Monday, April 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Dark Art of Shooting the Messenger

It was certainly an interesting way to begin my journey to Gladwell's 10,000 hours to become an expert. What did the local Community Centre have budget for way back then for me as a mother of a sleepy and somewhat boring but delicious baby? An alcohol education program for convicted drink drivers! Thus began my journey into the world of tough audiences that meant any group I ever had after my three years of Wednesday nights in East Bentleigh were always going to seem easy.

As they often do, my four week evening course (I didn't leave the baby home alone) would begin with introductions around the room and a "How I came to be here" care/share moment. Well, I've already told you how I got there. Then one participant proceeds to tell his story of the "bastard cops who pinged me (that's him) down a side street". His righteous indignation given that he never disputed his blood alcohol concentration reading was somewhat shocking to me, but I had the sense to remain impassive and tell myself I was not there to judge but to shift attitudes if I could. 

The anger, the rage and the justification of such wrongdoing (by the drink driver, not the police who caught them) was one of those recurring sliding door moments for me in the dark art of shooting the messenger. Severus Snape would be proud.  Over the past 25 years I've seen it so many times in business; the bullying of the whistle blower, the isolation of those who protest bad change, the hiding or reframing of bad news because of those Colonel Nathan R. Jessup moments when we "can't handle the truth". 

It is not for me to say whether or not we need a royal commission into banks. The Labour catch cry is certainly "populist"; an easy election promise to understand and catches the wave of bank-hating fervour. Others would say if banks are engaging in questionable practices, is that not for ASIC and its increased powers and budget? If banks are price gouging or colluding with competitors on interest rates, is that not for the ACCC?  

The unnamed IOOF whistle blower or protected disclosurer (I make up language as it suits me) is smart not to be named. Could they ever get a job again?

The single biggest case of gender discrimination in this country involved Mark McInnes. I watched with interest to see where he would bob up next. He wasn’t the victim or the whistle blower. He was the alleged perpetrator. But Solly Lew was happy to hire him and he seems to have done a great job if we judge by financial metrics. Where is Kristy Fraser-Kirk now? Did anyone roll out the red employment carpet for her? She was the alleged victim.

As long as we can hold on to the "bastard cop" mentality, regulators have a tough gig. Can we be regulators and business partners? The police certainly think so. They have no choice. The police force must garner trust and confidence from the community as a clear strategy to solve crime (both current cases and cold crime); that is, the police must collaborate with and educate the community and the police must also be the enforcer when required. This is what we're asking of ASIC too but they've chased lots of alleged foxes down rabbit holes without a lot of success in the 80's and 90's so guess what? Now they're risk averse!  My last gig with them was a decade ago but I'm sure Karen Chester of the Productivity Commission is right.

Our collective ability to defend the indefensible and justify the unjust goes something like this.

I/We did nothing wrong.

If I/We did anything wrong, it wasn't that bad.

If I/We did anything wrong, it wasn't anything more wrong than anyone else's wrongdoing.

If I/We did anything wrong, it's the "bastard cops" who should be blamed for saying so.

And if we DO find out who the protected disclosurer was, we should exclude or isolate them for causing us so much trouble.

Of course, the conversation we are really having here is about ethics. Companies have to select employees at all levels who want to do the right thing and know what that looks like. You can't teach character.

Moreover, organisations must create a culture where people know they have to do the right thing; where people can "speak truth to power" and finally, where we don't shoot the messengers or the passengers who get tarred, or more likely, whacked with the same (hard) brush because their "crime" was to refuse to defend the indefensible.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

60 minutes of fame and much longer misfortune

The drama unfolding in Beirut with a Channel Nine crew formally charged on kidnapping, not respecting local authority and causing harm is sobering, confronting and potentially a life changing lesson for anyone affected by the alleged kidnapping gone horribly wrong.
Snide comments were made by other media outlets in the first few hours after the story broke as they pondered just how well Nine would have rated in coverage of the story. But now we're left to ponder how any of what we believe to be true was allowed to happen.
Who in Australia wouldn't have compassion for a mum if it turns out her children were whisked away from her under false pretences and now live in another country?
Who couldn't anticipate the compelling vision and the ratings potential for Channel 9 in a sensation-hungry world of sound bites and competition if the children were "rescued" and reunited in a heist worthy of a Jack Bauer episode of "24"?
But who considered the legal ramifications of chequebook journalism gone askew?
Who gamed out a scenario where the crew may be found in defiance of local laws?
And who worried enough about the risk to the children of getting hurt if it all went horribly wrong.

The lessons for us closer to home?

In this very sad and frightening story, we see the intersection of moral dilemmas, poor decision-making and failure to take account of unintended consequences. Rarely is a situation clear cut. Rarely is there one clear moral path. On a good day we can justify anything. We can rationalise everything. But in our attention seeking world, and ratings are a bid for attention, the end doesn't always justify the means.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Surprising Nobility in Restricted Mobility

Everyone wants to know how it happened. With not a shadow of a lie, I tell them.
Think Roger Federer. Australian Open. Tennis ball. Fractured foot. They were all involved. Just not the way you might imagine.
Roger was warming up. It was the Australian Open. He was on the television screen at the time. I stepped out into my back garden... onto a tennis ball and fractured my foot. Not exactly a sporting injury but it has certainly put paid to my exercise regime...and driving...and jogging... and five rhythms dancing.. and for a while the ability to carry anything when on two crutches doing an astronaut impression in a moonboot.

I've kept telling myself lots of people have so much worse, and I mean it but the biggest lessons for me in my enforced character building moment are these:
1) We take things (in this case my mobility and my independence) for granted. Until they're not there.
2) Showing faith and confidence in others can be a growth experience for all (my kids cook more  and better than before).
3) Challenges make us inventive. You wouldn't believe what I've done not to starve when no-one was around at home to feed me!
4) With all the terror and tragedy in the world, only ever a mouse click away from our consciousness, there are so many good, considerate and empathic people out there quite happy to perform random acts of kindness such as when you stand up and knock your crutch away out of reach during a facilitation. We need to soak up that goodness in a scary world so as not to slip into despair.

All of this has reinforced things I knew before but about which we all need reminders. An attitude of gratitude makes us happier. Empathy is essential to relationships. Empowering others usually allows people to step up. Being vulnerable even as strong confident people is not a sign of weakness. Ask for what you need and don't expect busy people to be mind readers. And we are far more change resilient than we often give ourselves credit for.

I've got to be honest. I'm so impressed with myself and my capacity for self- awareness and growth through adversity. But if they tell me next week I'm not as young as Dane Swan and not to donate my crutches and moonboot to charity yet, I may even cry. Then I'll pick myself up, re-apply my eye liner, call myself a taxi, head off for a consult with a wonderful client and remind myself that my work and my world rocks!