Champions Vs. Cavemen

Let’s face it: committees may be the single worst invention in the history of the world.

If you’re wondering where the idea of a committee came from, it no doubt started with cavemen. The first group of pre-modern men were peeking out of the cave saying “You go first” “No, YOU go first.” “No, YOU go first.” This exchange lasted a full two hours, at the end of which absolutely NOTHING had changed. The group of hairy men with clubs still sat at the cave entrance, arguing about who would step up and brave the jungle filled with saber-tooth tigers, T-Rex’s, poisonous frogs and only God knows what else. (Don’t bother looking up the timeline, I’m reasonably sure these animals didn’t exist at the same time. That’s not the point.).

You know what happened next, right? Yep, a hairy caveWOMAN got tired of watching the first “committee meeting”, grabbed a club from the nearest committee member and said “PLEASE! Move out of the way. I’LL go.” Only it probably sounded more like angry grunts with a bit of a growl thrown in for effect, but the committee members understood just fine, I guarantee you.

And the first champion was born.

When the champion cavewoman returned in less than an hour with some fresh stegosaurus steaks, the caveman committee members wondered in awe just how she had accomplished such a great feat in such little time. Some were even a bit jealous and spiteful. One even said, “Stegosaurus steaks? Really? That’s it?”, seemingly forgetting that he had produced exactly NOTHING in the same amount of time.

Fast forward a few millennia. Doesn’t look a whole lot different today, does it? Committees are formed to solve problems, yet they become perhaps the biggest problem of all.

I believe committees are formed, ironically, because no one person wants to commit to getting something done. So we hide in committees, hoping others will share — or completely shoulder — the majority of the burden. There’s nothing committal about committees, except that they seem committed to having a lot of worthless meetings.

We get calls from clients every week inquiring about our workshops and programs. We work hard to find out their needs, and we propose our most brilliant ideas to them. If they then utter the words, “Ok, let me take this to my committee and share it with them,” we might as well close the file on that program immediately. We know from past experience that if a creative idea gets sucked into the black hole known as a committee meeting, it is likely to never, ever make it out alive.

Committees play it safe. They order the chicken instead of the sushi. They water everything down to please the masses instead of creating something fresh, new, and interesting.

Oh, and they take FOREVER to do it.

Enter the champion. A champion doesn’t wait. A champion doesn’t always play it safe. A champion is more concerned with breathing life into an idea than debating whether the idea will be offensive to Dorothy in HR or Phil in Accounting.

Champions don’t ask “Can we do this?” They ask, “HOW can I get this done?” Then they act. 

I’m not saying Champions act alone; actually, quite the opposite. They’re usually powerful collaborators. They tend to find people that can effectively advance their cause and ask, “Here’s what I’m trying to get done. Wanna help?” I don’t know about you, but I rarely turn down a true Champion.

Another common characteristic of Champions is that they don’t spend a lot of time in meetings. And if they do, they’re the ones pushing the meeting toward action…instead of toward another meeting.

Seth Godin calls a Champion a Linchpin. If you want more inspiration and encouragement to be a Champion, you should definitely read his book. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that Champions like to read books.

The next time you’re tempted to form a committee, ask yourself why. Are you doing it to have more brains attacking an issue? Fine, have a brainstorming session, but don’t call it a committee. 

And by all means, do not, I repeat, do NOT put decision-making power in the hands of a committee. When a committee is responsible, that means nobody is. You can’t hold a committee accountable. You can only hold people accountable. Know who doesn’t mind being held accountable? Yes, young padawan, you are correct: Champions! Champions love accountability. They embrace it. They crave it. They seek it out. Because people who get things done don’t worry about being held accountable. They focus on getting things done.

I think I just heard somebody shout, “Amen, brother!” Or maybe it was tens of thousands saying it in unison.

I say NO MORE CAVEMEN! When you want to make true progress, don’t form a committee, find a Champion.

Better yet, be one.


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