[clug-talk] Challenge: Fertil Soil

Shawn sgrover at open2space.com
Thu May 18 19:37:52 PDT 2006

On Thursday 18 May 2006 19:21, Jesse Kline wrote:
> I'll take it. The problem in this organization has been a lack of
> volunteers for a long time. I've seen you come up with a number ideas since
> you've been on this list, and while most of them are not bad ideas, they're
> usually big ideas. I've also never seen you volunteer to act upon your
> ideas. So if you want to know why they are not given a whole lot of
> attention, maybe it is because everyone knows we don't have the manpower to
> implement it, no one wants to take the project lead, and everyone knows
> that you're not going to stand behind the idea and run with it.
> I'm really not trying to be harsh here, but doing something big takes a lot
> of effort. We can see this with the LinuxFest that just took place. A
> number of people really pushed the event, and got people interested. Even
> then there was still not enough volunteers to do the things that we had
> wanted to do. Yet a couple years ago when you proposed a similar type of
> event, the idea died because you didn't take charge and try to start
> something.
> In the end, I think that people stepping up to the plate is exactly what
> this organization needs. CLUG has lots of potential, but will never realize
> it as long as a majority of its members are freeriders.

:) Jesse's diplomatic skills...  what can I say... :)

But, to take Jesse's comments to the next point, I've heard people say 
something to the effect of "I have this idea, but don't know how to make it 
happen".  So, these people (and there's multiple culprits here, though it's 
not a bad thing) express their idea to the exec, or the list, expecting 
someone else to run with it.  In some cases, this is the way it should be. 
But in others the question has to be asked "If YOU don't know how to make it 
happen, what makes you think anyone else does?".  

Believe it or not, a lot of the events CLUG has done were poorly planned and 
happened ad hoc.  In otherwords, in some cases we were making it up as we 
went along.  Is this the best approach?  probably not.  Is it an approach 
that got the job done?  Yep, it did.  But the key is that AFTER the job was 
done, we could identify what went right and what didnt', and then modify the 
plans accordingly for next time.  

Now take this idea, and relate it the issue of CLUG having a core group of 
members.  This applies to ANY volunteer organization.  More than one person 
has commented to me on how it's hard to become part of that core group.  Some 
even feel they are being actively discouraged.  The blunt truth is that the 
core group is the people that step up to the plate and act on their ideas, or 
have proven themselves reliable in helping to meet some of these ideas.  If 
you are not leading, or helping, you might have the perception that you're 
not invited.  But that's not the way it is.  If you ARE leading or helping, 
then there is common interests, and topics to be talked about.  Some of which 
need to be handled quickly - with the other leaders/helpers.  That's it.  
Basically the focus of the "core group" is such that they are more likely to 
pay attention to those that are helping than those that are not.  I have NOT 
seen any personality conflicts cause ANY exclusion of anyone. (and yes, the 
group does have a few personality conflicts - but we're all adults and look 
past them).

So, if you (the royal you here, not anyone in particular) want to be part of 
the core group, I see three ways to guarantee membership in this so called 
exclusive club:

1) take a leadership role.  Not necesarrily the exec, but take on a project of 
some sort - maybe even your own idea.  Here's what that entails:
- you have to have confidence in what you can do, and what you can't.
- you have to be brave/confident enough to try something unfamiliar.
- You have to be brave enough to try to lead a project - even if the project 
- You have to be adult enough to accept critical comments about the project, 
without taking those comments as a personal attack.  
- You have to be willing to stand behind your decisions - even the bad ones. 
- You have to accept responsibility for your actions.

2) take on a subordinate leadership role.  By this I mean telling the leaders 
that you will take care of part XYZ of a project.  Then doing whatever needs 
to be done to make that sub-task work, while coordinating your efforts with 
the leaders.  This requires a lot of the same skills/efforts of the leaders, 
but is easier because of the narrower focus, and helps to dilute 

3) HELP!  I can't stress that enough.  Not all of us are great at breaking 
tasks into smaller chunks.  Look at the big picture, and see if there's a 
subset of it you are willing to help out with or take ownership of.  
Communicate this with the leaders - who may not realize there's an option 
here.  If the leaders turn you down, don't walk away, look for another task 
you can do.  Be there when the leaders need you.  Help lessen the load on the 
leaders shoulders.  This leads to increased respect for you for your skills 
and your motiviation.  But again, leave the egos at the door, and be prepared 
to take some criticism.  

The one overall theme through all these methods is time.  It takes time to do 
anything.  Volunteer what time you have.  Do what you have said you would do, 
or have been asked to do.  All of this will make you part of the so called 
"core group".

As for whether CLUG has the Fertile Soil for encouraging people... I think the 
question is a little skewed.  That's saying "What has the group done for me 
to make me want to help?".  I think that's the wrong approach.  We all heard 
it said that if you take care of the details, the big things will take care 
of themselves.  I see a strong parallel here - "Let me do what I can for the 
group, or what is best for the group.  With no expectations.  So that the 
community can take care of me."  I've seen this concept in action for myself, 
and for other people who are part of the so called "core group".  For me, I 
get more out of CLUG than I put into it (and I'd like to think I put a fair 
bit into CLUG).  I see this in way of reputation, friendships, business 
contacts, money resulting from those contacts, public relations, skills 
learned, etc.  These things are very hard to put a dollar value to (other 
than the money earned from contacts) and are rather intangible, but more 
valuable to me than an income.  Did I need "Fertile Soil" to get involved? 
Nope, not really.  I got involved because I needed help on some tech issues.  
I stayed involved because I liked the people that helped out.  I was able to 
help others, which increased my sense of self worth.  Then when I saw a need 
for something to help CLUG with it's goals.  I took it on.  I took on the 
Leadership role mentioned above.  The only "Fertile Soil" needed here was for 
the exec to say "He's doing it regardless, but working with us, so let's help 

I can't stress enough that if you do want to take on a project, coordinate 
your efforts with the exec.  They might resist the idea, because if you don't 
follow through, it will fall to them to deal with.  So reassure them that 
you're there for the long haul, and will work with them to minimize the work 
they have to do.  That would likely be a successful project then.

I personally don't feel qualified to do anything I was responsible for with 
CLUG.  But I did it anyways.  I had FUN doing it.  I've met some great 
people.  But now it's time for the next generation of "do-ers" to step up.  I 
see them in the crowd, and can point to a few.  Who's after that though?  Do 
YOU have the courage to do any of the above?

(My thoughts, not yours.  and sorry for the long rant.. :)  )


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