Author: Campbell, Bruce

It's ALL Politics

Once upon a time I was part of a three person startup company. We worked like hell, and eventually, things got prosperous enough that we needed to hire someone. So, we did, and it was good. Then, things got more prosperous, and we hired another person. And there was office politics. It wasnít office politics of the vicious, backstabbing variety, but politics it was. Employee number one knew instinctively how to check privately with management before suggesting something that would affect employee number two. Then, if employee number two had an issue with employee number oneís actions, they were stymied by employee number oneís political maneuverings.

I had naively thought that if leadership was wise and benevolent (which I felt we were), there would be no need for office politics. But itís just human nature, and a little intrigue, politicking and compromise are the lubricant that keeps business and social engines running.

The same lubricant is at the heart of the CBAís engine. It is the only way a ship with 11 steering wheels can effectively move in any particular direction. And getting your hands on one of those 11 steering wheels requires intelligent and fervent application of the same techniques. Many people find this daunting.

The CBA Board Election is approaching and the Board is actively encouraging folks to consider running for a position on the Board of Directors. Much is made of the amount of work that is expected of members of the Board, and itís true, but generally, big jobs are handled by those who do big jobs well, and multiple littler (but no less important) jobs fall to those who thrive in that role. So, the work involved really oughtnít be a frightening prospect Ė itís a convivial atmosphere and there is great satisfaction in participating in the process.

What isnít as well known is how to actually get elected. Itís politics, after all. So, you have to do some politicking. Recently, a potential candidate posted a ďmessage of intentĒ on the Message Board Ė a trial balloon, if you will, and found himself the center of some probably unwanted passionate responses. And a lot of the potential candidateís honest effort to become involved and good intentions became obscured as a result. Floating a trial balloon is a standard political maneuver, but itís important to portray your candidacy in positive terms. Speak about what you will bring to the Board, what you will do, what your qualifications are, and what you believe in.

Your platform may involve intentions to make big changes in the organization, but no one Board member can, by themselves, effect those changes. So, you shouldnít promise, or threaten big things before youíve built a coalition to accomplish these goals. You risk appearing arrogant or naÔve at best, and delusional at worst. If your ideas are good, their merits will speak for themselves Ė no need to denigrate anybodyís else ideas or efforts.

First and foremost, you need potential voters to know who you are, and what you stand for. There are two principal ways to do this: The CBA Message Board and face-to-face conversations. If youíre an active participant in the Message Board, you already have some visibility. Think about what impressions youíve made thus far, and what impressions you want to make moving forward.

The second way is also easier than you think Ė Bluegrass is a very social music, so you probably participate in jams and socializing at Festivals and these are a great chance to chat with potential voters and let them know youíre running, and solicit comments, questions and advice. In fact, you will NEED to do this to collect the required number of signatures on a petition to actually be a candidate. However, when collecting signatures for your petition Ė let your signers know that a signature isnít necessarily an endorsement of your candidacy Ė only your desire to be a candidate.

Once youíve submitted the requisite number of signatures on a ballot, you will be considered a candidate, and asked to submit a candidate statement. Be succinct Ė donít ramble. The voters will be reading a big number of these statements, and you donít want to lose your readersí attention before youíve said your piece. So tell them directly, why you would be an effective Board Member, what skills you offer, what you believe, and why you deserve the readerís vote.

Then, over a few months, the votes trickle in. And I DO mean trickle. Every year, it seems that itís a nail biter as we wait to see if the quorum is reached. Come October, you will find out if youíve won. If you lose, itís not the end of the world, and it should not be taken as a sign that you shouldnít run again. Also, keep in mind that many, if not most, of the things that Board members do donít HAVE to be done by Board members. If you cared enough to run for the seat, but didnít make it, go ahead and let it be known that youíre still willing to take on some work for the CBA.

If you DO win, you will be welcomed with open arms. Your energy, and your ideas will be welcomed, and you will be very helpful for a wonderful organization. Thereís not much glamour Ė no limo rides, red carpets, expense accounts or pork-barrel junkets. You will have a lot of fun, and meet a lot of terrific people. Youíll also learn a lot about politics, and itís REALLY interesting!
Posted:  5/13/2009

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