Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words
99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2012 Brian Remer
Updated Jan. 2012

Read my new book
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99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

January 2012

What's Your Contribution?
Ted hated meetings. You could witness it in his tone of voice, his body language, his demeanor, and his droll, sarcastic comments. He was famous for his opinion about meetings. Yet as head of his department, attending and leading meetings was a big part of his responsibility.

Surprisingly, Ted taught me the secret to having a great meeting. He would often leave a meeting grumbling that he hadn't gotten anything out of it. But I noticed that he hadn't put anything into the meeting either!

If you want a great meeting, plan to make a contribution!


You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.


There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

"It takes two to tango." "It takes a village to raise a child."

One concept that these common phrases share is the idea of participation. You cannot perform an intimate dance without a willing partner who can contribute by both leading and following. And the contributions of many individuals and organizations in a community can enhance the growth and development of all of us. Without participation and contribution, there is no dance and there is no community.

It's easy to forget our own responsibility to contribute. Times are tough. We have our own problems. Everyone is making demands on us. We already have plenty of work to do, and so forth. Yet the only way important things get done is when people show up. They show up to play ball and a team is born. They show up to talk about spirituality and a church is founded. They show up to sell their handicrafts and an artist's colony becomes a tourism focal point. They show up to offer shelter on a winter night and a group begins advocating for the homeless.

People often say they volunteer because they want to give something back to their community. This is an admirable reason for contributing. It works for many people who recognize the benefits they have received from their neighbors. But other people, like Ted in our story, don't consider making a contribution. They think, "Why should I 'give back' when I haven't gotten anything!" These thoughts blind them from seeing that community is co-created when people show up.

The next time you need to co-create community, even if that means only calling a meeting, try being up front with the people you invite. Let the "Teds" on your team know what contribution you need from them. Elicit their input and help them see their role in the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish.

On the other hand, perhaps you feel like Ted sometimes. If you have been invited to a meeting, don't assume the organizers know exactly why they have asked you to attend! Look for connections between the topic of the meeting and things you know from your experience and your role. Consider ways you might make a thoughtful contribution. What you add may pertain to the meeting's topic. But it might also relate to making decisions, getting unstuck from unproductive thinking, or even suggesting to meet at a later time in the future.

After all, it really does take a village to co-create a community!


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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