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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

My experience with “Cancel Culture”, Part 12 – Lessons Learned Part 4

Cancel culture, leadership, management
People seek power for many reasons and not all are good!

“It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.” Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter

“Never give a clown too many balls to juggle.” Will Leamon

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! If you haven’t read the story, you can find it beginning on my October 14 post. 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: https://www.projectmanagementforum.net/post/my-experience-with-cancel-culture-part-1-background

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

Lesson 7) Hold to your standards, no matter what the cost. I have operated at the C-Suite level for decades, so I should not have made the mistakes that I did. The problem was how I framed the issue. I didn’t view any of these issues as a “corporate” problem, rather volunteers contributing their time to an organization. Some of the behavior I observed would not have been tolerated in my workspace, but I rationalized it by saying “It’s OK, they are just volunteers.”.

Huge mistake.

Have you ever heard of the boiling frog fable? The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out. But if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is a metaphor cautioning people to be aware of gradual change that ultimately leads to an undesirable outcome.

The signs were all there. The casual attitude toward critical controls, lax inventory methods, poor accounting practices, and a dismissive attitude toward rules and standards should have all been early warning signs. I recognized these problems, but I wanted to get along with my friends. My standards should have taken precedence over my desire to fit in.

And they weren’t my friends.

8) None of this is about logic, it is about power. My friend and I were reluctant volunteers. We both have jobs, businesses, and a lot of outside interests. We joined because we wanted a social setting where we could make friends and enjoy good environment with our families. None of the positions, formalities or opportunities of the institution held any appeal for us!

But for some of the members of the board, the institution was a profit center. They used their positions to generate sales leads, gain exclusive contracts and even pay themselves directly for “services”. They needed the organization.

While my friend and I were trying to move the organization forward in a positive and rational way, several members of the board were just focused on their personal needs. In some instances those needs were ego driven (look at me, I am the….!) and in other instances they were financial. Because we didn’t need the organization for anything, we were an existential threat. If they lost power, they lost everything.

No facts or logic could change their opinion. Even when we presented hard evidence of our charges against the leader of the organization, they were ignored. It was never about process or facts.

It was about raw power.

Next week will be the final post in this series.


This series touched a nerve. My web traffic is at an all time high and I have had several private messages about other people’s experience with “cancel culture”. The last installment with contain the greatest lesson from this experience. After that I am going to refocus on Project Management and "pure" management issues. Thanks for all your support!


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