Board Meetings are so irksome.
Planning and consensus is imperative, I agree. But something about being seated around a large table seems to bring out the braggart in people.
After nearly 15 years of strategy meetings, work allocation meetings, status report meetings, just-for-kicks meetings, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I gracefully exited the shackles of the corporate world. Naïve me, I thought that volunteer work would be devoid of ego-clashes and self-promotions. Nope. In some respects it’s worse, because there is no Narcissus who can bring down the hammer and say, tough shit but the buck stops here.
For my NGO committee members, attending a meeting is an event of much significance with layers of complexity that miss the naïve eye such as, say mine. It’s the hottest club in town, a critics’ lair where human fallacies are dissected and reputations decimated, a boardroom where deals and alliances are made, a coffee shop and watering hole to catch up with the latest gossip. Oh, and incidentally we even take decisions about the present and future of a bunch of kids.
As a veteran of boardrooms I am well-versed in dealing with the many unique characters who come to this playground, yet they never cease to amaze me.
Character 1: The jay-walker
The jay-walker just saunters in at her own convenience, (“Sorry I was held up in another meeting”) cause you know, it’s not like this is a paying job. Never mind the other jobless sods who arrived on time. And so what if she’s late, it’s still her God-given right to butt in with a nonsensical statement and redirect the entire discussion to point number one.
Character 2: The fashionista
When she saunters in, the conversation pauses to check her out. Perfectly coiffed in the latest style, carefully understated in diamonds, holding a bag I could literally kill for (confession – I’m not impervious) topped off with impeccable makeup, she’s basically a show-stopper and there is no side-stepping that.
Character 3: The Ceasar
The Ceasar is wise, intelligent, far-sighted, hubristic, knows-it-all, is-never-wrong, the ultimate strategist, and has a zillion club/board memberships to prove it. She speaks with such confidence that she shakes the very foundation of what you know. She is the ultimate authority in all matters legal, regal and religious. She is the board whip and thine will be done.
Character 4: The Oracle
The Oracle eloquently pronounces profound platitudes mesmerizing all signifying nothing. “Bingo. It is a pickle, no doubt about it. Bad news is there’s no way you can really know if I’m here to help you or not, so it’s really up to you. Just have to make up your own damn mind to either accept what I’m going to tell you, or reject it. Candy?”
Character 5: The Delegator
The delegator is our Ivy League management genius who manages to delegate every single task assigned to her to the other menials and yet leaves you with the impression that she is the one who has made everything happen and you are so indebted to her that you cannot thank her enough.
Character 6: The CEO
The moment she lays out her three cellphones on the table, you know she’s barely going to be able to spare you any time. Yet you are so impressed that she took time out to be here, you ignore the first five calls she takes and apologetically smile at her only for the sixth.
Character 7: The CFO
All sins are pardoned. Just show me the money.
Character 8: The gossip girl
If you are privileged enough to sit next to the gossip girl, you have the perfect opportunity to dip into the fount of information. Who said/did what to whom, when, where, why and how, who is related to whom, who stands where in the pecking order, she knows it all. Best of all she’s willing to tell you, she’s wanting to tell you, she’s waiting to tell you…
Character 9: The PRO
The PRO arrives early to shake hands and hob-nob with the entire crowd, falls into a strange silent stupor for the entire course of the meeting, and miraculously comes alive when it’s time for snacks and chatting.
Character 10: The Grunge Worker
The poor worker bee who arrives in time, hangs on to the Caesar’s every word, lauds the Oracle’s every prosaicism, accepts the Delegator’s every command, and most of the time people don’t even remember her name.
As a writer, I should be gracious and accept them all as fodder for my writings, but like they say, too much of even a good thing is not a good thing.