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IN BRIEF

Committee players never take the lead

He who hesitates is lost

Strike while the iron is hot

Victory belongs to the swift

These statements represent the thoughts of a moron from the committee player's point of view. Any second rate player knows that the truth lies in a different set of wise sayings.

Follow the leader

There is safety in numbers

Fools go where angels fear to tread

Look before you leap

Do not overrun your blockers

Let the other guy show his hand first

The early worm gets caught by the bird

Yes, this sounds more like philosophy for the committed committee player.

Committee players are wishy-washy

Do not confuse this with going whichever way the wind blows. The trick is that a good player does not go at all. The master just stays in one place and leans with the wind or the crowd. The direction totally depends on the situation or who the player is talking with. The game is potentially dangerous, however. The player must not go far enough in any direction to expose himself to a charge of changing horses in the middle of the stream.

A player is talking to Norma. "There is a lot of truth in what you are saying. It's easy enough to see where you're coming from. I think you should stick to your guns."

An hour later, he is talking with Glenna, the person with whom Norma was having the problem. "It is a real problem, Glenna. It looks like the hassle would get to you after a while. I'm just glad it's not me who has to deal with that one."

The next day, the committee player is talking to Norma and Glenna together. "As I have shared with both of you, things around here are a mess sometimes. It's a sad thing when dedicated people like the two of you are at each other."

This player is truly a person for all occasions.

Committee players cannot make decisions

The point of primary interest here is that skilled players appear to make decisions when there is no decision.

A subordinate asks, "What should I do about this?"

The player says, "Use your best judgement."

The problem is that the subordinate's best judgement was to ask the boss.

In another example, a colleague asks, "How would you go with this if you were me?"

The player says, "That is a tough one. I think if I were you - and I am sure glad I'm not - I'd check with some other people to see how they handle that kind of thing."

Of course, asking someone else is exactly what the person is doing when he asks the committee player.

In another situation, the player is asked, "What have you decided? It is past time to do something."

He says, "At this point it is a no-win kind of thing. Let's just wait and see what happens."

The player's strategy is to get the other person to make the decision, if there must be a decision. If it works out, the player takes credit for a successful mutual effort. If not, he shows endless compassion for the person who made the wrong choice. As a last resort, he holds his breath and hangs loose. Most of the time, things work out okay anyway. When they do not, the player is simply a victim of unavoidable circumstances.

Committee players ride the coattails of others

This is a wait and see technique where timing is everything. The player waits to hear someone else express an opinion or make a decision and then steps toward the train. The critical timing is taking care to wait until the last minute to get onto the train. If the player commits too early, he can end up on the wrong train. If too late, he misses the train altogether.

It also helps to align with people in power. This, however, is a risky business. Power tends to be illusive and may not be there when expected. In big organizations, this is especially risky. The fun-and-games politics are such that fortunes can change overnight. Committee players are usually well-advised not to play in such unstable realms. Better they stick to watching the train and getting aboard only if it is moving out of the station. The track to the top that way is a little slower but much safer.

Committee players bend over backward to avoid offending anyone

In some settings, these players are good old boys or good old girls. In old movies, they are rich types - usually men - who do not work and hang around the club. The amazing thing is they almost never get upset about anything unless everyone else feels upset. Even then, you get the impression that they are upset mostly about others feeling upset.

For example, a small company is laying off twenty-five employees, including the committee player. He goes around sympathizing with those getting laid off, congratulating those who are staying, and telling the boss she has a rough job. In the mean time, he does no work and talks about how tough this is for everyone. No one gets upset with him because he is so pleasant and thoughtful. He is a good old boy. Of course, his play is to be seen as such a good old boy that the decision to lay him off will be withdrawn on that basis.

Committee players are too busy or stressed to pitch in

This is a double-edged example of The Frustration Factor. Not only does the player avoid extra duties or responsibilities, he gets others to feel sorry about how much pressure and stress he has. The payoff for this play is that people expect less than usual. It is like having your cake and eating it too.

Lewis is a therapist at a counseling center. The usual expectation is therapists spend five hours a day in face-to-face therapy with clients. Lewis is averaging less than four.

His supervisor says, "I want you to raise your productivity a little."

Lewis says, "That also concerns me. I would like to take on some more clients but just don't know how I can right now."

The supervisor asks, "Why? What is the problem?" - a big mistake.

Lewis leans back in his chair and explains, "It's an odd thing. The clients I have right now are especially difficult and time consuming. Along with that, I seem to have an unusual amount of paperwork right now. I'm taking it home just to keep my head above water. If that were not enough, one of my children has been ill and out of school for a few days."

By this point, the supervisor is feeling badly about bringing it up at all. Maybe he is expecting too much of the player. The way to spot a real pro with the technique is after a while, he does almost nothing and no one hassles or complains.

Committee players always have excuses for not getting the job done

The key to success with the technique for the committee player is always to use an external excuse. This includes circumstances or events outside his area and outside his control. Here is the real secret. The excuse also needs to be outside the expertise or control of anyone else who is around. Complex equipment - especially computers - is a natural.

"I would have gotten finished, but the computer would not cooperate."

Late deliveries are also good. "I would be done, but the part, report, instructions were not to me on time."

Things like car trouble, baby sitter problems, hot water tanks going out, someone's misfiling or not filing things, planes being late and the like are good too. The player only needs to be sure to keep a log to keep track of how long it has been between using each excuse. For example, someone might remember he got a new hot water tank last month. That could be embarrassing.

Players need also to know about the Law of Flat Tires. It says that if you tell your boss today that you are late because you had a flat tire, tomorrow morning you will actually have a flat tire.

Committee players take everything personally

This technique is the essence of committee Play. If the player is not skilled with personalizing everything, he is well-advised to consider specializing in another method.

Usually, pouting or withdrawing are good ways to show something has been taken personally. Some players get away with getting irate or indignant. Experienced players try both and see which works the best in specific situations or with specific people. Most aficionados find adopting one approach or the other most all the time works best.

With this technique, there is a beginner's and an advanced level of play. At the beginner's level, the player gets upset and personalizes things directly affecting him. At the advanced level, the player takes personally things that neither affect nor involve him.

The advanced player says, "I'm indignant about what's going on with Linda back in billing. It is not right that she is the only one back there who didn't get a new desk."

The manager says, "There were only five new desks. She will get a new one the next time we order equipment. Anyway, she is the newest person in the unit."

Undaunted, the player hangs tough. "How do you think she feels. It is no fun being a second class citizen. Those ladies have as much right to respect as anyone else."

The manager says, "What does respect have to do with this? I thought we were talking about desks."

Too bad! This manager has been out maneuvered by an expert committee player.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. GAC@GaryCrow.net