Sitting at the grown up table

I don't know if there is a causal relationship, but since I got tenure (now some 2.5 months ago - yay!) I have found myself in an increasing amount of grown-up meetings. You know, with adults, often full professors and higher management, 10-20 years older than I am. And with fancy sandwiches, that you are supposed to eat (because: polite) while also making sure nothing drips down your chin (because: awkward) and always being ready to speak (because: need to get your voice heard). Some are once-only meetings, others are committees. All of them leave me baffled and confused about the state of grown up affairs. Here are the major faux-pas:

1. The chair usually doesn't chair. There is no agenda, no structure. Everyone sort of yells things, some things end up on paper, others don't. The chair doesn't summarise, lead or focus. It usually ends in a lump of stuff hanging in the air and then we are kicked out the room because ah, well, time is up and nobody was paying attention. I was editor in chief of my high school news paper and even at 16 I ran meetings that were more organised than this.

2. Pictures are not always worth more than a thousand words. Details are for kids. The grown up meetings are about big picture views. About future strategies for the university. About a point on the horizon. About visionary breakthroughs. You know the synonym for big picture views is you're not careful? Blabla. I am all for ambition and setting major goals. I can dream as big as anyone. But if I listen closely, these meetings never reach the stage where we actually end with something concrete. Suddenly I know why the upper-upper management is so out of touch with what happens on the floor. Because even one level up from where I used to be, the details are forgotten and we already talk in glossy-magazine paper. It sounds nice, but does it have a backbone?

Oh my. How am I going to make sure I don't become one of these people? How do I make sure I still keep an eye out for the reality that we are actually living in? I think this is a good example of why we need age diversity in our ranks. Because I may feel like a toddler slowing them down or holding and back, but at least every now and then I can also make them stop and really look at the world again. Then again, maybe not just youth but also hope is wasted on the young.

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