Can I call you Jim? I feel like you’re the kind of guy that would want me to call you Jim.
I don’t know if you remember me. I volunteered for you back when you were a federal MP – actually one afternoon during a membership drive in Frank Hickey’s office I met the love of my life. That’s a long story though, but I do hope to tell you in person one day. If you don’t remember me, that’s ok, just know that I still support you, and I support our Party. I’m a concerned Party supporter, and I have been for some time.
I know you’re really busy right now. There is a lot to do and people are expecting big things in the next two weeks. I’m excited; I get the sense you’re committed to the change in government people want to see.
Albertans are waiting – and Albertans are important to convince of the change. But I’m writing today to ask you to please not forget about the change our Party members are also waiting to see.
You see Jim, our last leader forgot about that. When our last leader had the political clout to come in and really shake things up at the party level she didn’t. Right now, you have the clout to ruffle feathers and get our ship in order. A ship we need in order to fight by-elections, and regular elections.
Our Party has served for over 40 years because of its strong grassroots. I remember being a teenager on Calgary-Shaw and being so excited to truly know that my voice mattered. I had incredible political mentors on that board, including the MLA, Cindy Ady, that encouraged me to always stand up for what I believe in, challenge the things that I didn’t, and to always push our Party to be the best it could be. As a board I believe we did that.
We have a grassroots problem Jim. Our grassroots don’t feel that excitement anymore because that’s missing.
I believe the culture of an organization changes as soon as a new leader shows up. It changes by their example.
After your example (which at this point I don’t think is an issue) it is important for you to show that you understand that there is a problem in our Party right now. I think you understand that and more importantly I think you will be committed to that. But please don’t wait too long to show your commitment.
Great leadership attracts other great leaders, that’s great. But I also believe that great leaders need to start by proactively recruiting other great leaders. We need a great team. And a great team doesn’t mean people that have surrounded this Party for years, and are loyal soldiers, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they have specific government experience. A great team for our Party means a group of people with complimentary skill-sets, passion, and experience. And I’m not talking about our caucus team (I believe you’re already dealing with that), I’m talking about our PCAA team including the positions in our Party office and on our Party Board of Directors. These positions shouldn’t be rewards or favors, they should be based on who can best do the job that we need them to do.
And I think we both know that the job we need them to do over the next 2 years is a big job. Volunteer or full time staff – both of these will be stretched to their maximum potential and that has to be what they expect. And they have to be excited about that … and willing to get their hands dirty. We don’t need more people telling us what to do, we need more people just doing it. And if they are excited that will trickle down and re-excite the grassroots.
Personally I don’t want the loyal soldier type at the top of our grassroots organization. I want people who are willing to ask questions, challenge, and push us in a new direction.
Jim, I’m going to be honest, that’s not happening right now. I’ve chatted with many, and have my own examples, but when the grassroots speaks up … speaks up with the purpose of bettering our Party … we’re told we’re hurting our Party, we don’t understand our Party, and we’re against our Party. Jim, if we were against our Party we’d be gone already to either the left or the right.
Something has kept us here – waiting – wanting change. Maybe it’s because we know that the culture of fear and punishment isn’t really what our Party is based on and that we were just waiting for a new leader to set a new example.
There are some important dates coming up that I’m sure your talented transition team has in mind, but I thought I’d remind you. I believe you can use these dates to start setting an example …. and a direction for our Party.
September 20 is our next PCAA Board of Directors meeting. This will be exciting – I wish I could be a fly on the wall. I hope that you will discuss the following and ensure that the Board communicates it in a public way back to the grassroots:
- A clear review of electronic voting: we aren’t asking for a review of the outcome, we need a review of the process. We need to learn from the blunders now so that we can do better next time. We need to show that we care that there were blunders in order to start healing the relationship with the thousands of people who wanted to participate and couldn’t. It’s not enough to say next time we’ll do better. Let’s do it now so we aren’t in a rush to do it when we need to. I hear there is a petition circulating asking for this to but has not been received by our Board well.
- A clear review of the Leadership Election Committee: it’s not about reviewing who was on it but more the skillsets that were. What key roles did we miss and how can we ensure we have those next time? Let’s create a process surrounding this committee and set it in stone at the AGM. Let’s give the grassroots a reason to have confidence in our Party.
- Staffing: time to have an honest discussion about who does what at the Party office. We have some true champions there, but we are missing skillsets. We need to have an honest conversation about who fills what roles. We need a leader in the office with a background in non-profits or associations with a board structure. We don’t need someone with a government background, or inexperienced folks with Party loyalties. We need qualified individuals. We need an open competition for some roles, and we need your leadership and connections to help make recommendations to the Board for others.
- The Board: I hope you’ll have an honest conversation with the Board about their own roles. I know you’re having those conversations with caucus – who goes, who stays, who represents the future, who has the skills we need to be successful, who needs to move aside for the next generation (not necessarily younger, but fresher)? I love that you’re having those conversations, that shows you are the leader we need. Please ask those same questions of those that stood, or want to stand, for election of our PC Board. The directors in place are as important as our caucus team if we want to continue to be successful.
Speaking of the Board that’s the other important date, September 26 is the deadline to submit a nomination for the 2014/2015 PCAA Executive Board. This date seems to be flying under the radar. But Jim, we need good people to run for these roles. And not good as in nice, but good as in strong, charismatic, skilled, experienced, passionate, that bring both strategy and the ability to execute the strategy to the table. These people are volunteers, yes, but they need to be committed to YOUR vision for our Party, and they need to be people the grassroots can count on to question, challenge, encourage, and empower.
Empower … this is the big one.
Our Party engine hasn’t been empowering volunteers. But you can change that.
Empower the grassroots by asking those you feel are qualified to step up and run in the executive races. Some may say that those who want to run will just run, but it’s my experience with volunteer management that you really do have to ask. It means a lot when you ask someone, and have a conversation with them, about a position you’d like them to take on. They take it seriously, and it creates accountability. And if you are leading by that example they will act the same – they will in turn empower those around them by asking them to do small (or large) meaningful tasks to help our Party.
We need to get back to that. Many hands make for light work – and there is a lot of work.
Please empower us. Empower our Party and don’t forget to set the example and start shifting the way our Party has been doing business.
Please ask people – ask people to do things – if you do it will make us stronger, and it will help the grassroots to realize how important it actually is. Set the example so we can get back to being excited about asking questions and making our Party better.
Please don’t forget to not only shake up government, caucus, and cabinet, but shake up your Party.
I’ll be watching with anticipation.