interviewed somebody and it was very crystal clear. It was a beautiful conversation, open and honest about the specific personality in that potential candidate. We were like, “You’re a great candidate for the organization. We need you. We want to have you on board. The compassion and everything, you are aligned to our mission and values, but this specific seat we’re interviewing right now does not match your personality.” We shifted it and it’s working out great so far on a different seat. That’s what it is. Make sure you properly defined the seat, have the right people in the seat so everything would go smooth so we could provide the best service to our clients.
This is also a note for our readers because this is something that I’ve seen. There’s so much energy, time and money that get wasted by not following the following, which is sometimes you could see somebody in the wrong seat on the bus. In your mind or in that person’s mind, “I’ll come to look for a new opportunity.” The managers or leader’s mind is, “We’ve got to fire this person.” But you’ve invested so much and that person could be great for the culture and could be a great asset to the company. So instead of thinking that way, think which other seats could that person sit in and then you’re getting a person that knows the culture, the company, the people and everything, but you’re just changing the role. When people will start thinking that way, you could find great talent in your company to fill other positions instead of looking, “How could I get rid of this person?”
Maybe smaller companies or small mom-and-pop shops are tighter in the sense but with us, we’re constantly growing. There are always positions opening. We’re always looking for the right talent to fit the right seat. We move around staff constantly. About every eighteen months, we go back to the org chart in general and look at it, and move around staff. Even when a leadership position becomes available, we always look at who in the team could we bring up because we know them, the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the struggles, the personality and we know it was going to be a fit. It’s always much easier, rewarding and exciting for people knowing that they could grow within the organization.
I want to touch a different point, which is we speak about core values. People that have been following the show for a long time have read a lot of episodes speaking about this stuff. Whenever I speak to one of those larger CEOs of companies and people that have grown companies, core values are part of that conversation. My question to you is, you started implementing core values. It wasn’t a startup company. Sometimes when you have a startup, 3 or 5 people get together. They have that mission, vision, core values. As soon as they start hiring, they’re bringing in people to establish core values in a way of operations. You’ve been pushing forward and implementing core values in an organization that was already established, not to this extent that it is now. The readers want to say, “I have a team. I want to start to structure. I want to start getting into those different things that I need to do in order to establish a proper culture for my company.” What are the do’s and don’ts that you could share for our readers?
A few years ago, our Executive Director, Heshy Wertheimer was appointed by the board to run this company and took over that role from the previous executive director. In mentioning his name, I can mention it out that I’m privileged to work with him and I consider him my mentor. Being the chief of staff in such a great organization and sitting next to him in meetings on a daily basis, we did it a little bit different than the teaching in the business world where getting a few people in the room and start using whiteboards. That’s the norm. That’s what probably everybody would teach you. I’m starting to pick up certain words, concepts and values that you constantly bring up in meetings here and there.
After a few months, I’m like, “I don’t know if you realize, Heshy, compassion is something in your DNA.” He’s like, “Talk to me about compassion. Of course. If somebody is not compassionate, how could you even work in this building? You’re just coming for a paycheck,” and he’s going on and on. That was something I know that I have to write down. Compassion is one of the maybes. I have a bucket list where I type in buzzwords that I organically see him elaborating or getting fired up in the middle of speeches, the middle of meetings, the middle of one-on-one conversations that I have with him. From time to time, I’ll take time to think about this because it has to reflect the leader ultimatelyYou can never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone. Click To Tweet
It is his vision, mission and we all have to rally around it. It has to be in the leader’s DNA. We have to have buy-in and everybody has to be on the same page, but that second stage. To identify the few buzz possible ideas and values, that’s how we do it. We still do it and we’re not going to rush. “Let’s have a meeting. We want to roll out core values. How could we do it? Bring in a whiteboard, bring in a consultant.” It’s happening automatically. As we do what we do best, serve the clients, meet and do business, we smell and a light bulb moment. We’ve got a core value and then we’re going to talk about it, first start with a one-on-one conversation myself and with Heshy, the executive director, and then we’ll test it.
After a certain meeting, “Do you remember the conversation I had with you last week? Did you see when you start talking about X, Y and Z, you get fired up and there was a sparkle in your eyes?” I’m like, “Maybe, yes. Maybe, no.” Once we get a core value, that’s when we’re ready to roll it out. We’re not rushing the process. Let’s say now “compassion” became the buzzword. We made a whole day about one core value, compassion. We call it the state of the organization. We would get the entire company involved. It was a beautiful well-coordinated event, where the executive director will be the keynote speaker. We decided, we cannot bring in an outsider talks about a core value that’s in our DNA. Who else could best deliver it, if not the executive director of the organization?
We had some regular updates on where we’re coming from this in terms of numbers and quality, “What the organization did for the past twelve months? This is where we want to go. The only way how we will accomplish our vision where we heading is by compassion and diving in.” We still constantly talk about it. We made this whole initiative, if I see something, I’ll say something. It doesn’t have to be within the business. It could be outside of the business. That’s the people we want to attract. If let’s say, the maintenance guy on the team finds somebody in front of the building where the carriage broke down, that person happens to be passed the Hamaspik building.
That maintenance guy sees and takes out the tools. In five minutes, fixes the carriage to continue on. If I see this, I report it to the executive assistant. By the end of the month, we will bring together all compassionate stories. First of all, whoever submitted the story or was mentioned in a story will go into a raffle monthly. We will contribute and send out an email with all these stories to inspire and keep the momentum going. It’s not just something that’s on the wall, something that we make a one day event. It’s real values that we’re communicating with a team. We hire, fire, evaluate and give bonuses for this.
And train for that, I guess.
One of my best moments in the day when we do the Leaders Forum is when we speak about core values and I bring up some of the Ptex core values. Some people in the room will say, “I love all of them. Can I use it for my company?” I always say, “Core values are not what a marketing agency does for you, it’s within the DNA of the company. It starts with what’s important for you.”
Core values cannot go without mentioning the book The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. There are four types of values. People mix up aspirational values with core values. It’s a whole concept and philosophy. I would encourage anybody working on core values to read the book. It doesn’t come just from reading one book, it’s from having a conversation with whoever is your peers. I know you and I are in a mastermind group and the leadership team. Discussing it and throwing out ideas to whoever is your coach, your friend or whoever you talk with. It’s a great concept. I got inspired by it that I drafted my own personal core values and my own personal mission statement. I’m excited that it aligns with the mission of Hamaspik. I realized why I was attracted to come work for Hamaspik.
We speak a lot about growth and I know that you love learning new stuff and personal growth is something very important to you. What are some of the habits and rituals that you do on a daily basis that you could share? What are you doing towards it? Sometimes, we’re busy, we get into work. All of a sudden, the day is by, the week is by, the month is by, do you have anything that you’re doing on a regular basis in order to improve your personal growth?
Personal growth is very personal to me because ultimately I’m the problem, but I’m also the solution. The leader is the leader of their organization. The organization cannot outgrow the leader. Some habits that are made for myself is number one is listen to two podcasts a week. Let’s Talk Business podcast is one of them. Whatever works for you. The first thing that I made a habit of is every Monday night, the EntreLeadership podcast. The content discussed on EntreLeadership is beautiful. Pick any other podcasts that resonates with you. On these podcasts, books, concepts, exercises and guides will be mentioned.
Most podcasts these days were limited to 25 or 35 or 45 minutes. It’s not like one and a half-hour conversation. While you’re walking in the community, doing your errands from one to the next, you listen to a podcast and it’s fascinating. I could see times when I’m plugged out for whatever reason because it’s a busy season. If I missed it, I’m not the same. Not necessarily because of the content that I hear in the podcast. But because my mind is open. When problems come to me, my creative thing jumps in. I’m open-minded. It’s not like getting stuck in the day-to-day because sometimes it’s lonely and isolated to be busy, even when you’re around people, but you are so into it in the day-to-day of the job. You got to get out there. Fly with a drone, 3,000 feet up and work on the big picture with whatever the podcast resonates with you.
Let’s close with the four rapid fire questions. Number one, a book that changed your life.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Number two, a piece of advice you got that you never forget.
You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone.
Number three, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?
I keep a saying from one of the big rabbis of the last generation in front of me. Before he started a big project he said, “I didn’t know how tough it will be to get this project done, but I’m happy that I didn’t know how tough it would be, because if I would have known, I would’ve never started it.” I try to keep this in front of me and translate this into my daily life and I never looked back. I could have many moments in my life where I wish I would do it differently, but I never looked back. I’m happy that I didn’t know all the struggles that I’m going through and that keeps me going.
The final question, what’s still on your bucket list to achieve?
To publish a book.
I want to thank you for believing in what we’re doing and constantly introducing our show, our programs, and sharing the mission, and helping the community one person at a time being better leaders, being better people. As you say, leaders in business goes together. You’re better at business, you’re better personally and everybody wins. Let’s continue the momentum. I appreciate everything you do on the promotional side, but also in believing in the same stuff and making a difference every single day.
It’s the best use of my time talking with you, bringing content to your audience, and making them better for their families, workers, the whole ripple effect. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
It was my pleasure. All the best.
- Hamaspik of Kings County
- Leaders Forum
- QBQ! The Question Behind the Question
- The Advantage
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
About Naftali Tessler
As chief of staff for Hamaspik of Kings County, Naftali’s goal is to empower his employees through building solid, meaningful relationships, and as a result, enact large-scale growth.
Naftali works for Hamaspik because it aligns with his core values of altruistic giving, never-ending growth, and influencing the community. The respite service field in general, and Hamaspik in particular, allows him to utilize his inner motivation, broad vision, and natural affinity for connecting with others. His passion and drive are evident in the vast expansion of the organization, which is the largest respite organization of its kind in the community.