The Peninsula Indoor Rowing Championship took place last weekend at Canada College. All the prep work was done by parents and rowers from Stanford Rowing Center on Saturday, Feb 6.
A task list was circulated by the coach, and parents and rowers signed up for different tasks – loading the ergs, unloading and arranging the ergs, testing the ergs, etc. However, no one was directly in charge to issue orders and allocate work.
With this uncertainty on what to do next, some parents and rowers jumped right in and started doing something, even if they didn’t know exactly what to do. They saw someone working and said, “Can I give you a hand with what you are doing?” Other parents and rowers stood around, averted their eyes, and checked their phones.
Why would someone volunteer and show up at an event, and then not be fully engaged in the work? In no particular order, here is my effort to understand this behavior. I thought about this as I drove home after the prep work was completed:
- They didn’t really want to do work, but wanted to say that they had volunteered. They wanted to be seen as a volunteer.
- There was something more important going on in their life at that time – school, family, work, etc., but since they had committed to showing up, they did so. But their mind was elsewhere.
- They didn’t feel comfortable breaking the ice and introducing themselves to someone they didn’t know. Or asking a more experienced person what to do. Because of social anxiety, they retreated to their phones.
- The tasks they wanted to do were already being done by other parents/rowers. They didn’t want to do open tasks, and no one was there to tell them what to do.
Nonetheless, all the work got done on Saturday. Sunday was again managed by volunteers, and it was a spectacularly successful event, on-time and well organized.
To organize and run a successful event, doesn’t require everyone to be 100% committed. Even varying levels of engagement are enough, as long as a core group is fully engaged.
But it sure is more fun, if you Show Up and Own It!