We Ain’t Them

16 May

I’m at the BNI National Directors Conference in Tampa. As a Director Consultant, I coach and support BNI chapters in my home town area (Duluth, Minnesota).

At the conference, we’ll hear many presentations that share, teach and illustrate examples and best practices of helping chapters of business owners and professionals succeed at, ultimately, getting more good business for members.

In many ways, BNI is a system; follow the steps and structures and things should work out well, if not amazingly great. I can appreciate that; I know it’s truth. I certainly can make parallels to martial arts training: show up, use your time well, do the correct adjunct activities, and things can turn out amazingly well. That’s science, or perhaps math: mix, or add, A, B and C and you’ll get D.

However, in Taekwondo instruction, I’ve also come to appreciate the art aspect of training and coaching. Over time, I’m less about “squeeze them into the mold” as much as I am thinking “here’s the clay I have; how should, or how can, I work with it?” In fact, as I mentor assistant instructors, I know that they cannot simply imitate me; That can actually be disasterous. They need to keep basic principles, but after that, it’s up to them to lead their own way, to find their style or voice. If an instructor finds a way to run their classes that’s successful, but it’s not what I would do, I want to be fine with that. As long as the most fundamental of principles are not violated (Courtesy, Integrity, Self-Control) I see it as good.

I think of it as less scientifically formulaic and more like cooking; I’ve heard cookbook authors talk about how they are challenged to work with experienced chefs because those chefs hate measuring ingredients. Yet, they turn out stellar creations.

So goes my thinking with this BNI conference. It will be great to hear various practices and systems that people use or introduce to help chapters and their members be successful. However, I don’t have expectations to be able to take a system others have used successfully and just apply or overlay it locally, or regionally. It worked where it worked, in that particular context with those particular people and circumstances. It doesn’t mean it will work just as well everywhere else. Our region, and our chapters, aren’t theirs. Our directors are not theirs. I am not the presenter.

Learn to separate fundamental principles from structural elements. Observe how culture and personality are their own reality — or gifts — separate from particular practices.

Here are the ingredients. Cook. Here is the clay. Shape. Find your voice.

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