When I moved and settled in London from Japan, I soon became responsible for several committees of our federation. Since then, those who are closely involved in the operations would say to me “Are you happy with the outcomes of the meeting?” or “Congratulations. You got what you wanted in the conclusions.”
First, I felt a bit out of place with such comments. I never thought that my personal satisfaction would be an important basis to judge the success of a meeting. Or that I would prepare the meeting’s discussions in a way that there will be give-and-takes? Back home, one would be more modest in pursuing what you want to achieve personally. Consultation and ground-works to build consensus would be critical in that process.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a meeting where an announcement of a mid-term retirement was made. There were two key reactions from the floor. A group honored this personal decision and thanked the chief for many years of his services. On the other side of the spectrum was those who were surprised with the timing of retirement. If you were elected to your position, you should fulfill the term, they argued.
In the end, the decision was irreversible although the exact timing is yet to be determined. This incident reminded me of my former colleague in Japan who wanted an early-retirement but her employer would not let her go because of her skills and experiences and she had to fight for it. She got it but the process was tough she once told me. Likewise, when I made my personal decision to work in the headquarters of my organisation in London, some people in Japan were critical about this move. At the end of the day, though, nobody can’t be tied to an organisation against one’s will.
When I took up my current position some years back, my good friend Richard congratulated me by saying “You can see far in the distance from where you are because you are standing on the shoulders of your predecessors”.
Quite so often, a history of an organisation does not start or end with you. We are all part of a movement – as George Orwell once said – for common decency. The most essential personal decision is whether you continue to be part of it or not. Positions and organisations are secondary.