Ethic Cleansing

In a world where people vote on 3 or 4 words, such as Take Back Control or Make America Great Again, I thought I’d reduce the artform to just two words and a song:

Sign This.

Click to Sign

Then Share.

Politics relies on trust to operate. 

The currency of trust has been devalued. 

Let’s take back control of ethics. 

Make Britain Great Again. 

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Global Networks

Nadine Hack, pictured with Jerry Dunfey at The White House on St Patrick's Day

Nadine Hack, pictured with Jerry Dunfey at The White House on St Patrick’s Day

I’m delighted and humbled to be included amongst the exclusive global network of Nadine Hack, Leader of beCause Global Consulting.  Nadine is a thought leader in the area of responsible and sustainable leadership over 30 years and has recently formalised her global network of trusted associates. Take a look at the incredible cast of experts on The beCause Website.

I asked Nadine to explain more.

Peter:  What’s uniquely valuable about this network?

Nadine:  The beCause network is truly global.  We cover The Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and The Middle East, with multilingual, multidisciplinary capabilities.  Our core is represented in this model:

The beCause Core offering

The beCause core offering

The beCause network adds specific capacities in social media, sustainability, conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, executive search, gender equity, design, public relations and much more.

Peter:  What has driven the development?

Nadine: On the one hand, corporates increasingly demand that their partners exhibit size and scale around the world. Whilst we have that size and scale, it is not immediately apparent to some of the people who source our expertise.  The network makes this collective capability visible.  At a purely personal level, I am thrilled to highlight people with the highest integrity and who therefore can make an important contribution to the world in which we are entering, where sustainable business practices and ethical leadership are no longer nice to have, but essentials in a world which badly needs transformational change.

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Peter:  What are your hopes for the network?

Nadine:  I’ve always believed in teams and the power of collaboration.  It’s something that I help my clients achieve within their organizations.  And, I’m proud to model it in my own company by introducing an extraordinary network  of diverse talent from around the world.

For an insight into Nadine’s work take a look at an extract from one of her talks below on sustainable business practice.  This highlights her extensive experience that sustainable business is good business for all concerned.  This is no longer a fringe activity, it is core business as companies like Unilever, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and so on will tell you.  The network has already attracted interest from companies around the world for various services, including one that is interested to develop their leadership capabilities in terms of ethical behaviour around the world, another that wants to develop their social media presence and so on.

For me personally, I’m delighted to be part of such a superb group of collaborators.  As Archimedes said:

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world” 

Nadine Hack’s beCause Network offers to multiply Archimedes’ principle many times.

Levers of Change

Levers of Change – Nadine Hack’s beCause Network

Indecent Proposals

Desperate times make people do desperate things and this week I’ve produced a roundup of strange and bizarre business practices that stand out head and shoulders below the water line for business ethics.

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Starting with Kent County Council, who are normally held to be good employers with decent standards and so on.  They seem to have lost the plot on this occasion, having sent a tender out for some services which a colleague applied for.  An extremely long tender document was sent with explicit and transparent criteria for selecting the winning bid:

  • Proven track record in leading successful change management projects
  • Experience of working with a range of statutory and independent organisations
  • Knowledge of mental health and knowledge of substance misuse issues

After spending considerable time preparing the proposal, a letter was then received, telling my colleague that they had lost the bid due to a ‘hidden’ fourth criterion:

The real criterion for selection

The real criterion for selection

Somewhat frustrating for an organisation that prides itself on transparency and so on.  There was no feedback on whether my colleague had met the other criteria, thus there was very little they could learn from the time they had spent on this “indecent proposal”.  What a waste:

Staying with local government, I heard that Medway Council are about to put their workforce on ‘zero hours contracts’ – this broadly means that staff will have no job security.  I am self employed and have therefore signed up to the idea of being hired and used for time limited projects – that’s what I do and my security derives from being able to have a variety of clients and so on.  However, many people in employment join an organisation partly for some sense of security re paying the mortgage and so on.  HR people talk of engagement and getting ‘discretionary effort’ from people.  In my long experience, taking away their ‘Maslow’ security needs is one surefire way of doing the opposite.  Talking to a friend who is a dinner lady, she reported bitterly:

As part of Medway’s ‘Better For Less’ programme, we have had our hours cut, but are expected to cook the same amount of food in that time.  They sent ‘potato consultants’ in to tell me that I could peel the potatoes in 8.5 minutes instead of the 10 that I take.  I used to stay extra hours to get things done.  That’s all stopping.  So there will be ‘less’ but it will not be ‘better’.

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Medway Council’s staff now have the worst of all worlds:  A single paymaster, but with zero job security and the possibility of instant dismissal without any employment rights.  Yet another “indecent proposal”.  I predict a riot:

Incidentally, I have just been sent this artist’s impression of a potato consultant:

Half Consultant, Half Potato - original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Half Consultant, Half Potato – original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Finally, I recently did a project for boutique outsourcing Accountancy and HR consultancy RSM Tenon.  The 7th biggest accounting firm in the UK.  Again, a respected firm according to their own website.  The project was to mediate in a dispute and I was informed that my budget was £3000.  I had nearly completed the work when their consultant called up to tell me that they had changed their mind and only wanted to pay £2000!  I reminded them that “The Only Way is Ethics”.

RSM Tenon - The only way is Ethics

RSM Tenon – The only way is Ethics

After a bit of straight talk, things were grudgingly settled, although I ended up doing some of the work for free, in an attempt to stay close to their “revised” budget.  It turns out that RSM Tenon made £100M loss last year and now have a £94 M overdraft to help them continue in business.  No wonder they are keen to slash contracts after completion! 🙂  Strange though for an accountancy firm to make a massive loss and not wish to pay their bills, as their main business is accountancy!  My attempts to help RSM Tenon stay within budget would prove later to be a “Big Mistake” in the words of Natalie Imbruglia

A couple of months later, I’d been asked to conduct some further work for RSM Tenon.  This required attendance at a tribunal hearing which I was told I must reserve the dates for and could not book alternative work.  These were then cancelled at very short notice and I was told that I would not be paid for the opportunity costs.  I complained and was informed that RSM Tenon’s lawyers would be brought in to handle things, a strategy presumably designed to batter me into submission.   Whatever happened to honour and gentlemen’s agreements?  Other disgruntled observers reported this in a financial magazine:

Bizzarely, they actually make a proportion of their fees from telling other people how to run their finances. Genius!  This is what happens when accountants try to run a relationship type business.  They’re like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.”

To quote The Beatles “I should have known better” from RSM Tenon’s previous form.  Oh well.  I now have to take these people to the small claims court, wasting everyone’s time.

What should we learn from all of this?

  • In desperate times, we need to be careful in taking contracts in case people default on their commitments.  Even from what we perceive to be honorable and large institutions.  How the mighty have fallen.
  • In desperate times, treating people desperately will lead to desperate behaviour in return.
  • In desperate times, smart people refuse to respond to desperate behaviour in kind.  They do something different.

Has anyone else experienced bad business ethics in challenging times?  My experience has been that there are plenty of them, although most people dare not speak of them or just assume that they are the only ones experiencing such things.  Please add your story to this blog.  For a further story on HM Revenue and Customs, check HMRC.

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Don’t cry for me Argentina – Should leaders be allowed to rock out?

Introducing Argentina’s soon to be Rock’n’Roll Vice President.  Amado Boudou rides a Harley-Davidson and relaxes by jamming with rock stars.  He also follows in a long line of Rock’n’Roll leaders – Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s reformist President and heavy metal addict, Tony Blair, Ted Heath, Bill Clinton, David Blunkett and so on.

Bill blowin' his business horn

So, why am I writing about Mr Boudou?  It seems that his lifestyle has become the focus of debate concerning his competence to handle the country’s economic affairs.  This is encapsulated in the comment “We want a minister, not a guitar player”

I find this bizarre.  Some people delight in picking out minor aspects of someone’s lifestyle and generalise that it adversely affects their competence to do their chosen job.  I’m wondering if a similar reaction would have occurred if the media had pointed out that Winston Churchill suffered from depression?  This is not confined to politicians.  Some years ago a senior HR colleague working for the Police confided in me for some career advice.  In his spare time he ran a disco and his boss had told him to stop running it if he wanted to get on.  Why is this stuff so threatening to those in authority?

In defence of his hobby, Amado Boudou has pointed out that “Rock helps me communicate directly with the people because rock doesn’t lie, and people are fed up with lying politicians”.  Unfortunately, he is right.  If I had to choose between a cold analyst and a competent economist with a soul, I know which one I would choose as a leader.  The people who lead need to brilliant technicians of their chosen disciplines, plus they need to have humility and soul to engage their followers.  It’s a theme I explore in the book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’.

Leadership with Soul and Attitude

So, should we allow Amado Boudou to keep his hobby?  Post your thoughts on why leaders should or should not be allowed to have a life or a hobby.

The title of the post reminds me of Madonna’s take on politics from the film Evita.  Any excuse for a bit of Madge!