Meeting Schmeeting

I agreed (reluctantly) to sit on a board. It’s a national non-profit in the foodie realm. I didn’t know what I was diving into because no one could tell me with any substance or fact. That was a sign.

Oh. They were also looking fora treasurer … did I know anyone? Sure. I’m on it.

Our first meeting (with me in attendance) was held in Campbellville. No coincidence since I booked it. It was apparent that no one wanted to simply take action and pull the trigger without consensus and input. Really? To book a meeting. It was painful to endure the “reply all” on getting a date nailed down. Oh dear. What have I done? And I curse the I-genius that invented “reply all”. There should be a counter measure: the option to ignore irrelevant replies.

The new treasurer (that I recruit) and I attend the meeting along with the other three board members. It becomes immediately apparent that this is a ship heading off course with a dodgy compass. But the crew and passengers are very enthusiastic and excited about the journey. And hoping it hits land and doesn’t drift into uncharted oblivion. I’m having flashbacks to another board that I worked with. Luckily that one hit land and is to this day enjoying the spoils.

When the meeting adjourns I’m hopeful that there was sincerity and call to action behind the words spoken by the Chair. But I often wonder if jargon is a mask covering … what? Fear? Insecurity? Inability? Sayings like: “we should unpack that suitcase” or “can we circle back” or “we should park that for now” or “let’s create a deck for that” or “The meeting was heavy on cool-at-the-moment phrases and light on what needs to get done and how/who’s going to make it happen. I hate loose ends. (An aside: my sister has hundreds… like 800… emails in her inbox! I can’t imagine … just the thought of all that unfinished business makes me cringe. I would be in therapy!)

Meeting is over. I’m a bit wiser to the inner (semi) workings of the organization. I assign myself a couple of tasks: find a corporate organizer to help charter a course (same person who did it successfully got the other group I mentioned) and find a PR/communications person (the one they had was being difficult and the relationship was untenable). I also agreed to speak to personal contacts about corporate sponsors since this group is well positioned to be a star, but I don’t want to start engagement until I know there’s substance.

I contact the corporate organizer first. She’s so focused she gets right back and drills down to project potential. Yes, she assures me, she will create a proposal and present to the board. Check.

Next I contact the rogue communications person to get a lay of the land. After a couple of verbose (on her part) emails I suggest a phone call. She’s eager to chat and I have time on my weekly commute to Stratford for uninterrupted conversation. It turns out that a 2 hour commute is almost not enough time! She has lots to say. In between tooting her own horn a bit, she gives me some interesting insights such as confirming the errant course and lack of decisive leadership. She lets me know she has tendered her resignation to the board and will help a transition take place ASAP. What I also gather from our chat is that she’s doing a myriad of tasks and some of them beneath her pay grade (in her opinion). But no one else was doing them so she picked up the slack of her own volition. Without direction and working in a “silo” she managed to tick off some of the other departments. And so the cat fights started. Women can be so cruel and destructive when provoked (which is subjective). The emotion and personal attacks are very counterproductive. Touchy. Meh.

I gather my thoughts and follow up with the board. Crickets. Okay I guess I’m on the right track? Will find out at the next meeting.

Next meeting rolls around. I asked if my strategist colleague can have time on the agenda to present. Since I heard nothing I invite her to come early before the meeting takes on a life of its own. The meeting is at someone’s house. I’m not a fan of unprofessional venues as they set the tone sometimes. But okay. I’m a newbie.

My colleague presents. She’s convincing and articulate and she wisely keeps her presentation super short to encourage conversation. Her allotted 30 minutes turns into an hour. Everyone has lots to say and it’s all positive. The chair ends the session in favour of a short break by saying, essentially, “we will be in touch”. After she leaves the conversation continues: it’s a great idea but we can’t afford it. My view: you can’t afford not to.

The meeting continues. It’s a chaotic jump from topic to topic since the agenda was too general. More brainstorming on one hand and what’s not working on the other intermingled with information about what’s happening operationally. We’ve almost snagged a new major sponsor. There’s a glitch in one department. The website is lacking. And so on. The resident cat is winding around my feet st the table and it’s a pleasant distraction.

My face has betrayed me. I’m disengaged and bored. I don’t function well without a plan or focus. I need a clear mission …

The Chair calls me out: Susanne, are you there? What are you thinking? And then it happens. The mouth starts moving and I unload starting with I don’t think this group is a good fit for me. It’s too dysfunctional. Too disorganized. Too unfocused. And I add what I think are possible solutions to remedy. There are 6 sets of eyes widely looking at me. Then the conversation starts again. But there’s a renewed sense of energy and passion. There’s hope.

I haven’t called it quits yet. I gave a commitment to see a couple of things through. It may turn out that the fit is indeed faulty.

Thankfully Rudy is a solid sounding board.

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