Friday, May 9, 2008

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” -Edward R. Murrow

I had a serendipitous encounter the other day that gave me unbelievable strength in my convictions and at the same time made me pause and reflect on my personal beliefs. I'm going to share this story, but I'm going to make it as anonymous as possible. It was such a striking experience that I feel it needs to be shared.

While walking to lunch the other day I ran into an old boss, we'll call him "Roman." "Roman" was the manger for a campaign I interned for one summer. I worked with him all summer and loved every minute. The entire staff was great and I learned a great deal about campaigning, voters, and myself during this summer. "Roman" was an excellent manager. He is extremely intelligent and an effective manager, but to make an understatement, he enjoyed the lighter side of life. On that campaign, we worked hard, but we played hard too.

After the summer was over, I moved to DC and got a job at the national headquarters for the organization. Two weeks into my job, I was approached by the president of said organization. She was powerful player in DC with a large and respected organization in Washington. Needless to say, she had never approached me before. She said that there was a big problem in Oregon and she wanted to meet with me so we could talk about "Roman." She was flying out to Oregon and would be back the following Monday. I didn't know what to think or what she could want to talk to me about. I immediately called my friends working back in Oregon to get the scoop.

A couple days after I left, a "woman" was hired to work in the Oregon field office. She claimed that she was 19 and enjoyed flirting with the male staff members, notably 32-year old "Roman." You may have some idea where this story is going. Long story short, "Roman" and she did the proverbial "mattress mambo." A week later, she told everyone in the office about her encounter with "Roman" and that she was actually 17. This did not go over well. The entire office was out for "Roman." They completely threw him under the bus. Other women were accusing him of sexual harassment (Why didn't they say something when it happened, not months later?). "Roman" admitted to the malfeasance with the girl and apologized. She didn't press charges, but the staff was calling for his head. The president of the organization flew out to assess the situation.

The president flew back and we had our meeting that Monday. I told her my feelings exactly. By no means did I justify his action, but I thought he was an excellent manager and he was being thrown under the bus by certain people in the office who did not like him. I made the argument that because it was only two months before the election, it would be devastating to fire him at this time and hire a new Campaign Director. She asked for my opinion and I told her. She disagreed and fired him.

Years later, I run into "Roman." He is ecstatic to see me. He told me that I was the only person who stood up for him for him during the entire ordeal, which I had mostly forgotten about. He had tried to get a hold of me over the years, but he couldn't access his records from the organization. He thanked me and he didn't just offer to buy me lunch for what I did, but said that if I ever needed anything he would "go to bat for me for anything." He is now a VP at a national strategic communications firm.

This experience has had a profound impact on me over the past couple days. I am confronted with some serious life decisions in the very near future. "Roman" has confirmed my conviction that I have good judgment and sticking with that judgment may not pay off immediately, but it will at some point. At the time of my meeting with said president, I didn't think that I was doing anything extraordinary, just voicing my opinion. I didn't pander to what I thought she wanted to hear. I spoke honestly and directly. That is why I believe I will be successful.

I am reminded of a great quote from another idol of mine, Winston Churchill:

“The only guide to man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.”

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