I recently took over as Chair of the Board for the non-profit I sit on. So far, I’ve chaired two meetings and I have to admit I feel out of my element. I don’t mean that I’m not able to carry out the job – I seem to be doing alright by the feedback I’m receiving from the other board members.
It’s one thing to sit as a board member and evaluate how a meeting is being run, spotting pieces here and there that could be run more efficiently, or structured different, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually run the show. I think the past Chair did a fantastic job, so when I say there were things that could be more efficient, I don’t mean it as a criticism. What I mean is, when someone else is putting things into motion, it’s easy to see various areas where something could be done better. But when you are the one putting things into motion and steering the ship, you spend so much time keeping things going that you don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to evaluate things in real time and adjust for efficiency.
Before, I would receive the agenda, figure out where I could contribute to the discussion, show up and sit in as part of the group (which sometimes amounted to sitting back and letting others run the discussion). Now, I make the agenda and set the tone, then I have to be the one to get the discussion rolling. It falls to me to manage the Board’s caseload, and lead any strategic directions we choose to go. In time, it’ll also fall to me to work within my mandate from the Board and start the generative process of strengthening the organization and planning for the future.
Based on these last two meetings, it’s going to be a long time before I’m leading in any meaningful sense of the word. The best way I can describe my performance is managing how much force is getting applied to the flywheel to ensure momentum isn’t lost. When I reflect on my performance, it feels awkward and a little weak (wishy-washy, as opposed to done with a sense of conviction).
My default state is to excessively talk and look to the body language of others to see if they are receptive to what I’m saying. If I sense they are not understanding me, I keep talking and hope that if I throw everything at them, they’ll understand what I’m saying. A friend once likened it to a faucet. Where I should be dialing things back, I instead open the valve and give them a fire hose of information. Of course, this is the opposite of what I should be doing as a leader of a group like this. I should spend less time talking and more time listening to the wisdom of the group.
The good thing is that it’s early in my tenure so there is plenty of time to get more comfortable in the role and learn how to settle into a groove. Like I said, I’m not doing a bad job. The rest of the group is fine with how the last two meetings went. This is merely my critical self-reflection coupled with my desire to do better.