by Miriam McNown Johnson, Ph.D., MSW
In every small group there are two leader roles:
One tends to process, the other to goals.
The first one makes sure each small voice is heard;
That every idea, and every last word,
Receives the attention that’s rightly its due,
So all are included, and feel valued too.
The second one sees that the meeting is run,
Objectives are met, and the business gets done.
In formal settings - and also in chats -
Often one person wears both of those hats.
Then it’s up to the members to help and assist
To make sure that nobody’s input is missed,
To keep all on track and moving along -
And with their efforts the group will stay strong.
To strike the right balance, they have to be stern,
And control conversation, so each has a turn.
Some people speak and some take a pass
(Hoping that later, they will be asked).
One hits a homer, another one bunts
But no one goes twice until all have gone once.
We know “silence is golden” - a pause is OK--
Because some need a minute to choose what to say,
Or maybe to think about what’s just been said,
Before others take over and move on ahead.
Soon all pack their things having learned something new
Or a new way of thinking about what is true.
They take away gifts that the others have brought—
A cheerful greeting...an image...a thought,
A mind that’s more open than when they arrived
With issues resolved and old friendships revived.
Dr. Miriam Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in social work in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin. She worked for 20 years with children in out-of-home care (foster care, group care, residential care), adoptions, and refugees from Southeast Asia in Wisconsin and North Carolina. She received her MSW and Ph.D. in social work from the University of Alabama in 1994 and has been on the faculty in the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina since 1994. She retired from her position as Associate Dean in July 2014 but is currently employed part time as Interim Associate Dean at the College.