Author Archives: Maureen Carruthers

An Alternative to Hierarchical Leadership

English: From Left: Spc. Christopher Hickey, S...

These guys need a chain of command.  Your family probably doesn’t.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every now and again someone goes on television to talk about how her husband is the head of her household and she loves that because it’s the only thing that makes sense. After all we only have one President, and the military works in a hierarchy so obviously that’s just how leadership works.

Normally I see these stories and roll my eyes or make yakking noises in the privacy of my own home. If I’m feeling really worked up, I treat my partner to a monologue on why comparing the management of a family to the management of the world’s largest economy is ridiculous.

I did all those things this time as well, but after I calmed down a bit it occurred to me that while some families choose a “decider” on purpose, others do so because uncertainty is almost as uncomfortable as conflict and designating someone to make all the decisions is a quick and easy way to minimize the discomfort caused by disagreements.

If you chose to run your family that way because it makes everyone happy, knock yourself out.*

If, however, you are defaulting to letting the loudest person in your house make decisions because you believe that’s the only way to avoid knock-down, drag-out fights that result in doing what the loudest person wants anyway, consider this alternative. Continue reading

Push on the Pull Door

FarSideIn public buildings if a door is labeled pull, the only way to open it is by following the stated direction. Pushing is only going to make you look foolish.

What is true of doors is not necessarily true anywhere else. There is nothing wrong with following the directions the first time around, but if you’ve been diligently pulling on a problem waiting for the door to open, it might be time to push.*

Your Turn

We want to hear from you! When has your forward progress required you to break the (written or unwritten) rules?

*conversely, if you’ve been pushing and pushing and the door won’t open, try following the conventional path. Sometimes the man is not out to trip you up.

Hello, Strangers!

Salsola tragus, dry

Time to clean out the tumbleweeds!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long time, no type!

A lot has happened since I last shared this space with you, most notably, I left the solopreneur  world to become the Program Manager for the National Robotics League.  It’s a wonderful position, (what’s not fun about robots that fight each other in an arena and teach students STEM skills at the same time?) but it has seriously cut into my free writing time.  After 5 months I feel like I’m starting to get things under control, and I missed the creative outlet of this space, so I’m taking a shot at doing both at once.

The question is, what should we talk about?  My new position means I don’t have the time or energy to do in-depth “how-to” posts, and I’ve cut my consulting way back so I have fewer avenues for case studies.

Here are some of the ideas that come to mind:

  • Work-life balance, especially in nonprofit/change professions
  • Stories from the field:  lessons from my own program management experiences, as well as guest posts from other nonprofit professionals
  • Organizational development advice and discussions.  I am especially interested in what separates good meetings and bad meetings and would love to spend time helping people have more good meetings and fewer bad ones
  • Musings about on-line communications.  Just random thoughts based on my own work, or the work of others I come across
  • Probably fewer “how to” posts than before, more like a seminar course than a training program
  • Online Book Club:  a place for us to read non-fiction together and discuss its impact on our life and work
  • A brilliant idea that you just had that I didn’t think of

So, what do you think?  Leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see for the next chapter of Low Hanging Fruit.

Why don’t volunteers follow through?

Golf Swing

How is volunteer management like golf? It’s all about the follow through.
 (Photo credit: gibsonsgolfer)

I’ve asked myself this question more times than I can count.

Sometimes I ask it as a manager who works with dedicated volunteers–all of whom seem completely confident in their ability to live up to a commitment one moment and many of whom are absolutely “too busy” to follow through the next.

Sometimes I ask it as a volunteer who enthusiastically agrees to work in one meeting–only to sheepishly admit in the next meeting that the work is (still) not finished (or sometimes–started).

One very enthusiastic and capable volunteer explained this phenomena from her perspective in a way I’ll never forget. Continue reading

Buy the Fun Pass

Happy Caine

Happy Caine (Photo credit: Leslie Kalohi / nevercoolinschool.com)

I’m so enamored with the story of Caine and his arcade.  I love the imagination of it, I love how it has appealed to the innate generosity in so many people world-wide.  I love that it has inspired a renaissance of creative, hands-on play in kids of all ages.

Nirvan Mullick

Nirvan Mullick (Photo credit: the1secondfilm)

But today, I want to focus on a different part of the story.  Today I want to talk about Nirvan Mullick.

Just over a year ago Nirvan needed a new door handle for his ’96 Corolla and went to a used auto parts store in East LA to find it.  When he got there, he met Caine, saw his cardboard arcade and bought a fun pass. Continue reading