Monday, August 01, 2011

Testing Times

My last post here was on March 11, 2010 - that's one year, four months and three weeks ago. I had promised to keep writing, and then fell prey to the simplicity and ease of the short and sweet 'share', 'like', and 'status update' buttons on facebook. Plus nothing really inspired me enough - perhaps I have been in an emotional limbo all this while.

Till last week when two big new things happened to me.

The first was a relatively simple learning experience. As part of LMG's Cyberquest month, every employee has to get Google certified, and go through rigorous social and mobile media immersion. We were given study material for two weeks, which I ignored, made to attend a three hour lecture, which I enjoyed, and then given our passwords for the Google Fundamentals two hour test, which I completed in ninety minutes, got 77% marks and failed. Passing score is 85%.

The test itself was so well crafted that you learned with each and every question and multiple choice answer. Most people take three attempts to pass it, learning more with each attempt. I was greatly impressed by the Google approach to business - a unique truly value enhancing model that all our media partners could learn from.

The second was a more complicated but equally useful learning experience. At the Annual General Meeting of an important trade association, where I embroiled myself self righteously in a proxy war, without having a single proxy of my own!

Without the benefit of study material, lecture or test, I have downloaded this definition from Wikipedia, to better understand exactly what it was that happened.

"A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly.

Proxy wars have also been fought alongside full-scale conflicts. It is almost impossible to have a pure proxy war, as the groups fighting for a certain nation usually have their own interests, which can diverge from those of their patron.

Typically proxy wars function best during cold wars, as they become a necessity in conducting armed conflict between at least two belligerents while continuing cold warfare."

My opponent, a person I consider a close friend, had informed me about the general mood of the house against my continuance as Vice President. Despite the 'great job' I did in running Goafest 2011 with all its complications, my open dissent with the way affairs are conducted within the governing body did not find favour with, what I affectionately call, the Old Boys Club. That I am a woman, a christian woman, a single woman, and a woman with a mind of my own, could not have made it easy for them to understand me, much as I have tried to understand what motivates them, and to accept that power and ego are powerful drivers for men who are business leaders, even as women prefer to make a difference in more subtle and creative ways.

What I did not know was that he wanted the job for himself instead. Had he even once told me this himself, I would have gladly stepped aside for him. Instead I found myself 'accosted' by other friends and frenemies, each espousing his case, a few minutes before the meeting. Unwilling to given in to pressure, and genuinely believing that in standing down I would be doing my own good work and good intentions a disservice, I told the house that I would 'rather lose'. Whereupon an election was swiftly called for by some of the members of the Old Boys Club. Members who came armed with proxies, no less that 40 of them! Against one woman and her two colleagues and two friends in the house.

As the election committee went about putting the ballot process together, the frantic parlays began across the room. I finally understood what 'mastering the art of working the floor of the house' means. Doing good work, hard work - oh all that is passe, what counts in some governing bodies like this one (thankfully not others) is how well you work the floor. I didn't. I had no qualms about declaring openly to anyone who wanted to know, that I would not pressurise anyone, nor would I yield to pressure from anyone.

Before the voting began, I was called aside with my friend-turned-opponent, and two offers were made.

The first one was this - we both stand down, and a third person be appointed. I refused it, thinking if it wasn't in my fate to be Vice President for another term, at least it would be my friend-turned-opponent. But he agreed to it! That's when I realised that he was as much against my continuance as the rest of the OBC. Anyone but me, anyone (not even him) but me. Perhaps, as he said, he was under pressure too. Someone else - another Old Boy - had been 'requested' to withdraw his own candidature on the assurance that my friend would become the VP instead of me. How they must all dislike me, or feel threatened by me, who knows!

The second offer was unbelievable. The holder of the proxies would ensure that I got re-elected if I asked one of my colleagues, who was already elected into the governing body, to step aside and withdraw his valid candidature. Why? Because a few months earlier, this young man had the temerity to stand up to the Old Boys, calling out some of their unjust ways in no uncertain terms, and crossing the line of propriety along the way. Though he did subsequently apologise as abjectly as he could, the Old Boys are senior of age and status, but not necessarily of heart and stature, and here was the chance to find vindication. I rejected this offer, unequivocally.

I lost 50 votes to 5. The proxies weren't even needed. But they were used.

I thought I would feel defeated. I don't. I feel stronger than ever. I don't give up, and I don't give in. There is anther year to go, another year to see if I can pick up the skills to work the floor. Without betraying my friends, my values, my integrity. Maybe I will learn, maybe I won't - it would be good to find out. At least I know that I can push back my shoulders, lift up my chin and walk into the next meeting with a genuine smile on my face for all those in the Governing Body who I do love and respect, including those in the OBC!


The one said...

pretty young and new to all this. But hats off. Only those people can make the difference to system are those who "think" they can. rest all welcome to join OBC.

joski said...

Just read this. Completely with you on this.
We desperately need change in this fraternity. This 'old boys club' needs to be shaken up for sure.

Anonymous said...