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Does Ethics Matter In Business?

Having 'consulted' for many years in a plethora of organisations from commercial through to public service and charity on areas from leadership, through team working and subsequently high performance cultures, I am left with some common threads that seem to always be present in those that work most effectively.

These include;

What actually are organisations (whether from Commercial FTSE 100s or Church)?

Perhaps it's better to look at them as a 'system' constructed by its members through the interaction of its members. So to be a bit off-the-wall, an organization is just a thought, not a thing. An imaginary construct of what is happening. Fundamentally it works because on the whole people come to work each day to do tasks that, should they agree locally it is right to do and this extends out throughout the whole group, it all works as a whole rather than by 'divine direction' from the physical top.

If leaders do decide what we do and set the vision, then why are we here now? Would they have designed the current position for any one of their organisations? NO.

So, the organisation emerges. The effective partnership emerges.

Ultimately, if individuals interact positively and agree what they do is right, this affects others near them and the overall thing creates patterns that appear coherent and effective – known therefore as emergence – though one has to accept somewhat unpredictable.

 Ethics and the critical role it plays in leadership success.

One critical facet to include of course is the issue of ethics – not so much ethics of the whole organisation, but the ethics of each person in the individual decisions at the most local of levels (1-2-1) through the individual actions we take.

Let's face it, ethics form the basis of trust, and trust is only gained through actions (I see what you do – so you mean it, but only believe you when you repeat it consistently over time).

So the big question is, what do you do if you know this or understand this construct and want to influence and effect good leadership or leadership for good?

Leadership therefore in our context is NOT a 'heroic figure', but more all about the local interactions between human beings. Too many people are pre-occupied with the 'game' and not thinking how to decide what is best, so are engaged in 'politics, persuasion and negotiation' rather than what actually the whole thing is aiming to achieve. So for effective leadership we should stop thinking of pre-designed solutions or ultimate master plans, but more how to influence the 'group' in the 'right direction'.

Excellent leadership (which is in my mind a social phenomenon arising through the interaction between people) is where others recognise you lead and you recognise their roles. Leadership is therefore co-created.

Ethical Leaders therefore must:

  1. Interact locally (regularly)
  2. Communicate to large numbers of people. However remember the interpretation is how it is taken up by local interactions. Pronouncements are but gestures and the effect once again is through local responses – we can't control how it is interpreted.
  3. Understand how it works locally which ultimately is by 'conversations'. Conversations within groups and between individuals.
  4. Realise they are leaders, only if they are sensitive to the situation and able to articulate what is emerging, which helps the group move forward and on.

Ethical Leaders therefore have to:

  1. Widen and deepen communication to help the group move forward
  2. Try and explore what to do in change (options)
  3. Stimulate ordinary conversations in times of anxiety. Why? Because if we don't, people jump to conclusions as they look for safety (or to meet their own agenda).
  4. Live longer with being anxious so they keep the conversations going longer so a solution arises that is far better than jumping to quick fixes and mundane solutions no one in the end believes really work.
  5. Be self-reflective to realise they should not be idealised as this can lead to ultimate denigration – let's face it, Barak Obama realised this when he said he is 'not the Messiah' or has all the answers.
  6. Help others take the next step. 

So, I agree with those that say selection and training of leaders is essential. That same training should open leaders' minds to all these insights and help them understand how to manage this uncertainty, while finding the way forward for themselves and for the group as a whole. We have a portfolio of products and services that can affect leadership for good in your organisation. Should you wish to know more, or even put something in place for your leaders, Entrusted can help you put the right things in place.

Maths v English

I wonder if you remember the choices you had to make during school which almost felt like having to choose between Maths and English. The “Now is it going to be science subjects or arts Peter?” question, directly or implied.  Back in the 70’s I chose sciences and that set a path for me over the coming decade. Wow, what a long time when my decision was not founded on any substantive knowledge, enough information or, in truth wise counsel.
As the decades passed by, and what is now described as “multiple-careers” with a lot of tough, enjoyable and sometimes confusing outcomes I realised as time went on how much I love the arts; Literature, music, the spoken word, beauty and aesthetics.  
As a coach now for over two decades, I have had numerous discussions with clients around what did they want out of life back then, what was your passion and are you living and breathing it now (even if it’s different from before).  Sadly many, far too many are not fulfilled, are not pursuing their passion and know there is something missing in their lives.
Having the right person to talk to, with the right conversations, can and does enable all of us to gain far greater insight into who we really are and what we really want out of life – no matter what age we are. Yes, you can change, even with all the responsibilities, commitments and ties that seem to prevent us thinking (i.e. outside the boxes we find hold us to the today, the mundane, the unfulfilled).
While working with a wonderful team recently, I was reflecting while facilitating the discussion and solutions around how to meet, exceed and grow EBITDA, and cope, survive and thrive in times of tougher financial targets and tangible cuts that were being explored, and most importantly the themes of trust and how motivation and morale are ‘hurting’ within their business.
It dawned on me that the vast majority of discussions that are going on in many organisations revolve around the former; How to cut and how to increase productivity and profitability and deliver the calculated and actionable tasks to achieve this, yet fail totally to really find similar solutions to the latter i.e. How to address and re-build trust, motivation and morale.
In my heart, then head, it felt to me like the difference between Maths and English.
Maths versus EnglishMaths – as I saw it then, was anodyne, formulaic and followed clear heuristics to reach logical and finite decisions for action, while English on the other hand was discursive, emotional, motivational, inspirational and, critically, created pictures of a future, a brighter future that when written and spoken well can raise the human soul, individuals and teams alike to achieve wonderful, and at times, unbelievable successes.
That was it – turning to the group I mentioned “Maths v English”, explained what I meant, and from that moment on we complimented the hard Maths work with robust, tangible and achievable English. Together the outcome of both delivered more, far more than anyone expected and critically created a legacy that to this day sustains and allows for on-going dialogue, continuing iteration and innovative solutions which in turn maintain morale and motivation, in both good and tough times.
Do you consider your ‘English’, or is it ‘Maths’ that is the sole medium used in your organisation? Why not explore ‘English’ further and who knows, the short-termism of many ‘Maths’ initiatives can be complemented with enduring trust, motivation and tangible positive morale.

Managing your Chimp!

Recently I've been sharing with a number of successful individuals I coach, the whole concept of "managing your chimp". This all comes from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox' by Dr Steve Peters. Dr Peters works in elite sport and has been the resident psychiatrist with the British Cycling team since 2001 and also the SKY ProCycling team. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan have all spoken publicly about how Dr Peters' unique Chimp Model has helped improve their performance. He has also been involved in 12 other Olympic sports and has recently been hired by Brendan Rogers at Liverpool FC!

His theory is that everyone has two personalities - a human and a chimp. You the human thinks logically and works with facts and truth. You the chimp thinks emotionally and uses impressions and feelings. The Chimp is an emotional machine that will hijack you of you allow it to. It is not good or bad ; it is a Chimp. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy - this is the Chimp Paradox.

This book is well worth reading if you find yourself wondering why things are happening that you would like to change. It makes you think about how you react to situations.

Here is one excerpt that some of you might be able to identify with - it made me think for sure

In the middle of the night

Imagine that you have gone to sleep with something on your mind that is really concerning you. You wake up in the night and your mind starts racing. At this point, the Human is fast asleep and the Chimp is in total control. Therefore your thinking is irrational and emotional. The Chimp will think and see things catastrophically and worry you for however long you are "awake". Eventually you will fall back to sleep and come round again in the morning. You now get out of bed and wonder why you were thinking so emotionally during the night.

The answer is simple : during the night your brain changes its functioning and the human no longer gives any check to the chimp. In the morning the human is now rational and puts things back into perspective. Nothing seems as bad once you return to human functioning. There is a simple lesson to learn and a golden rule to follow.

The simple lesson is that, unless you are a night shift worker, between the hours of 11pm and 7am you are in Chimp mode with emotional and irrational thinking. You rarely think with perspective and this will only return after 7 in the morning (I accept this isn't a good thing for someone like me who get s up at 5.30am, but I am working on it, or at least not doing too much focused thinking!). The golden rule therefore is :
If you wake during the night, any thoughts and feelings you might have are from your Chimp and are very often disturbing, catastrophic and lacking in perspective. In the morning you are likely to regret engaging with these thoughts and feelings because you will see things differently.

Try to develop an autopilot that says I am not prepared to take any thinking seriously during night-time hours when the Chimp is in charge.

One key point I take from this short extract is that it is worth thinking about if you ever find yourself worrying or stressing about something and then a few weeks later you wonder why on earth you ever allowed yourself to get so worked up over something relatively unimportant.

When working with others – perhaps share this knowledge while encouraging them not to stress too much outside of working hours, Let's face it, you need them to be fully switched on and positive at work, worrying late at night when often it's not rational will diminish their personal productivity.

'The Chimp Paradox' is indeed well worth reading for those of you interested in how the mind works, and for those who prefer audio, the best bit is Steve Peters is British (i.e. unlike many audio books it's not coming with an American accent!).

Christmas exercise in Cognitive Fitness

If you have participated in any of my coaching or mentoring, you will know how much I emphasis the ‘framework for success’ that I have shared in the past.

It is rewarding to find others now talk about the themes within the framework and not least how to really build strength and depth in the way your mind works to help you.

The attached classic article from the preeminent Harvard Business Review makes for validation of our discussions, but also gives you some additional pointers to remind you how to keep your focus on implementing the suggestions we have covered previously. The simple steps outlined, and critically the numerous benefits they will bring to your personal effectiveness at work, can only be motivators to read, assimilate and act upon the suggestions


Step 1: Understand how experience makes the brain grow.

Step 2: Work hard at play

Step 3: Search for patterns

Step 4: Seek novelty and innovation.

I hope you have the time to read the article. Perhaps, just perhaps, as the Christmas season approaches and moments of calm present themselves when you can sit, relax and read, file this article for some in depth reflection and thoughts about how you might achieve all the steps outlined prior to the new and busy year ahead in 2014. Let’s face it, a bit of ‘cognitive fitness training’ is not a bad thing! I know you will find it helpful with your personal development.

The Three Gaps Between Goals and Greatness

Are you setting goals that you can’t quite obtain? Why is this? If the goals are realistic, then where are the preventative gaps in your organisation? How can you aim to fill these in and execute greatness?

Ugboajah, P.R. (n.d)The Three Gaps Between Goals and Greatness. Change this.

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