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Chiefs and Indians

Like so many years before it, 2014 is ending on a sprint. Part of that sprint is owing to my own tendency towards procrastination. What can I say: I respond to deadlines. But the other part is owing to a phenomenon I know many are familiar with: the too many chiefs, not enough Indians school of organization.

I have most acutely felt this within the PTA this past year. As the Vice President of Programming, my job is to be in charge of all non-fundraising programming. I’m a chief! Or I would be, if most of the Indians didn’t fancy themselves chiefs, too.

Our communications chair has great ideas about how to harness social media for the group and was quickly recruited to help the school roll out a new website. What didn’t so much happen were the flyers about fundraisers, the PTA introduction packet, or any newsletters. That was farmed out, half-assed, and/or skipped. The one “newsletter” that was produced lead with a call for volunteers to take over the newsletter. You know, some Indians to follow the communication chief’s vision.

I probably should have taken over this one, but I didn’t.

Then there was the PTA directory. Lots of opinions about that one, too, including how it should be formatted, how to use advertising to make it a revenue provider, etc. I even had volunteers sign up for this one! Except then they didn’t reply to email. So who did the whole thing? Me, of course.

Then there is merchandise. We had a real visionary on this front–someone who provided a necessary re-brand for the entire run of merchandise.  She then asked for 4 volunteers to manage stock and sell the stuff, not understanding that her role included taking care of those mundane details. But wait! The cavalry arrived in the form of two school parents who run small businesses. They had just the solution, including managing stock and sales through inventory software. They even showed up one day to take inventory, then were never seen again and quit answering emails or returning phone calls.

Don’t we have volunteers for that kind of grunt work? Yes we do. In all likelihood, me in about two weeks.

I was super fortunate to find one volunteer to take over the staff appreciation lunch, which is typically held the last week before school lets out for the winter holidays. “Awesome!” I thought to myself. Except then it turned out that the only day out of five that person wasn’t available was the only day the school was able to host the event.

So who organized the whole thing? Me. To be fair, though, one of the school’s teachers split the heavy-lifting with me. She’s not afraid to be an Indian!

On the Sudanese front, things have been increasingly lop-sided for some time. We’ve had all kinds of life changes on our board, including births, deaths, impending moves, and the onset of chronic illnesses. All are true and valid. But the end result is that I am now the person planning the meetings, running the meetings, taking minutes at the meetings, and doing all the work to allocate scholarships. I have one hard-working Indian left, but her forte is fund-raising, and we don’t need that any more.

But! When it came time to write our closing letter to donors, the board was pretty adamant that they needed to review my letter and suggest alternative charities to recommend to our present donors. I begged this not be so, as Thanksgiving was just around the corner and I knew I’d be facing many other end-of-year deadlines. They didn’t relent, and I didn’t pull the chief card and over-rule them.

I should have. Because what happened?  Uh huh, no one replied to my email, and I ended up doing the whole thing on my own anyway—only on a much more compressed deadline.

And so it goes, much as it ever has. All the leadership guidelines about “delegating” in the world don’t help if you delegees aren’t willing or able to be delegated to. My own goal for 2015 is to be a little more chief, and a little less Indian. Wish me luck!

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