Spotlight: Eleanor ‘Tabi’ Haller-Jorden reflects on GAP Chicago

Eleanor 'Tabi' Haller-Jorden

Every so often, circumstances allow us to invite a Global Ambassador to participate as a mentor a second time. Eleanor “Tabi” Haller-Jorden first traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland with us in 2014 where she mentored Najah Jaroush Abdouni, a Lebanese landscape and irrigation expert. For GAP Chicago in 2017, Tabi was paired with Chicago-based NGO leader Kelly Fair, founder and executive director of Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program. Together, Tabi and Kelly explored opportunities and challenges in management, leadership, and staying true to one’s mission and vision. Read Kelly’s reflections here.

Kelly Fair and Tabi Haller-Jorden

I left the GAP Belfast program feeling wonderfully inspired and determined to ‘refresh’ my own leadership journey. The focus of that particular program was women coming from conflict or post-conflict zones, so it was a fascinating challenge to reconcile how we think about leadership in an Anglo-American context and then try to selectively apply that thinking more broadly, globally. Subsequent to that program, I’ve taken on several new professional challenges, so for me, it was a wonderful opportunity to partner with Kelly and think about how my own, more recent professional experiences and insights could be relevant for her. Happily, there was a terrific amount of alignment in our respective work. I’m focusing on workplace innovation and design, and Kelly is fundamentally developing a workforce for the future — this created some remarkable synergy in our conversations and strategy sessions. I’m feeling just incredibly energized and inspired by our partnered journey.

One-on-one mentoring in Chicago

Because there’s been such synergy in our thinking and perspectives, on a few occasions, we’ve even been finishing each other’s sentences! There’s also been incredible inspiration from the collective energy of the entire group. I remember that one of my early mentors in my career said, “Tabi, there’s a difference between working in a business and working on a business.” And, I think that knowing the difference is one of the core challenges of being a successful entrepreneur. As Kelly noted, you’re operating in a sea of day in and day out operational challenges but you also need to take that 30-thousand-feet perspective on “Why am I doing this? What’s the big story? What’s the big objective here?” So I love that combination of juggling those ‘in and on’ perspectives to ensure that our businesses are gaining daily traction while staying true to their bigger purpose and vision.

Kelly and Tabi present the week’s planning outcomes to the group wearing Polished Pebbles sweaters

Biases based on our own experiences and perspectives can be dangerous, particularly if we stop learning and exploring new avenues of thinking and being. I love Steve Jobs’ notion of “Stay hungry. Stay curious. Stay alert.” Each and every encounter is an opportunity to tap into another perspective and way of thinking that can only enhance how we engage with challenges and conflict. So, going back to your “surprise” question, something I thought was a reassuring surprise was tied to yesterday’s human resources discussion. Effectively managing human resources is one of the most complex and complicated challenges we can face as entrepreneurs and I was heartened by the level of discourse and debate about the ins and outs of managing our talents well. The “high touch” dimension of GAP is something that is very unique because while you can sit there with an HR textbook and say, “Well that sounds reasonable,” we all know that is not reality. The complexity of the discussions and debates reminds us that part of the big challenge is defining and taking ownership over your own definition of leadership. “What kind of leader do I want to be” is a daily question — leadership has to be reaffirmed and reasserted afresh, every day. You have to earn the privilege of being a leader and engage in that objective very intentionally. The GAP program is a magnificent reminder that we are on that intentional leadership journey and therefore need to develop a deeper understanding of and engagement with our own thinking and ways of being.