Egg Salad vs Tuna Fish

Egg salad vs tuna fish is my mother’s opinion of committees. She once was asked to serve on a committee for a local women’s group. Spent one meeting listening to an insanely long debate over which would be better to serve: egg salad or tuna fish, and effectively ended her volunteer service.

To be fair, the corporate sector is no better. Evidenced by one excruciating meeting at Colgate Palmolive with no less than a dozen suits in the room debating the intricacies of bubbles for a TV commercial I was producing, I think it is more about having input to contribute than it is about moving the project along. It is just that in the corporate environment, leadership is about gathering all the input and decision making, usually by the highest ranking people in the room when they’ve had enough. Done. Next.

A few days ago, the new ED let me know that one board member was offended by my strong opinions and being so direct about it. Perhaps I could soften things a bit. Really? I’ve pissed someone off by offering my opinion when asked? I didn’t call anyone out or anything. I don’t even know what was so offensive except that I had an opinion.

I decided at last night’s meeting that I was going to take a back seat and observe. Let the committee unfold. The committee consists of 5 board members because they couldn’t get anyone else; all women, retired, teachers, or low level administrative people, not a decision maker for miles. And a new ED who is into conflict resolution. Tonight the committee was taking on the challenge of resolving to whom should we send the event solicitation I designed specifically directed at businesses. I hate to restate the obvious but this was a 90 minute meeting and the question to be resolved is a bit like who is buried in Grant’s tomb?

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Elephant in the Room

English: Elephant in the room

English: Elephant in the room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I brought the program director to a pitch meeting, the first words out of her mouth were, “We’re not a religious organization, we’re a social service agency” and you could almost hear a giant sigh of relief. The elephant in the room left.

Last night’s board meeting was a total puzzlement. 180° from “Our doors are open to everyone.”  It appears that now we are not Jewish enough. Talk that we are an “arm” of another Jewish organization (and a bully if you ask me) because “they gave birth to us.” I have teenagers.  Spare me the maternal metaphors. Funding our organization fulfills their mission. There is no other local Jewish social service agency in the county and seeing we’re the only game in town, why can’t we create a more symbiotic relationship. I’m far from confrontational, but I’m not exactly a go with the flow kind of girl either. I am looking for clarity. It is hard to craft and deliver a convincing, coherent message without it.  I see the conflict as an opportunity to define our organization’s  purpose and intention to strengthen our collaborations with our community partners.

Yesterday, I attended a lunch where Gloria Feldt, former CEO of Planned Parenthood, was the guest speaker, all decked out in red talking about power. My organization, like Planned Parenthood, is mostly women sans the activism. And we are wimps. Teachers, social workers, people who like consensus, people who don’t like to make waves, people who focus on minutia, and people with no business experience at the helm. Gloria says, “carpe the chaos.” I totally see the opportunity, but this is going to take a lot of energy and I’m not sure how committed I am to the cause. Not enough to go it alone. That’s for sure. Leadership requires fire. I’m not paid enough for fire.


“It’s so professional!”

Two board members who actually made the effort to show up remarked that our breakfast event was so professional. I’m not sure how to take that. Is it a compliment?  Or commentary on past events?

The slide show set a great tone. Colorful little infographs on our various programs stood proudly in front of overpriced kosher bagel and fruit plates. The video was great. Although the table hosts invited relatively few actual donor potentials, I was able to round up enough bodies and the room was filled to capacity. The food was good. I even refrained from snarling and plastered a smile on my face as I added more chairs for all the non RSVP people who showed up with a +1.

I wrote 3 scripts for 3 people, all of whom loved the text and vowed to deliver. “It’s better than anything I could come up with” said one and “just tell me what you want me to say” said the other. This is what I want you to say. In 4 minutes. Just like we practiced.

Something happens when you put a mike in someone’s hand.  It’s like all bets are off. I’m hearing stories. I’m hearing jokes. Jokes? People are supposed to be moved to tears and guided through the pledge card, not entertained and told to fill out a form. One step forward, two steps backward.