Who are ‘they’ anyway?

“But they said we had no choice!”, I overheard a rather frazzled individual say to another in the reception of a rather large organization. “Turns out we did. It was an unmitigated disaster!”

My client then appeared so I know not how the dialogue continued.

‘They’ seem to be quite a powerful bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder.

When we don’t know who specifically is responsible or accountable, the collective ‘they’ tend to appear with punishing regularity and untold influence.  In the same way that when we’re perhaps anxious about a significant event, we start considering, sometimes unrealistically, what ‘they’ will think.   Do we stop to think who ‘they’ really are? Not always.

The media is currently awash with news about what ‘they’, collective politicians, company executives, did or didn’t, will or won’t do.

When ‘they’ becomes a specific individual, it is so very much easier to make progress and identify who is doing what. Useful when it’s all going swimmingly, even more so when it’s not!

I wonder if those executives at Tesco knew who ‘they’ were , the ones that were supposedly accounting for what was going on financially and should maybe have been accruing more effectively?

They (!) evidently hadn’t come across the salutary little poem ‘Who’s job is it’.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Do you know specifically who is doing what for you in your organization or personally?

It seems that ‘they’ have a little too much power in the world. Is it timely to start reclaiming some of it back and redressing the accountability and responsibility balance.

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After all when people are given autonomy, generally individuals rise to the challenge and deliver……very, very well. Richard Branson knows this and has recently announced that his employees can choose exactly when and for how long they take a vacation.  Productivity will soar.

People are very able and have names with history and heritage, let’s be specific and perhaps the collective ‘they’ might just start to go away or at the very least have a little less influence.

Have a fantastic week.

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Is abandoning ship a cop out?

On watching some of the exciting Cowes week action, one couldn’t help observe that it is a sport that is well supported by the financial services industry. Barclays has long been a sponsor of sailing and for a number of years the Global Challenge round the world yacht race.  
Now, I’m no round the world racer however I do sail and know for sure that the captain of a ship will do absolutely anything within his or her power to save their vessel and the lives of the crew and passengers within (for the moment we shall park the captain of the ill-fated Concordia, he was a rarity for sure).  
The banking industry being such a key sponsor and supporter of all things ocean, the abandoning ship tactic of Bob Diamond when the proverbial storm hit, loomed in large and stark contrast to the typical characteristics and values of a captain, be it of a 20ft vessel or larger. Admittedly many people have been baying for the resignation and there were multi-faceted reasons for and against.  However, it is a pitiful current day trait that when trouble appears, and it invariably does at one point or another in even the most robust of organisations, the current standard practice of those at the top; politicians, chief execs… is to abandon ship.  
Now, it may be me but that doesn’t show a great deal of resilience, commitment or grit.  If I may indulge the sailing analogy a little further, if a storm hits, you split your mainsail, take on water, lose your rudder, crash your vessel into a pontoon or whichever, the chances of the captain jumping overboard are exceedingly unlikely.  Not to mention if aforementioned captain does abandon ship in challenging seas, the likelihood of him or her spending the rest of their days with the mermaids is quite possible.    
Being captain of a vessel, cruising yacht through to enormous ocean going cargo ship requires immense skill, expertise and talent, notwithstanding the ability to deal effectively in a crisis.  A captain will do utterly all that is necessary to save vessel and all lives on board. Salvaging law another debate entirely. Being at sea in a storm in challenging circumstances is not for the faint-hearted and if I may use a hackneyed expression it does separate the men from the boys (women from the girls). A challenging situation, risk, potential loss, collateral and/ or physical damage requires analytical skills, short term risk assessment, decision making skills, confidence, communication and strategic planning, to mention just a few.  On a vessel in a storm this will all happen in minutes, they’ll be a process and a plan of action to get out of said troubled water.  Now, these skills are hardly a rarity in business, they’re constantly trained for, studied for and gained through experience and endeavour.  Bob Diamond, for one, would have all (and still does) of these skills in abundance. 
Surely, if we’re really going to change our banking culture, Bob Diamond with his undoubted capabilities would have been the best man for the job.  Whilst he may not have been directly responsible, the buck most certainly stopped with him.  As the master of a ship, captains are in that position not for the high days and watching the dolphins but actually when a crisis hits; manmade, natural or otherwise, it is their responsibility to get it sorted using all the aforementioned skills.  If we are nationally to develop those phenomenal skills of dealing effectively in a crisis, and demonstrate resilience, grit and commitment to the next generation then perhaps the first step is to shift this characteristic of quitting at the top when it gets tough (really tough).  
After all, as a nation, we used to be globally renowned for it.