The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

The official blog of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

Infrastructure building, Lifesaving programs, Management team support

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cathedral thinking.

Back in the day before technology as we know it, large architectural projects took more than one generation to complete. The famous Notre Dame de Paris took 182 years to complete. Individuals involved in the project, whether designers or laborers, knew that they would likely not see the finished product in their lifetime. They worked not to satisfy themselves but to build the future.

In today's world of instant gratification, this is a foreign concept. 10 years ago, most TV commercials were 30 seconds long. Today, commercials other than those aired during the Superbowl are typically 15 seconds long. Even that proves too much for the smart phone and Facebook generation, accustomed to bright images and blurbs -- mostly with misspellings and poor grammar -- spinning past their field of vision at a dizzying rate.

What does this mean for animal sheltering? For one, it is more difficult than ever to hire young people who want to work. Instant gratification combined with the "every kid is an honor student" mentality has created a segment of the population who believe that they are entitled to what they want without earning any of it. These people are very hard to manage because they have no intrinsic work ethic, no desire to accomplish simply to see it done (or for that matter, done well), and no respect for anyone. If you're not that type of person, please come and help us in the animal sheltering world! We know you're out there, but you're sadly in the minority.

Another segment of the population, older but equally self-centered, are the nearly-retired government employees. You'll find many of these running the departments overseeing animal shelters. They may have 10 years to go, but they aren't going to do anything to rock the boat and disturb their chance at a $200,000 a year pension. These folks are also exceedingly difficult to work with, because they will usually not support the changes necessary for a shelter to succeed at lifesaving.

How does an enthusiastic new animal shelter director get anything done under these circumstances? It's not easy, that's for sure. Clear communication of expectations from the start are key. If superiors won't support the mission with the understanding that change is difficult, takes time, and comes with complaints and other complications, you're better off not accepting the job. If staff won't get with the program, they need to go. One wonders why anyone accepts a role as shelter director, but when things go well, a new future is built, a cathedral of lifesaving.

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