#SQLPASS–Good people, bad behavior…

I’ve written and rewritten this post in my mind 100 times over the last couple of weeks, and I still don’t think it’s right.  However, I feel the need to speak up on the recent controversies brewing with the Professional Association for SQL Server’s BoD.  Frankly, as I’ve read most of the comments and discussions regarding the recent controversies (over the change in name, the election communication issues, and the password issues), my mind keeps wandering back to my time on the NomCom.

In 2010, when I served on the NomCom, I was excited to contribute to the electoral process; that excitement turned to panic and self-justification when I took a stance on the defensive side of a very unpopular decision.  I’m not trying to drag up a dead horse (mixed metaphor, I know), but I started out standing in a spot that I still believe is right:

The volunteers for the Professional Association of SQL Server serve with integrity.

Our volunteers act with best intentions, even when the outcomes of their decisions don’t sit well with the community at large.  However, we humans are often flawed in our fundamental attributions. When WE make a mistake, it’s because of the situation we are in; when somebody else makes a mistake, we tend to blame them.  We need to move past that, and start questioning decisions while empathizing with the people making those decisions.

In my case, feeling defensive as I read comments about “the NomCom’s lack of integrity” and conspiracy theories about the BoD influencing our decision, I moved from defending good people to defending a bad decision.  This is probably the first time that I’ve publically admitted this, but I believe that we in the NomCom made a mistake; I think that Steve Jones would have probably made a good Director.  Our intention was good, but something was flawed in our process.

However, this blog post is NOT about 2010; it’s about now.  I’ve watched as the Board of Directors continue to make bad decisions (IMO; separate blog forthcoming about decisions I think are bad ones), and some people have questioned their professionalism.  Others have expressed anger, while some suggest that we should put it all behind us and come together.  All of these responses are healthy as long as they separate the decisions made from the people making them, and that we figure out ways to make positive changes.  Good people make mistakes; good people talk about behaviors, and work to address them.

So, how do we work to address them?  The first step is admitting that there’s a problem, and it’s not the people.  Why am I convinced that it’s not the people?  Because every year we elect new people to the board, and every year there’s some fresh controversy brewing.  Changing who gets elected to the board doesn’t seem to seem to stimulate transparency or proactive communication with the community (two of the biggest issues with the Professional Association for SQL Server’s BoD).  In short, the system is not malleable enough to be influenced by good people.

I don’t really have a way to sum this post up; I wish I did.  All I know is that I’m inspired by the people who want change, and it saddens me that change seems to be stunted regardless of who gets elected.  Something’s gotta give at some point.

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Addendum: you may have noticed that I use the organization’s full legal name when referring to the Professional Association for SQL Server.  Think of it as my own (admittedly petty) response to the “we’re changing the name, but keeping our focus” decision.

October 2, 2014 · stuart · 8 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: PASS, Professional Development, SQLServerPedia Syndication, The Social Web

8 Responses

  1. Andy Leonard - October 2, 2014

    Stuart,

    Thank you for posting this. You and I exchanged words over the “Steve Jones Affair.” Although we disagreed and, probably, still disagree about some aspects of the matter, I respected (and still respect) the fact that you spoke up. I think that kind of courage is normal to you, but it is not normal for most. I admire your courage – then and now, sir. You inspire me.

    :{>

  2. stuart - October 2, 2014

    Andy, thank you; I have really come to respect your thoughts and opinions, even when I see things differently. You’ve become a true friend.

  3. Andy Warren - October 2, 2014

    Stu, I admire you for writing that, all of it.

    The point about malleable is interesting. I have, lately, come to see it as a problem of communication more than anything. Why do Board members go dark once elected? Solving that wouldn’t fix everything, but a healthy and candid of exchange of ideas before implementing big changes would go a long way. Beyond that, we can’t keep electing good people without prepping them for the job and complaining about the results – we do the same thing in IT with managers and look how that works out.

    I’m with you on separating people from decisions. I wish I had done better in a few cases myself about how and when I’ve criticized, yet the problem remains that quiet back channel conversations seem to have little impact and so those who care escalate in an attempt to be heard.

    Andy

  4. stuart - October 2, 2014

    The malleability bit is the part that I’m struggling to define, but I think you’ve nailed the essence of it; we keep sending good people in to “fix” things, but somehow we keep winding up with the same results. That’s a systems issue, not a people issue.

  5. Andy Warren - October 2, 2014

    Stu, I dont question the good people part, really that has never been the issue, but I’m not sure they’ve agreed with the “fix” that you or I or anyone else wants. We typically don’t see strong campaign statements around change, it’s more “I’m ready to serve”. So I don’t know if we can call it a system problem if we can’t be sure they agreed with someones goal and then failed to achieve it? Is that not just more of a communication/expectation problem?

  6. stuart - October 2, 2014

    It’s hard for me to imagine the desire for transparency and community representation is not being communicated well (since that’s been a recurring theme for years), but I can’t deny the possibility. Maybe that message needs to be codified differently, but I think your own service on the board is an indication of the limitations of the governing body; you’ve always represented yourself as a champion of transparency, and yet the board makes a decision to not inform the community of a potential security risk. I don’t think that’s in line with the change you attempted to make, so from an outsider’s perspective, it appears that fundamental reform is not long-lasting.

  7. Chuck Boyce - October 3, 2014

    This all went downhill when we didn’t vote for Matt Morollo. Maybe we should have voted him onto the BoD?

    🙂

    I have been too busy of late to be involved in PASS, but I agree that all of the people on the BoD are good people who are doing their best.

  8. Kevin Kline - October 7, 2014

    Very good thoughts, Stu.

    I’ve pitched a leadership training class to the BoD a few times since I’ve rolled off the board. But they’ve never taken me up on it. Not to say that I could do much to help them over any hurdles they’re facing. You’re point about promoting IT people into management and leadership positions is absolutely on target. I can’t help but think that some training in that area would do a lot to improve the board’s outcomes.

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