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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

My experience with “Cancel Culture”, Part 10 – Lessons Learned Part 2

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Project management, leadership, cancel culture
Without virtue, an organization is lost.

“Useful men, who do useful things, don't mind being treated as useless. But the useless always judge themselves as being important and hide all their incompetence behind authority.” Paulo Coelho

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” Mark Twain

I was a victim of “cancel culture”.

In the beginning I wasn’t even aware it was happening. I went from being the second in command of a non-profit to being completely removed from that organization in less than 6 weeks! Had I realized I was being canceled; I might have prevailed.

If you haven’t read the story, you can find it beginning on my October 14 post here:

Learn from my mistakes. I am going to provide you with a list of lessons learned. Some will be obvious in hindsight, all with be useful.

Lesson 3) They will begin the war without declaring it. As a career executive and a Project Management Professional, I value transparency and honesty in relationships. Whenever I have a “conflict” with someone, I know that it is my responsibility to resolve it in the first instance. So I tried to do so. Even after the leader was clearly fabricating facts and was targeting my friend and me, I still felt I could salvage the relationship. We were both volunteers and I still believed we both wanted what was best for the organization. I believed we could find common ground.

I went back to work on making the organization a better place for the members. I moved to install adequate controls, train the staff, and understand the finances of the organization. I prepared my reports for the upcoming board meeting. As I was pulling together that information, I realized that virtually every performance indicator that I was responsible for was moving in the right direction! I was excited to report our progress at the next meeting.

While we were working, he was plotting. He drew up “charges” and manufactured “evidence”. He identified vulnerable members of the board and got their support. Even as we were having one on one discussions about different issues, he never mentioned any concerns or suggested I needed to make any modifications. I thought we were working together.

He had already gone to war.

Lesson 4) Don’t count on the process to protect you. Processes are only as good as the people responsible for administering them. The United States Founding Fathers warned that no system can survive being administered by people who lack virtue, and my experience validates the wisdom of their fears. The specific processes outlined in the by-laws for removal from either the board or from the organization itself were not followed. The timelines were ignored, evidence was altered, and the membership was kept in the dark about the proceedings.

The processes were administered without virtue.

Once the people responsible for administering the “rules” decide to wield them for personal reasons, people will be harmed and the organization will suffer.

This is true for non-profits, corporations, and government at every level.


My father used to say: “Even a good driver will get a ticket if the police follow them around all day.” That always made sense to me. We are imperfect and even a good person who is trying to follow the rules will make mistakes. Expand that to anything you do! We live in a complicated world governed by a Byzantine labyrinth of rules and regulations. People are human and make mistakes. I have my own saying based on 30 years in a large and complicated organization: “Nobody cares until someone cares, then everyone cares.” Think about that and convince me I am wrong.


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