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Julia Mercier and Jessie Reibman of ‘The Space For Good’: “Match the task or project to the person

Match the task or project to the person. Consider their level of ability and how to best motivate them. For example, a person doing something for the first time might need more coaching from you in the short term, but you’re investing in them for the next time. Over communicate! Most of the issues that come […]

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Match the task or project to the person. Consider their level of ability and how to best motivate them. For example, a person doing something for the first time might need more coaching from you in the short term, but you’re investing in them for the next time.

Over communicate! Most of the issues that come up in training and coaching around delegation are about communication. If you are giving a deadline, be clear about the timing and why the deadline is important, especially in our current environment. People are being pulled in lots of directions and need more clarity than before.


As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Mercier and Jessie Reibman.

Julia Mercier, a Canadian living in New York, started her career as a litigation attorney. In 2011, after 6 years of practice, she decided that she wanted to help others have successful and fulfilling careers. She went on to design and deliver training programs that connect people with ideas and practices that help them perform better professionally and personally. Julia’s passion for learning and teaching led her to uncover a need for training programs and coaching in the nonprofit space.

Julia is Director of Learning, Development and Well-Being at Winston & Strawn LLP, where she is responsible for the training and of lawyers and staff globally. Julia studied law at University of Montreal Law School, completed the executive coaching program at New York University School of Professional Studies and participated in the Harvard Business School Executive Education program on Leading Professional Services Firms.


Jessie Reibman, a Chicago native living in New York, started her career in hospitality and event planning. When she joined Winston & Strawn LLP in 2016, she put her project management skills to good use by creating unique training programs and events. Jessie focuses on both professional staff training and multi-day intensives for Winston’s associates. Her superpower is her ability to design events that combine learning, wellness and fun. When Julia approached Jessie to co-create The Space For Good, the decision was simple as her joy for event planning and working with others would be fulfilled. Jessie is Learning & Development Project Coordinator at Winston & Strawn LLP. She studied psychology at Indiana University and is both a certified DISC practitioner and a Mental Health First Aider.

Our Story — Back in early 2019, Julia knew that she wanted to do more and give back. She shared this with me on a plane ride from Chicago to New York… we talked about our views on learning, creativity and having fun (which were coincidentally both very much shaped by our early summer camp experiences!). It was a very turbulent plane ride but, once we touched down, we knew we had the spark of an idea. A space for people to come together and learn and share ideas. A few iterations later, it became a nonprofit focused on the type of training we know can make a difference for people and teams, focused on training other nonprofits that might otherwise not hire consultants or professional trainers. Julia invited me to join her and we were on our way!


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Jessie Reibman: Thank you for having us! So, Julia and I both started our careers a bit differently. I started mine in hospitality and Julia started hers as a lawyer, and then as a law firm learning and development leader. After working together for about two years, we realized that we could take our skills and passion for training and events to the nonprofit space.

The Space For Good was born in 2019 on a plane ride from Chicago to New York where we exchanged views on everything from learning, creativity and fun to our desire to merge our corporate work with the nonprofit sector. It was clear to us that we needed to collaborate. Soon after, we started meeting weekly and building our vision.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

JR:In short, building an organization is tough! Neither of us had worked in the nonprofit space before so we really were going into this with lots to learn. I think at the beginning the hardest of times were balancing our workloads. I don’t think we ever considered giving up, but we definitely discussed the timing of building The Space For Good and if it was “the right time”. As for finding the drive to continue, we both knew how special our idea was and how rewarding it would be to both us and the nonprofits we would work with. We know how special our training so knowing that we had the tools to help others and make a difference kept us moving forward.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

JR:We will never forget this day. It was the morning of an all-day training session. We had hired a New York service, Glam Squad, to come and do our hair before the training. Who doesn’t love to feel put together and fabulous on a big day! So, as we were sitting getting our hair done, we were on our laptops, prepping for the day and all of a sudden, the room went dark. We blew a fuse! Both of us immediately looked at each other and started laughing. We were trying to be as efficient as possible by scheduling our glam and prep at the same time, but soon realized that sometimes multitasking is not the answer. With half dried hair, we ran around frantically trying to fix the fuse. Luckily, it all ended up working out and the training was great! We learned that you can have and do it all, maybe just not all at once!

What do you think makes your company (nonprofit organization) stand out? Can you share a story?

JR: We are unique in that we are a nonprofit serving other nonprofits. So, I would say that makes our organization stand out because we’re in it to help other nonprofits who might not otherwise focus on training and coaching because they are focused on serving others. Second, we’re really proud of the level of success we’ve had with our training. As an example, we’re working with the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which is focused on supporting the efforts of women working on the frontlines of the world’s most intractable conflicts, so they’re doing some of the most important work we can think of. Our signature program, Leveraging Your Team for Good led to some key breakthroughs related to communication and collaboration. They have told us that they learned practical skills they could put to use immediately. Hearing their feedback and knowing that we’ve made a difference not just for them but also, ultimately, for the women they serve, is beyond rewarding.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

JR:

  1. Take breaks! Schedule breaks throughout the day in your calendar. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 20 minutes, it’s important to step away from the screen and do something for yourself. This can be as simple as a midday stretch, a walk around the block or Facetiming with a friend.
  2. Ask for help and delegate when appropriate. When we take on too much responsibility, we can become overwhelmed and stressed which often leads to burn out. Ask a team member to help with a task or give the task to someone else entirely. It is ok not to have boundaries. Our mental health matters.
  3. Communicate! In this environment especially, it’s easy to feel isolated and comfortable in your bubble. Our emotions and feelings can start to take over and get the best of us. By not communicating, we are unable to achieve the best version of ourselves. Expressing how you feel either on a weekly or daily basis with your supervisor and/or team can help build confidence and reassurance that you aren’t alone. We know from experience that you’ll feel refreshed and energized to take on the weeks ahead without feeling “burnt out”.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

JR: We have a handful of people to thank for our success thus far, but I think our graphic designer, Amy Kaye at Minneapolitan Design Studio, deserves the most kudos. Amy brought our vision to life. She created our logo, our color scheme, our website and helped us build our brand most importantly. Amy was extremely communicative and responsive throughout our design process. We spent weeks with her going back and forth making sure every font was how we wanted it down to the icons representing each program. Amy made this experience easy and fun. To this day, she is always available to us when we need her, and we are so grateful we found her.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?

Julia Mercier: Simply put, no one person can do it all. As a leader, your role is to determine which tasks and projects are best done by you, and which are best done with the help of others. In addition to helping create efficiencies and better processes, delegation helps other members of your team learn more about the organization and their role within it. Delegation is a great professional development tool — it helps others learn by doing. Your team can’t become great at something if they aren’t given a chance to learn.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

JM: As a business owner, delegation can be challenging because you most likely started your business alone or with a partner you trusted. You’re used to making sure everything is done right and the stakes are high because it is your business. Some leaders in corporate and nonprofit organizations also hesitate to delegate because their reputation with important stakeholders is on the line. They want to control the work product and the outcomes, and they might hesitate to trust someone else with important tasks. All of those reasons are understandable but can be overcome.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

JM: This is a great question and it gets to the heart of our training and coaching programs. To be effective, leaders should think about their priorities and goals for the organization, the team and for themselves. They should think about everyone on their team and their strengths and areas for development. It helps to think about how projects and tasks can be broken down and tackled most efficiently. And, they should ask their colleagues about their interests and professional goals to help them decide how to use delegation as a development opportunity. Delegation takes time but it is an investment that pays off in the long run.

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

JM: Of course! Here’s are delegation toolkit:

  1. Match the task or project to the person. Consider their level of ability and how to best motivate them. For example, a person doing something for the first time might need more coaching from you in the short term, but you’re investing in them for the next time.
  2. Be clear on roles and responsibilities. Generally, the leader’s responsibility is to provide clear expectations and to be available for questions.
  3. Over communicate! Most of the issues that come up in training and coaching around delegation are about communication. If you are giving a deadline, be clear about the timing and why the deadline is important, especially in our current environment. People are being pulled in lots of directions and need more clarity than before.
  4. Check in and follow up. As a leader, you might think your role stops once you’ve given someone their instructions. In some cases, that’s true — when working with someone with a proven track record, but generally it’s a good practice to check in. You can catch potential issues before they become problems.
  5. Give feedback. We could do a whole other interview with you about feedback! Giving feedback effectively is the key to satisfaction and process improvement. Most people would like to get more feedback, even if it is constructive. We’ve had clients who had breakthroughs with team members as a result of a simple feedback conversation. It’s a powerful tool!

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliché “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

JM: That’s a good one. It really goes back to prioritization and thinking strategically about what needs your attention and what doesn’t. It might be true for certain things, like pitching your business for a new opportunity, but it can’t be true for everything. If you absolutely think everything needs to be done by you, then you are likely missing opportunities to benefit from the ideas and talent of others.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Wow. That’s the type of question we find really motivating. It’s actually why we started our nonprofit. We wanted to start a movement to bring the training and coaching programs we know really work to nonprofits who, by definition, are focused on doing good for others. By training nonprofit leaders and teams, we help them work better and smarter, which means they can do more to benefit their communities. Our movement is about amplifying the impact of people who are already doing so much good in the world. We can’t think of a better way to spend our time!

How can our readers further follow you online?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you about this important topic. Readers can visit our website www.thespaceforgood.org to learn about our programs and how they might benefit their organization. We are also on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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