It was a given that in the period from the end of WW1 to the late 1970s, that is the generation preceding baby boomers, their value system was firmly rooted in integrity, honesty and fairness and such like descriptions. Family values were paramount and although the gender role models which we find uncomfortable today with the advantage of the science of hind sight, there was a sense of solidity and certainty in the loves of most. There were of course the usual suspects who played dirty football but these were except to the values rule. When someone in the community fell, we didn’t donate to a give little page, we baked, we lifted, we shifted, we turned up. We were in every sense community. Living in common-unity.
Enter the turmoil of the peace, love not war Vietnam era and we saw challenge to the authority of governments and more freedoms of ideology were expressed and protested for albeit they were still bounded in the values of our grandparents generation.
Jump forward to 2021 and the highly controversial no jab no job policy and the destruction of trust.
I have been considering the impacts on our value norms that are being expressed behind closed doors without anywhere enough public discourse and open truthful conversations about the consequences.
Because my work is primality focussed on leadership down, that is my deep belief that leadership is the beginning of culture and the cords that bind and protect it, I have some red flags for leaders who will see some of the biggest changes in the last 100 years to collegial professional relationships.
“Your service and dedication can, at a swipe of a legislative pen, be rendered meaningless.”
Through the poisonous air of COVID regulations it has been communicated what I am sure are unintended messages and consequences to the working population. That is, that the environment which we grew to know and trust, love in some cases, enjoyed, thrived in and found therein professional and personal growth, are now no longer as trustworthy as they were.
Your service and dedication can, at a swipe of a legislative pen, be rendered meaningless.
I cannot begin to imagine how senior leaders feel who have had to let long time friends and colleagues go based on a personal choice to vaccinate or not. (I’m not going to debate the validity of that personal choice because that has proved to be even more derisive and is somewhat immaterial anyway after the fact.) The result is however, who is going to execute our strategy if some key people are no longer here and that experience has vanished? In education I don’t believe there is a box of teachers and leaders hiding in the closet to suddenly discover. Goodness knows how they will deliver in 2022 what is required with compounded staff shortages?
So what we thought we knew about integrity, honesty, transparency, etc (name your buzz words) to keep us safe, we cannot now rely on as once we did.
“What matters most is who you are”
So without being accused of being mellow dramatic in these matters, consider the erosion of trust. We contract to exchange professional services for a secure income. Or we did. Well we still do…we the worker did not change our contractual obligations. Our contract signature remains intact.
Yes yes it was a legislative distanced Cabinet decision, not made by individual employers or leaders necessarily, I acknowledge that. Forced hands not willing participants. I have written before that leaders have been given a poisoned chalice. That alone is soul destroying. However, as leaders we now inherit this legacy regardless of moral, ethical, faith, opinionated, informed or deluded beliefs. It makes no difference. People are gone.
We already know the poor workforce engagement stats and the now labelled great resignation, revolution, reformation or realignment that surrounds us.
What this narrative states is we, the people, your people, need to experience better if you want our better.
I wrote earlier in the week about the very public warning shot issued by James Hardie’s Board over the behaviour of their Chief Executive Jack Truong. (Ex-Chief executive.) No more poor behaviour that hurts your employees and your colleagues. Jack was gone by lunchtime!
Where this all takes us is actually in one sense a beautiful opportunity.
But make no mistake, this opportunity is not optional.
In the uncertainty that so many feel, leaders must create more certainty. We have this outstanding opportunity to renovate our culture and ensure every employee understands their value, their part in our vision, their significance in the growth and their innovation contribution towards the regeneration of our business in an upside down world.
“The fierce urgency of Now”
Martin Luther King Jr.
August 28th 1963
Martin Luther King Jr is remembered predominantly for His “I have a Dream” speech. But we would hardly recall to mind one of the most urgent and significant parts to his soliloquy which was the action statement – “Now is the time.” He urged his listeners to consider who they were and that slavery had been defeated some “five score years ago” and then proceeded to reinforce the urgency of action with;
“We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.
This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.
Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s children.”
I Trust You
I Value You
I Appreciate You
I Hear What You Think
Now is the time to change our narratives. And our narrative must change. I could say revert to the post war era thinking about community, but whatever you label it we must communicate “What matters most is individually who you are”.
Practically, your voice as leader is your most powerful tool. Forget the workshops and programmes and the talk of green tea and massages. You have the ultimate power to change peoples lives, to rebuild trust and create deeply embedded valued based cultures. And it begins with the conversations of “I trust your experiences and skills, I value what you bring, I appreciate what you do and I want to listen to your thoughts and ideas.” So darn simple it’s insulting.
I present and coach a simple model of leadership that builds into this outcome which I describe as “leaders wear one of three hats on given moment.”
The Cheer leader, The Coach and the Chaplain caps.
Cap#1 Thank you, I love what you, so keep going, your are doing well.
Cap#2 I think you might need some help to learn this, so let me show you how it works best.
Cap#3 Lets go grab coffee, I want to hear whats on your mind.
It is not by chance my company ideology is in part set upon a few simple statements.
“Coffee fixes everything, &
Well-being is not something is it a someone.”
I so believe that we can create organisations that people will line up to join. We have this moment to reflect, act and reap the rewards of higher engagement, higher productivity, exponential innovation and greater revenue.
The road to purpose and meaning is paved with the robes of the servant leader not the sceptre of a king.
Is it time we chose the lower, yet ultimately higher road?