Crushed in the rush

Ever since Helen Clark became Prime Minister (well I did religion yesterday!) the plan of attack by politicians when something goes wrong is to go on the attack. Murray McCully, the Minister of RWC2011 did it on Friday when 2000 people got caught on trains. The Transport Minister Steven Joyce joined the fray soon thereafter.  Mayor Len Brown was left to take responsibility and made appropriate signals that Auckland Council would look at compensating those who didn’t make the opening ceremony.

Crushed in the rush

If leadership is about being the loudest voice then central government politicians won hands down. In the crush on Friday night in Quay Street I felt part of something pretty big and powerful. People were in good humour and although it was a bit overwhelming it was worthwhile to experience it first hand.  Unfortunately those people we saw from the bus on the stalled trains on Tamaki Drive on the way back, didn’t look like they had such a good experience. There were lots of loud voices in Quay Street, Hakas, cheering and laughter. If the loudest voices were the best Rugby players then Tonga and Samoa would be meeting in the final based on support in town on Friday.

But the loudest voice isn’t always the strongest leader. What will come to repair the image of a failed transport system (and stop it failing again of course) will come from leadership that looks at itself, takes responsibility and leads to new action. I get a sense that’s been happening after the initial crush in the rush to blame.

Us ordinary folk took the lead and used public transport. Maybe it’s time for those pointing fingers to give it a shot too. That would be another type of crush that they could learn from.


Fessing up is so good

Peter Marshall who has been the police commissioner for two days said on the radio today that the organisation needed to address the issues raised in the PWC report. This compares with the previous leadership who’s reaction I blogged about in January.

When something is wrong with an organisation’s culture it’s easy and defensive to blame those that found out about it for not doing a proper job, or for someone reporting it. When that happens you’re on a slippery slope to defensive nowhereland. Time to retire probably.

On the other hand for Marshall to publicly state there are pockets of officers who don’t get it, who need to or go, is gutsy to start with and in the end absolutely the best thing he could do for the police.

He won’t root out all the officers himself, but clear unambiguous statements from the leader of such an important organisation in our society are critical to success. Other police leaders should be in no doubt as to what is expected.

As I said in my previous blog, there shouldn’t be any tolerance for the sort of behaviours identified in the report. I hope we’re getting back on track with all our police.

I say well done. A great start. Great leadership.


Time to cull the rotten part of the culture

Sorry officer, I never usually speed

There is a lack of faith in Police leadership because rhetoric does not always align to action” reads the second to last sentence of the body of the latest report into the police’s change management programme following the Commission of Inquiry into police conduct.

Commissioner Broad in his blog commenting on the unfortunate negative focus of the report, records himself as satisfied as to progress on the culture issue. Police union boss Greg O’Connor says that this report will to more harm than good.

My latin scholar son Thomas would be proud of me: argumentum ad consequentiam meaning X is true/false because of how much I like/dislike its consequences.

So is the report wrong? A listing of things ticked off as Commissioner Broad has done on his blog and Greg O’Connors “telling bad news will only do harm!” is enough to convince me all is not right. Then there’s the report.

I’d like to see leadership from the police and its union that even occasionally acknowledged that they aren’t perfect. Then we’d know that there was a willingness for change. If every problem is minimised as a bad apple or “we’ve already got procedures in place to cover that” or “it was the fault of the other driver” then we can be sure that nothing is changing.

Because the first step in changing a culture or for that matter, a behaviour, is to want to. And that means accepting that what’s going on is wrong.

The police should reflect our tolerant, secular and largely peaceful population. Not the bullying and harassment that is obviously still happening inside the police – even if it’s only in small numbers it’s not good enough. If we can’t trust what they do with each other, how can we trust them to deal with us?

So, sorry sir,  I’ll be issuing you an infringement notice – even one act of carelessness like this can cause a tragedy.


New Court ruling: what you don’t know can’t hurt you

The government has decided to get tough on those who seek name suppression because it’s not fair on those that don’t and justice should be administered publicly and in a transparent manner. Seems sensible enough, though, and I’m no apologist for the rich and famous, most of the time it’s only the most serious of crimes that are reported, unless you’re rich and famous.

In my work with organisations, the biggest problems in change or crisis arise from lack of transparency. When leadership is transparent, whatever the message, it is better received and the grief associated with change is shorter and less intense. Confidence comes from transparency.

Which is why the complaints and investigations about Supreme Court Judge Wilson being publicly aired are very important for our confidence in the judiciary. This judiciary that will monitor and lead the government’s intentions on our behalf on name suppression.

I see today that the government has settled an arrangement with Judge Wilson that sees all action stopped and a payout to him of nearly $1 million. The reason given by “cause and effect thinker” Judith Collins is that “To proceed with this case would have caused incalculable damage to confidence in the judiciary”. What can that mean? That we will keep hearing about Wilson’s alleged inappropriate conduct? That it will remind us that there is a judge who it is alleged did not act appropriately? That we might find a judge guilty of a conflict of interest?

If the cause of this problem is the alleged lack of candor on the part of a judicial officer, then this drop it and hide it solution takes you straight back to the cause. It’s a lesson for us all on the perils of linear thinking, hiding to avoid the hard questions and in this case, hypocrisy.

We know Judge Wilson’s name, we know what it’s alleged he did, but those that lead him and us in a transparent justice system for all have suppressed for ever the ability for us to know whether or not something was sick in the courts. Or that’s what they intend.

Actually we can see now there is something very wrong. And it’s not just one Judge.

Unintended consequences. You gotta love ’em!


ps I haven’t gone permanently political on my blogs! Sometimes things just hit you. Hard. I wrote about government transparency over a year ago too.

What standard should we apply?

The Indian representative defending the cleanliness of the Commonwealth Games accommodation venues questioned: “is it my standard?, your standard? or their standard?  If it’s true that the workers have been using the toilets despite the plumbing not being connected, you can take a wild guess about the standard. Much further south Christchurch City manager  Mark Christison was close to tears when trying to explain to Avonside residents today that it might take a year for sewage systems to be restored, prompting one resident to declare that New Delhi was looking like a pretty good option.

David Garret is apparently going to talk about the ructions within the ACT party.  Why? When he was 26 he fraudulently obtained a passport and later, when he was middle-aged, lied to the court that he had no previous convictions.  This was when he was lawyer to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, an organisation which promotes ruthless standards of accountability for convicted criminals.  Sometimes that can just be vindictive. A bit like revealing all the behind the scenes within ACT. Like we didn’t know. Vindictively trying to take others down, because he got caught breaching his own publicly stated standards, so blatantly.

It never fails to amaze me that some politicians feel the need to lash out at all in sundry when caught out. They don’t seem to get that it’s the covering up causes the strife. Remember “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”

Bad luck for David Garret that the plumbing didn’t wash away his crime and he’s had to adjust his standards.  Still he must feel relief to have it all out in the open. The healing can begin.

Leader of the day for me goes to the unsuspecting Christchurch City manager Mark Christison who showed his authenticity by breaking down in front of the citizens of Avonside. Not because he broke down, but because he showed empathy to his fellow citizens. He understood their standards and shared their pain. Such leadership gets things done. Bet you it does. And we’ll never know what when on back at the Council office. It won’t matter.

What is your leadership theme?

Just over a year ago on 10 August 2009 I wrote my first blog Who is doing your dirty work. I had started contracting to AUT University a few months earlier to establish the Centre for Innovative Leadership and started the blog partly, at least, to gain a web presence for the Centre.

I came to enjoy blogging and combined some of my other interests – movies, photography and general commentary – into other related blogs.

But the leadership blog remains my core. I’ve learnt a lot about the technical aspects of putting stuff on the web including photographs, linking, doing automatic feeds into twitter and facebook and recently, video – which I believe will be the key to communication on the web going forward.  These words will become more limited.

Speaking of words, I’ve created an electronic book with my 56 (including this one) blogs and done some reflection about the themes within my work (sorry about all the headshots of me – it’s to do with the linking I did on LinkedIn and I can’t remove them … yet!). Writing about leadership has both consciously and unconsciously been a reflection of my own journey in the last year and the other nearly 47 years before that.

Which brings me to themes.

My conscious themes are about authenticity, vulnerability, having fun, photography, narcissism, anti-dogma, transparency. But what else comes through? What are my unconscious themes?

Looking through the blog book and doing some searches I also found a story embedded about my sons, my father and mother, holidays, Space, Evolution, Officials hiding, values, fake personal branding, religion, tolerance, running, forests, driving and disclosure.

No surprise then that that’s been my life this past year: my authentic leadership themes.

What are yours?


Defensive Force

Watching Seinfeld tonight Elaine was bemoaning the fact that she wasn’t seen as responsible enough to babysit a friend’s child. “Who wants to be responsible” responded Jerry Seinfeld “Whenever anything goes wrong the first thing they ask is who is responsible”.

It’s a question that has exercised the mind of the auditor general:  why did four Defence Force officers falsely claim allowances while on secondment to the UN. Listening to interviews on the radio on the way to my run this evening I heard “they’ve been disciplined”, “won’t happen again” and “they only claimed what they were entitled to remember” several times. What I didn’t hear was mention of culture and values that the auditor general had identified as underlying causes of the falsities.

At times of crisis, the leaders of any organisation will need to adopt a command and control leadership style, where directions are given and acted upon without question. The Defence business while on operations surely fits into this camp. But what about the rest of the time? Can the culture switch as required or is there just one culture?

We get glimpses of  an organisation’s culture through stuff that pops out externally – staff retention, how problems are dealt with, choices people make about where to work and statements from leaders are the sorts of things where we can pick up clues. So when its said that the culture and values caused the environment that gave rise to the false claims what culture are we talking about? Is this the culture that requires obedience to superior officers in all circumstances, even when illegal?

On the one hand you need to have officers able to unquestioningly respond to orders. But outside of operations you need to have a culture that allows questioning, coaching and responsibility for ones own actions. Sounds like a big challenge.

So when I listened to the radio tonight I heard all the things that one might expect with the organisation top-down rule book approach to “make things happen”.  “I will ensure that it doesn’t happen again”. That’s a fine aim, but you won’t if you don’t change the culture. And you won’t change the culture by doing treating the problem with the same culture that caused it. That dreadful defensiveness that uses rules and structures to avoid the potential embarrassment of having to explore the root causes that the auditor general identified.

So who is responsible? Is that even the right question? I believe that in leadership discovery we need to start with self. You won’t be acting without integrity and blind unquestioning if you’re authentic. But if your leadership paridigm is about finding new ways to control and strategise then you’re not even scratching the surface – you’re still on the command and control, but with fancy words.

Leadership discovery of authenticity. It’s the best defence against a culture that is not right, and the most sustainable way to embed real change.

That’s got a lot of force to it I reckon.