- We close the gender pay gap – Repeat after me, “equal pay and gender pay are not the same thing”. Gender Pay reporting is a good thing and has opened up a much needed debate. The issues are widespread and complex – occupational segregation, education, family and cultural influences – not to mention the media. All need addressing, but can’t be handled by companies alone, so sadly don’t expect significant change soon. (Also: worth checking out the Trade Unions’ pay gaps if you have a minute to spare).
- We accept zero hours contracts – When Matthew Taylor wrote one of the best reviews of modern working practices a couple of years back, he was roundly condemned by everyone for being…well, thoughtful and reasonable. Zero hours contracts aren’t wrong, workplace cultures that misuse them are. Fact.
- We realise flexible working has failed – Similarly to executive reward, the ability to have a reasoned and balanced debate on the issue of flexibility seems to elude us. It isn’t working, either for organisations or individuals and the evidence is in the stubbornly low take up. So how do we make it better for all, not just keep banging a broken drum, or inscribing a problem into legislation?
- L&D grows up – If I hear another whinging article about why L&D is a separate, strategic function, I’ll beat someone over the head with their Insights profile (no, never done it either, but I bet I’m an orange ). Unless fully integrated, learning and skills development are pointless, self pleasing, momentary activities. Just without the tissues.
- HR chills out – There are very few scenarios I can conceive where anybody dies as a result of HR, but millions, daily, where they lose the will to live. That’s all you need to know on this point.
- We stop wasting money on leadership – Everyone is disengaged, profits are falling, we are at risk of disintermediation. I know, let’s get a member of the third squad for the British Hockey team that almost won the bronze medal in 1984 to help us figure out why! Frankly, it’s probably that sort of logic that got you where you are in the first place.
- We hold CIPD to account – When not spouting Orwellian nonsense, “The future of work is now!” (wide hand gesture and pause obligatory), they’re partnering with the pressure group the High Pay Centre to beat up on their members. More interested in column inches than member representation, chartered membership numbers are consistently falling and missing target. When even Number 10 are openly criticising you, you know you need to do better.
- We have a sensible debate on executive reward – See above. If your own professional body can’t get it’s head around the topic, then who is going to lead a thoughtful debate on the issue, rather than one driven by soundbites on the christian names of CEOs in the FTSE100? Will Hutton might, as ever, be our best bet. Interesting stuff here.
- We stop making faddy predictions – Big data, AI, Employee Experience, Generation Y, I could go on. Anyone who writes anything with numbered predictions, based on the time of year, needs to be taken outside, put against the wall and shot. Oh wait.
Here’s a bet…
I reckon I could ask anyone in your workplace, or mine, to name one thing that would improve their work or working lives and they’d be able to tell me within an hour maximum.
And of course, if I asked you the same question, you’d be able to tell me too.
Yet we all sit on all of these ideas every day, because;
- we don’t have permission
- it’s complicated
- we don’t have the time
- they wouldn’t like it
All of those good ideas going to waste and instead we do a whole series of things that we don’t understand the purpose of, can’t define the value of, do because we’ve always done. We knowingly reduce our potential value.
As leaders our fundamental responsibility is to help teams to deliver the value that they hold, to allow them to contribute to the best of their ability and to fulfil their potential. To do this, we need to remove those things that prevent and get in the way.
Whilst changing cultures and refocusing teams isn’t easy, it is the reason we exist and the duty we have. We should ask ourselves, what other better purpose we could serve? Every transformation had a first step, everyone needs to start somewhere.
In life there is a natural continuum between principles and pragmatism. It runs throughout our work, our personal decisions, our politics and our businesses. Running the gauntlet between the two polar forces is a key tenet of successful leadership.
The allure of the principled leader is strong. We want people who stand for something, organisations with clear values and purpose. But the frustration is palpable when they stand in the way of things just getting done.
People who make things happen, who are willing to compromise and change their position. We admire them with a distrust. What wouldn’t they forsake?
Knowing when to stand by your personal value set, your principles and knowing when to let go and move on for the sake of organisational/societal benefit is perhaps the biggest challenge for us all.
This easy answer is to say it’s neither one nor the other – it is a beautiful simple, yet totally impotent perspective. An anodyne position which adds little to any understanding of the complexity of values and decision-making.
Because the truth to leadership is not recognising when you need to compromise, or stick by your principles – but understanding why others need to do so. Giving forgiveness and tolerance to the value sets of others.
It doesn’t matter whether it is personal, business or political. Our difference is created by recognising the difference in others. That sometimes we all need to stand firm and sometimes we need to change, admit we were wrong and reconsider.
Failure is when we judge without seeking to understand.
Would you think it acceptable if someone at work shouted at you, called you names, told you to do your f***ing job? Or if they reminded you how important they were and that they could have you sacked? How about if they were drunk, high, abusive or sexually inappropriate?
Yet everyday people at work endure this treatment, from their customers.
It is not ok.
When “normal” people behave inappropriately when they’re placed in a nominal position of power in a retail, hospitality or leisure environment. When they talk to service staff, cleaners, security guards and transport staff as if they are dirt. When they lose all sense of humanity.
It is not ok.
Working in organisations, they’ll value “teamwork, “collaboration” and “partnership”. They’ll abide to corporate value sets about caring for one another and being the best that they can. Yet once outside, the good intent drops away and they enter into a different relationship with our world.
It is not ok.
It’s not ok to treat people around you any differently because of a perceived commercial superiority. It doesn’t matter whether that’s buying something in a shop, or a restaurant, or on a train. It doesn’t matter what your excuse is.
It is not ok.
Everybody is a doing a job. Some people have choices about the work they do, other people have less. Everyone comes to work to earn money for the things that they care about. Some people earn more, others less.
Everybody has a right to dignity and respect. Everyone has the right to be treated like a human being, to be treated with politeness, with understanding and tolerance.
It is not ok to lose perspective of the way that we work with our colleagues, talk to our friends and behave with our family. To treat people doing an honest day’s work with contempt.
It is not ok to belittle, demean or berate someone because we believe that our social value is somehow greater than their’s.
It is not ok to dehumanise anyone.
It is not ok.