I’ve only had two opportunities to work directly with volunteer groups while at NACHRI, and both times I’ve apparently put my foot in my mouth (and gotten reprimanded for it) because I answered a direct question honestly (some would, I’m sure, say bluntly) rather than giving the politically correct answer (which to me feels an awful lot like lying).
And I’m starting to wonder: is it me or is it the system? A lot of associations complain that our volunteer leaders are disengaged or make unrealistic demands or just don’t understand the reality in which we operate. But is it our fault? Are we, in an effort not to hurt anyone’s feelings or upset them, holding back too much information?
And this is far from just a NACHRI thing – I’ve seen it at every association I’ve worked for or with as a consultant. If we can’t be honest with our members about the hard realities, how on earth can we expect them to be willing and able to make hard, realistic choices?
Ultimately, of course, I’m starting to wonder what kind of (presumably negative?) effect this tendency is likely to have on my long-term career prospects. I’d like to be a CEO/ED some day, but if it requires not being honest with members or volunteers about something that affects them, I’m not sure I can do it.
Maybe I’m seeing this too black and white. But it doesn’t feel that way. And maybe we need to trust our members and volunteers to be the grown ups they are and realize that they don’t need to be handled with kid gloves, and ultimately, it benefits neither them nor our organizations.