Of course neither excellence nor success can be reduced to a mathematical formula, no more than can writing poetry (I am thinking here of the excellent book and film Dead Poets Society). But it is fair to ask what are the components of a successful endeavour?
Some days ago I attended a meeting of a group of volunteers who met regularly and had done so for many years. Their task was to make arrangements for an important annual local event. Half of those who should have been present were not. Those who were present were not really focussed. There had been little prior preparation and little accomplished since the last meeting. There was some comment and mumblings about who had been responsible for various actions. The amount of energy in the room rapidly went into decline, almost as if it was pouring down a plug hole in the floor. Not one member of the group spoke or acted with any enthusiasm for their task.
As a visitor to the group I had to bite my lip from asking why they were bothering to meet. I had been invited by a friend who is member of the group and I was allowed to observe only. But as I sat there I wondered why did they not simply hand in the towel and give up? If it was important enough the task could be handed to another group of more willing volunteers. Yet they limped on meeting regularly perhaps out of habit, because they had always done so.
Later, the member who had invited me along asked me for my comments. First I wanted to establish a few facts. I asked a little about the history of the group and it seems that tradition, a wish not to let go of past glories and a sense of duty played some role. But my main questions were about the office holders in the group and how had they been appointed? Ah, well, the Chairman had not been present so someone else stood in at the last moment. The Secretary had begrudgingly taken on the role and really wanted someone else to do it. He wasn’t really very good, confided my friend. The Treasurer did a similar job for many other local committees and voluntary groups and this group was no more important to him than any other civic group.
My comments were simple. The group has to ask if they really want to succeed. If they do, then they need to put into the key roles people who are competent in those roles and let them do their job. Secondly, any successful enterprise requires more than effort, it requires energy. Real energy must be applied to its objectives so that things are done well. Energy itself requires commitment, planning, time to be allocated and a momentum or sense of progress. Finally, when the group comes together there must be shared enthusiasm. Enthusiasm regenerates the application of energy, gives everyone a reason to keep working at their task. There was no enthusiasm in the meeting I attended.
Finally, my friend asked me what they had to do to change their fortunes. My answer was simple. Find someone to lead them, to inspire and reinvigorate them.
Any group that wishes to thrive and be a great success, whatever its goals or task, needs competent people, the application of energy and renewable enthusiasm. And to trigger and focus these elements on its goal it needs leadership.
I shall attend the important annual local event later this year and follow progress with interest.