I just wanted to hug her

I just wanted to hug her

When Mary spoke at our PwC Fraud Academy event this morning she shared her personal experiences of “blowing the whistle” on her boss some years back. What struck me and others in the room was the very real and powerful effects on her.

At one level she simply did the right thing, having found evidence of invoicing fraud. But it was much more than this. The sense of disbelief – could my boss have really done this? The agony of not knowing who to trust. The suspicion that others might be involved. And the fear. Fear of consequences for herself – “maybe people will think I’m involved” – or at least culpable for not having picked it up, and the fear of what her boss might do.

As it turned out, after her boss was confronted by senior management she was confronted by him: “What have you done? They’re accusing me of all manner of things“.

Nasty stuff and not things we hope we’ll ever face in the workplace.

iStock-994164986.jpgLeaders will typically prepare for crisis events: spring into action for natural disasters and man-made events. Preparing ourselves for confronting the worst aspects of the human condition requires drawing on our innermost resources and life experiences.

Mary left and we wrapped up the session with a few words about the importance of transparent and visible whistleblower services.

As our audience left one woman came up to me and asked me to ensure that we properly thanked Mary for her bravery “I just wanted to hug her” she said.

Stephen

Anxious at number 23?

If you’re not wearing an All Blacks jersey on Sunday evening with the numbers 1 – 22 on it then like me and most of New Zealand you can have very little control over the result at Eden Park. Should anyone be anxious about what they can’t control and won’t directly impact them (arguably of course!)? Leaders who grow and develop others, and place trust in their teams shouldn’t be anxious about whether they will perform. They know that they will, partly because the leader does trust them. Which is probably why Graham Henry said he had nothing to say to the team immediately prior to the game. That’s their time he said.

Last Saturday, there were many wound up people, including in my home! Hearts thumping as we sat down to watch the All Blacks demolish our near neighbours.  At the end it was decided that the Cup was more or less ours, that the All Blacks couldn’t lose now, after such a performance and how poorly the French had played.

But quickly the anxiety crept back in: What if the French played really well? What if the ABs froze? Well, what if they did? Surely this All Blacks team are the best that they can possibly be and better than any team in the world right now. We know that. They know it, and partly because they don’t take it for granted. I trust them to do their best which will win them the game and the cup and make them World Champions for the next four years (at least).

I trust them because they’ve got all the resources, learnings and support that the best Rugby country in the world can give to the best 22 players in the world. I’m excited, but I’m not anxious: not because I can’t control it, but I know the best people are in control.

If you’re leading a team and you trust them you can relax and enjoy the fruits. If you don’t trust you’ll micro-manage, control and destroy any chance of great success.

If that doesn’t convince you imagine two businesses going for a big contract. Business A intends to delight and make money and opportunities for itself and all those it connects with.  The other Business, say Business F has a strategy to undermine Business A before it gets to the tender stage.  Like two teams going into a game: One is prepared, fit and has proven strategies that encourage fast try-scoring opportunities. The other reckons they’ll attempt to stomp on the foot of the captain of the other team. I know who I’d back! With a 22+ points lead at fulltime is what my money at the TAB is on.

Go the All Blacks! Can’t wait!

Stephen

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!

Stephen

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.

Looking down?

Bounding into the hotel this morning on my way to present to the Senior Executive Assistant Roundtable this morning the person walking towards me suddenly stopped, turned away and looked down, frantically texting. The person had been in a dispute I was involved in which, although settled a long time ago, had resulted in some silly stuff fired at my direction for a while after.

The women (yes all women) of the  Senior EA Roundtable were in good form. When you’re running a concurrent session you know people have a choice so it’s great when at least someone turns up! Actually we had lots turn up to hear about personal leadership and management.

We discovered that we all have different core values but there was quite a lot of commonality – family, integrity, freedom and honesty were a sample – and that it can be helpful to take into account someone else’s value when communicating with them. In fact it’s everything – treating others as they wish to be treated.

It just happened to be there in the paper – the pictures from the CCV camera of the woman stroking then dumping the cat into the wheelie bin  – and so we had a talk about that too. What sort of person would so such a thing!?  A cat hater? A psychopath? Maybe he did his business on the woman’s lawn? Whatever was the answer we learned that we can’t always anticipate why people do stuff unless we know about them. In the middle of the room, I suddenly completely and absolutely lost my train of thought. Mindfulness is such an important component of personal leadership – you know what it’s like when you’re in a meeting and someone is texting. Sometimes managers talk about this but Colleen today made it clear and present for me – it’s about respect. Yes that’s it, not hard at all.

And so we moved onto conflict – speaking to the other person’s values, commending, recommending and then commending. The group shared experiences and we heard some great examples of how to communicate powerfully.

As I type this there’s a young woman on the TV who drove drunk and killed the mother of the young man seated next to her.  He has forgiven her and they plan to give talks together. Two young people role modelling what grown ups in business struggle with.

Is your head held high? There’s no use putting your head down if there’s difficult stuff to do. Maybe you’re just not present or maybe you’re hiding. Either way if you interact with others you’ll need to be there. And when you’re there, do they know you? I told the group where my folks lived (you had to be there!), so I hope Mum and Dad don’t mind the occasional visitor! The greatest gift you can give.  Be present. Be yourself.

Have the cops been raiding the bank?

It’s almost a year since  I first wrote on this blog. My second blog was about our trust bank which got me thinking yesterday about my home town.  There’s been a lot of trouble down there in Christchurch lately. Boy Racers are winding everyone up, there’s been quite a few hold-ups and yesterday two police officers were shot.  Fortunately they survived, but not so the police dog Gage. There’s an increasing awareness that quite a lot of crime is directed at police.

The police commissioner Howard Broad has now said that he’s going to make guns more accessible to the police. There’s new laws being introduced to make it a more serious offence to assault a police officer. They have stun guns. We’re building lots of prison cells to keep people temporarily away from us (99% are coming out one day to a neighbourhood near you). We’re told by the police union that the police will need to get tougher as society is not showing the respect that is due.

When I put this all together I’m disturbed. I’m mostly disturbed by the proposition that a lack of respect is a problem that is only has one side to it. In coaching, I often say to my coachees that there is only one person you can truly change and the best place to start is with that person.

Over Queen’s Birthday weekend we were told that the police were going all out to slow us down and that patrols were going to be out in force, which in fact, they appeared to be. Only one person died on the roads that weekend. Subsequent (shorter weekends) have not been so flash. It turned out that many of the police cars parked up apparently to get the speeding public were empty. It was a con.

The tone and content of police communication to those it serves has become increasingly lecturing and telling. Anyone with a modicum of leadership understanding will know the impact of such behaviour on a team. And importantly, what deposits are being made in the trust bank with the public by the police from its minister down, to us public? The solutions appear reminiscent of bronze-age “eye for an eye” thinking, rather than addressing underlying issues.

I am certain and know that individual police officer’s efforts are in many respects outstanding. Ask any country cop about his or her relationship with the community and you will soon find that trust, goodwill and working together are ingredients that are not just advantageous, but essential, for getting the job done with the community. The trust bank has healthy deposits.

Should we expect our police and our government to look inside and explore their behaviour? Would some deep reflection about trust benefit? What about other stuff outside the realm of policing that actually causes crime? I reckon it would. I’m realistic of course and know that the man who shot the cops yesterday will and should get what he deserves (including a shave!). But if personal leadership requires trust, then so does organisational leadership and if it’s not led by the police, we won’t be solving anything.

Should the police and its masters do more about making some deposits into the trust bank with us? It’s easy and simple to think that the police aren’t responsible for crime, they’re only responsible for picking up the mess that criminals create. Even if that’s the case, I think we can fairly and squarely say that what we’re doing with tougher, bronze-age solutions, just ain’t working.

I reckon as well as being tough, we need to see some deposits in the trust bank. Empty police cars, crooked cops and lecturing to us has raided the bank. Before we need shotguns in the front of patrol cars, let’s see some real leadership. Some self reflection and building of trust with the community. Afterall, we’re all one. The police are ours, for us.

Does your organisation have a trust bank with its community?

A strange impact

On Thursday I was driving to work on Puhinui Road, Manukau.  A young woman was tailgating me and when I stopped at a pedestrian crossing behind another vehicle, she didn’t. Well, actually she did by driving into the back of my car. I felt like I was in one of those slow-motion TV adverts for car safety as my head was pushed forward and then lashed back with considerable force into the head restraint.

It hurt and gave me Continue reading “A strange impact”

Fire my spirit

So goes the last line of the simple song 75 men and young men at the Essentially Men Pathways to Manhood gathering sang together as we waited to be met by mothers and family yesterday. Sitting here right now there is so much to reflect on that has truly fired the spirit of my son Tim and me too.

This was a gritty, hard, challenging week with men. Great men who shared, endorsed, inspired and challenged us all. Never have I felt so proud and so sad all at once. It took a few days but when Tim found his voice, man, did we hear it. A school life of bullying and being picked on because he wears glasses, because he doesn’t see as well as others, because of this, that and it didn’t matter what. Any bloody excuse will do. Bullying turned to a stone-like resistance built out of fear of failure. Adults then embark ed on their own special form of bullying – bludgeoning into submission,  challenging in his face: What is it Tim? Is it about you only? What is your problem?.

In your 17 years Tim you have faced challenges that few can understand, but I tell you Tim, and you know this, 75 men who love and admire you know.  And they were there for you and are there now for you. When they said sorry on behalf of all the boys and men who have bullied you, they meant it. You stand tall now.  You have greater strength than all of those bullies put together. The boy is gone. You are a young man.  You want more one-on-one with me.  You will have it. You fire my spirit more than you can imagine. I love you.

And let’s reflect on what the men said about you: Strong, a great conservationist who extends the topic, funny, you want to please, courageous, cool to hang out with, a sensational smile, resilient, independent and they said you should cherish your ability to think outside the norm. I could go on and on how they affirmed you.

They want you back next year to help out. And let’s not forget the Golden Pisspot award you won for the the Young Pathways Man (you better explain to the women where pisspot comes from!).

This journey gave me a deep reflective space to get my own life in balance. Thanks to all the men at the gathering. You are special and formed to deliver one of life’s crucibles for me.

All the elements are with you Tim. Stand tall and proud. The men all stand with you. Thank you for taking me.

Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, fire my spirit.

Stephen