Being on board can be a bore

   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 "New Business."
   I 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. Meeting adjourned."
   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 upbeat note.
    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.
   Procrastination 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 single voice.
    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.

 

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