We were attending a holiday party this month at a large California homeowners association when one of the guests told us that he had been dreading this year’s event. We couldn’t help but ask his reasoning. “They are just not my kind of people anymore. Some long time veterans have departed and newer members have been recruited, which I know is the natural cycle of community groups. But, it seems the group’s philosophy and core values are dramatically different than mine now.” With the closing of the 2007 year, is it time to re-evaluate your personal & professional memberships to find your people?
Let’s look at why we join various organizations in the first place. From participation in different groups, we practice individual callings, triumph over social issues, create different futures for our family and ourselves; and often, renew the devoted bonds of friendships. Other reasons can be:
• A contribution to society, belonging to something wonderful and bigger than yourself
• A feeling of an equivalent connection, a camaraderie, a similar set of core values
• A sharing of vision when everyone in an organization understands what the organization is trying to do
• A feeling of being liked, accepted, free to give your personal opinion, able to disagree, not feeling judged
Why do we fall out of sync with certain organizations? As we move forward on both our personal and professional paths, our worldview becomes expanded. We begin to be more scrutinizing of how we conduct ourselves; and our resulting outcomes within communities and professional organizations. Our individual identities are fulfilled and enlarged by membership in national communities or local associations. What makes us begin to feel empty and non-congruent with the goals and practices of a specific group? You will hear from non-profit and social activist veterans that they began to ask themselves what was their lasting footprint to a given challenge such as, the effort to conquer AIDS or an inter-city food harvest program? What they originally envisioned; and, the experiences they were having were vastly different.

Why do we endure memberships in groups that are no longer meaningful to us? Again, the reasons can be numerous. They range from:

• Expectations of a family hierarchy. Your grandparents chaired the board of this group and so will you.
• Invisible rules associated with specific cultures or faith based communities. We have been in this role for this spiritual community since the beginning of time.
• Professional status. Along with title of Global VP comes the role of serving on the board of the International Medicine Network.
• Political image. Now that you are on the city council, it is assumed you will host the local charity’s pancake breakfasts every month.
• Guilt of maintaining specific friendships. You have been friends since college and they exert pressure on you to be part of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

Once you’ve made the decision to leave a group, how do you do it gracefully? Some suggestions are:
• Avoid using blame or undue criticism in your departure reasons; and, be truthful for your reasons in leaving. Your departure allows the group an opportunity to grow and invite new thinking from your replacement.
• Make the change in phases when possible. If you are holding a specific board position such as, treasurer, talk with the other board members creating an exit strategy that all parties can live with.
• Recruit another person to take your role as chair of PR and introduce that person to the existing board for approval.
• Refrain from making a dramatic public exit. Departures such as this could circulate in the community that you are a ‘drama seeker’.

If you think you’ve lost contact with ‘your people’, ask yourself:
• Are you doing time? How have you stopped listening to the group’s current intentions and goals? How do you feel after attendance at a meeting, tense, deflated a waste of your time?
• How has your social impact lost it’s vibrancy with this group? How are your actions contributing to the initial cause or greater good you thought you would be doing in the first place? How can you renew your vibrancy or make your exit?
• What internal permissions do you need to give yourself so you can let yourself seek another group for the fulfillment of your needs and gifts?
• How can you turn the negativity of the group’s current situation around so that you end up turning this departure into an opportunity for them and a positive outcome for you?
• Do you suffer guilt over ‘breaking out’ of the family or social practices in pursuing your life’s direction? What would be the benefits and consequences of pursuing your needs when it breaks out of the family or the generally accepted social practices? What invisible rules can you break without sacrificing family bonds?
• Are you measuring yourself by standards in a peer group that really do not serve you at this point in your life?

“Positive feelings come from being honest about yourself and accepting your personality, and physical characteristics, warts and all; and, from belonging to a family that accepts you without question.” Willard Scott

Author's Bio: 

Bradley Morgan is a corporate and ontological coach who served as a corporate executive for over 17 years, in companies such as, IBM, Bay Networks, Premysis, and Brocade Communications. Bradley’s credentials include a BS from Georgia Tech, a MS from UCLA, a certificate in gerontology from the University of Maryland; and a Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) through the Newfield Network program. In the telecommunications industry, she developed both domestic and international systems engineering teams for technical expertise and executive level leadership. Bradley is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), American Management Associates (AMA), the American Society on Aging (ASA); and the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).

And, Bradley is also the Founder and President of a non profit company that specifically coaches American Indian students. The Looks Within Foundation is committed to the best in transitional coaching for these students from their reservation life and selects candidates from all tribal nations for scholarship funds in higher education. Bradley is a featured speaker at many of the student councils within the tribal nations.