Sharing Means Caring

Can you picture yourself in a staff meeting where the ED goes around the table and forces everyone to share something deeply personal?

I can.

This was a repeat exercise for me at one point. Our ED introduced the activity (called share time) during our weekly gatherings, and it went over about as well as you’d imagine. We started all meetings this way, with one staffer each week awkwardly answering whatever benign topic the ED chose as that meeting’s “theme.”

There was a lot of this.

In all my years nonprofiteering, I’ve prided myself on being a good colleague. I’m hyper-collaborative, honest and I don’t take myself too seriously. People feel open with me, so they share things. Ideas, challenges, gossip… it’s all very natural. Forcing people to share, care or otherwise feign connectivity, however, has never been my M.O., and I believe that to be a pretty bold expression of ineffectual leadership.

I live in Houston, where over 250,000 people (page 22) have jobs in some way connected to the energy sector — what I call the “real world” — including many friends. So while I float in nonprofit circles, this real world is all around me, offering up cues on business best practices, Human Resource issues and so on. When I talk with these friends about things like share time, responses are usually akin to “yeah, that wouldn’t fly where I work.” It’s comforting to be validated, but at the same time, depressing.

There are too many genuine, honest ways to engage with people at work. It baffles me sometimes just how difficult that can be for some people in nonprofits, where we’re supposed to be mission-driven, passionate stewards of goodness.

Alas, we choose what we choose, and I’m glad to be in a place with no share time. Shoutout to all my homies still fighting the uphill battle of ridiculousness — may your staff meetings be filled with useful things, instead of forced, time-wasting conversations that could have been emails.

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