LESSONS STILL TO BE LEARNED

Life has a way of teaching us great lessons as ex Prime Minister Kevin Rudd found out to his cost this week. It is the same painful lesson the former leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull experienced some time ago.

Both men are educated savvy individuals with a record of success in both business and politics but failed to recognise a major shift in the workings of people. They are not alone, in business we still have companies who constantly fall into the same trap and the outcome is normally the same.

In Mr Turnbull’s case, his passion overtook his judgment in trying to “roll” the party room in convincing them to accept the Government’s Emission Trading Scheme bill. Unilaterally making the decision to accept the bill, he enraged members by not consulting and was unceremoniously kicked out of the leadership position within twenty four hours. Retribution was swift.

We see history repeating itself. Only this time it involves the highest position in the land, that of Prime Minister of Australia. There is no doubt Kevin Rudd was committed to the job. His integrity was not in question but ask his staffers, many who buckled in their respective workloads and when they complained they got short shift. It appears his big mistake was to ignore input from the wider cabinet. Only a few were allowed into the inner sanctum. When his judgment on some critical national issues was seen to be flawed, the political capital he thought he owned was wiped away in a flash.

In the case of business the same doctrine applies, ignore the views of your staff, act in a totalitarian manner and you will no doubt experience the slings and arrows of misfortune with rather expensive consequences. It is a message that in some cases still needs to heard. Times have changed and no matter what strong views may be held, we cannot operate in a vacuum.

The point is that it does not mean a company is weakened by introducing a consultation process. In fact it does the opposite. Where handled correctly and protocols are established it can have a major effect on culture leading to increased sustainable performance. In the absence of such measures, I suspect it says more about the insecurities of owners and managers who have failed to adjust to the changing environment. Those owners and managers fear that by adopting such processes they will have a situation where it will be decision making by committee. This, in their minds, lead to an environment where vital strategic decisions are stalled and hierarchy of power is threatened.

It is clear that society has radically moved to a position where more and more of the population require the opportunity for consultation and a voice in affairs whether it is politically, in the workplace or their everyday lives. I predict within the next generation of business and community leaders we will witness an imperative to adopt more consultation. Until then we will see more examples of similar unsavory events we saw last week with the unseating of our Prime Minister.

Ken Wood