I have worn a lot of hats in multiple disciplines in my 30 year full time career in AEC. I have also worn many hats raising four kids who are all very different. When you have busy kids with very eclectic interests life can get very interesting trying to juggle responsibilities in order to participate and be involved. Seriously, we had to call in grandparent reinforcements sometimes to get everyone where they needed to go.
You name it and I have probably done it. Sports, music, art, performance, high adventure, scouts – the list goes on and on. During these adventures, I found that your life and leadership lessons often come from the most unexpected places.
I have just returned from the CSI Tri-Region Conference in San Diego. Three regions came together to share ideas, attend education sessions and participate in leadership activities and classes. I attended a number of these leadership sessions. All were valuable and gave me food for thought as I prepare to embark on my 2nd term as Portland CSI President and Chair of the Institute Certification Prep Committee. I am thankful for these classes.
Always after one of these conferences I find myself pondering the road ahead. Since the voices in my head tend to wander, I have found myself particularly focused on leadership and change. What do I do well? What needs improvement? Where have my most valuable lessons come from and where can I learn more?
While these classes definitely provide value, my musings have come to the determination that my best experience in leading change has not come from a class. My most relevant and worthwhile experience and lessons have come from getting involved.
One of the activities that I found myself leading during my kid’s journey was the High School Snowboard Team. Oregon is the first State to have interscholastic snowboarding in public high schools. This was a brand new venture at every level, from State competitions right down to the teams. A snowboard team is a time consuming and heavy workload activity as practices and competitions required 2 hours of travel each way to get to the mountain, tons of gear, safety issues and 40 left of center snowboarders. Not many parents were particularly excited about getting involved in this little adventure. It was, hands down, one of the best things that I did.
I participated for five years. The first, I was just a parent who helped out here and there. The next four, I ran the team at all levels as well being a member of the State Board. What I noticed my first year was that not many parents were helping out. Not many were willing to sit on a bus for two hours, both ways, with 40 snowboarding teenagers, many of which did not fit into society’s pretty little box. Too much work, kids are too wild, I am too busy, etc. etc.
The first year that I ran the team, as was standard procedure, we kicked off with a Parents Meeting. Because of the technical aspects and safety issues related to this sport, all parents were required to attend. I stood in the front of the room and listened to 80 parents do nothing but complain. The bus leaves too early, my kid didn’t make the Varsity squad, my kid is not getting enough instruction from the coaches, and so on and so on. Of these 80 parents, I had seen maybe 10 of them involved in any real way the year before.
And then it came to me. I let them vent and the next words that came out of my mouth were as follows:
“This is a time extensive, expensive activity that requires a monumental amount of work that is being done by very few people. My rule is as follows: If you volunteer and help this team succeed, we will all be better for it and your children will have a well supervised and valuable experience. If your name does not appear on this volunteer list that I am about to pass out, you do not have a right to complain. Period, end of story. Either participate to make this the best thing ever or be quiet and get out of the way.”
While that may not have gone over well with some of the folks in my audience, I did not get any complaints and I left that meeting with a huge list of volunteers who worked their tails off to make this happen for their kids. I started every year thereafter with that speech. Many of these parents (and kids) are now some of my closest friends and the leadership lessons and experience that I gained was incredible.
So, what is the point of this rambling story?
While the Tri-Region Conference was a great experience with great people, I heard more than my share of complaining. Many of these folks are leaders who certainly put in their time but the complaining I heard was often about things in which the complainer was not involved or contributing.
We all know that the last year has provided some challenges in CSI. We are in the midst of great change and change is never easy. I have the utmost confidence that this change, while sometimes painful, will reap great rewards.
Change doesn’t happen by itself and many hands make light work. We, as CSI Members, more than ever before need to step up and contribute our considerable talents to this process. We need to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We need to embrace chaos in order to move forward.
I will be beginning my 4th year on the Institute Certification Prep Committee on July 1st, my second year as Chair. This is a heavy work committee and sometimes it is a challenge to manage the tasks and get the work done. That said, I have gained valuable experience being a part of this committee and I have continued to feed and grow my leadership skills.
BUT, most important of all, I get to be a part of the process. I get to be a part of the change and I get to have a voice. I have earned my right to have an opinion if I see something that I think needs improvement. I have met amazing people and I am proud of the work we have accomplished so far for our organization.
There is more work to do and CSI needs your help. Right now there is a Call for Volunteers on Institute Committees. We need your expertise on the Technical Committee, Education Committee, Jury of Fellows and the Specifier Editorial Board. More calls may be coming in the near future. This work will not and cannot happen without you. The deadline to apply is May 22nd and you can see the openings here: https://portal.csinet.org/Committees/MyCommittees.aspx?selmenid=men5
My question for you – are you just talking the talk or are you going to walk the walk? Every day you have a choice to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. I encourage you to consider joining me in being a part of that positive, forward motion change.