Sunday, April 24, 2005

A good conflict with my prez

Trust is built on love and conflict.

A few months back the EGL finance committee decided that, since we don’t have a lot of money, I shouldn’t spend more than $30 (other than petty cash) without the approval of the finance committee.

This created a conflict for me. In EGL workshops we teach that trust is essential to helping a group thrive and lots of rules do the opposite of building trust. I felt like the finance committee didn't trust me with EGL finances.

I knew they were trying to do a good job of being responsible for EGL finacnes but I was still hooked.

In February I tried to talk with EGL president Jason Harrison (who'se also on the finance committee) about the finance committees policy. I said that I thought the EGL finance committee should trust me and that our monthly finance statements were a good way for me to be accountable.

Jason pointed out that under the system I was proposing I would have already spent the money by the time the finance committee became aware of what I was spending it on. And he thought we ought to be having conversations about where the money was coming from and where it was going.

He didn't say it but implicit in his concern was: What’s the use of a board and a finance committee if Rich makes all the decisions?

I said that I did want to have conversations about money. I don't know if I said it but implicit in what I was feeling was: I don't want to be controlled by a set of rules that make it hard to do business in a good way.

Both of us left that meeting feeling frustrated.

This past week I spent a couple of days in Indiana, working on drumming up business for Evergreen Leaders. Also, I met with Jason.

We went over the finance discussion again, this time much more calmly, and were able to work on a plan that made sense to both of us.

This times as I listened to Jason, I realized that while I need to give the message to the board “trust me”, I also need to be open with the board about the direction I think we should be headed and that includes where the income will be coming from and where I think we should be spending money.

Trust and openness need to fit together like mashed potatoes and gravy.

We agreed it makes sense for me to do regular financial forecasts to the board--giving them a read on EGL's financial realties: here’s how much money I think will be coming in the next three months and these are the ways I think we ought to spend it.

That way we can have conversations about EGL’s fiancés without them creating rules and me fussing about the rules. When we human beings have rules imposed on us we have a natural tendency to think of ways to get around the rules.

I don’t want the board and the finance committee us to waste time dreaming up rules and me waste time dreaming ways to get around them.

At the same time I want our finances to be completely in the open so that we can trust each other as together we figure out how to make EGL be a thriving group that gives ordinary people the tools to help the workplaces, churches, and families thrive.

I walked away from this meeting grateful for growing trust with Jason.

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