Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Cowboy Way

In case you haven't heard, the economy is tough, and the Society for Technical Communication (STC) is having its challenges--just like a lot of businesses and just plain folk are. Lower attendance at the conference means we did not get as much revenue as we had planned on, membership has been declining, and our investments took the same hits that everybody's 401Ks did. As First VP and member of the board of directors, I have a front row seat to what the cruel calculus of this economy does.

We need to rethink, retool, and reinvent our society to meet the new realities. No shock there, staff and board have been working hard at it for some time. It's just that the economic crisis took away a lot of runway, so we're trying to rev the engines, so to speak, on many changes that need to happen sooner rather than later.

I also have a front row seat to how badly some people act in these kinds of times. I don't think the blame-laying finger pointers realize how counter-productive their negative energy can be. As a volunteer leader finding myself in the middle of circumstances so much bigger than myself, I try to take a mature attitude--shake it off, Mike, stay focused on the solution. Until recently, I've been doing OK at the chin up, stiff upper lip posture.

But I can feel the depression overtaking me and I wonder how others cope. Sarah Palin retires--man, I so get that!

Not the cowboy way, though, and I have to stick to the cowboy way. Shake it off, rub some dirt on it, and stay in the saddle. Do the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing to do. If I have learned no other lesson about leadership from this, I have learned that.

I'm also learning about followship, and I'm going to try to be more supportive of my leaders, national and business. There is no user guide for this sort of thing (but if there was, it would probably be a PDF buried on the Web someplace--OK my sense of humor is starting to come back a little). They have to make tough decisions, often with not nearly as much data as they'd like. They're stuck with tools and systems they didn't create and that are not ideal for the job. And they can see the solution clearly at times, it's just that they have to move lots of people and entrenched bureaucracies and special interest groups to get there. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and my support. If I get to the point that I think they are so wrong, I'll quit and go quietly so they can stay focused (in case I'm the one that's wrong).

And in the meantime, if they start moping and feeling sorry for themselves, I'll just tell them to shake it off, rub some dirt on it, and get back in the saddle.

Yippie kay yay!


Margaret said...

Hang in there, Cowboy!

I've been trying to follow the STC's reconfiguration process from the edges (the Lone Writers SIG List, several writers' blogs, and the chaotic Twitter #STC feed stream), and can sense a lot of frustration at how little information is available about where all this is going. The information that a decision was made in May to shut down the STC Forum, but never mentioned at the Summit upset some members.

All I ask you to do is to hang on for the ride, and provide the rest of us with whatever illumination you can when the smoke clears!

Michael Hughes said...

Yee hah!

The decision to suspend the Forum happened in the board meeting that occurred during the Summit. There was just no venue to announce it.

Then we focused on getting the Leadership Town Hall meetings going and it wasn't until just last week that I could address the Forum decision and get it announced.