View from the Lobby

Posted by on April 18, 2011

You may or may not have noticed, but whenever the team of Red-Shirts got a mention in this blog, both the R and the S were capitalized. This is meant as a gesture of respect for the team that supports the logistics for this event because without them, CREA would be a total casino. Earlier this week, Delphine wrote a post about our gratitude for their service. But they deserve another head nod as we look back at all that happened last week at the conference.

I spent a fair amount of time in the lobby of the Villa Balbi. This was where I could be guaranteed a strong wifi signal, and although there more interruptions than I might have preferred, it also was the place to be to hear about what was happening, to get reports from people about their CREA experience, and to solicit (ad nauseam) posts for this blog. I was within view and earshot of the room that served as the headquarters for the Red-Shirts logistic team.

Let me tell you what I witnessed.

I saw creativity on demand. Last minute leader requests (and there were plenty) were met with ingenuity and resourcefulness. As things changed, the Red-Shirts maneuvered as necessary to accommodate the shifts in program, location, supplies, materials. There was no shortage of problems, the this didn’t ever seem to deter them.

I saw teamwork. This team of people had to work together and they had to rely on each other. Each Red-Shirt had designated responsibilities, to cover a location or a particular programs – but when something needed attention, they rallied to do whatever was needed, wherever it was needed. I never once heard, “that’s not my responsibility,” or “he was supposed to do that.” The standard response was “okay, what do I need to do?” They helped each other, they covered for each other, they supported each other. If someone was interested in attending a particular Expo, they’d switch who took care of what room to allow this to happen.

I saw commeraderie. I’m telling you, nobody had more fun than the Red-Shirts. Even with all the work they had to do, they were constantly joking, taking the piss out of each other and generally arsing about – though still keeping track of the work they had to manage. They may have been under stress, but they managed it by laughter. They partied together late into the night. They took care of each other when someone was tired or not feeling 100%. They treated each other as friends. They had a blast.

I saw service. To volunteer to be a Red-Shirt is to be in service, to be willing to do what it takes, no matter what it takes, to make CREA happen. There is no room for egos in this kind of service, so they were set aside. “Okay, I have a PhD, but I’ll move this flip-chart for you, no problem” or “Yes, I speak 5 languages, but, how many copies did you need?” or “Sure, I’ve been facilitating my own workshop for years, but I’ll fetch you that waste-basket.” The point was to do what needed to be done, because it would make the event a success. This is to be in service. I’ve never seen it so service rendered so generously.

In the vocabulary of creativity and innovation we talk a lot about leadership. It’s usually attributed to managers who shape and share a vision, or to leaders who set a strategy, create a climate or give us guidelines about what to do. What I witnessed last week, sitting in the Villa Balbi lobby watching the Red-Shirts, was what I might call the most admirable form of leadership, the kind that is understated, that asks for no recognition, no awards, no compensation. It’s a leadership where the primary task is to support the creative effort of others, a leadership in which satisfaction comes from setting the stage for someone else to perform and to succeed. If you want to see the truest leaders at CREA, look to the Red-Shirts.

9 Responses to View from the Lobby

  1. Claire Lomas

    Thank you Maggie, for such a complimentary post! I can’t speak for the others, but I can honestly say that being a Red-Shirt has been a wonderful, if exhausting, experience! And I couldn’t have asked to work with a funnier, kinder, (ruder – Scotty!) more generous bunch of people. It’s been a blast!

  2. Jeremie Bride

    This post goes straight into my heart and I thank you very very much for your kind attention, I do agree with Claire, being a Red-Shirts has been wonderfull and I can add that, to me, it makes grew up…I love the people I’ve been working with, and I hope to see each other another time…thank you all Red-Shirts, Thank you Maggie, Thank you CREA…

  3. Jeremie Bride

    Oh and…I like the way you first put a picture of the boys, and then the girls ….. Hahahah “g–“… !!!

  4. Yana Dinova

    Wow! It is difficult to express in words the way this post has touched me.. I do agree with both Claire and Jérémie. CREA is always a unique experience and for me having the opportunity to be a Red-Jacket for CREA has been always an honour.
    Thank you Maggie, for writing such a beautiful post, thank you RJs, thank you CREA and all the people that are part of it :)

  5. Tim Hurson

    So true, Maggie.

    Red Shirts Rule!

  6. Sara

    This is just wonderful and touching. Thank you Maggie!!!

  7. Scott Middleton

    I just want to say what a privilege it is to be part of a perfect team. Each and everyone of you worked above and beyond the call of duty for CREA 2011, and CREA and myself are incredibly grateful for the great work, company, humour, problem solving techniques that you all have shown over the past week or so.

    You guys are awesome, the returners who should have known better; Corinna, Jérèmie, Marina, Sara & Yana and the newcomers Adrien, Claire, Thomas and Tim who will have now learnt to ask more questions before volunteering to anything ever again. I would just like to give my most heartfelt thanks. CREA wouldn’t be CREA without you guys. A phenomenal effort from all concerned.

    One last plea. I hope you’ll all forget over the next year about what hard work being a red shirt is and come back to help us again for CREA X. We need you… I need you!

    Maggie said think of a quote that sums up logistics. I thought long and hard about this; so try this on for size: ‘We have the most fun doing the worst job’, herding cats and lifting boxes for a week doesn’t sound that great, but it really has been the most tremendous fun. But it wouldn’t be as fun without you all.



    ps super extra thanks to super red-shirt helpers Dave and Patrick too. Cheers.

  8. Yana

    I suggest a like button on this blog :) Thank you Scotty and (I hope), see you next year :)

  9. Alan


    It is a great testimonial to all the energy, positive attitude and quality of the work that the Red-Shirts did.