Day 5

Day 5

If it hadn’t been Lockup season I would have titled this blog “Dob-in trust”.

There is a piece of legislation called the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, which legislates that government entities are to have policies and procedures to enable “whistleblowers”. Many, probably most, large private businesses and organisations have whistleblower programmes in place too. These systems ensure that organisations remain transparent, that probity issues known only to the least powerful, are brought forward and properly investigated ensuring the principles of natural justice are applied (opportunity to be heard, impartial decision-maker).

Carefully managed, a whistleblower system can be a culture enabler. Treated carelessly, where unfounded allegations are used to punish, they destroy culture and trust.

Without doubt, most of my leadership development work is, at its heart, about trust.  Individuals, relationships, organisations and societies build trust by behaviours. By giving a bit here, a bit there, trust is built through past actions, just as I said at the end of Day 1. I blogged about Steven Covey’s trust bank back in 2009, when this blog was only a few months old. We lose trust at our peril.

If we’re going to have society-wide systems to “dob in” our neighbours for apparent misconduct, we should set the rules up clearly and with compassion.  A solo cycle across town is a problem? Come on! Relax, for many people the prospect of not exercising is frightening and dangerous. If your neighbour appears to be in breach of what you interpret the rules as, perhaps a quiet word (over the fence of course) or a phone call.

In this environment, when the rules are being made up as we go along and enforced subjectively, let’s focus on all the things that matter.  We’ve already ground the economy and our freedoms to a halt to rid us of the ‘rona.  Don’t let this destroy our community trust. I know from decades of investigating wrong-doing that there’s always another side to the story, another perspective, often a misunderstanding.

Calm down!

Chill out!

Speaking of which, we now have 12 people in hospital with COVID-19. Tents are coming! I know I shouldn’t make light of that, but you know, if we can’t put some perspective on it we’ll all go stir-crazy. It’s only been 5 days!

Sadly though, an elderly woman with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and well known to her local DHB, died after contracting COVID-19. She probably won’t be the last. On the evidence available, older people are much more susceptible to the serious impacts of the virus, partly at least, from what I’ve read, because they are much more likely to have other health issues. That doesn’t mean that if you’re younger it’s necessarily a walk in the park.  My parents who are in their late 80s, are safely staying put at home. Family are supporting with shopping, even though they’re spritely and in good health. Just to be sure.

I’d love to visit on Mum’s birthday in late April.

Stephen

 

 

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

High up leadership

I’m writing this high up, on a Dreamliner to be precise, heading away for a few days. It’s been a frenetic week and getting away was a challenge but a flight departure time is compelling, even for those who like me, enjoy being pressure prompted.

This morning we ran a PwC Fraud Academy event where I interviewed a whistleblower to help our clients understand what they might need to do to encourage a “speak up” culture and protect the whistleblower.

This work sits at the nexus of my forensic and leadership work and I’ve blogged about it in also on LinkedIn.

In my dealings with high-up leaders they’ll usually say that they are approachable and open to feedback and concerns from anyone. And the people around them will often agree.

But what we heard from our whistleblower today was stark. “Why would those higher ups listen to me? What do I know?” she asked.

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What our whistleblower had to say went right to the heart of the trust, integrity and culture of her organisation. Her organisation was and is a great place. Open, trusting with good systems and processes.

But nonetheless she felt disempowered.

Someone asked me at a “laser coaching” session recently how they might improve their social awareness. I said that leadership is most often seen in those micro-moments: on the spot feedback, time to say thanks, a meeting with mechanisms for everyone to be heard, and constant engagement and communication. It seems to me that it’s these leadership behaviours that are also needed to develop the trust for a “speak up” culture too.

If it all sounds like it’s quite a lot to pay attention to, well, actually, it is.

High up leadership sounds grand, the rewards can be significant, but to be effective for your organisation you need to be always on, everywhere you go.

Stephen

Our PwC Leadership Development page went live today thanks to the work of Sarah Guerin in my team.