Being ‘the glue’ means fostering communication
Down on Main Street
I’m the kind of person who forgets to pay their phone bill on time.
My personal life is usually accompanied by a constant state of mild panic. Put simply, I do stupid and disorganized things.
I’ve gotten my car stuck in the snow in my level driveway, given myself food poisoning with my own cooking and accidentally set personal paperwork on fire, just to cite a few incidents from a single month of my life.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that being an adult is to live in a consent state of trying to get your life together while avoiding self-sabotage. If you can’t relate to what I’m talking about, I’m proud of you.
Rest assured that my personal life contrasts greatly to the effort I try to put forth at my job. My job is all about organization.
My supervisor sometimes uses a lovely chart to illustrate the Greater Rifle Improvement Team (GRIT), and how all of our partners work within our four main approaches: economic vitality, promotions, design, and organization.
After his last revision, everything became color coded. Organization was blue, and much to my dismay, I was the only blue thing on the chart. I’ve been referred to as the “glue” more than once. It’s kind of scary if I let myself dwell on the idea too much.
Glue holds things together. It binds them, sometimes more permanently than others, like that time I accidently super-glued my hand to my desk.
Glue can be a verb “I was glued to the TV,” but it can also be a noun, “you forgot the glue.” So what does it mean to be the glue in an organization? Well according to my experiences, it means getting and sending a lot of emails and creating templates, user manuals, forms and reports. It means fielding phone calls, facilitating meetings, explaining partner relationships, constantly expanding the acronym of GRIT and writing this column.
Boiled down, I do believe that the glue for a group of people is communication. I don’t so much organize as I communicate.
I theorize that a lot of issues in our society today can be traced back to some form of breakdown in communication. Sometimes we don’t tell people how we’re feeling or we don’t let them know our opinions. Sometimes we over share — I know I do. We don’t hear what we need to when we should, or we forget to tell others. We are so focused on what we’re going to say that we don’t listen to everyone talking before us.
I’ve seen more bridges burned over miscommunication than over actual differences or downright animosity. People get upset when they’re not heard or over things they never hear, and some take it personally. This glue thing can be tricky.
Being glue might mean to help better communication, but it doesn’t mean knowing all the answers. Sometimes it helps when you’re clueless.
Suppose someone thinks shutting down Railroad Avenue once a day for a rubber duck and miniature horse parade would help build our economy. Is it a worthwhile idea to follow through on? I don’t know, but I’ll set up a meeting so we can discuss it. That’s what glue does.
Trying to bind people together is more about asking the right questions and giving them a space to discuss solutions than it is about having all the answers right off the bat.
I suppose there is a fair amount of actual organizing too, because I also do a lot of what I like to refer to as “prep.” When I worked food service, prep was making sure everything was set up and ready to go before you actually needed it.
Have you ever ordered a sandwich and then had the bread dough kneaded and set to rise right in front of you? Probably not. You would expect a chef to plan ahead for such routine tasks — not to mention you’d be so distracted and delayed by the prep that it would create a significant shift in your plans.
In order to help streamline the process that is GRIT, I attempt to put all the sandwiches together before we sit down. That way we can focus on the crucial task of eating them, i.e., discussing our challenges and potential solutions. Drafting agendas, building schedules, filling in budgets, sending meeting reminders, updating on progress, taking minutes and keeping those unable to make it informed so that they can jump into the conversation next time are just a few things that constitute as prep.
Nobody likes rehashing an old debate over an issue thought resolved, so keeping track of things we’ve already talked about can be key.
To look at my desk, you probably wouldn’t think I was particularly organized. And to be honest, I have mild anxiety every time I need to pick up the phone, but that’s a far cry from where I was a year ago.
My methods have been shifting from day one. Organization and competent communication are a learning process, just like everything else. Lucky for me, GRIT has been very patient with its glue.
Shout out to secretaries, receptionists, office and administrative assistants and my mom. Until this job I didn’t realize how hard it can be to hold a group of people together.
Cathleen Anthony is a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America branch and the assistant for the Greater Rifle Improvement Team. She can be reached at 970-665-6496 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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