A number of chance conversations over the last week or so have led me to pen this latest blog – and it’s about a couple of things that are really important to me – empowerment and communication.
I’d like to start off by recalling an incident that happened many years ago at a Bedminster Down Boys’ Club Parliament. For those who are unaware of this club it was a South Bristol Youth Organisation where the members, aged between 11- 19 yrs of age, were empowered with the all the decision making, from the gym rota to the cost of subs, even the cleaners wages. Nearly a twelve month prior to his particular meeting the Club had appointed an Assistant Youth Worker; unfortunately he was “released” prior to his probation period being completed. At this Parliament the Leader announced this decision and the reasons why. The members were outraged, and made their feelings very well known. Not because they any sense of loyalty to the individual – I think they all thought he was a good bloke but a bit out of his depth, but because discussions had taken place and decisions made without any reference to the membership. At no time did any of the Clubs Leadership discuss any concerns/issues they had, even worse – the membership had not been involved in the original appointment. As a management team we learned a lot that evening – not only about the lack of visibility there had been over the whole process but our failure to communicate to the very people who been impacted by the decisions that had been made.
I now fast forward many years to the present day – with the continued failure of those in positions of authority, whether at a Political or Business level, not only to communicate, but to maintain any relationship with those who they are there to represent, as in Government. Or those who are burden with the results of often poor or crass decision making, as in Business.
All Businesses are different, but many of them rely on one particular thing to ultimately survive – and that’s teamwork, whether it is at a Board Room or an operational level. They also survive by having solid communication processes in place at all levels, and I am not just talking about formal communication processes here, I am talking about the basic communications skills that allow one person to talk to another, regardless of their differing perceived level of status within that organisation.
During my time in management I endeavoured to practice what I preached. And that was that “people are important”, and having an “effective relationship as Senior Manager with all staff in your area of concern was essential to deliver business requirements.” I might also add that I didn’t always get in right.
When Governments lose sight of what the issues are for the electorate then they cannot govern in the best interests of that electorate. Whilst I try to avoid “political discussions” of any kind I was party to a three way discussion at Zion recently, with two other people – one of which was Labour Party Activist. What was interesting was that we shared many of the same values, such as the care of the most vulnerable in our Society, and a wage that working people can survive on. I firmly believe that open and honest conversations can often overcome political, religious or cultural differences. Being open to the concept of accepting that “somebody’s opinion maybe different to yours” is an important value in any civilised society. Attaining a level of “management” in any organisation is not a prerequisite to being “right”. In fact the most successful managers are those that are open to others opinions, they don’t take criticism as a personal attack and are open to the concept of being challenged around the decisions they have made.
As we limp towards BREXIT it is worth us all remembering that, regardless of which side of the fence you sit, or even if you’re precariously stood on top of that fence, the only opinion that really matters is your own. In a free civilised society where everyone has been given the same right to choose, nobody has the right to condemn another because his opinions are different to their own.
Regrettably, at a time when we all need to work together Politicians are becoming more and more detached from the people they are there to represent, and in Business the gap between Board Rooms, Senior Managers and the workforce is getting bigger. If you’re in a position of authority in Business and you don’t think your direct reports are being open and honest with you then you should take a dam good look at yourself – because you’re the one with the problem, and it is probably one of your own making. If somebody is telling you that you are too close to your staff then in most cases that person has probably never managed people and knows little about how to get the best from the workforce.
It is my opinion that BREXIT occurred because Politicians didn’t really understand the issues that people had – and the subsequent chaos is a direct result of that. But in Business, it is often not until you have a crisis when you need the support of your staff that the realism of your failings will materialise – and of course that could be at any time, and it will be too late to do anything about it – just like BREXIT>