Yet again, the news makes stark reading and shows a clear lack of leadership in countries and major organisations, both in the private and the public sectors. The banks make a perfect example of customers getting nervous about the future of a business …
History, and not just in the Great Depression after the Wall St Crash, shows us what happens when people lost faith in the banking system to protect their money. A more recent example in the UK would be when rumours abounded about Northern Rock and people queued round the block to withdraw their cash.
So why is it that the leaders of the government – and the banks – in Cyprus thought people would just stand back and let their savings be raided without taking action? And whilst it looks as if the final decision may impact on those with high value savings, the impact of the breaking news of this potential action has been devastating and damaged an already hurting economy and its people.
Did none of the country’s leaders seriously consider what impact announcing a potential action like that might have? In a matter of weeks many people have lost their jobs, small businesses have had to restructure and make changes; yet alone the impact on larger businesses. And since it’s the start of the Cypriot tourist season, that too will be impacted as people will be unsure of what is happening, whether places will be properly open and even if they can access cash when needed.
Had the leaders waited until they were sure of the actions they were going to take and made clear announcements with guidance for businesses and the people, then the outcome may have been different. Yes, there will be consequences, but not knee jerk reactions that create more problems than they solve.
The faith in the leaders of the country may not be shaken to the roots as it is now; and as further measures are needed and the country and businesses need to work together more, who will listen to those leaders?
The immediate aftermath has resulted in much finger pointing and disassociation with decisions made. Frankly, the public have seen far too much of such posturing and self preservation to really believe anyone, so it further erodes belief and respect.
How often have we seen similar situations in business? Rumours abounding of potential significant changes such as selling the business to be downplayed by the leaders but no real proof given that it’s not what’s happening.
This leaves the people in the business – and potentially customers and suppliers too – in limbo. Such rumours can impact on the success of new contracts, the share price and valuation of a business; take people’s mind off the important as they become distracted by the urgent; i.e. the rumours.
And if there isn’t open and honest communication from all the leaders in the business then these simply fester and continue to have a negative impact on the business and the people in the business.
This week a damning report into the UK Borders Agency was made public. Damning not just in its content, but showing there had been no real change since previous reports had been issued. Cited in the report was the previous head of the Agency who now heads HMRC. When Lin Homer was appointed Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary of HMRC there was much speculation as to the wisdom of the appointment, but that settled quite quickly.
As always in that role, Homer has had to appear before various parliamentary committees but has been able to demonstrate some significant changes.
However, the report on the UKBA has again raised questions about her appointment which, taken alongside reports on the HMRC helplines, the closure of enquiry offices and the delivery of major changes, could be seen to paint a very damning picture. When this leads to spats in parliament, it raises questions and impacts on reputations and belief.
We all have our own opinion of HMRC and how effectively this behemoth organisation works – some based on personal experience and some on anecdotal evidence and from the press. But what message is it giving to the organisation as a whole and to the people who work in it, yet alone its customers and stakeholders?
To be working in an environment where there are extreme pressures to make wholesale changes in the way it works, the service it provides, whilst at the same time increasing yield and making cuts, cannot be the best to motivate people to work at an optimal rate. And this is an organisation that has seen change, after change, after change with mergers and systems issues and project after project to reform the way it works.
What’s the overall impact on the leaders in the organisation and the people in the organisation?
A while ago we talked about juicy failures. Perhaps UKBA was Homer’s juicy failure? Has anyone asked her what she’s learned from that about running an organisation, serving customers and stakeholders and about how she works and operates?
At the moment the press are pointing towards her writing to refute that the latest report is a result of her failings. I’d like to hear less of that and more about what has been learnt that she is using to support and lead in HMRC.
Instead of kicking the organisation when it’s down, every government minister should be looking to how they can support it. They should be leaders, accepting accountability and not finger pointing and distancing themselves. And for that matter the same support should be offered to the UKBA, following on from the report it was announced that the UKBA is to be disbanded as its performance is simply not good enough. Accountability for this has to rest with others not just the senior mangers in UKBA – at the time of writing there was a little posturing and finger pointing from across the house no doubt there will be more.
We can’t do business in the way that we used to and neither can ministers behave in the way they used. It’s time to change, step up to the plate and stop the political posturing – whether that is with a small or a capital ‘P’.
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Until next time …