Tuesday, April 12, 2011


At some point, we all want to walk out of work-related meetings, mostly because 99.99999% of them are useless, ridiculous, and annoying.

I usually stay for the duration, partially out of optimism that maybe I’ll find something valuable, but mainly because I’ve had to give presentations myself and I know how difficult it can be.

A recent workshop I attended was called, “Empowering Students to Make a Difference,” and it was supposed to help teachers instill leadership skills in students.

Before it began, one colleague told me that this speaker was “tremendous.” I can now add that word, along with “amazing” and “phenomenal,” to my list of Words People Use to Describe Things When Actually the Opposite is True. Consider yourself warned, my friends.

This workshop began with the speaker, who was a dead ringer for Ned Flanders on “The Simpsons,” explaining that we will be moving around a lot and getting in groups during this session.

That’s like going to a play that forces the audience members to be part of the performance and interact with the characters. My feeling is: I’m in the audience, you are on stage, do your job and leave me alone.

But I stayed anyway, hoping to see something “tremendous.” Plus, I was giving my own presentation later that day and therefore didn’t want to create any bad karma.

On the walls of our meeting room, Ned had placed copies of Time magazine covers portraying famous leaders. We were instructed to write descriptive words (“Determined,” “Sincere,” “Inspirational,” etc.) on post-it notes and walk around the room and place our notes on the portraits. We were then asked to share what we wrote. (My portrait was of Abe Lincoln, and 24 of the 25 post-its said “Honest.” Wow, I bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

What was the point of this exercise? How the hell should I know?

One of the magazine covers pictured Barack Obama. As we shared what the post-its said, Ned pointed out as a side note that he didn’t vote for Obama.

I thought that was a weird thing to say in this setting, but OK. I am friendly with people of various political persuasions, but at work, I usually keep my political opinions to myself.

Ned couldn’t help himself, though, and his comment stuck in my craw. (Where exactly is one’s craw, anyway?) Because if he didn’t vote for Obama, that probably means he voted for… Sarah Palin!

Wait a minute. He’s conducting a leadership workshop and he voted for Palin?! (Yeah, I know John McCain was at the top of the ticket, but it was still a vote for Palin, and if he voted for a wacko third-party candidate, that was worse.)

Say what you want about Palin, but the truth is that the Time magazine covers showed people from a whole other (intelligent) universe: Einstein, JFK, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, and the like.

So, that was the first chink in his armor of credibility. Still, I stuck with him.

A few minutes later, Ned mentioned that every Friday, his wife, a teacher, would show her students a movie that provides a good example of leadership, “such as ‘Braveheart.’”

Wait a minute: Isn’t that a movie directed and starring Mel Gibson, the anti-Semitic, racist, girlfriend-beating, drunk-driving jerk-off?

Keep in mind that this is a conference about leadership, in which Ned listed Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope as the four reasons people follow others.

Does Gibson display any of these? And why exactly is Ned’s wife showing movies to her class every week, especially R-rated ones?

That was it for me. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m 54 years old. How many more ridiculous meetings am I going to sit through in my life, instead of doing the right thing and leaving?”

So I left, just as we were getting ready for another fascinating group activity. As I made for the door, Ned loudly bid me a sarcastic “Oh, OK, goodbye.”

And that was when I flung my feces at him. Hey, he wanted an evaluation!

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