19 June 2007

A crisis in leadership, as in, there is none

I have been to Lindy in the Park three times this year (not counting one lunch), each time there were less than ten people who have showed up. What's up with that? The weather? A little cool at the first, but that's not it. People have quit enjoying swing dancing? Nope, try again. Everyone has to work on Sundays now? I don't think so.

With sights like this last week at Lindy in the Park, who wouldn't want to be there?

The problem is a lack of leadership. First off, lets explain the word leadership. The first part of leadership is leader, as in the person who goes first. People follow leaders, they are the people who lead. Leadership means to be out front, rallying the troops, being a presence, getting people excited. Leadership leads, usually by example.

We have a board, we have directors, my three times at Lindy in the Park, I have seen one of these people there for about 20 minutes. Yeah team! Show us how much you care. When I was in the military, the people who ran my shop were the first there, the last to leave, they knew who you were, and asked you how things were going for you. One of them, named Roger Anderson even cosigned on my car, do you think maybe if he put a gun in my hand and said "we are going to retake that hill" I would have followed him? I think so, I probably still would. They worked so hard us regulars would gang up on them and make them go home early every once in a while. They led, we followed.

Work is different, very few leaders, a lot of managers, directors, and other types. They are there to protect the investors investments. They need to manage resources and direct people.

Omaha Jitterbugs is not work. No one is paid. You cannot direct them to go to Lindy in the Park or Jitterbugs Night Out. You can not manage your resources in to greater volunteerism. You can only get people to participate one way, by leading them. Like Yogi Berra said about low attendance "If the people don't want to come out to the park, nobody's going to stop them."

Yes, we have vision, yes, we have great events for out of towners, but we are losing our constituency. Seriously, I watch, the number of newcomers at JNO is just as high as always. It's the medium to old timers not making a show. Newcomers might come out to Lindy in the Park, but they have to know about it and see a couple familiar faces, and a crowd, when they get there. Again, our instructors, directors, and board are not there.

Don't give me any crap about being out of town, Billy & Lindsay would have made darn sure if they were out of town, someone was going to be there to represent. If you focused on taking care of your small customer, the people in Omaha who come to JNO and Lindy in the Park every week, you wouldn't have to worry about money for the big events, 501c3 or not. If you let people who want to volunteer contribute, you wouldn't have to feel overwhelmed about everything getting done for the big (or small) events.

Go ahead and argue with me if you want, it really doesn't matter. Others are saying and thinking the things I've said here, and they are voting with their feet, dancing elsewhere or not. Without clear, out front leadership, Omaha Jitterbugs will be like any other enterprise with bad customer service, the people will just quit coming.

phone photo
Let's not have any more nonscenes like this one at 1345 (that's 1:45pm for those of you 24hr clock challenged) last Sunday.


Becky said...

you go, onionranter!

Matt J. said...

I'm hoping the lack of attendance last Sunday was due more to people spending time with family for Father's Day. But still... :(

On the upside, requests are much easier to make when you're the only couple on the floor.

Troy said...

Well... I've been there every week so far, start to finish (except for the Memorial Day one where I had to leave early because I got called into work). It does get somewhat depressing setting up and/or tearing down all the equipment by myself several weeks in a row only to play to very low attendance. For those that have made it to a LITP this year, thank you. To those that have made it to several, or helped set up/tear down, thank you lots- you make me smile!

sendmejackson said...

nate woodhams - executive director



screen name "sendmejackson"

5717 south 91 street omaha ne 68127

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty sad way to address an alleged lack of leadership. Why not talk to the board directly? If your concerns are so great I would think they warrant a face to face conversation rather than some rant on a blog that may or may not be read by anyone who would do anything about your supposed problem. Oh well, I guess it's easier to complain while sitting on your ass at home than actually talking to the right people.

Anonymous said...

"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

Anonymous said...

Before you rant and rave you should really get the facts. Watch what you say about people. The board and the directors work very hard to promote Jitterbugs, and they don't deserve to be bashed by someone who has no clue what the board does.

Troy said...

In response to the post at 7:03-- How would anyone have a clue what the board does? There's no communication from the board to the Jitterbug community at large, and the most notable visible sign of activity seems to be a drop in attendance. OJ's name may be getting out there, but if it doesn't translate to people showing up at events or classes, what's the point?

After asking a similar question to Andy during MBSF, he did fill me in on a lot of activity the Board had been up to. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, like paying back taxes, setting up a budget, working on the 501c3 filing, etc. If I hadn't asked, I still wouldn't know any of that.

On the flip side, keep in mind that with the exception of instructors being paid an hourly wage for teaching classes and workshops, as far as I know, no one (including staff and board members) gets paid for any of the work they do for OJ. It's all volunteer, so there's a limited amount of time and energy to draw upon.

jeff said...

As a board member, I can say that I have worked hard to promote the Omaha Jitterbugs to the community. Just because I haven't been in attendance doesn't mean that I don't care. All of us on the board give of our time without expectation and want nothing more than to spread the word about Omaha Jitterbugs. We don't get paid. We totally volunteer.
We're not only looking at the immediate future of Omaha Jitterbugs, but long term
goals--how to keep OJ viable and growing.

But I certainly understand your frustration. I can relate. As a member of Prairie Cats, it's frustrating that only a very few dedicated dancers ever show up at our performances. And to all of you—thank you! When I attend JNO I wonder where all these dancers are when we play. Again, there are usually a handful of the dedicated few. But where are most of the dancers?

Certainly, that's no reflection on the board, as I am on the board. Is this a reflection on my band? Or perhaps our lives are so fragmented and busy. Don't know. It hurts when we play shows and only a few dancers show up. But I also understand that there is plenty else to do on any given night. I'm respectful of that.

jeff said...

P.S. I'd promoted Prairie Cats playing at the opening celebration of the College World Series on the radio. I even mentioned on air the Omaha Jitterbugs. I said that I was certain that we'd see some dancers at the free event.

Not a single dancer showed up. This, in my mind, would have been a grand opportunity to promote swing dancing in Omaha.

Perhaps not all of the OJ members are on the Prairie Cats email list don’t know. Anyway, just an FYI.

Sarah said...

Good job poking the hornets' nest, OnionBoy.

I can honestly say that my lack of attendance is due to stress, work/school, and the lack of knowledge and/or money. And the odd event or two that's 21-and-over. Despite whatever you may say about me hating your guts. ;)

Ben said...


Personally, I would have loved to show up for your performance at the CWS. Unfortunately, I didn't even know it was happening until I read the jitterbugs newsletter on Friday morning (after it happened). For people who tend to find out about things via the jitterbugs newsletter, there was probably only a few hour window to read their email and get their act together to go.

On the other hand, I have no clue about how many people, or which circles, gets stuff like that through the grape vine, etc.

Regards, Ben

Mae said...

I'd like to call myself one of the dedicated few that shows up to P-cats shows, but my life has been so busy, that i feel like I haven't got to see you perform in ages. One - I work night shifts alot now, and that means that I have to miss out on some stuff. I had to work the night of the CWS opening. I do know that a couple of dancers were there.... I don't know if they were visible.
As promotions manager, bringing in new people is part of my job for JNO. I do my best to talk to everyone at the dances and make them feel welcome. I promote everything I can that's free. BUT, I can't be everywhere, and I have no budget to promote OJ in papers and on the radio. Had I known that Omaha Jitterbugs was mentioned on the radio for the CWS event, I would have had Ruth contact JIVE to hand out passes and dance down there. Again to late.
Maybe we can at least get our act together for the 4th of July parade. I have passes already made and there will be a sign up sheet at the dance.

Mae said...

I would also just like to say that I think the issue here is more:
Where have all the regular dancers gone?
I hear this all the time: Jitterbugs' just doesn't feel like family anymore.

I don't know how to fix it! I have tried different things, but it's hard to get feedback.
Here's the link to the forum if you want to put in your 2 cents: http://www.jitterbugs.org/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=8&sid=3fde8951418d3b02e932ab29e4f1e018
Is it the Raffle that all of a sudden went missing?
Is it that our dancers don't hear about events?
I'd like to say to all our regular dancers - COME BACK! We miss you.

On July 14th, my husband and I are hosting our annual BBQ> All dancers and people affiliated with JNO are invited.
While I don't want it to turn into a Jitterbug meeting, it could give us all an opportunity to talk to one another. Regular dancers and the people who run the dances don't often get to interact that much.
Maybe if we can make it more like family... the regulars will come back to the dances.

jeff said...

OK, not only am I not a dancer, I also shouldn't blog.

My sincere apologies to those dedicated dancers who did show up at CWS. From where I stood on the stage, looking, I might add, directly into the sun, I couldn't see a thing. Maybe it was because most of the fans down front wanted little to do with swng music while waiting for Mr. Adkins.

Anyway, to those who came, you were brave, considering the temps and the hot pavement. I wish I had seen you as I would have made an announcement.

Again, my heartfelt thanks for being there.

Also, Sullivan's steakhouse is about to open downtown. They'd wanted P-Cats for opening night July 28th, but we can't do the show. I've told them about Omaha Jitterbugs, however. I don't know yet what kind of dancefloor they will have. When I find out, I'll let you know.

Becky said...

in response to mae's comments: i am thinking us lincoln people need to get a carpool together because it is usually the gas money that gets in the way. seriously, i make no money. new houses are expensive. so this former regular dancer is gone because of that alone... that and on the weekends we have the kids it is hard to plan to go to the dances.

as far as the rest of the organization goes: i hope this turns into something productive. whether or not you like how this was handled, people are talking. that can be turned into a good thing.

i hope.

onionboy said...

jeff, i can tell you how many dancers were at the CWS, myself, venche, and my roommate. i too was disappointed by the jitterbug turnout at the cws show. not to throw venche under the bus, but she didn't quite have the right footwear to be dancing on cement, so i danced with her once, and schmendrick two or three times. it probably wasn't the sun, there were only a few dances done.

after you went off stage, another dancer, hugh showed up with a guy who comes on rare occasions, jim. i'm not sure if they had the expectation you would play longer or not.

i love what you do, when i wasn't dancing, i was back there singing along with all your songs. i will be at every show i can be at when i'm not working.