In response to a question on why some work had been delayed or at least incomplete the response was: they gave the job to a 23 year old woman. I sat there and didn’t call out the ageism and the sexism. Somehow implicit in the words was that it was not the fault of the person doing the work, but those who had appointed her. There was power playing at every level. I didn’t call that out either. I witnessed. There was nothing inherently wrong with stating the facts, yet why was the age and the gender relevant at all? I know some pretty amazing people who were delivering in their twenties and some now in their twenties doing the same. Maybe whoever appointed her to the work believed in her, just as someone believed in me when I was early in my career, maybe those who appointed her didn’t understand the brief or were struggling in some way themselves, maybe what was delivered back was OK, but didn’t match expectations … who knows and how relevant anyhow to my promise to tomorrow? In our parliament this week there has been abuse, defections, loss – all pointing to a lack of a shared vision for a country, and we can all see how that approach is working and spilling into fuelling fear and hatred all around the world from Syria to Moscow to Washington. Lets start naming what binds us together, not what keeps us apart.
I have lost my vigilance on sexism and ageism for the young. Going to the edge of our discomfort and acting from that place becoming vulnerable and speaking your truth doesn’t need to take others down with you. Holding your integrity and honouring difference is a quest. Consensus building takes time, requires space and demands commitment. I have served boards and been on governing bodies and in teams where consensus decision making was the only way forward – taking everyone with us. I thank the Quakers for all their teachings around this, Marshall Rosenberg for non-violence communication skills and for all the people whose arguments I endured before decisions were made. I thank the people who taught me to stop and take time for silence and to have a break in proceedings before a decision was taken and who insisted each person have time to speak and explain their position and hold the responsibility to devise a solution if they were going to block the decision.
Decisions take time to arrive. All the voices need to be heard, all the facts on the table, all the advice in the room, feelings expressed and respected.
My promise to tomorrow is to continue to practice my consensus making muscle to leave no one behind. I can’t see a tomorrow without a shared vision of where we all want to go on this little blue planet. That is going to bring me close to the edge often and on watch for baby steps that can be taken to address the divisions inherent in our language and actions to build a future for us all. I hope I am travelling with others who can hold me to account and get in my way so I can develop my consensus building practice.