One summer afternoon I was walking down the street, full of worries, as my son was really ill (he is OK now). A lady stopped me to ask:
– Have you seen the call for applications? We are looking for a new director, and we need competent people, someone who would lead our institution, who would get along with people and the current authority, do apply for the director’s position. We need you.
– I’ll check it to see if this position is ok with me and if I comply with all conditions. I don’t promise anything. Why are you telling me this?
– I am the president. We have to find a new director quickly. Please, check the website. You have three days to apply.
I didn’t apply. Actually, I thought I had already missed the deadline when I remembered to check their webpage. My son was sick and I focused on him getting better. This was all that mattered to me at that time.
And all in all, there was no way I could write a good four-year plan in three days. No way. I couldn’t have done any research. They would not take me seriously if I handed in a half-done plan.
They found a temporary solution and one year later they look for the director again.
This time I prepare a four-year strategy. With all the goals and the measures that would quickly show if we are on the right path to develop the organisation.
I ask friends to help me check the plan. They are experts in several fields. Five of them. I am not that smart, you know. Even though people say I learn fast.
I take their comments into account and write a good application.
During the application period I call the number given on the call to get more info. I recognize the lady from the street. I inform her about my application, ask what else do they expect from me besides the four-year strategy and inform her that their website misses some details that would help me prepare the plan to present it at the interview (f.e. who are the people in the board – if they are competent I could include their knowledge as an important source of the organisation). I also inform her that all the public information should be available as this organisation was funded by public money).
She was hesitant to answer and this was the first sign something is not right.
I get a notice about the date of interview and the request to send the plan via e-mail to the existing director.
I write back that it was not clearly stated in the application that I should send files electronically. I ask if I can use some video to present my plan. The answer is no.
I inform my friends and we all agree that the plan be signed by me with a clear and evident note that I copyright.
In a fortnight I get the interview. 7 people sitting there plus the ex-director, who according to the rules of the organisation, of course, should not be there in any way. The president of the board (read: the lady mentioned) makes an introduction that they invited me because I applied and wanted me to tell what I plan to do in 15 minutes. I try to do whatever I can in that time, but notice that they don’t listen.
In the Q & A session the above fact became even more obvious. Now I know that they did listen but did not understand. Q & A was actually a complaints and answer session. One man was complaining about parking tickets in Ljubljana, one lady was scared of me having the ‘director’ title (it scared him that I was used to this title already!), one guy did not understand how you can ask people for opinion and plan new things according to what they think. One man asked me, if there is no other place I would rather work as I am too competent for this town.
Then I answered that I had expected such a question and I know I stand out somehow and this should only be an opportunity for their organization, as I apparently have a lot of knowledge to offer.
Nobody understood what connecting with people meant – probably because they never connect – just taking care of themselves and their wallets. All the time I had the impression they wanted me to get scared and get out? Even move to some other place. Well, it won’t happen. I’m stubborn.
The small town thinking… Like dust, it’s everywhere you don’t want it to be.
There was someone other waiting to have an interview. He was waiting for a long time as I really bona fide wanted this organisation to do something good and for people for a change.
He got the job. Probably he had a better (read: none) plan. In a few days I have learned he agreed to go into politics with the lady president. This, you know, is enough in small towns. You need very little competence if you are in politics. Sometimes nodding only will do.
In two days I got the letter saying I was not chosen and that the decision was unanimous. The letter was not written according to the existing legal procedures and I could have made a complaint. But then again, what for?
It was clear to me that those people didn’t even understand what they were doing in the board, not even knowing what their responsibilities were. Throughout the interview they clearly showed that they just take care of themselves and give a damn about development of our town.
Tell me, how are such people going to assess my work and know if something is done well or not? That wouldn’t be good for me. It would be and is even worse for the organisation today.
I still live in this environment and you should see half of them lying that they wanted me to take the position. Then I mention the letter and that the decision was unanimous. And… they look down, go away and hide. Like a puppy who peed on the kitchen floor and feels guilty. Come on. Am I here to explain to you what YOU decided? Wait a minute. You’re telling me, somebody else told you what to do? Oh, poor thing, go and nod some more.