The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Franklin D Roosevelt
There you go. Nothing like a well-worn cliché to kick off, and with the apparently imminent (again) collapse of the global financial market and the consequent disintegration of democracies around the world, that is probably as relevant and true today as it was 80 years ago. Except of course, the Armageddon scenario won’t happen because throughout time the brave have overcome the one thing that would precipitate such meltdown; the paralysis of fear and the temptation to sit on the touchline and watch the whole sorry saga dissolve before their frozen, staring eyes. (Caveat: if it does happen, by then you’ll have hopefully forgotten that you read it here first and have more important things to worry about.)
Robert Terry’s recent blog “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, or “Kirkpatrick must go!” put forward an interesting ‘conspiracy theory’ slant to the whole training evaluation debate, and it got me thinking that the root cause of the lethargy that contributes to the huge sums that are wasted on training events might just be because it’s all a bit scary. Even in such austere market conditions, why are so many of our corporate leaders apparently content to sit back and watch the money flow out through their Learning & Development budgets? Why do they seem satisfied when they have a team who return from their development experience having made some new friends, are a bit more motivated and, at best, have transcended as individuals into better human beings, albeit not actually able to contribute anything of demonstrable additional value to the business?
I have just finished reading Justin Webb’s new book, Notes on Them and Us: From the Mayflower to Obama the British, the Americans and the essential relationship: A Plan for the Amicable Separation of America and Britain, in which he explores the relationship that we have as Brits with our American cousins, drawing on his experience of 8 years in Washington as a BBC reporter. “Why?”, I hear you ask? Well, as a politics graduate who studied US politics and a massive fan of Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’ (something I have in common with Justin), I was just interested. (I also had an Amazon voucher for my birthday.)
It’s a great and easy read that I would recommend, with lots of wise insights that I recognise from holidays and working in the US. But there was a completely unexpected by-product of reading it – triggered by a particular point he made that illuminated my work in helping organisations shift their cultures and more particularly in confronting the unwritten paradigms at the heart of such cultures.
And then I had a really scary thought – how does this affect the models and approaches that we use in our consultancy work?
In less than 24 hours, we may be getting an interesting lesson in leadership and the forging of working relationships. Alternatively, we might get a lesson in leading while visibly having only a minority of potential available support, or a masterful (well, it will be a man) display of tantrum throwing at the electorate’s lack of gratitude for their potential services. (Today’s Times has published a recipe for a coalition cocktail for those of you for whom this is all too much to contemplate: you may wish to stock up on Galliano on your way home.) Whatever the result, the electoral ground has shifted in this campaign as rarely before: the level of public discussion about electoral reform may have interesting implications for the governing style of any ‘winner’. But I also noticed another very interesting aspect of the campaign that may see interesting developments in organisational development and leadership almost regardless of the outcome.