Lance Armstrong lacked values not rules

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If you have read any of Lance Amstrong’s interview with the BBC, or even just picked up the headline (I would cheat all over again if we were back in 1995) you can’t help but be struck by the culture and values of cycling at the time that Armstrong was at his peak.  Armstrong is a very interesting character and potentially an extreme of his type but you can read many autobiographies of cyclists of this era (David Millar’s probably being the best) and you will find they took drugs…clearly not all of them…but many, many of them.  The rules said one thing, the culture and values said something else.

This Sunday in my son’s rugby match one of the kids backchatted the ref over a bad (and it was bad) decision.  The result … a 5 yard penalty and his coach telling him to keep his mouth shut.  The culture of rugby dictates you are respectful of the ref.  If you want to see this in action in the professional game, then read about the French national coach dropping his star player for sarcastically clapping the ref after he was sent off.  Any parent of a child who has played football will tell you it is different.  The culture is different.

While cycling clearly needed rules, and clearly needed tight drug testing it has had a culture of drug taking for years.  Indeed some of the older cyclists are almost revered for it.  Interestingly, recently the Astana team of current Tour de France champion Nibali has had a series of failed drug tests but the authorities haven’t found it within themselves to ban the team from competition.  Culture change takes many years.

In the work place we have seen this in banking, utilities, and politicians.  Following each scandal there has been a clamour for better regulation (usually more regulation) and rules.  But do we really think there were a lack of rules or did the people lack values?

In an increasingly complex workplace I would suggest that peer pressure, norms of working, and values are the only hope that leaders (or the public) have of the employees acting in the way they would hope for and expect.  The thought that you can add to the rule book is both naive and impractical.  My old company HSBC appears to now have legions of people in “Compliance” making sure the rules are seen to be followed.  Indirectly we are all now paying for these additional costs but it is unlikely that it is form filling that will stop the next banking scandal.

Open discussion, open feedback, peer review against a set of values, behaviours, and cultural norms are only one piece of how you get this to work but they are at least as important as the rules.  Armstrong knew the written rules, he knows them now, but he would have cheated in 1995 even knowing what he knows now.  It was the culture of the time and his personal values didn’t stand up to the test.

 

Brendan

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Free Webinar@Friday 30th January@1pm Setting Objectives

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Friday 30th January@1pm GMT

It’s that time of year for many of us again!

Get this first conversation right and performance management becomes a whole lot simpler and more effective by the time you come to conduct appraisals.

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Setting effective SMART objectives

This interactive one hour webinar explores the key elements which will help Line Managers successfully conduct a conversation to set objectives:

  • The importance of holding trust during the conversation
  • Why SMART is an effective template for creating objectives
  • Shaping, challenging and committing; the stages to effective objective setting
  • What questions to ask that will help you facilitate SMART objective setting
Whether you are a Line Manager looking to refresh your skills before these conversations, or HR/L & D professionals wishing to better support your Line Managers through this phase of the Performance Management cycle, join us for a session which will give you practical help you can apply immediately.

 

Previous attendees comments:
“Bowland’s webinars are extremely interactive and well structured. They focus on the core aspects of the subject and the tips/guidance are applicable in the business.”

“Excellent content delivered clearly and professionally. A great opportunity to interact with the subject and other participants.”

“John delivered the session on meaningful conversations with great clarity and in an engaging manner. The audience engagement was heightened with great interactive tools of inputs and polls. Thank you.”

 
Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Setting effective SMART objectives

 

I hope you can join me this Friday 30th January@1pm GMT
John Rice
Director, Bowland Solutions
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Busting Urban Myths – The new world of work or holiday?

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Should I listen to your opinion?

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On a a reasonably long car journey yesterday I was flipping between radio channels.  As I’m of a certain age Radio 2 and Radio 4 were featuring more prominently than they would have previously done.  On Radio 2 was a discussion on the dangers of sledging and on Radio 4 was a discussion on levels of inequality.

Initially the sledging discussion was with someone from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.  Other than a slight concern that we had lost the plot (bicycle helmets for sledging!) the discussion has data and insights built up from some expertise in the subject.

On Radio 4 I was later into the debate and already into the public contribution.

It was at this point that I became a little exasperated.  On both channels the public were calling in with their views.  And while their views were stridently held and even at times interesting I couldn’t help but wonder what was the point of me listening to views of non-experts on the subject.   Invariably both discussions included one anecdote that the opinion giver extrapolated wildly from.  That opinion was of course valid and honestly held but it wasn’t possible to tell whether this was an isolated view or one more generally held.  It was the equivalent of a pub conversation.  At times fun but not overly illuminating on the subject.

In 360 feedback we often say that everyone’s opinion is valid.  In collating the narrative comments we ask the recipient to take on all of the feedback.  But it is of course important that the respondents are useful reviewers of this recipient.  Though not expert feedback givers, they should through exposure to the recipient over a period of time have built up a balanced view of them so that they can give balanced, useful feedback.  The selection of respondents is going to be critical to how the report is formed and its content.  A good reminder to all of us to spend longer explaining who makes a good respondent in 360.

 

Brendan

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Industry best practice versus your company’s best practice

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In London yesterday I had four meetings with four different clients/prospective clients.  In one of those “this is odd” moments I was asked similarly structured questions in each of the meetings.  The questions were around best practice.  As we have a lot of experience in 360 feedback and performance appraisal that is clearly a typical thing to be asked but what made me reflect more was that in each situation there was a difference between what I may consider as industry best practice and what I would recommend for this particular client/propsect.

New processes, systems, and ideas need to meet the recipients where they are.  Training, guidance, presentations, and other promotional material can and should make a shift from current practice but to ignore the current culture, capability, and expectation is likely to lead to a poorly accepted and poorly used process.  So while being aware of industry best practice and having a clear view on the ideal implementation is useful (it’s clearly best to have some direction), adapting that best practice to suit the amount of movement that the majority of the firm/organisation can cope with is a pragmatic way forward.

Our long term clients tend to move over time to better and better processes and practice as the members of the organisation become increasingly comfortable with giving and receiving feedback, build trust in both the process and their management, and develop personally.  The first implementation should be the most change in the correct direction that will be absorbed positively by the majority.

 

Brendan

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The power of trust – an example from Wiggle

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Most people can be trusted.  I firmly believe this.  They can be trusted to work well, act honestly, make good decisions (not always ones you agree with but ones honestly made), look out for each other and generally “do the right thing”.  There can be such a focus on the minority that cannot be trusted – the stories can be so emotive – that we gear our systems and rules to cope with that minority and we can fall into the trap of believe that the majority cannot be trusted.

This often crops up in our line of work when we are looking at performance management.  But the example that struck me today was Wiggle.  For those of you who do not run or cycle, Wiggle is one of the main online providers of cycling and running products.  Their service is excellent and their prices competitive.  But today they surpassed themselves and simply because they created a process that was built on trust.

My son was bought a cycling top as a gift that doesn’t quite fit.  It was bought from Wiggle.  There was an immediate heart-sinking moment of working out how we would get the top back to the buyer who could return it and get the new sized top and send it over to us.  Until we looked at the Wiggle policy which is … If you have received an item as a gift, just fill out a form, post it back with the item and either get a credit or receive a differently sized version.  No receipt.  No linking of the original purchase.  These are branded goods – I could have got them from anywhere.  It is easy to see how to abuse this system.  But, with a bit of trust, the service is incredible and I wouldn’t hesitate to use Wiggle for gift purchases in the future.

I’m not naive – there may be some hard headed calculation of likely abuse, there may be some controls in place, but fundamentally this is built on trust and the majority of people can be trusted.

When working on a new process this year – whether for performance management or anything else – let’s work on the basis that people can be trusted and design the forms for the majority.

 

Brendan

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Forget New Year resolutions, make a New Year habit instead

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I find myself at this time of year, like most people, considering what I might wish to achieve in 2015 – the usual considerations of becoming fitter, losing weight, etc along with writing a Xmas hit record which pays my pension in future years, all feature as New Year resolutions.

However, I realised that these often far reaching resolutions or goals, were left strewn at the roadside of life as I made my way through the year (and let’s be fair, some were chucked out the window by the third week of January).

I wondered if there was a better way to help me stay the course and started to consider what things would I need to do each and every day to make it more likely I would achieve those goals.

For example, a friend of ours Tony Philips of The Coaching Approach, decided he would run a mile a day; he started in 2010, and as they say hasn’t looked back (and he’s very far from home now too…old joke I know).

The idea of starting a new habit, a daily one, appealed to me; I could make the habit bite-size, do-able, and ‘stackable’. The last point there is reference to a growing concept of ‘habit stacking’; a method of placing one habit ‘on top of’ another one which is already well established i.e. Brushing your teeth.

Would it possible for me to write ‘a page a day’ for example, rather than just have ‘write a book’ as my goal? Suddenly big projects have 10-15 minute slots allocated in a day; I feel something which might appear overwhelming take on a different form and I feel motivated.

The proof is going to be most certainly in the doing, but certainly the idea of New Year habits rather than resolutions, resonates for me – the connection to what we do in our work also naturally leads me to consider how setting objectives might be married with agreeing habits with ourselves, with individuals, and with teams.

John

 

 

 

 

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