Category Archives: Leadership

The Impending Miami Changemaker Collapse

The Impending Miami Changemaker Collapse

I don’t really know if this should be called a #LateNightRant or just a #MondayMorning #RealDeal, but here goes. This is something I have been mulling over for quite a while now. Anyway, sit back, this is going to be a long one.

You all know I tend to overshare, and about two months ago, I overshared about my battle with anxiety and stress. I was near collapse at the time. Many people gave me much great advice, some of which I have followed and am greatly improved. However, that is not the point of this post.

Because of my propensity to share and be open about my trials, it seems that many people are willing to be open with about theirs. What I learned due to my sharing is that not only is my condition not unique, it is not even unusual. It is practically commonplace. It seems that there is an epidemic of burnout spreading throughout Miami’s changemakers and do-gooders.

When I shared my problems, other people started to share theirs with me. Once I started noticing a trend, I dug deeper. When I would run into someone I know, which happens often, of course, and we exchanged the common courtesies of, “How are you!?” and they would inevitably respond with, “I’m great!” I would ask again, “But, how are you really?” More times than not, the response was different and not near as positive Then, knowing that they knew about my fight with anxiety, I would ask if they ever dealt with the same issue. Because I had shared my problems, they felt comfortable sharing with me, as well. The majority, the vast majority of people who I asked said that they indeed were fighting the same battle as I.

Also, after co-founding an organization dedicated to supporting those changemakers, I have become much more familiar with the processes that many of them operate under. I have been researching the funding process and have spoken with many of these organizations and changemakers about their experience. I have also been studying the formula that local funders use to assign funds to refine our own processes in obtaining said funds. I have spoken with many, many changemakers and leaders regarding their experiences. I have probably spoken directly and honestly to more changemakers than almost anyone else in Miami.

Again, as an oversharer, people are much more willing to share the actual truth with me than they are with most people, especially those in power. More on that later.

So. Here is the trend I am seeing, there is an impending epidemic of changemaker collapse coming in the next few years unless we significantly improve the way things work. There are so many more people working on so many different aspects of the community than there were just 10 years ago, not to mention 20 or 30, and the support infrastructure has not kept up. We need to restructure the institutional support systems for the changemakers. There are not enough resources to support what everyone is doing, even though it is all good work. The resources we do have are significantly misallocated.

The current state of affairs is not sustainable. All of this changemaking is wonderful, but we see people drop out all the time due to inability to continue and we need to look at what changes need to take place in order to better manage our resources. These are issues that we are currently socializing to bring it into the light and really start talking about it on a large scale. Think about it for a while, and we can go into more depth later.

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#ProTip: When You Need Something Done Right, Get an Expert

I am once again reminded of the benefits of working with experts and professionals. Claudia Ximena Figueredo (Action PR) is helping us with our The Arts and the Affordable Care Act seminar and she just sent me a revised copy of our “fact sheet”, which she had fixed up. Though the changes were mostly subtle, the readability went WAY up from what I had put together. She is definitely an expert at crafting these.

This goes back to my #ProTip from the other day, if you want something done right, get an expert. So many people think that just because they own a computer they are an expert at everything: writing, photography, social media, graphic design, public relations, event producer, etc, etc, etc. But, the fact of the matter is, most people suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect. That means that they are so incompetent that they do not even have the ability to recognize your own incompetence.

There’s nothing wrong with being incompetent at some stuff, everybody is. And, everybody is good at some stuff. There’s plenty of stuff I suck at, and there are a few things I’m good at. The difference is, I recognize that and, rather than trying to do everything poorly, I try to find those who are good at the stuff I suck at and let them do it. For many people, this is one major obstacle they face that is holding them back from success.

I have seen this directly many times. People come to me asking for advice. They think I am an expert at a staggering number of skills like social media (I am not), blogging (no clue), technology (just enough to turn my computer on), art (yeah, I can see it), and all sorts of other stuff. These are questions I get all the time and people have a hard time believing I don’t know it all. But, I don’t, and I don’t pretend to. I know experts in all those fields, and when I need those skills, I go to them to ask for advice or help.

So, one more time, everyone repeat it with me, if you want something done right, get an expert! via Facebook

The “Art Basel” Overload – What To Do?

This is also posted on the big site, but I wanted to post it here for posterity, because someone needs to say something. Everyone’s thinking it, but I am going to come out and say it publicly. The “Art Basel Week” has gotten way out of hand.

I think it is safe to say that few people get out to more events than we do. There are some that do, but I think everyone would agree we make it to quite a few. We talk to a lot of people. A lot. And this year, the absolute consensus is the number of available events is just overwhelming. “It’s too much,” we hear over and over. Every year there is too much to do, but this year, we hear this refrain more than ever, from everyone. Everyone says they are suffering from overload.

And, it is true. Every year there are more fairs, more exhibitions, more parties and more people. So, how much is too much? You know, we love you all, all of you who bring art to our city, and we are really happy you have come here, but do you not think it is getting a little out of hand? Really, it is getting a lot out of hand. Maybe it is time for a change. I guess I will be the one to stand up and say it.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, there were over TWELVE Vernissages / Openings for various art fairs. Don’t believe me? Check out this screen shot from our Tuesday summary. I’ve highlighted all the Vernissages. As you can see, there are a numerous other parties, as well. And that is just Tuesday. (Click the thumbnail for a larger version.) We have over 120 events listed in our full roundup, and I know we have missed dozens of others. How can anyone possibly make even a small percentage of that?

We all know that there are many art people in town this week, and everyone wants to try to take advantage of that. But think about it, if you start a new show/fair/party, there are a couple of options. First, you might just pull people from the regular crowd. If a lot of new events open up (like has been happening), that means quite a few less people for each event. Not optimal.

On the other hand, maybe all these new events do draw more people to town. Where do those people park? Where do they stay? How do they get around. The traffic is already epic fail. It is not going to get better. There are only a finite number of hotel rooms and parking spots. Also, not optimal.

The same is true for the expansion of the current fairs/shows, it is either going to spread the same number of people thinner or it is going to add to the already terrible problem of overcrowding. How long is this really sustainable? How long until people just give up because they cannot handle the load? We have actually already seen this happen. Some people are going out to fewer events because they are so overwhelmed by all the options.

The thing is, you all are doing yourself a disservice with this much activity. Nobody can possibly do it all. Nobody can even do a small percentage. Sure, there are a lot of art people in town, but spreading them so thin hurts everyone. You are missing out on potential sales because people are at the dozen or more other events that night. By jumping on the bandwagon to try to take advantage of someone else’s hard work, you are actually adding to the problem.

Meanwhile, we have 51 other weeks of the year with only a few fairs sprinkled throughout. Like I said, we do love that all you guys and gals come to our city and bring all this art, but how about making it so we can see some of it? How about some of you get together and we all do another art week? Maybe a few.

April would be a good time. It is towards the end of season. Weather is still usually good (at least as good as it gets in Miami). Most of the snowbirds are still here. We are past all the mayhem of WMC, Boat Show, and the other big winter events. Why not create another art week then? Who is going to have the courage to take the first step?

This is what I would really like to see. I think it would be great if a couple of the bigger ancilliary fairs stepped up and took leadership to do this, maybe Scope or Art Miami. Pick a new week. Start a different art week.

Think about how awesome that would be. Anyone who does it will be hailed as courageous and visionary. Plus, you get your name up in lights. Right now, this is “Art Basel Week” (no matter what anyone else tries to brand it) and all of the other fairs and events are mentioned secondarily. But, if one of the other fairs took the initiative to step up and make the change, then that would their week. Rather than just being a follower during “Art Basel Week”, they would be the leader for “Scope Art Week” or “Art Miami Week” or maybe “Pulse Miami Week”. There is a real opportunity here to break out of the pack and be a leader.

The thing is, Miami is not what it was 10 years ago, when the brave souls at Art Basel decided to open up a new fair here. Back then, it was not really seen as an “art” destination, known more for the nightlife and beaches, and it was a challenge to convince people to come for an art fair. But, now it is becoming one of the major players in the art world. Now, it would not be as hard to convince people to come for art. Opening up a second week would give people a much-needed relief from the overload that is “Art Basel Week” right now.

Will anyone do it? Seems unlikely, but we can hope. It would take a lot of guts and smarts, just like the guys who started Art Basel Miami Beach. They took a chance and tried something new, and it certainly worked out. Will anyone else step up and take a leadership stance? We hope so.

I figure I will get a million flames telling me why this is not feasible, but that is okay, leaders always have people telling them that what they are doing is impossible, as they go ahead and do it. Happens to me all the time. All I know is what I hear from the people, and the people are overwhelmed. Something needs to be done.

Leadership part 1

I am planning on doing quite a bit of writing about leadership, so I have called this part 1. I am not sure how many parts there will be, but we will see how far this takes us.

First off, there is one defining characteristic of a leader. A characteristic without which, a person is absolutely not a leader. All other characteristics are secondary to this, and may define the type of leader that a person is. But, this particular characteristic is necessary for a person to be called a leader.

Any guesses?
Vision? Nope.
Charisma? Useful, but not necessary.
Intelligence? Definitely not required.
Wisdom? Hah!

The single defining characteristic of a leader is decisiveness. The ability to make a decision. Not just any decision, but a decision that affects numerous people and the consequences that come with it.

Think about this example. Many of you work in an office with others. Oftentimes you are probably talking about going to lunch with your co-workers. How often does this situation come up? You are all sitting around, burning your lunchtime, everyong throwing out suggestions of where to go, but none of them are being chosen. Everyone is hemming and hawing, “Oh, let’s go to this,” or “hey, I hear this place is great,” but no place is chosen. Why?

Finally, one person stands up and says something like, “I’m going to head over to that new Pho place, who wants to come?” Everyone does, of course. Guess who is the leader. If you pay attention to your social interactions such as this, you will notice that it is often, though not always, the same person who finally gets the group moving.

To be a leader, you absolutely have to make decisions. And not just decisions for yourself, decisions for the group. If you are one of the people hemming and hawing, you are not the leader.

Why is this, though? Why do we need people to make decisions for us? What is it about some people that they can do so, while others cannot? We’ll pick that up next time, but here’s a hint, if you think you know, you’re probably wrong.

Edge of the World, copyright James Echols