Always Available

I served on a committee several years ago at my church. It was an ad hoc committee comprised of about 10 people. We met every other Wednesday evening for about 6 months.

I went to every meeting. Another member of the committee (we will call him Jim) showed up late to the first meeting. He came in quietly and didn’t say much. Toward the end of the meeting he offered a few observations that were global in nature. For example he might ask: “Have you considered the impact this capital raise will have on your projects that are 5 and 10 years out?” or “Have you considered the gift structure for  your lead donors?”. They weren’t particularly insightful questions but they were decidedly “big picture.”

Thereafter, Jim came to about a third of the meetings. But he made sure we understood that he wasn’t simply blowing off the other meetings. He was just far too busy. What was remarkable was the deference he was shown by the priest and other committee members. Invariably when a hot button issue would come up our priest would ask someone to “run it by Jim”. As far as I could tell there was never the same accommodations made for the other absent members.

Jim had mastered the art of scarcity. He was able to create this aura that his time was more valuable than other people. He augmented this aura by never getting involved in the details. He simply didn’t have time for those. He was going to eyeball this thing and give us guidance from outer space. If he could fit it in between moon walks.

I realize I sound a little perturbed at Jim. And maybe I am. But I also learned some things from Jim.

Lesson 1: Don’t be too available. People who are too available are under appreciated. This is not being selfish. This is making certain others value the most precious commodity you have-time.

Lesson 2: Recognize why you are there. You may have intentions of reshaping a committee or organization but that may not be why you were invited to attend.

I’ll give you another brief story to illustrate my point. I am a member of The Frog Club at TCU. We raise money for athletic scholarships. It is a fun organization with great people. Every time we have a meeting we get an update from someone in the athletic department about the latest endeavor (i.e. new stadium plans, new revenue ideas, marketing ideas etc.). These are nice but I’ll never forget the very first meeting I attended. I was talking to the then President and he told me that the Frog Club adheres to the 3 G rule. I had never heard of the 3 g rule. What is that?

1. Give money;

2. Get money; or

3. Get off.

Now this is not an official Frog Club motto but it quickly disabused me of the notion that the athletic department wanted my valuable insight on the architecture for the new stadium. And knowing my real role has actually made for a more rewarding experience.

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