The gall of some people. I’m sure something like this has happened to you:
I’m on the board of a local nonprofit group. Let’s call it the Do Good Things Foundation. It’s a great group, a great cause, and we’re doing a lot of good things. We have dynamic CEO with a committed staff, a board chair with her head screwed on right, and a core group of hard-working and savvy board members who take their responsibilities very seriously.
But there is always one in every crowd. Let’s call him Big Al. You’ve all met Big Al. He’s the one who, no matter what he has done wrong, no matter how much he has screwed up, has a way of making YOU - the diligent dedicated do-the-right-thing individual - feel guilty and inadequate. So, get this:
Our board chair initiated a quick around-the-table progress report on what we had been working on. Three months before, we had all committed ourselves to getting certain things done.
First person on the list: Check-check-check. All of ten seconds. Second person, same thing. My turn: I shaved off 1.3 seconds. On down the list, bingo, bango, bongo.
Then came Big Al. Well, it turned out Big Al had done nothing. But, he let us know, he had been talking to people, people who knew people who knew people, who might - just maybe, possibly, who knows? - be able to get things done for us.
One minute off the clock, two, three ...
Our board chair labored mightily to bring him back on track. Mission Ridiculous. Big Al had now built up a full head of steam. “We need to be reaching out to Antarctica,” he said out of the blue. (I’m fictionalizing a bit here.) We all squirmed uncomfortably. This was our weak spot. We knew it, he knew it.
One of our board members acknowledged that yes, we do need to be reaching out to Antarctica.
Our board chair said yes, reaching out to Antarctica is very important, but that is for another conversation.
Big Al paid no attention. He smelled blood and went for the kill. “Every board member needs to be making calls,” he said, as if he were in charge.
Apparently, all of us - the people actually doing things - were supposed to abandon our current projects and become telemarketers. And we were being lectured to by the one person in our group who specialized in doing nothing.
“I don’t make cold calls,” I said in a level voice. Someone else added the same thing. So did someone else.
It was as if Big Al hadn’t heard us. Blah-blah-blah, he went on.
“I don’t make cold calls,” I repeated.
Our CEO expressed concern over a board member free-lancing without her knowledge or the board’s knowledge. Several nodding heads. Amazingly, Big Al turned this around. “I will call you tomorrow and bring you up to speed,” he informed the CEO with a smile, as if he now had a special partnership.
He had run six or seven minutes off the clock. Our board chair went to the last person on the list. Check-check check. Ten seconds.
Fortunately, our core board people know what we’re dealing with, and - without any of us having had to voice our disapproval - so now do our newer board members. Yet, I can’t get over how he actually had all of us on the defensive, he Big Al - all mouth, no action.
In the days leading up to the board meeting, I had put together a complex bunch of stuff for board consideration, involving several hours of preparation. I had also been assisting our CEO on a project involving one of my areas of expertise. In fact, I would be spending one hour with her the very next morning. Yet, for a brief few seconds, Big Al had succeeded in making me feel guilty and inadequate.
As I said, we’ve all met Big Al. He comes in many varieties and flavors. He could be your mother, he could be someone you work with, he could be in your book group. It doesn’t matter how great the rest of your family is, or your work colleagues or your book group buddies, all it takes is one Big Al to ruin things for everyone. Sooner or later, we all have to deal with Big Al head on.
Question: How do you handle impossible people?
Feel free to write a book. Comments below ...
Published On: April 01, 2012
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