slowly, but still, learning

For the past eight years, almost every month I’ve walked into a board meeting carrying a sheet with numbers on it. The numbers reflect the previous month’s income and expense.

Most months the news has been marginal. Non-profits are frequently no profits, and because giving to churches and other non-profits is usually highest in December and spending is highest in other months, I have often had to do some explaining.

I am an explainer. It is what I do. However, I have a confession. It wasn’t until this week that I realized that my explaining would benefit from pictures. I always do pictures to help people understand, whether with photographs or words. Except when it has come to these reports.

I spent yesterday making graphs that would give perspective, that would give context, that would help us understand the numbers.

It sort of worked.

As I talked about it this morning, trying to figure out what to do better, a colleague said, “with all the differences in learning styles, how do you make the information understandable to everyone?”

It was a great question.

But, I said, there are only 10 people. It wouldn’t be that hard to spend the 30 days between meetings thinking about the audience and considering how to express numbers as trends, as relationships, as investments, as changed lives.

That would take all your time, she said.

After the first time, it wouldn’t. I would know what I was doing. And they would help each other understand in their own styles. And they, these other leaders, would feel like they owned the information.

And isn’t understanding some of the key indicators of your organization, whatever they are, pretty important?

On one hand, I feel annoyed with myself. Eight years and I just figured it out. On the other hand, I find myself still learning. And that is a key indicator itself.

4 responses to “slowly, but still, learning

  1. Not only are you learning, but you’re teaching others – the members of your board and the people who read here, and those of us who pass it on.

    I imagine it will be time well spent – you’ll probably find lots of applications for what you figure about the learning styles too.

  2. thanks, Joanna. I think that you are right. The challenge, as always in not
    the talking about doing it. It is the actual doing.

    argh.

  3. Pingback: SOB Business Cafe 01-23-09 - Liz Strauss at Successful Blog - Thinking, writing, business ideas . . . You’re only a stranger once.

  4. Learn like you’ll live forever. Live like you’ll die tomorrow. That’s what comes to mind when I read this.