Dena Harris...Corporate Tyrant

I don't see myself ever returning to corporate life. I enjoy setting my own schedule, being able to meet friends for a 2 pm coffee and finish my work at night, and never knowing what new projects are coming down the pipeline.

The main reason I can't return to corporate life however, is meetings.  I am ill-equipped emotionally and  mentally to deal with meetings. And I proved this fact in high form the other week.

I was sitting in a meeting for one of the non-profits of which I am a board member.  There was a question on the table of how we should log the name of guests to our group. One option was to have guests fill out a 3x5 card with their contact info and we would collect. The other option was to buy a guestbook and have guests enter their names there.  Pretty simple choice, huh?

TEN MINUTES. That's how much discussion time was devoted to this topic. Ten precious minutes out of an hour-long meeting.  We had to discuss who would buy the notecards, where would we keep the notecards or the book, aren't cards hard to keep track of?, what if (God forbid) a guest put down their name and phone number but no address? Should we have someone stand nearby to make sure we got complete information? And on and on and on...

I lost it. I truly did. In an overly-loud and highly annoyed voice, I half-yelled,  "PICK SOMETHING. This is not brain surgery and I can't believe we're wasting time on this. Just pick something, decide to do it, and DO IT!"

Yeah... that Dale Carnegie training on how to win friends and influence people is really paying off.

People  jumped a bit in their chairs at my outburst and I could tell I'd made them uncomfortable.  Not that I cared at that point... I just wanted to move on.  And they did make a decision and move on, but not because I think they were done with their discussion.  I think they were trying to appease me and even a little fearful I might bark at them again.

And here's the scary part... I liked it. I was so past my patience threshold that I didn't care that I was getting things done through force versus group buy-in. I just wanted the s--- done.  I told Blair later that night that I could see me becoming one of those supervisors that rules by fear and intimidation.  I have--to steal a phrase from a friend--a low tolerance for stupid.  And I can't stand wasting time on what I deem to be non-critical items.

But I don't WANT to be that person. I don't respect people who rule by fear. I respect people who make others feel valued and heard.

"What would you have done?" I asked Blair, the Great Communicator.

"Well," he said, "I would have said something like, 'This is all good discussion and everyone has raised some excellent points. But we've got other items on the agenda we need to move on to. So let's go around the table and right now, cast your vote for cards or book.' Then I would have moved on. "

"Oh," I said. "Huh. That never occurred to me to handle it like that."

"I know, sweetie," said Blair sighing and patting my hand. "I know..." 

Leadership is hard. I think it's best for all involved if I just stay behind my computer...