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A Conversation with MSC Alumnus, Jacob Goldstein

Jacob currently works as the Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant for  Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where he supports a population of 5,000+ individuals, providing one-on-one coaching and group workshop facilitation to clinical and non-clinical leaders.  Jacob leverages his experiences in education, the performing arts, and corporate learning and development to his work.  As a performer, Jacob has sung as a backup vocalist for musical artists such as Josh Groban and Patti LuPone, at venues including The United Center, The Chicago Theater, and Chicago Symphony Center, and as a recording artist on Netflix’s Sense8.  In the education space, Jacob has served as an educator and guest lecturer for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students throughout the Midwest. As a Learning and Leadership Development Consultant, Jacob has worked with organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies in the technology, healthcare, non-profit, and fashion/apparel industries.  

Why was MSC the right program for you?

One of the reasons I decided to go with the MSC program was that I liked the diversity of thought that was in the room. I loved that my cohort was such a diverse group of people, from early careerists to seasoned professionals. The program provides you the opportunity to gain perspectives from individuals in many different industries with varying years of experience, which really challenges you to think differently and try to grow as individuals. As a leadership development professional, I work with people in sales. I work with physicians. I work with marketers. And to hear, in my classes, the perspectives of individuals who are coming from these different industries and different stages of life was fascinating for me and helped me learn how to articulate particular leadership development messages to these different types of audiences.

Did you have a favorite class?

Professor Michelle Shumate’s class on non-profit leadership is the one I consistently use the most. In fact, I just recently taught a class about influence and motivation, and the majority of my research came from that class.

I decided to take the class because at the time I was consulting with a lot of startups. I found that startups and nonprofits are actually pretty similar — they’re both externally funded, and both types of organizations are very cause-driven. Individuals at startups are there because they truly care about their mission and they truly care about what they’re creating, and typically are focused on maximizing their resources and funding for that purpose.

One of the things I found so impressive about Professor Shumate was that on the first day of class, she told us, “I have a syllabus prepared, but I want to hear from everyone about what they are looking to get out of the class.” After that, she ended up changing over 60-70% of the curriculum to focus on things that we were really interested in learning about, even building brand new topics. That was so transformational — I have never had a professor so invested in their students’ development and learning goals that they would create a class so highly tailored to what we were looking for.

What is something you’ve learned from the class that has made an impact on your professional life?

One of the things from the non-profit leadership course I remember being most impactful — it was like a lightbulb went off in my head — was a great exercise about motivating and empowering our employees. There was a case study and the questions were, what can we do to really make an impact on people we work with as leaders and managers? When there’s a situation where certain individuals are acting out of line, what do we do? Everyone came up with great ideas on how to handle the situation. Professor Shumate said to us, “Did you come up with this idea because that’s the best idea for them, or because that’s what you would want your manager to do to you?”

That was an eye-opening moment for me. So often, we want to become the types of managers that we would want to have ourselves — for example, I don’t want someone who micromanages me, so I would give my direct reports a lot of autonomy. But in reality, your direct reports might want to check in with you, or prefer additional details, etc., I realized that managing is all about tailoring your style to the specific individuals that you’re leading and getting to know those individuals to figure out how you can better support and nurture them. Even now, a few years later, I’m still seeing the impact that that class has made on me.

What advice would you have for anyone considering the MSC program?

Once you’re in the program, encourage yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Take a class that you maybe might not have gravitated towards originally — it might push you and make a major impact. MSC is a safe-to-fail environment. This is your place to take risks and try something new. Because we only met once a week 40 times a year, which was such a finite period of time, when we were together we were all incredibly focused on learning and growing as much as possible. No one was checking emails from work or addressing other commitments and responsibilities. For me, those Saturdays were really my time to be selfish and focus on learning, growing, and expanding my boundaries.