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 Post subject: Social Skills
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:59 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3030
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
"Have you met many railfans? Sadly, our hobby seems to attract a vast number of rather poorly socialized individuals..."--Ed Kapuscinski

I have to say what Ed speaks of is true. Too many of us have seen fellow rail enthusiasts who are cranky, crabby, know-it-alls who let you know they know it all. Others are incredibly rude and crude; I still remember attempting to pace 4501, and waiting in a driveway (and on the alert to move out if someone had to come in or out of said driveway), when some guy with New Jersey license plates backs in ahead of me, and he and all of his people get out of the car, blocking me (and the owners of the house) in the driveway. I tried to tell him that I didn't want to block him in, but all I got was a rude remark that I won't repeat here.

The experience ruined pacing for me.

Much has also been made of how too many of us don't always treat the real railroaders as well as we should, and that has apparently included critics of the Norfolk Southern heritage diesel program, with disputes about the right shade of blue and the choice of the paint scheme. What a bunch of goons we must seem to be!

Anyway, I plan to send a letter to somebody there to let them know I appreciate what they are doing, that I am glad they are happy to be a railroad and to recall their past so well. Who knows, maybe some encouragement may bring other things.

In that spirit, I have this video to share. It's a talk by a former mayor of a town in California, who sadly passed away at only 46. It's about communicating and influencing people in an old-fashioned way. I never met him, but judging from this presentation, I wish I had.

http://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_pol ... paper.html


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:19 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:07 am
Posts: 1114
Location: Northeastern US
That's terrific, thanks for posting this link.

Stephen


Last edited by Stephen Hussar on Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:13 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
It helps when a museum has workshop and storage areas where the general public is discouraged from entering. Those members who have a lot to contribute to the preservation effort, but don't deal well with the public can work undisturbed, while members who enjoy talking about the collection and the museum can be out and about interacting with the visitors. Ideally, those who are the "public face" of the museum know when to "lay on the detail" and when to give "the executive summary". This is a particularly useful skill when dealing with groups that include small children.

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Bob Davis
Southern California


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:29 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 252
Location: Baltimore
It's also good to remember that our "visitors" are in reality our customers. Too many times this is overlooked by those who operate museums and tourist railroads. -- Ray


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:53 pm 
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Posts: 380
Location: Between Things
Ray, for a museum that is 501(c)(3) visitors are our students, i.e., they are far more than just customers. Our job is to teach them about their railroad heritage as embodied in our museum. Or I should say, "their museum".

I know a few of the old boys still think it is their "club."

Marty

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Marty Bernard
Boomer Volunteer
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In Rhode Island, it is illegal to operate a passenger car between a locomotive and a load of dirt.


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:44 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 252
Location: Baltimore
"Students" are still customers first--not just customers. That's why there's so much competition amongst educational institutions to attract those customers.

Just because an organization is a 501(c)(3) organization that may be able to attract grants and other donations, it still depends on satisfying its customers and convincing them everyday that its mission is worthwhile and deserving of its 501(c)(3) classification. -- Ray


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:51 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:58 am
Posts: 728
It helps when a certain level of decorum is expected of staff, whether paid or volunteer, and those who don't measure up are dealt with in one way or another.

Of course we're extremely concerned with our client community (students, customers, etc) as their dissatisfaction hits directly in revenue loss. However, don't forget that one obnoxious individual could easily cost dozens of very talented, team- focused volunteers.

Hopefully education, persuasion, etc will do the trick and redeem the individual, but tough cases come along where the individual, despite any useful talents, does far more harm than good and really needs to be removed.

Of course, this requires a mature organization that has the strength and confidence to deal with these issues. The "old boy's club" structure typically won't deal with such issues, if they even recognize such issues are present.

How many museums/ tourist railways have procedures for dealing with these situations?

Steve Hunter


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:29 am 

Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 1:57 pm
Posts: 13
This is a subject that comes up from time to time, and I've commented before and will do so again as it's something I have personal experience with and strong feelings about.

Just briefly (again) I visited regularly and when old enough volunteered at a museum in the Seattle area. The staff there was a loose organization of guys headed by (or so it seemed) a complete ass. I didn't want to run the engine or even ride the train, I wanted to learn. I was hard working, smart and very interested. I didn't mind menial work, I welcomed it and in return was treated like an idiot. I kept after it for longer than I should have, then reluctantly quit and have not worked in the hobby since.

Here is my advice. If there is someone who is anti-social or behaves as described above, get rid of them. Just do it. No amount of talent is worth having a liability like this in contact with your supporters or your staff. You never know who is going to walk through the gate and contribute (or not) either monetarily or with knowledge and skill. Surprisingly once they are gone, someone will come along and fill their shoes, that's a fact. Everyone is replaceable.

Cheers, Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:27 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:04 pm
Posts: 63
I couldn't agree more with all the posts here as they all ring true with the hobby, which if we are not careful and welcome families, students, and interested parties into the tent, will wither and die in the next fifty years.

From what was discussed here, many areas of the country have the same pattern of boorish behavior: new people who want to know more about the hobby are dismissed by the "dowagers" who were there in the "glory years" of steam and passenger trains. All of the photos and artifacts that were meticulously collected by them (there were exceptions)weren't shared with others, and were put into the dumpster when they passed on. The behavior to newcomers was so bad, my Father refused to take me to the local NRHS chapter meetings because of it.

Boorish behavior still continues on fan trips, with nobody really speaking out about it. At Trainfest in 2011, a photo runby was scheduled at West Liberty, IA. While everyone got into line, one of the "dowagers" (bald,portly, mid-60's) went onto the tracks and stayed there until the engine was about eight hundred feet form him, then stepped off after "HE GOT HIS", then guffawed in front of the station with his peerage class that, "that was one for the FRA". These are the types of people who turned off railroads to the exact trip many enjoyed that day, and turned off a generation of rail enthusiasts because its all about them.

While much positive work has been accomplished in the last two decades to attract the next generation of railfans, there still remains a good deal of bad behavior in the museum volunteer ranks. This is usually condoned by the officers who decry who else will do the work they do. A Museum cannot afford to condone bad behavior by members to the general public. If you can't be civil with the general public, then perform your task when they are not there, or take up another hobby.

We're at the crossroads in the hobby. We can continue to attract new people who want to learn more and eventually be the next generation of preservationists, tourist operators, etc.,

Or we can talk about shades of blue in an insular fashion.


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:46 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
62Hillcrest wrote:
Just briefly (again) I visited regularly and when old enough volunteered at a museum in the Seattle area. The staff there was a loose organization of guys headed by (or so it seemed) a complete ass. I didn't want to run the engine or even ride the train, I wanted to learn. I was hard working, smart and very interested. I didn't mind menial work, I welcomed it and in return was treated like an idiot. I kept after it for longer than I should have, then reluctantly quit and have not worked in the hobby since.

Here is my advice. If there is someone who is anti-social or behaves as described above, get rid of them. Just do it. No amount of talent is worth having a liability like this in contact with your supporters or your staff. You never know who is going to walk through the gate and contribute (or not) either monetarily or with knowledge and skill. Surprisingly once they are gone, someone will come along and fill their shoes, that's a fact. Everyone is replaceable.


When I read this, the first thing that came to my mind was "Oh, so because some superior of yours was a 'complete ass,' that entitles YOU to be the same ass later?"

Everyone is replaceable, if you're just looking for people to plop their butts in a chair in front of a TV set or if you're seeking cannon fodder or pop idol fans.

The reality is that you're looking for people with this specific talent set:
*Must be interested enough in railroading to be willing to do things in or about a railroad environment (unless you're using convict, military-training or community-service labor, this automatically eliminates about 99.8% of the public);
*Must be knowledgeable enough, or trainable, to work safely, efficiently, and effectively;
*must be willing to do what has to be done, not necessarily what they want to do;
*must "play well with others," be it the public, fellow crew members, or even supervisors (folks CAN do a solo project off in the corner or at home, as long as it still furthers the overall mission).

And this is all before we even discuss steam-versus-diesel, or special talents in woodworking, public relations, or computer skills.

If YOU have a crowd to choose from where everyone is replaceable, more power to you. I'm in a major metropolitan area, and I can tell you that we STILL don't have "enough" bodies at our rail museums, shops, etc.

There's another thing to consider: "anti-social" and "poor social skills" are not necessarily the same. Someone who is absolutely "toxic" or caustic--the smelly guy who can't talk without swearing--should be shunted away from the public, yes, and maybe even your membership

I happened to work with another non-profit that happens to have a hierarchical structure much like most rail museum groups. I watch one member that I ran across on the group's Internet forums. It quickly transpired that he was quite sharp in the field of study of the group--one of those "walking encyclopedias," if you will, full of good ideas about the group's management. However, in person, he was almost the opposite--he was borderline autistic, had a speech impediment, stammered and stuttered, and frankly was just not good-looking. But online, he was brilliant.

I nominated the guy for a higher position within the group, specifically saying he should be a web board moderator and possibly public-relations writer/administrator (he had his head screwed on straight in those regards, trust me). I immediately got brickbats for my actions: "How could you nominate that retard?" It was obvious that most of them weren't interacting with him, except in person, and rejecting him on that basis alone, and I was wandering through the same kind of "schoolyard' popularity contests I had left years earlier. (It didn't help that a lot of the others in the group were young, fresh out of high school or college.) My nomination sank like a lead balloon. It was one of the reasons I eventually left that group. That guy, as far as I know, is still plugging away with them, consigned to be a "grunt" for the rest of his days for no other reason than the others won't look past a speech impediment. And considering that, for all practical purposes, the group itself can be called a bunch of misfit nerds themselves (think a comic-book society or sci-fi literary/film society). that's pretty damning.

In our NRHS Chapter, the second oldest in the nation now, we still go through a formality of voting in an applicant to the Chapter/Society, unless he's already a member of another Chapter. During one meeting, after a vote approving a member, I spoke up, publicly, to our Membership Chairman, in his 80's and in that position for decades:
"Bob, has this Chapter EVER rejected a membership applicant?"
"Ummmmmm..... Not that I ever know of or heard."
"Bob, has any applicant EVER even received a 'nay' vote against his application??"
"....... [thinks for fifteen seconds].... ONE time. Back somewhere in the '60s, [name withheld] voted against [name withheld] because he said he sat next to him on a train excursion, and the guy wouldn't stop talking and talked his ear off! [laughter among the meeting attendees] That was the only 'nay' vote against a member I ever remember!"


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:50 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:37 pm
Posts: 1055
Location: Pacific, MO
People like the guy who got on the tracks should get acquainted with ballast, one stone at a time. Rudeness seems to be the prevailing way of life in these days along with the I'm entitled attitude.
I'm hoping the pendulum swings back toward courtesy, respect and politeness some day but I don't think at my age I will live long enough to see it.
Sad


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:45 pm 

Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 1:57 pm
Posts: 13
I've been concerned in the past when I've posted this opinion that it would be taken the wrong way, and I understand completely Sandy.It's hard to say it the way you want to on an internet forum. I've found that you can and should learn as much from your negative experiences as the positive, and I hope I have. Sure, it sounds like the "poor me"story of some whiny kid who got worked too hard by some tough old bird who....Well, there's a big difference between "cantankerous" or "quirky" and someone who's just plain mean-spirited.

The environment I work in now is very much like you mention (I manage a sand and gravel/rock crushing company with 45 employees) ranging from the specialized skills guys, to oilers who do anything and everything, which is where I started. My management style is probably not universally loved, but I don't think anyone has ever called me unfair either. I do know from 22 years at this that there is nothing more detrimental to the people who make this place work than the "toxic" individual you speak of, and no matter how good they are, it will eventually bring everything down. It is difficult, sometimes nearly impossible to find qualified people so you/I cannot just walk around firing someone for being a mouth breather, but there are people who simply have to go if you want the place to run.

Here's an example. Had a guy here who was amazingly talented and I knew him pretty well, but was the most difficult person to be around, possibly on earth. Problem was, he was so good we or I didn't know what to do without him, but it got to the point where he was creating a hostile work environment (to qoute our friends at L&I) so I pulled the plug. Oddly enough, one of the guys who had been working under him and had been one of his targets stepped up and took his place, so much so that we/I don't miss him at all, not even a little...Harmony is more important than melody sometimes.

Cheers, Dave

Ooooohh, one thing I meant to add. I didn't cut off my nose to spite my face,precervation-wise. I contribute financially as much as possible to some of my favorites, and to the org.that got me into steam in the first place, after being invited up to the cab by Mr. McCormack and Mr. Wheelihan of the AFT when I was 14. These two guys spent the time to explain and answer when their only real responsibility was the locomotive and train, not to host some nosy kid interrupting their lunch...They weren't what you would consider "warm an fuzzy" but they were/are decent and encouraging. They were the reason I volunteered in the first place.


Last edited by 62Hillcrest on Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:57 pm
Posts: 162
Location: Eastampton, NJ
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
In our NRHS Chapter, the second oldest in the nation now, we still go through a formality of voting in an applicant to the Chapter/Society, unless he's already a member of another Chapter. During one meeting, after a vote approving a member, I spoke up, publicly, to our Membership Chairman, in his 80's and in that position for decades:
"Bob, has this Chapter EVER rejected a membership applicant?"
"Ummmmmm..... Not that I ever know of or heard."
"Bob, has any applicant EVER even received a 'nay' vote against his application??"
"....... [thinks for fifteen seconds].... ONE time. Back somewhere in the '60s, [name withheld] voted against [name withheld] because he said he sat next to him on a train excursion, and the guy wouldn't stop talking and talked his ear off! [laughter among the meeting attendees] That was the only 'nay' vote against a member I ever remember!"


Your organization is holding that nearly proforma vote so that it is harder to be taken over by hostile interests. Consider the situation in Michigan a few years ago where the real estate developer and his hundreds of nimby friends joined by mail and tried to take over the board so that the right of way could be sold. A membership approval vote could have prevented the whole problem. Any organization with substantial assets should be able to protect themselves from a hostile takeover, preferably without going to court.

-Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:47 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:07 pm
Posts: 964
Location: Leicester, MA.
I'll admit, of all of the preservationists and railfans I know, there's only two that have social problems. There's me (learning to shut my trap is harder than one would imagine), but then there's my mentor Dennis. He's one of the more social people that I know, yet says he's anti-social. That could be due in part to trust and respect. You have to earn it first because you can't expect that you'll be accepted automatically.

Then there's the people who don't even realize they're being rude or stuck-up just because of their nature. Learning you're being rude and stuck-up is really the only way to break that cycle (more personal experience).

But I do see some way to help those stuck-up people by getting them involved because they will get the opportunity to interact with the many different types of people, and after the experience begins to set in from such interactions, they will begin to realize their demeanor might not be one that draws the attention of others. Really the only way such an approach can work is if said people are subtly guided by those involved (they should also be able to tolerate the different personalities of those around them). I guess my summer internship was good for more than spreadsheets and data organization!

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Dylan M. Lambert


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 Post subject: Re: Social Skills
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 4:18 pm
Posts: 216
Location: Pittsburgh PA
There's a lot more to being a "public face" of your organization than many realize. Knowing how to yammer on about Worthington BL vs. SA feedwater heaters doesn't necessarily qualify you as the tour guide to end all tour guides.

One skill I think many are missing is the ability to feel out their audience. Back in English class, knowing your audience was pushed hard, but it seems to be a lost art for some. For instance, the aforementioned feedwater heater - I've seen many representatives who don't always understand that the mother with her three children are going to be turned off pretty quick if you're throwing that level of detail at them. They may also think you're a little senile, by the way. A good tour guide, car host, whatever, will (usually) be able to know when to keep it general.

By the same token, I believe if you're out on a trip / giving a tour / answering the phone, you're representing not only your organization, but yourself and your colleagues. Take a little pride! If you have a member who can't hold a conversation without dropping f-bombs or discussing their preferences of female figures, banish them to needle-scaling the inside of your tender. Or at least try to limit their public interaction. As someone else pointed out, you never know when the next potential check-writer's going to walk through your door.

I'm admittedly a little hell-bent, if that's possible, on dispelling the stereotypes that come along with trains as an interest. In addition to dabbling in "real" railroading, I'm involved in O-Scale trains as well, and they share a lot of the same types of "black sheep." Nothing grinds my gears more than train collectors or railfans that don't bathe, take no pride in their appearance, or are petrified of talking to a g-g-g-g-girl. I confess, I cringe at pot bellies hanging out from under gigantic silk-screened train t-shirts with $1000 digital SLR's hanging around the neck, yelling "more black smoke" while ignoring the donation jar.

Maybe more to the point, I guess I'm intrigued by the idea of proving that "normal" people can be into this stuff too, and are in fact the majority. I'm marrying a pretty girl, like sports, go to a gym, bathe regularly, have friends (some that don't even like trains, gasp!), have other hobbies that aren't trains (double gasp!) and don't live in my parents basement. Then again, as I'm preparing for marathon #2, I'm told that I'm disqualified from the "normal" category.

Perhaps that's why I've always loved RYPN. Most of you folks are the real deal!


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