Scripps: Day One

Let me preface this by saying that I had four hours of sleep last night, drove the entire six-hour drive from St. Louis myself, and then had six hours of the Scripps seminar before reaching this blog post. This will therefore be a short blog post. Tiiiiiiiired.

In case anyone is wondering, the Scripps leadership seminar is intended to help journalists become better leaders, both in the profession and in the rest of their endeavors. It is an honor to have been selected, and so far I am enjoying getting to know my colleagues. I can tell that there will be some serious questions for us to discuss tomorrow.

Much of today centered on evaluating myself as a leader. Of course, I don't really think of myself as a leader much of the time, because I haven't really sought out leadership. I seem to end up in leadership roles, however, usually because nobody else wants the job. If I sit down and think about it, that's really how I end up in charge of so many things. Relay for Life team. Cub Scout den mother and committee chairman. Not one, not two, but three writers' groups. And, of course, the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists. I figured if people are going to keep putting me in charge of things, I best learn how to do it right.

But being a leader in journalism is different than leadership in other organizations. There are unique rules and challenges in our work as journalists, and those things have to be addressed in leadership roles within journalism. Sometimes, I think journalists are easier to get along with than "normal people." We are used to dealing with all kinds of people from all walks of life. We are used to talking to people, and getting them to talk to us. As I've said before, this is a tough job for an introvert.

That said, our profession sometimes attracts... unusual personalities. To say the least. Fortunately this crew seems really friendly; our initial team exercise went very smoothly. I am not sure any other group I work with could have done the tarp thing without coming to blows. (I kid, I kid... sorta.)

I was asked to analyze my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and a journalist, as there's a lot of overlap between the two. If I honestly analyze myself, I know that organization is one of my strong suits. (The state of my office belies this fact; I said organization, not neatness.) My sense of humor might not necessarily appeal to my long-suffering husband, but it does seem to make other people happy.

My weaknesses, however, become the weaknesses of the organizations I lead. I am lousy at inspiring people to follow me. Recruiting new people to join the organization is simply something I don't seem to do well. I don't think it's necessarily a coincidence that my Relay for Life team and SPJ both suffer from a serious shortage of volunteers or that only about 10-20 percent of the Eville Writers attend meetings. This necessarily limits the programs and progress that we can make, because a small group of people can only do so much before you burn them out.

This also leads to my other, probably counterproductive, personality trait. When a task must be accomplished, and nobody's available to do it, I am simply more likely to say screw it, and do it myself. This is always been my tendency. This is unfair, because there are many people who may be willing and able to help, but I am lousy at finding and/or delegating to them. It's not like I pass up volunteers in favor of doing it myself, becaus control is really not one of my issues. Instead, it's more that I have trouble finding and/or inspiring people willing to take over those tasks.

And that's about as far as we got in today's session before dinner, brief discussion of upcoming projects, and the open bar. We are journalists, after all. Tomorrow starts early, and I am looking forward to learning more about my own self and my leadership style, and what I can do to do this work better. 

And, to be honest, a better way to handle my various obligations without losing my mind. Because I'm organized, but also vastly overcommitted. And I feel the strain, mentally and physically. It's not fair to me or my family to spend 15 to 18 hours a day on my computer. Remember that part about delegation? Yeah, I need to work on that.

More tomorrow. As this is related to journalism, you can follow along in my Tweets at @BNDedonald.

P.S. Tonight's social event was a mini casino with no actual money involved. This was fun, not only because we were gambling with not-our-money, but the dealers were able to take their time and teach us all how to play the games that we wanted to play but had never had the bravery to do so without making a fool of ourselves at the casino. It turns out, blackjack is pretty fun. Roulette… Well, I lost the equivalent of my rent in about 20 minutes. Maybe I'd best stay away from that game. 

Nick the blackjack dealer has probably never answered so many questions about his profession in a two-hour time period. The poor guy was answering questions from 12 journalists who are used to doing personality profiles. We learned that he's been a dealer since he was 14 years old, travels across the entire United States doing these casino parties, hates working frat parties, and dealers working on cruise ships make $80,000 a year for six months on the boat, six months off. That's when everyone realized we had all gone into the wrong profession. He also hesitates half a second when you have made a really stupid choice, so if he pauses at your hit, best to stand pat instead.