Assisting with Landmark Education

I took an assisting [1] position at Landmark some years ago, as “Production Supervisor” for a seminar series. This position consisted of managing a small team (5 people, I think.) We were responsible for all aspects of the production and logistics of this seminar series. There were ten seminar sessions, one per week with a few breaks. This meant the assisting position was (mercifully) time-bound.

I learned that, when your team is unpaid, the only acceptable way to relate to their contributions is with gratitude. I learned because that’s not how I handled it. I think everyone on the team was late at least once. (I was never late–that’s a decision I made for my life a long time ago. If I’m not where I say I’m going to be and haven’t called ahead, you better start looking for a body someplace.)

One woman on the team was late every week though. Maybe she was on time once or twice, but I don’t think so. So, every week, the seminar leader would have a conversation with her–the same conversation–about what happened, and that she was going to be on time the next week. The next week, it would be the same thing. Of course, I never said anything; I just quietly resented her the whole time.

The assistant seminar leader is or was an actor, and every time I talked to him, he seemed completely fake to me. Not credible. Of course, I never said anything to him or anyone. I just quietly resented him and resisted anything he told me.

I did a lot; in terms of doing things, I was great. (Mostly this was because I didn’t like asking people to do things, so I would do them myself. My team spent a lot of time idle because I wouldn’t ask them to do anything.)

I gave the Right Answers and did the Right Thing and was mostly bored and frustrated with what I was doing. The seminar came off just fine, people got what they wanted and needed; it worked out just fine.

A few years later, I was the Production Supervisor for a Landmark Forum. That’s a much bigger deal. I was also much better at it; they would say that I went from “doing” Production Supervisor, to “Being” Production Supervisor. I loved my team, absolutely loved them. I loved what I did. The most profound part was how quickly things happened and then were done. There was no wallowing in what just went badly, or gloating over what just went well. The past had to be disposed of immediately in order to make room for the present.

I had this great system I came up with. During each segment of the Landmark Forum (2.5 – 3 hours long) there are things that have to happen. I prepared sticky notes for each thing during each segment, so I could just silently hand them to people and the thing would get done. That was awesome.

I made sure to ask everyone before they started if there was “anything in their space,” and to “get it complete.” I made sure before they left that they got to say everything they needed to say, and that I’d noticed something they’d done that I appreciated; I made sure they were left validated and glad they’d been there.

The break before the last session of the last night was 90 minutes, I think, and 30 minutes in, it was obvious we were not going to be ready in time. There was a second team of people to handle a different aspect of the program, and their procedures had changed. As a result, there kept being this argument between people who’d been there all weekend, and people who knew the procedures had changed. We needed an extra hundred or so chairs in the room, and they were not getting moved fast enough. People on my team didn’t know what to do. I froze up, and the course supervisor (a formidable woman, to whom I reported directly) had to take over to get things back on track.

Everything did get done, but I was not OK after that point. After the session had started, I got up to make needed copies of paperwork we were going to need. That’s really something that should be handled by someone on the team, not the supervisor. So the assistant course supervisor (a young man who looks like he just walked off the set of The Matrix) asked if I was alright, and I totally lost my cookies. I had to go home. A couple of days later, I got to speak directly to the Landmark Forum Leader, and she suggested that perhaps it would be best if we got some distance, as I wasn’t quite equipped to handle the stresses and rigor of Landmark-style operation.

In the time since then, I’ve started to see some problems present with Landmark that I couldn’t see while I was inside. These are all topics for other blog posts.

This post has been long and meandering. There’s no moral, and I don’t have a point in sharing it. It’s more that this has been weighing on me and I needed to express it. Thanks for reading; I hope this does some good.

[1] – ‘Assisting,’ in Landmark’s terms means something similar to volunteering, but without the connotation. Volunteering suggests that you are helping someone do something they can’t do on their own. Assisting with Landmark is very clear that the vision is shared between all parties, the roles are defined with precision and great dignity, and

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