Us and Them

While regular fans of my work may believe that the them of this story are a company, the digitals, or rock bottom rates, tonight is different. A great writer already addressed the topic of the adversary in the mirror. Mission accomplished. No more them to talk about. Right?

Incorrect. There’s a growing discontent out there. People are upset with our associations. People see the falling rates, the fantastic need for better training across the country, and all the challenges we face in producing the record. People are upset that things too often do not go our way. Some days, despite our best efforts, it seems we are fighting a losing battle. There’s actually another side to this, too. The leaders of associations — the people who are often donating time and money for the greater good — not only face criticism, but also the harsh reality that many, many people find it easier to critique than to help build something greater.

Summarized:

STENOGRAPHERS: Why are you not doing X?

ASSOCIATIONS: Why are you not helping with X?

What does this do? It makes it us and them. Maybe it even makes it us against them. There are, and will always be, personality conflicts and personal squabbles that prevent progress. Can’t help that.

  • But what we can help is how we look at this from a long term, high level of thinking and strategy. To that end, I would like to offer a few assorted suggestions.
  • If you are an association leader, try keeping a log of what you’re doing. Note what is working. Note what has been tried. Note what didn’t work and why it didn’t work. One of our major problems today is that we’ve had decades of leaders and there does not seem to be a good guide on how to lead. Keep lists of ideas and suggestions from members so that even an idea that is untenable today can be examined someday in the future.
  • If you are a stenographer who has complaints, bring them up. Be polite, be professional, be honest. The more developed your idea is, the easier it is to work with. If it is a very developed idea and shot down, you can even seek private funding or commence the idea privately. As an example, a mentor believed that associations should take a more active role in education. I largely agree. Where we disagree is that I believe it is on the proposers to create a program to share with the association, whereas I believe the mentor thinks the association should do it.
  • Telling other people they should do more is unwise. First, you’re alienating the person you are telling to do more. Their first reaction is going to be to consider not doing anything more because their work is clearly unappreciated. Second, their opinion of you is dropping through the floor, and your ability to work together in the future is damned. I do believe in my heart that we can always do better, but I always try to acknowledge that we are all human and can only do so much.
  • What makes a leader? Followers. That’s it. That’s all you need. What keeps followers? Engagement on their level. Everyone has different tolerance levels for engagement. Find out what your followers like to do and then include them at their own comfort level. Hey, Mr. Reporter, you like drawing and design? Would you like to help us create an attractive flyer? Hey, Ms. Reporter, you like science and statistics? Would you help us design a program to track historic price data? Frankly, it doesn’t even have to be purely voluntary. If a small stipend is the difference between a yes and a no, consider paying out to increase the intellectual property of the association and its value to members.
  • Similarly, everyone may now see the inherent power they have as followers. If you have stuff you are willing to do, let your leaders know. It will make it more probable that you will get to take on or design something you’re passionate in.
  • Finally, see some validity in the id and the ego. There is who we are, and who we want to be. You’ve got to respect both. If you know a reporter wants to be a leader, but is not a good leader, but a good writer, then perhaps have them lead a writing project.

Associations face a lot of brain drain. They’re run by volunteers. Many aren’t making any money directly or indirectly off their leadership position. Imagine you are a stenographer that works all day, transcribes for 2 hours a night, goes home, and then sacrifices the little free time you have to jump on a conference call or respond to association emails. It’s not so much that people in power don’t want to fix everything, but the effort behind it is tremendous. Then add the fact that it can be very easy to burn out or become bitter, and perform less-than-optimally as a leader.

This is where you come in. It matters precious little if you are a leader, or a follower, or masquerading as either. It matters very much what you do and how you act. Realize that there are always improvements to be made, and that your inaction, action, words, or silence will change outcomes for all of us.