Vogel Wakefield blog

Vogel Wakefield blog

March
14
2014

The Co-op, revolution and public leadership

The 99 per cent – disaffected with “venal values”

The 99 per cent – disaffected with “venal values”

The tragic mistake that the Co-op keeps making is to try to accommodate itself to the era of unrestrained, crony capitalism just as we need it to prove that its 19th Century mutual values are a plausible alternative to corporate excess.

Euan Sutherland – who resigned this week after the leak of his £3.5m pay package – demonstrated not only a poor fit with the Co-op’s mutual ethos, but a complete lack of the leadership values that will turn round public disaffection with business.

It may have been lame of Sutherland to declare the Co-op “ungovernable” before he’d even attempted to reform it, but this was consistent with an executive whose leadership style had demonstrated – as Will Hutton put it – no understanding of his organisation’s core challenge:

“That challenge is to marry Co-op values with a new and better functioning business model. What is astounding is that it occurred to nobody, not the executives themselves, that by being offered and accepting sums this large the management were trashing the very values they were on a mission to rebuild.”

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June
20
2013

Organisations need outsiders to challenge their dysfunctional narratives

Groupthink is rarely healthy

Groupthink is rarely healthy

 

I’ve been reconnecting with my work on narratives in coaching for a seminar I held this week for a City law firm. I was struck by how the prism of narratives helps us understand the enduring power of organisational cultures that foster corporate scandals – and by the questions this raises for our ethical orientation as coaches.

The problem of dysfunctional organisational cultures just won’t go away. Dysfunction is such an anodyne word, it barely scratches the surface of the harm that is wrought by self-serving organisational cultures. This week we heard how a cover-up at the Care Quality Commission of its own failings in inspecting a hospital in Barrow contributed to the needless deaths of at least eight mothers and babies. An organisation that exists to protect the public interest in health care put protecting its own reputation above the safety of patients.

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July
05
2012

Dysfunctional banking cultures: what they need is servant leadership

How do you set right a corporate culture beset with “systematic dishonesty” – as Barclays has been described by its former chief executive, Martin Taylor?

The scandal at Barclays over its rigging of financial markets seems to represent a turning point which will require all banks to take a long, deep look at how the ways in which they operate may contradict the public interest. Were we not already in the worst financial crisis in living memory, the computer failure at RBS – which has prevented customers accessing their money and is still ongoing at Ulster Bank – would count as a monumental banking failure in its own right, evidence itself of the incompetence, negligence and greed that over many years has overwhelmed an ethos of stewardship at the major banks. On top of that, came news last week that the big four banks had committed serious failings in their mis-selling of interest rate hedges to small and medium-sized businesses

Small wonder that the Governor of the Bank of England has described the banks as “shoddy” and “deceitful”. Or that the Director-General of the Institute of Directors has said the banks “should feel deep shame for the damage they have done”.

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