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?
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.
My interim month as executive director has come to an end. Some petty stuff to settle like mileage policy (okayed flexibility to googling exact mileage as opposed to the generic chart of approximate miles) and deferred bigger issues (impending removal of 4 poor performers in one program area) to new ED. Who has arrived! Very nice but a little deer in the headlights. Results on job prospects–looking elsewhere for a good fit and a place that can pay me full time, but no rush. Finishing video (which is killer makes me well up every time), details, and scripts on our upcoming breakfast fundraiser. Big push getting the board on board that fundraising is an important part of being on a board. That I am even having this conversation is astounding to me. I don’t get it. What do people think is expected of them when joining a board?
We are planning a breakfast. Or more succinctly, I am planning a breakfast. The board seems to have rallied around finding a new ED. A flurry of emails. Lots of meetings. Committees. Pre-meeting meetings. Our biggest fundraiser is a couple of months away and let’s just say I have concerns. However, in the hierarchy of frustration is my inability to get Hal on the phone. Apparently, Hal is the solution. We are a Jewish agency and any meals served must be kosher. Of course, around here kosher caterers come at a premium. I am not up on my kashrut but I know enough to know that getting a rabbi to oversee a $35 bagel on a plate is meshugana. Hal, the “big boss” of Bubba’s, reportedly the only place for a perfect bagel with a schmear, the centerpiece of any Jewish breakfast event, prefers to deal in fax. As in he gets them and doesn’t respond. I want one 20 minute conversation to work out what we want, how much, and a phone number in case it doesn’t show up. Apparently, Hal is the only one who can to make it happen. I may have to resort to recruiting the former board president, a Bubba’s regular. I would rather seek his assistance in a more monetarily productive way, not to mention he picked me to be the interim ED. I can run the organization, really I can, but please help me get bagels–now there’s a confidence builder.