Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seek and Assume

In the past few weeks I've found myself in situations where groups of people were working to make things happen. First, the parish picnic, then camping with my siblings and friends, and tonight a movie night at our parish.
At the picnic, we did what we do as a staff every year, which is forget to ask for help. We also forget to determine who (if anyone!) is in charge of the event. So, this leadership vacuum opens up and woe to the one who steps into it, because suddenly every problem, every situation, every question (even if the question is "where should the garbage cans go?") becomes YOURS. No one wants to be this person, and when a leader materializes, everyone else stops thinking. At the end of the picnic I actually went to my office, put my head down on my desk, and took a nap before the 5:00 Mass.
On the camping trip, we were tripping over each other to be the leader. It's not as bad as it sounds- no one fought for the position of top dog or anything, and no one was bothered when someone used another person's lantern instead of theirs or anything like that. It was more like... we all wanted to be the one who had what anyone needed. Anytime one of us would approach the supply table, voices would ring out "what do you need? I've got that!" Everyone was so excited to camp that we'd all brought our A game, and we ended up with lots of copies of the same stuff (which was actually helpful, usually- tarps? stoves? utensils? bungees? We've got that!).
Tonight one person was in charge of the whole thing from the start, which is great- except that she forgot to address one big detail which made other people on the staff have to run around and put out little fires all day today.
I have to admit that in situations two and three, I tend to disappear- to sit back and not add my voice to the crowd of voices, unless really, there is no one else saying what I would say. I'm not that desperate to use my camp stove that I'd walk past everyone else's to do it (although I do love that stove, it's news, and so cool!) and when there are 5 or 8 or 15 leaders working on bungee arrangement I have instant faith that they can come up with something without my help. Tonight I am hiding in the office until all the "what should we do about _____" questions have been answered, and that is because I am loathe to jump into a fire that's already burning. As a leader I'm a lot more likely to plan out the steps long before, make lists, etc... I try to avoid panic.
When I worked in a residential that used the "Reality Therapy" model, one of the teachings was "seek and assume"- it meant that the residents should look for and take on positions of leadership whenever they came up. I think it's a good habit, and I think it's a philosophy I've adopted and live by. But I guess I also do the opposite- I watch for situations where my leadership is not needed, and I step back. Ah, so maybe I assume but don't necessarily seek... hmmm....

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