Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who am I?

A few months ago, one of the non-profits we support asked if I would consider joining their board. I said yes. They said they would need a biographical résumé from me--something that might help them understand me better before they considered whether seriously to ask me to join the board.

I sent them what I imagine may be the strangest résumé they have ever received. But it felt good.

Since then, I think I have come to understand a bit more about why I must have felt compelled to send them such a strange document.

First I told them about things I thought they might like to know about me "from a functional/professional/historical perspective": achievements, jobs and positions of responsibility (other board memberships, for example) that I've held, education, . . . things like that, but also key relationships that could impinge on my relationship with them, and current "primary concerns and interests" in life.

--Why would I "bother" them with such details? . . . I think such details would help anyone get to know me better: who I "really" am.

Personal information: when and where I was born, where I've lived (lots of places), family relationships with my wife and kids.

Stuff about my broader family--parents, brothers and sisters--that has shaped "who I am" and "how I view" and "how I deal with" life.

The agency is religious, so I included a bunch of information about spiritual faith realities which differentiate me from a lot of others.

Then, a lengthy discussion of what I called "John's character." And for this post, that's what I would like to concentrate on and reproduce here:
John's character:
  • John is intensely interested in and concerned about integrity--saying what he means and meaning what he says . . . and expecting similar behavior on the part of people with whom and organizations with which he deals.
  • Functionally, that means he speaks up quickly and forcefully--i.e., he will become highly confrontative--if or when he senses someone (or the group in which he is present) refuses either to address a truth "out there" or to speak the truth about what is happening "here." Put another way,
  • He refuses to permit unacknowledged "elephants" to remain in the room!
  • John seeks to bring opposing people and parties together through mutual understanding.
  • John tends to avoid "group think" or pitting "our" side against "their" side. If he observes, in a group of which he is a part, a near-universal adoption of a certain mood or emotional feeling; or if he observes what he thinks may be a too-quick rush to affirm one point-of-view, he will often--almost as a knee-jerk response, it seems--place himself, emotionally, in the opposite mood or feeling and/or rouse himself to speak for the (or an) "other" perspective.
  • John asks probing questions. He is interested in "everything."
  • John tends to prefer finding whatever is "good" and potentially useful in an idea or proposal; he does not automatically or quickly seek to identify what is "bad" or unworkable in an idea or proposal. Depending on the circumstance, then, one might characterize him as (positively) "a possibility thinker," "good at research," or (negatively). . . rather "indecisive."
  • With all that, however, John is relatively merciless when it comes to communication barriers. He is quick to notice--and finds it difficult not to comment on--features or factors that hinder communication: use of jargon, grammatical errors, circumlocutions, and so forth. Indeed,
  • John is more acutely aware than most people of "environmental" factors and "background noise" that may cause difficulties. Not only is he aware, but he will turn his attention to identify these matters explicitly, and then address them. Thus, by way of examples:
    • When a room becomes too hot, John is usually the first person to attempt to adjust the thermostat, turn on a fan, etc.
    • If a sound system is too loud, too soft, provides too much treble or too much bass: John is often the first person to seek adjustments.
    • If a publication or video seems muddled in presentation, John often identifies non-verbal factors--visual, spatial, sequential, aural, etc.--that contribute to the problem . . . and he normally expresses his concerns. . . .
    In these ways, then, John is a problem-solver.
I realized, when I wrote this résumé, that it would come in handy--perhaps to make me more attractive to the non-profit organization, or, potentially, to make me very unattractive. After all, if they want or think they need someone who will strongly maintain "distinctives" in opposition to others--someone who will gladly "take on" those who are less than enthusiastic about the organization's mission, then I am probably not their man.

If they need someone to build bridges, I may very well be.

And, as I intend to discuss in my next post, being clear about who you are--your strengths and weaknesses--can readily improve help you and those with whom you intend to work maintain your focus on those tasks where you will serve most effectively and efficiently. . . .
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