I got my butt handed to me today. I'm organizing a conference, and I'm one of two co-leads. I thought I was doing a good job being a leader, but I had one of the team come to me today and say... hey, Miss Outlier, I was talking with a few other people on the team the other day, and I wanted to share the feedback they gave me.
Basically the feedback was that my team doesn't feel a supportive atmosphere, don't feel like they are contributing, or owning any part of the process - don't feel like it's any fun. Like they are just cogs in the machine, there to execute rather than to be a creative force in the organization process.
I was trying to correct what I felt was wrong in previous years - I always felt that things were disorganized, and as part of the team I didn't know what was going on. So this year as lead organizer I tried a few new things - I send out meeting minutes after each meeting, and I try to keep meetings shorter and more efficient. But I think in trying to make things more structured, I may have squashed some of the good elements in how the organization functioned.
So somehow I have gone too far in the other direction, and people don't feel like discussion and brainstorming is encouraged. The camaraderie has apparently been lost.
Part of this is exacerbated by the fact that we have a very young, new team this year - so the veterans aren't there to shout out ideas and demonstrate that contributions are encouraged. And part of this is because the meeting where we did the most brainstorming - the one where I felt like the ideas were really flowing - was one where only four people attended.
Actually I felt much more comfortable with just the four people - I know how to lead a conversation with a small group, and perhaps I just feel lost with 15 people staring at me while I lead the meeting.
What to do now, then? Well, this weekend is the annual retreat. This retreat is supposed to be a time for the team to bond, to review high-level ideas, to think about the bigger picture. And this is an excellent time and place to build atmosphere - camaraderie, if you will.
So I am going to try my very hardest to let people know this weekend that their ideas are valuable and wanted, that everybody is part of the team, and that this is supposed to feel like a group of friends.
This conference has always been about the people, and the relationships formed - between the team members, and between the team and the international community. And maybe I've lost that in my quest to keep on top of the logistical details. Perhaps I have failed somewhat as a leader so far - but this I know: the real failure is only if I can't change and adapt. This is a chance for me to learn and to grow, and I will do my best.
I really appreciated that the team member who came to me was being honest with me, and that they shared the feelings of the team with me candidly. Because now I have a chance to make some adjustments.
But dammit, it hurts to know I've been trying my best and I'm still not doing the right thing. Being a leader is difficult - so many ways to screw it up!