Mixxing Them Up: Growth, Community, Integration, and Goals
I've been pondering this discussion since my first comment, and have been delightedly following the discussion and occasionally chirping in here and whence.
Several themes have arisen, but I'm deliberately only addressing a few. Not all would be appropriate for me to comment on. I'd encourage the people who brought up points not yet addressed to act on these within the LC - have a discussion, initiate some work, whatever. Just do it.
I haven't listened to Floyd in quite some time, but Terminal Frost is taking me somewhere deep. Here we go.
First off, I am not (and I don't believe anyone here is) advocating growth for growth's sake. I'm advocating a sizable recruitment to protect the LC from a major leadership gap in the future.
Let me illustrate with an example.
Just a few semesters before I joined, the LC was a very capable position, in its own eyes. The EB decided they didn't need to recruit anyone that semester, taking the opportunity to not get bogged down with added members and instead focus on execution.
Yadda yadda yadda, they ended up taking 1 newbie (for the record she was quite hot and bit my ear in a casual way once - jawesome).
A year later, shit hit the fan within the EB, and several of the power players - the pillars in the org - dropped out. Just up and left.
This left a huge void. Guess how many people were even remotely capable of filling these gaps?
Now I'm not saying that our EB is going to melt down, but hopefully this illustrates my point why you NEED an appropriately sized influx of new minds every single semester. You need to keep the pipeline full. It's not just for this semester, it's hedging for the future.
Look at the current LC. Take away 1 recruitment class. What sort of gaps now exist? Who IS NOT there? Would the LC be where it's at without those people? Are you willing to even make that bet?
If you take 0 members, you completely eliminate one inflow of the leadership pipeline, and it won't fuck you now, but it will fuck you later (see example above).
Plus, the larger the size of the LC, the larger the batch of people needed to fullfil the required roles.
If you take 0, 10, 20, or perhaps even 30 members, will you acquire enough people to fill the roles necessary in an LC of 100 people (let's use that as the current benchmark for now)?
And not just formal roles like VP of Doing Shit, but the other, informal (and just as critical) roles generally filled by unsung heroes. Anything under 30 and I say NO, but I'd still be more comfortable with at least 40. Could just be semantics at that point, but 1 great person could EASILY result in mental output that makes those additional 10 people seem trivial.
So, paradoxically, maintaining the current level requires a certain level of growth from Day 0 of the semester to 1st day of newbies. I think an LC should ideally be able to take on 50% more members with ease. Let's get there.
And lastly about growth, a little perspective. If you asked me 5 years ago if an LC of 80 was possible, I probably would have laughed. When we got up to 40 people, we nearly filled up a small room - filling up that huge lecture hall was pipe dreams!
That would take years, I surmised. Yet lo and behold, we got there before I had to leave.
There are 2 key reasons for this collective achievement, I think.
First, we finally set Fucking HUGE, Fucking SCARY goals. I remember the first time Trent said we could fill up that hall during a recruitment drive. "That many people interested in joining AIESEC?" I asked. I swear to god I straight up lied to Trent straight in the eyes when I eventually said I agreed.
Now we fill up that room with MEMBERS.
It took 3 years, but we got there. And it started with a fucking scary goal, and then came in increments.
Set huge goals, and get there incrementally. Measure your progress the entire time, but never lose sight of that finish line. And be ready to set a new dash for a new goal.
Second, we started growing very rapidly and with that, the very feeling of our LC was changing rapidly as well. Except, our new members had NO IDEA the scope of changes that were taking place.
Members in their 1st semester merely saw this as the Starting Block. 2nd Semester members were still maturing as members and were a bit oblivious to these rapid changes as well.
Only us old members new the changes that were happening. Everyone else saw it as Point A... so their perspectives were different than ours.
So when we visionized and talked about what was possible, if we old members kept our mouths shut to an extent and didn't down play ideas, an 80 member LC didn't sound that bad to a newbie coming into a 60 member LC.
And then there was me, over in the corner, shitting my pants.
McKim has no idea what it's like to be in a 20 person LC. Imagine that? How sweet is that? His base is 60 or so! That's a full THREE TIMES what my basic reference point started at.
And so the idea of what is possible changed as well, as the collective reference point of the LC caught up.
But, once you say its ok to take some small number, that becomes a point of reference for future generations and grounds their own ideals of what Could Be. Remember that.
FINALLY, the key here is to still build in a solid inflow of talent, and then use this time to figure out how to catch up the org structure (may need to read some OUTSIDE books, cause lord knows there ain't much besides our own brains to help us here. Books are the only other option).
I agree with re-assessing the structure of the LC, but don't let that need fully stunt your incremental growth, and always be sure to have that end vision in mind.
Make sure people know you are taking a moment to set things up and that "we only took 40 this semester so that next semester we can recruit 60 totally new people again."
Make this a goal: "recruit 75 more people in next Fall semester."
COMMUNITY, INTEGRATION, AND ATTACHING MEMBERS TO THE DREAM
As I said, your perceptions of the LC get grounded in your own experience and can be a bit slow in adapting to the new realities of a quickly changing LC. It's a weird phenomenon in AIESEC, but as a member ages, they often get more conservative, not more aggressive in pushing the envelope.
This inability to mentally evolve quickly enough could be a cause of that. For the record, I myself probably fall into this category and I'm not saying it judgmentally, just observationally.
So as this conversation progresses to action steps, you may need to evolve YOUR idea of community (remember, it doesn't always adapt as quickly as required by the the LC evolution). Find a common idea of it that most people can mostly agree on and start moving towards it.
A new person may actually be better at "adapting" than you because they aren't carrying as much "baggage" of prior experiences. They're more open.
The exciting part here is that we COULD potentially create a "community" where you don't necessarily need to know everyone's name, but you WILL know that you are linked by your aspiration towards this common vision/mission (everyone gets integrated through giving them work). Out of this common thread a community could evolve.
What a great opportunity!
While you can't ever really be sure if someone is "integrated," you can usually tell if they aren't. Also, Just because you can't tell they aren't integrated, doesn't mean they ARE integrated.
** I think the key signal, which has been alluded to in some comments, is that if someone's executing on a good deal of valuable shit, they probably feel integrated.
Thus, by focusing on expanding the work the LC collectively does, you are inherently also working towards a better sense of community and probably better integrated members. This is the pillar I myself would probably use to approach the issue of integration. However, this is a discussion the LC itself must conclude and act on.
All my opining in the world won't do jack to better integrate Chris McKim. But if I give him a few worthwhile tasks, show them why they're valuable to our team, the LC as whole, as well as to his own development, then he'll probably feel pretty damn good about getting the tasks done well.
A celebratory drink at Echo Tap should probably seal the deal.
Give someone substantial tasks that matter. Follow up and assess afterwards.
How can you take those 2 basic interactions and scale them up to a 100 person group, then take it up another notch to 200? That's a question worth exploring.
A good first step would be making sure each person understands the value of those 2 basic interactions, how to do them as a manager/leader, and why you should teach it to other people (spread the word about the idea underlying these 2 interactions).
FINISHING THOUGHTS/MOVES JOHNNY CAGE STYLE
We didn't get to the moon by saying let's make a plane that can fly a bit higher than the current altitude leader.
Instead we said LET'S GET TO THE FUCKING MOON.
Big ass goals matter, and inspire big ass results, so even if the goal isn't huge growth for this semester, make sure your B.A.G. is measurable and large. And make sure you are fitting this all into a grander vision, with concrete ideas for the following semester.
Remember Trent's idea of filling that lecture hall with recruits? It all started with an idea that seemed radically outlandish. And then we even overachieved.
One of the biggest and most important thing I've learned in my 4 months of working experience is that incremental tests can get you far, but they take a long time.
Radical Tests are what create breakthroughs.
Both are important. Don't put all your bets on one or the other, but also don't discredit one or the other. And as you discuss what to do, what things to test, and hypothesize, remember there is never reason to be sorry for suggesting something.
We never get hurt by having too many ideas, only by TOO FEW.
Suggest ideas with reckless abandon and when you've finally exhausted every single brain cell coming up with ideas, systematically go through them and toss out those not appropriate. Yes, some ideas are in fact better than others. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't list THEM ALL. Ideas breed other ideas. They mate. They make baby ideas.
And one of those babies could be a winner.
So let's find a baby, and make her a winner.
PS - this is EXACTLY the issue that I could see NFT's driving forward. Their leadership and experience would be very useful in facilitating the conversations, crystallizing the information, and getting others involved. Great way to informally assemble a team and Get Shit Done. Not necessary, but just a thought.
As our scope progresses, the necessity to increase the speed with which you get newbies up to speed increases, as does the Level you need to get them up to, which makes this even harder.
But it also signifies progress.
And that is a good thing.