At the very beginning of my tenure as executive director of the Upper Catskill Community Council of the Arts, a former board member said something during a meeting that upset me.
Years have past, and it hardly matters now what spurred the misunderstanding, but at the time I was quite angry.
What remains memorable to me about the exchange is the moment our board president closed the conversation. As she worked to negotiate a middle ground, she took the time to acknowledge the board member's volunteer service to the arts council.
It was, for me, an epiphany. Until that time, I had not stopped to really consider that my board was composed of people giving their time to the organization. We may not always agree, but they are at the table because they care.
I know what you're thinking: "Uh, Kathleen, isn't that obvious?" In retrospect, I wish it had been.
I have always been in what they call the not-for-profit world, "mission driven." I deeply believe in the arts council's goals and potential and spend my professional and personal days planning, devising and developing programming. Over time, I have had to learn patience and diplomacy when building consensus among people who are fresh to challenges that I have been wrestling with for awhile.
Not until our board president pointed out the obvious was I able to reconcile my obsessive need to grow and expand all things arts council with some inconvenient truths.
Namely, recruiting people to spend a great deal of their own time on our mission will always be a challenge.
Once they have joined the board, I need to slow down to develop relationships and teamwork. Just because members of the board choose to have professional and personal lives and enjoy recreational activities does not mean they are indifferent to our goals. The least I can do as executive director is make the experience enjoyable for everyone.