I love listening to very smart people talking. TED talks, great speeches, brilliant co-workers. There is something about how really smart people talk – they are clear, funny, and poignant. In so many ways, smart people embody the right way to do things: have a dream, come up with a plan, and “do” the plan.
Am I gushing?
Now less smart (but often very ambitious) people talk strategy, and often, that is all they talk. It makes me nuts when people seek to be on the “strategic committee”…but I suppose they are shielding themselves from additional work by only talking strategy, which is likely smart on their part! I just wonder why they don’t just stay home if that is their goal.
And it is important to note that in most volunteer gigs, there is NO strategic committee; the work is, well, work.
Some examples of real work:
– In politics the real work is knocking on doors, putting up signs, organizing lists, stuffing envelopes;
– In a non-profit the real work is fund raising, budgeting, finding volunteers, or actually doing the volunteer work if you can’t find any volunteers.
– In a professional organization, the real work is organizing/attending career days, seminars, social functions, or trade shows.
When the desire is to be seen as important, attend functions, rub shoulders and to not really contribute, many kid themselves (and sometimes they are able to kid others) that they are running the show and providing ‘strategic direction’.
So, what are the actions for we few who don’t want to be this kind of person? I submit that we have the option of the three “feets”:
– feet on the ground: just start doing the work that needs to be done. If the organization does worthwhile work, then it is worth doing and probably attracted you in the first place…and for sure some will follow.
– feet on the street: leave the organization for one that provides opportunities for a real contribution.
– feet to the fire: confront those who only want to talk (warning: can lead to either a refreshed and reinvigorated organization, or, it may lead to feet on the street)!
I suggest option 1: feet on the ground. If this is a volunteer position, you got involved because you saw something worthwhile in that organization. So do it, have fun, and leave the politics to the blow-hards.
And that is my strategy!