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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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Wandering minds and unengaged people do not a meeting make
Jacqueline Beretta

March, 2007

Imagine this scenario. You are the CEO of Little Bear Camps of America.  It’s early Friday morning and you call an unplanned staff meeting.  You breeze into the conference room to find 5 staff members hovering over steaming cups of coffee and gazing blankly at the wall. Trying to energize the group, you announce a new funder brought on board late yesterday afternoon as a key contributor for your most pressing project.  They need immediate attention, and you have to rally the troops to get moving on all the appropriate steps you need to take now to thank this funder with creative flare.

Sitting around the table are the ED, development, communications and pr, financial officers, and program coordinator.  Basically – you have the inner cabinet there to strategize on how to interact and communicate with this new funder.


And so you begin with an announcement that the Bear Play Foundation has decided to fund your entire summer camp for good young bears for next summer to the tune of $125k.  No reaction. Hello guys – did you hear me? This is good news!  Ok – what’s going on?


Your finance guy Joe is looking though glazed eyes. He is wondering why am I here?  I have so much to do with the 1st Quarter numbers due on Monday and I am sitting here wasting my time. And after I stayed up all night trying to make sense of the mess they handed me! This is not my job!  Let me out of here!


Your development officer Bridgette’s mind is wandering because she is thinking about the fact that she did all the work to get this grant but she’ll never get any of the credit.  She looks out the window with glazed eyes and a pitiful expression on her tired face, and then back at the ED A.J., who is smiling and nodding her head happily at the announcement.


Looking at the table full of wandering minds, the unengaged people suddenly focus on the fly buzzing around on the window sill, mess with their blackberries and text back and forth. Suddenly your new communications officer Frances lets out an excited giggle and then checks herself quickly when she glances around to see everyone looking at her. What is that big smile on her red face? Don’t kid yourself into thinking she is engaged with you and the task at hand – she got an instant message from the good looking young man she had a date with last night.


Maria, your program coordinator for the summer camp, looks anxious, and nervously is twirling her hair. You sense she might want to speak by locking eyes on yours, and then quickly averts them to look at the painting of the bears on the wall. She is dying to give her opinion about the next step to implement the plan and get rolling, but she checks herself and withdraws.


Granted, it’s Friday – but you can’t seem to get any kind of reaction from the group, even though this grant is a huge coup you had all looked forward to. What’s not working here?

Perhaps you need to look in the mirror to analyze your leadership style. Do you have what it takes to get this group moving?


Do you have a formal management style like that of the 1950’s and 1960’s? Hello - the “Do what I say attitude” doesn’t cut it anymore. Or are you managing with the “bubby buddy” attitude of the 1990’s? If you are – then stop it now.


According to the Ken Blanchard Companies, today’s leaders are the backbone of an organization.  Leaders create vision, strategy, and serve as catalysts who move organizations forward.


According to studies conducted by Blanchard:


1. The ability to communicate is a most essential skill for leaders. In contrast, inappropriate communication is the number one mistake leaders make.

2. Effective people management is the second most important skill for leaders.

3. The third most important skill a leader needs today is empathy and emotional intelligence.

A look at your employees and rethink 

Joe, the finance officer is exhausted with a little too much on his plate right now. He didn’t have to be called into this meeting. A later update would have sufficed. A little empathy and understanding of the fact that he was handed a lot of numbers to correct for the Quarterly reports Thursday night for reports due Monday. The pressure and knowing that he has to work all weekend to catch up is wrong.


Bridgette, the development officer feels unappreciated and taken for granted. She is also developing increasing anger towards her ED, who she feels is taking credit for her hard work and success. Inclusiveness and recognition are essential for each team member.


Your ED A.J. is blushing with excitement over the success Little Bear Camps is feeling over the large number of grants coming in. After all, in theory, he is the glue and the leadership that keeps the team working together. She is enthusiastic.


Frances, the new communications officer is showing disrespect to the entire group. The entire group including you should be accountable.


And finally Maria, the program coordinator seems to be the only one who is really listening to you this morning. And it seems that she has something to contribute to the conversation but will not say it. This might imply fear or a lack of trust for those present in the room. Maybe because her ideas where torpedoed at some time in the past which sparked a bit of humiliation.


What it boils down to is that the group is not flourishing, the key players are not engaged or enthusiastic about their mission or their success, and you may be looking at potential burn out for the others.


In order to bring them up to their full potential, begin with communicating your vision in a meaningful way.  Ask for opinions and respectfully listen to their ideas. In this way you will build trust which can increase participation.


 Excellent qualities of a leader: 

-  Providing essential feedback like praise and direction.

-  Listen and enable staff to be part of the process

-  Use leadership techniques that are appropriate to the employee, job, or circumstance

-  Set clear goals and intentions

-  Train your employees well



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