It was a tense moment.
Toward the end of our Board of Governors meeting, the esteemed president
of our local business association asked if anyone cared to bring up any
swallowed hard, knowing I was ready to drop a bombshell. After serving
only 18 months of my four-year term on the prestigious organization, I was
about to announce my resignation. I thought of all my reasons, took a deep
breath, and raised my hand.
"Mr. President," I said,
self-consciously avoiding eye contact, "after much soul-searching I’ve
decided to step down as a member of the Board of Governors."
Mr. President didn’t skip a beat as
he looked over at the ancient Secretary of the Board, rudely waking her
from her coma. "Do we have any replacements lined up?"
Madame Secretary was not exactly
overcome with grief at the prospect of my resigning.
"Tons," she replied.
"Ok," said Mr. President.
"We’ll get a replacement. Anybody else have any New Business? Good.
That was it. I would be replaced. And I
would be the first to admit it wouldn’t be difficult.
I was a lousy board member. It takes a
certain kind of person to work well with a bunch of independent,
self-serving, opinionated business people, and I quickly discovered that I
did not have the composition to excel in that environment.
For me, the meetings were torture. Many
members of the board, which consisted entirely of business owners in our
district, had been serving since the Paleolithic Era. They had done it all
and seen it all, and now they wanted to tell it all.
Some of their tales were interesting,
some were not, and most lasted until Mr. President cut them off, citing a
need to conclude the meeting before sunrise.
Every time one particular long-winded
gentleman asked for the floor, I thought of my recently deceased
grandfather, whom I used to have lunch with regularly. He also told great
stores, but unfortunately by the time he reached the age of 90 he had lost
most of his teeth.
So although I loved his stories, it was
painful for me to watch him reach for a piece of French bread just as he
was about to start a long yarn. I was always tempted to dive across the
table and grab the crusty bread before it reached his mouth. But I never
did, so I was forced to hear him say, "Well…," and then watch
him chew for an hour or so before he could continue the story.
But long-windedness is not the
entire reason I resigned. Although I’ve been cursed with the attention
span of a 2-year-old, I could still understand that the experience these
people brought to the board far outweighed their occasional ramblings.
No, the other reason I retired
was committees. Every time someone brought up a problem (and there were
many to be discussed) Mr. President would end the relentless opinionating
by announcing that a committee should be formed to address the problem.
Then, in a brilliant move, he
would appoint the most boisterous complainer to head the committee.
Everyone would be satisfied that the problem would be investigated in
depth by the prime instigator and the meeting would be adjourned on an
The committee, of course, would
never be formed since everyone had their own businesses to occupy their
time once they left the meeting. Two or three months later, the same topic
would be brought up again, perhaps with a different angle, and after much
discussion Mr. President would use the committee trick again.
by all, including me, was the order of the day. The subjects covered in
the minutes of the first meeting I attended 18 months ago were very
similar, if not identical, to the subjects covered in my final meeting.
Very little got done, yet the
board served its purpose. I only remember voting on an issue two or three
times during my tenure, but when the board’s vote was relayed to a
governmental decision-maker, it held infinitely more weight than any
So I applaud all those who give
their time, energy, and most of all, patience, to serve on the boards of
business associations. Since I am once again nothing more than a meager
general member, I admire you more than ever as you continue to protect our
interests. Good people, good forum, good stories, goodbye.