Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Being Sick

This photo is by Leonid Mamchenkov.

I had a crappy Memorial Day weekend.  Two highly anticipated gatherings with friends (including a wedding and our first barbecue of the summer) were stymied by pink eye. Yes, pink eye, that horrible dis-ease USUALLY reserved for elementary school kids.  Instead of swimming, drinking fruity cocktails and chatting up old friends and new, I slept through Sunday and Monday and endured painful eye drops. :(

But enough about me.  Let's talk about you!

What do you do when the world's got you down.  When things are DEFINITELY NOT working out as planned.  When your time-honored traditions and/or newly hatched inventions are fouled?

I bet you retreat.  Go into a corner somewhere and HOPE that things will roll over.  Or maybe you grouse WAY TOO MUCH until even your dog is tired of hearing your woes.

Life is challenging.  Both in catastrophic (think oil spill) and non-catastrophic ways (you just got turned down for another grant).  These are times to rest, regroup, and reach out for support but as organizations, we often HATE to share bad news.  Even when programs aren't making any progress and when we're way off of our fundraising projections, we continue to forge ahead and pretend that all is well.

I'd like to suggest an alternative.  How about telling the TRUTH about what's not working.  Not in an effort to whine or complain but in a sincere attempt to solicit feedback about how to IMPROVE. 

I know. Novel idea.  Most Executive Directors would rather quit than go to their boards, volunteers and donors with REAL questions about strategy. 

But think about the potential benefits. 
  1. People like to express their opinions (as long as the request for feedback is sincere).
  2. "Outsiders" are often more objective to our plight than we are, and thus, can brainstorm different options.
  3. Collaboration among diverse agents can reap truly unique insights and solutions.
The challenges we face as communities, countries and citizens are complex. (Certainly more complex than nursing a sinus infection). And, yet we are terribly reticent to try new methodologies for problem solving. 

One way to do something different is to start small.  Practice with the little things.  Ask your partner about his/her thoughts on your financial woes.  Reach out to your neighbors re: how to improve sanitation on your street.  In short, be honest about your failure and "sickness" as an organization and see what happens.  Exciting new plans, actions and relationships may be forged by this type of authentic and engaging dialogue.   


2 comments: said...

Feel better. Thanks for this post, which helps us all know how to feel better!

Nadia said...

You're so right!!! Its time to focus on the positive and find ways to improve instead of hiding from your problems. No nonprofit can succeed with its employees hiding under their desks!!