Not Losing is a Win

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that there is no “I” in team. As we approach the 2014 municipal elections, it is important to remember that it doesn’t matter if a candidate is a rookie, a young up-and-comer, or a seasoned veteran.

Whether as a role player or a team captain, they just need to know what it takes to be part of a winning organization. And that’s teamwork.

Earlier today, Mark Spowart (@markspowart17) posed the question, “Who’s best to be mayor for #LdnOnt? A seasoned politician or a political newbie?” For the uninitiated, #LdnOnt is a Twitter hash tag used in Tweets about the city of London, ON.

My response? “Whomever has the willingness to build consensus, encourage ideas, and learn from history to build for the future.”

I was very careful about choosing my words, because some of those concepts are easy to misinterpret.

I specifically chose encouraging ideas, because it’s not just about who has the best ideas, or who has the newest. It’s about fostering an environment where ideas — both new, old, and recycled — are welcome and able to be discussed and evaluated on their own merit, not based upon who said it.

I also specifically mentioned learning from history to build for the future. There are those who like to advocate a clean sweep — whether it’s during a federal or provincial leadership change or during a municipal election. But I’m one that doesn’t believe that new is always better.

I’ve been around long enough, especially in business, where I’ve seen a lot of brash young punks. I’ve been that brash young punk. We all come in gangbusters, thinking that we have all the answers and all the latest and greatest knowledge. But what was lacking was experience and perspective. A team has a bit of everything: you need youth and enthusiasm, but it’s better if it’s tempered with knowledge and history. Sometimes there are very good reasons why something can’t work — and past experience can help avoid wasting time, effort, and money.

After all, there’s another old adage — those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Finally, I specifically chose the term consensus-building because it’s the most important of them all.

And the most contentious.

Some see compromise as a dirty word. For them, success is measured in how far their personal agenda moves forward.

But that’s narrow-minded thinking — and it ignores that we live in a wonderfully diverse community, with people of differing backgrounds, goals, needs, and desires. Young and old, new to Canada and fifth-generation, downtown dwellers and suburbanites — we all have our own needs and perspectives, and they’re all equally important in the grand scheme of things.

And our next councillors and mayor must prioritize the ability to work with each other, not just for the benefit of their constituency, but for the overall growth and development of the city.

The entire city.

All or nothing politics gets us to where we are today. An incredibly divisive political landscape where everything’s black or white (or, to be more specific, blue, red, yellow, and green) – there are no shades of grey.

I have a theory on why the Liberals were so successful for so long. It was because they represented something truly Canadian – a middle ground that was respectful of all. A philosophy of fiscal responsibility tempered with social compassion.

Now, no one would suggest fiscal responsibility has been an integral part of recent Liberal governments and the fact that they’ve gone away from their core is related to the voting public’s disenchantment with the party.

Yet even if today’s Liberals have forgotten their roots, aspiring politicians should take note of those lessons.

Compromise isn’t mediocrity. Consensus is not weakness. It is a slow and steady process that ensures the largest potential buy-in and benefit for the community at large.

Yes, one faction or group can hijack the process. They can move forward on a mandate that’s supporting only a small segment of society as a whole. Polarized politics tends to put a freeze on progress. It’s once you move to the middle that things really start to heat up.

Slow and steady progress, working together to ensure all 14 wards are content, as opposed to only a few, is what’s going to guarantee long-term success. Working to ensure that nobody loses is an extremely powerful win.

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