I had a run-in with my former “me”

Posted on June 13, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

…but the point isn’t either to justify my own behaviour, blame someone else for it, or be unkind to myself regarding it. The point is to learn, integrate and see the situation as an opportunity.

That being said, I am given to analyse what happened at the meeting I chaired today. I had just been named as the new exec. director of an arts organization—which was great: warm welcome; glad you’re back in an executive position; (I’d served on the Board before); even, Whew! now we can get some things done, and regroup (!)—all fine and dandy, except that the previous person in charge also was in attendance. She used the opportunity to rant about why we could not get this done, and that done, last year, which I felt was inappropriate and unhelpful. I told her to calm down at one point, and I realized she has issues with letting go.

We have several new Board members this term, and while they are people who are grounded, and willing, and excited, they did look askance at this behaviour.

However, if I’m going to stay true to my current belief system (and I had a look at it again before writing this to be sure it’s still one I subscribe to) I have to put my philosophy where my mouth is. None of what I’m currently feeling (shell shocked, embarrassed, angry [actually, pissed off], and ineffectual) has anything to do with the person of whom I blog. It is, as all things are, completely my responsibility.

So. Now what do I do?

a) Complain about the person of interest; pointing out how nutty she sounds, and how she’s just on a power trip (OK, I ‘fess I’m doing a little of that here).

b) Ignore it and hope it gets better on its own (she might calm down after a while). or

c) First imagine, and then draft a plan about how I would like board meetings to go, and take responsibility for moving them along when they get sidetracked this way.

I know, looking back, that I could have prepared for this meeting better. Going into it somewhat flustered, and nervous, and—another confession—somewhat apathetic, just added to the confusion. I’m just looking at how I chose not to declare what I wanted from the meeting (either to myself or others) and therefore got back from it the rather scattered state of mind and negative emotion I brought along.

Here’s my plan:

Email all the participants (including the person of interest), thank them for their contributions to the success and future plans of our organization, remind each of the projects they agreed to take on during the meeting, and of the date they are expected to report on same, (including those tasks I agreed to myself), and begin to work on a very focused agenda for the next meeting.

Additionally, I choose to make a timeline (or flowchart, or something like that) with points of focus highlighted (First rehearsal, social events, concert dates) with lists of what needs to get done prior to each. (Newsletter, emails, publicity, management issues).

Here’s another important point: All of this, for me, must be FUN! (Well, realistically—in my current state—, 80% fun.) Otherwise, my mental energy will not be there, and I’ll just be going through the motions. If that’s so, than I’m in the wrong place.

As I write this, I do know I enjoy the org. and want to see it prosper. I must ask myself how I know this to be true.

—Is there a purpose to marketing such an organization to the community? Their pleasure? Edification? Community Spirit? What about to the participants/performers themselves? Why should they be involved? What motivates ME to be involved?

—What educational and enrichment opportunities can we bring to ourselves and our audiences? What makes us unique among similar organizations, and why?

And, finally, how willing am I to let the organization go away; disband; disintegrate; rather than forcing it into a mold it does not wish to be in? I believe that organizations are entities with their own distinct personalities. The personality of a particular endeavor will make itself known if we listen; if we really want to hear what it says. Many entities exist for hundreds of years, but do undergo cosmetic or radical surgery from time to time. Others live brief but intense lives, and leave us with a memory, having enhanced our experience. Most fall somewhere in between.

The organization I’m speaking of here has been around for many decades; not a hundred years, yet. Should it be? What sort of retooling would make that possible and enjoyable?

I must thank my colleague, the person of interest, for giving me the opportunity to explore these thoughts. I hope to become a better director for it. And thank you for reading. It helped me to type this, knowing that you might. πŸ™‚

Have a good weekend, and I wish you choices close to your hearts.

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9 Responses to “I had a run-in with my former “me””

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First things first – is there a realistic chance this group will cease to exist after being around for decades? If so, why? I think you’re not very willing to let that happen or you wouldn’t be thinking about it and writing about it.

I agree organizations are entitites and in some ways like people in that after a certain point, trying to effect change at a fundamental level is futile. I’m not very fond of “it is what it is” but sometimes it applies.

As for a, b and c – I vote for C. B is not likely and A is done, more or less.

Having led my share of meetings, both corporate and organizational, I’m a firm believer in a tight but realistic agenda that’s followed. When a meeting just goes on and on, I never return if I have a choice.

I don’t mean to sound cranky, although I realize I might. Sorry. Keep us up to date with this, okay?

when you mean former ‘me’, do you mean the person who had the post before you or you felt a side of who you were surfaced from this incident? i’m a bit muddled this morning…

i’m not sure enough to comment but leaving one to show encouragement. i’m sure you can figure this out, muse… with the help of other well-meaning blogfriends, perhaps. πŸ™‚

Hi ella. I appreciate your concern and expertise. To answer your first question, well, there is always a chance of that. The org. nearly disintegrated about 8 years ago when they suddenly lost some personnel and had to cancel events. It took a while to get a modicum of credibility back. This past year, we were in a bit of a financial “situation” as were many other entities. But now, we have some opportunities coming our way to transcend that. I think we will be fine for the next season, at least. For many of these organizations, it appears they would run really well, if only we didn’t have to deal with the pesky members! And staff! And the public! πŸ˜› So, it’s really the interpersonal things that I’m most concerned about. I vote for “C”, too, and thanks for the support! I am with you re: meeting length. Having it go 45 minutes over, as it did, is just not acceptable, although the ranting individual said the opposite was one of her “pet peeves”. She just got so frustrated, she said, when people said they had to leave on the dot of 2:00. “Sometimes things just take longer”, she said. I disagree, and one of my “learnings” from this is to pair down the agenda to essentials and set times limits and take responsibility for moving things along. I’ve noticed that some people like to tell stories to illustrate their points. While those can be entertaining and even helpful, they are very time consuming and use up precious meeting time. I’m thinking we need time to socialize and bond as a group, but not during meeting time. You are not cranky! You are helpful! Thank you for your interest in this; I wasn’t sure if anyone but me would want to read it! πŸ˜€ I’ll definitely let you know how it goes.

Oh, sulz, I do like my whimsical blog titles from time to time, but you are right, this one is a little obtuse. When I wrote it I meant the person that had my job before I did, but your other interpretation has caused me to think about that, too, so thanks! πŸ™‚ I have changed since I started working with these types of organizations. And it gives me pause to reflect upon who I want to be within them. Thank you very much for the encouragement! Accepted. I know it will work out; it’s just my fingers needed to type about it, whether or not my brain was involved. πŸ˜‰

Good luck with it. Yes, some people do go on and on. In my experience, an open-ended meeting is asking for trouble. I like to specify the start and end times and with an organization, if appropriate, add something like “Refreshments to follow” or “Refreshments after.” That makes it clear business and schmoozing are two different things and anyone who wants to leave when the business portion is over isn’t made to feel as if leaving has to be justified.

(and Hi, Sulz!)

I echo ella’s sentiment. And, most importantly, never forget what you said here:

I must thank my colleague, the person of interest, for giving me the opportunity to explore these thoughts. I hope to become a better director for it.

THAT is the mindset you gotta have when faced with resistance – for it is only this challenge that will help you grow as a person/director/etc.

Also, another way to frame the situation is that, maybe, this person of interest was having a particularly bad day. Maybe her marriage is failing, her kids were bad this morning, she didn’t eat breakfast, didn’t get enough sleep, and overall didn’t really want to be at the meeting (which would explain her pessimism and negative attitude). Bottom line is, you don’t know what caused her to rant like she did, and you can’t let yourself get sucked into her reality of doom and gloom. Just focus on what’s within your sphere of influence – your own state of mind.

Though, if I were there, I would’ve thought it funny to say, as a comeback to her rant, “Yeah, we didn’t get anything done last year, which was a shame. That’s okay though, we’ll do better now, since we have new leadership this year,” and thrown a smirk her way. I bet you $10 her reaction would’ve been priceless, even though you’d look arrogant – but whatever it takes to get the meeting back on track, right? Right? RIGHT?

Just kidding, of course. What I’m trying to say is that you might need to be more firm in order to wrest control from the angry ranters and set the discussion back in the right direction.

Oh, what a good idea, ella! “Refreshments to follow” ❗ πŸ˜€ I’m using it; I’m stealing it. Supplying refreshments never occurred to me! As much as I like consumables, I tend to think they’re “Other People’s Responsibility”. I’ll have to think of something tantalizing! You rock.

Indeed, leap, & thanks. I always think the people I encounter have lessons for me; sometimes it’s just challenging to see them. πŸ™‚ You could be right about the person’s day, issues, etc. However, I’ve known this person for over five years, and… πŸ˜• I guess what took me back the most is her defensiveness, but you are too right, and I don’t intend to get caught up in her dramas. It was actually interesting to watch the dynamics of the group start to unfold, as several of the members are new to the administration.
While what you suggest is somewhat tempting, and, actually true enough—that’s why they have me, now—I’m not much of a smirker. Perhaps I can hire you to come and smirk for one meeting? πŸ˜‰ I do plan to focus on the poistive future, and invest more time in my own preparedness. Still, I actually got two emails saying it was a good meeting. Go figure!

hi ellaella! sorry i’m late… but better late than never right? πŸ˜›

Hi Muse! Ugh and aaaah! I have so much to say related to this based on many-handed experience (first, second, etc.), but I also see in what you’ve written lots of good perspective and sincere intent. And so I will be uncharacteristically terse and simply say…good luck! I have no doubt you will get from this and give to it all that you possibly can, and more than that…well now we’re getting to your June 16 post, The Illusion of Control. πŸ˜‰

Peace out and in!

sulz: πŸ˜€

“Ugh and aaaah!” —I just love those as comments, Ronnie Ann! Hehe. I know I’m far from being the only humanoid to run into these sorts of relationships. I don’t often get that peeved regarding others, and much of the unpleasantness has dissipated. But, in HAVING such a reaction, I also know there’s something there to look at, or else it wouldn’t bug me. I’m so narcissistic as to believe “it’s all about me!” πŸ˜‰ “uncharacteristically terse” —you had me laughing, there!!! πŸ˜€ Peace to you, my friend.


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