Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Head on Lap

It’s hard to type with a German Shepherd head on your lap. Even steadfast Max is sometimes in need of a little extra care. It’s that visiting girl. She takes up my attention, she steals his toys, she growls. How much worse can it get? Puppies, hmph. Don’t care for ‘em.

Max will be fine. I bought him the extra special whitefish and sweet potato cookies that are his favorite. And I have discovered, sadly, that his recall improves dramatically if I use the word “cookie” rather than “come” or my most authoritative “come now,” which used to work. This is not a good development in dog training, but the fact that Max has been able to train me to buy whitefish and sweet potato cookies is even more threatening to my pack position.

Can I extend the pack metaphor to come up with ways to entice other board members into more thoughtful, engaged involvement in our work? I have three active board members. While I am grateful to have so many, I worry that I become—professionally and on a very personal, emotional level—too dependent on the few. My role as director of a tiny non-profit is surprisingly lonely.

The structure is an upside down pyramid: hundreds of potential members, dozens of members, about a dozen board members, and at the vortex there’s just me and my half time assistant. Is there any doubt what flows downhill and where it stops?

Managing the board as pack. That has possibilities. At home I am working on subtle signals to reinforce our new, temporary pack structure. In the evenings, Max and Toby get to sit next to me, while Nell is on the floor. They get extra invitations to come upstairs at the end of the evening. If Nell growls at them, she gets a gentle reprimand. Max and Toby get human food treats and special cookies; Nell is not allowed to have anything but her puppy food. Overall message to everyone: Nell is welcome, but Max and Toby are top dogs. Between the two of them they have worked it out: Toby is top dog, and Max allows it to be so.

With the board, it would be a matter of actively trying to build up the ones who might be willing to be more involved. It’s not an area where I can bend them to my will. Hardly! These are bright, motivated, capable people. Maybe more a matter of (1) being aware of subtle signals and creating positive reinforcement for increased involvement, and (2) keeping communication flowing so that nobody feels left out or overlooked.

As tiring as it is, I believe in over-communication. The end game is that working together, we can do far more than any of us individually. Of course, the more people that need explicit communications…well, the effort grows exponentially. Maybe it’s that forecast weariness that is getting me down.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading lots of blogs, and I have some to recommend to you.

I adore and especially the hungry tiger: "Then why don't you eat something?" she asked. "It's no use," said the Tiger sadly. "I've tried that, but I always get hungry again." Too true, but this recipe archive has lots of good, easy, very tasty options. Funny food.

I really like It ‘s beyond the recipes, it’s the whole thing, but the recipes themselves are tested and engineered to make it easy to replicate good results time and time again. Lots of people seem to like the innovative recipe format, which apparently does actually work for engineers.

I like the weekly photo challenge in I like the concept of “hoarded ordinaries.” I think the writer would get along with Toby, who is huddled on the other sofa with his tennis ball, his apple (same apple, sometimes they last a week), his bone, and his water bottle.

There is a lot I like about –overall feel, content, ideas for add-ons, nice list of links. Besides, ya hafta like a guy who gives you a good pre-launch review!

Then there’s who writes better about New England than any of the rest of us. Nice, very nice actually, to experience Thoreau’s journals as they unfold daily.

Visiting Miss Nell has now displaced Max. A smaller, more insistent head is pressed to my chest with a gentle woof and vigorous wag. “I’m cute, you know. So I insist you pet me!” Retriever temperament!

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