A couple of days ago I went to a local networking meeting. I didn’t know most of the people in the room, but there was a lot of thought energy permeating the air.

Most of us were talking about how much we liked living in the central New York area. But one of the laments was that not everyone knows what’s going on around the area, special events and the like. Someone put out the suggestion that maybe we should have a website or a blog of some kind to help us all keep in touch. One lady even said that maybe all of us could write articles and share our feelings on what we think we’d like and what we might want to do as a group.

I raised my hand, and was called upon to speak. I said that though her idea was ambitious, it just wasn’t going to happen that way. My premise was that if someone created either a website or a blog only 2 or 3 people would end up doing all the work because the masses may or may not agree to play along, but they weren’t going to do any writing whatsoever.

How do I know? I’m someone with a track record of plans others have come up with that have failed on this subject. I am the editor of 2 (sometimes 3 if I’m in the mood) newsletters other than my own, and when they were created people said “yes, we’ll help contribute to the newsletter by writing articles you can use.” Okay, I did get 2 articles from one of the group over 3 years; does that count?

I’ve also created group blogs because others said they’d write posts for it. Some did, but not many. On one of those blogs I’m the only one that’s written anything. On another, other did write posts, but in the last 3 months it’s only me.

See, most people fall into one of two camps. The first camp are those folks that have great ideas but think “someone should do” instead of “I’ll do and help others do.” The second camp has those people that don’t want to look bad in front of a group so they say they’ll do something, yet as soon as they get away from the group they’re running away because they figure there’s no way anyone can make them do anything. And they’re correct.

See, I’m a track record guy, and also a number’s guy. The people that showed up came via a LinkedIn group, and even though we were able to get just over 30 people to come to the event, which is pretty cool in and of itself, there are over 1,600 people who are members of the group. And basically there’s maybe 10 people who write regularly in the group as well; if people weren’t going to write there, why would they write anywhere else?

The thing is that with what’s basically a volunteer group of people, that kind of thing isn’t sustainable. You can try to get people to do something, and they may say “yes”, but after that it’s like pulling teeth to get them to actually do something.

It shouldn’t be that way in the workplace, but I’ve actually seen the same kind of thing occur. People get busy and have their normal work to concentrate on. Then somewhere along the way they’re asked to be on a committee or put on a committee, brought into a conference room, asked their opinion, help to come up with some general ideas, and then asked to help get the word out, or put something together. Some people volunteer, others kind of wait to be put on a committee that they know they have no intention of going to.

When you’re a leader or manager, you have to know which people are going to actually be beneficial and who’s just along for the ride because they felt compelled to show up. You have to be ready to designate those people you know will get things done to handle certain tasks. And you have to hope they’re strong enough to ask others to help them if it’s needed. After all, the top leaders don’t always have to do it all, especially if they don’t know the players.

For everyone else, don’t even think about volunteering for anything you’re not really going to do. You just lose the trust from other people, and that’s never good for the long term. I’m one of those people who won’t volunteer for anything I’m not interested in. If asked to be on a committee, if I’m not in the mood I’ll turn it down. If I don’t think I can give it what it needs, I’d rather be honest and upfront than have people be disappointed in me later on because I didn’t honor my commitment.

Maybe this is why so many different types of groups are losing members right and left. Many of us just don’t want to commit to anything anymore. Sometimes I feel that way about myself, then realized I’m doing my part. I’m on 3 boards, write 3 newsletters, and write on multiple blogs that aren’t my own. Nah; I’m fine. What about you?
 

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