Monday, September 27, 2010

MCAT board refocuses after all-day session

I recently spent a few days with my sons and their families in Missoula. If you’ve been to Missoula, you know this to be true: there’s no finer place to be in the fall than the Garden City.
            While there, I got to thinking about a session I did last spring with Missoula Community Access Television. I stopped in to talk with MCAT Executive Director Joel Baird and see how things were going.
            For 21 years, Joel has been involved with the organization, which provides public-access television within the city of Missoula. His board members speak highly of him, and I’ve come to hold him in high regard.
            During our meeting, I asked Joel to give his assessment of Jack Haffey & Associates’ services to Linn Parish, a writer in Spokane Valley, Wash., who had the good sense to marry my niece. Joel and Linn talked earlier this week, and Linn wrote a short report for me on their conversation. Here is his report:
            Organizational excellence consultant Jack Haffey spent a Saturday last May at a board retreat with Missoula Community Access Television’s board of directors. In the span of a few hours, the board learned a lot about something they hadn’t spent much time on previously: each other.
            Ultimately, MCAT Executive Director Joel Baird said, the board retreat helped the organization’s leaders understand one another and rededicate themselves to their core mission: to increase communication in the community by providing airtime for educators, government leaders, and the general public on cable television.
            At the time, Baird said, there was a lack of group cohesion on the board. Two of the directors were often at loggerheads with one another. Each has a large personality, and they frequently came down on opposing sides of issues that arose. When Haffey came in, Baird said, he made an effective argument for group cohesion that fit the situation, and the group was responsive.
            “What he was able to do was make the members of the board become more three-dimensional to each other,” Baird said. “He adroitly set up the moment.”
            Each board member ended up talking about himself or herself for five minutes or so. There was some posturing—there always is—but for the most part, Baird said, everybody gave honest, full-bodied talks about themselves.
            The session proved to be a good pre-cursor for a strategic planning session that would allow the organization to assess its direction and vision for the future, and the board is considering bringing Haffey back to lead such a session this fall.
            “He does a good turn practicing his craft,” Baird said. “Psychologically, he sets the stage very well.”

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