Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Real Trouble With Free Speech

In his excellent book, "Worse Than War" (2009, Public Affairs, New York), Daniel Jonah Goldhagen explores the issues of "genocide, elimination, and the on-going assault on humanity". At the end of Chapter 9 he makes the comment "actual minds create actual worlds". His point is that what we think about other people and what we believe should be "our" world eventually becomes the "actual world" for us. When an opportunity then arises where we can bring that world into being, we tend to grab it with both hands. If our thinking is around the exclusiveness of our family, our group, our race, etc then, when given the opportunity we will try to ensure everyone else acknowledges this and yields to our wishes. "We are in control". The result is often "worse than war".

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as the issue of free speech has been debated in the Australian media. In an earlier blog, talking about the incidence which started this latest discussion on free speech, I said:
"Before I proceed, let me make some things clear. First in relation to free speech. In my new book "Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience" (2012, Gower Publications, UK), I make the following statement:
I have spent my life believing in the power of a democratic society where the rule of law ensures that people will not be imprisoned without trial; that habeas corpus is a vital component of a free society; that secret police and interrogation without legal representation is wrong and an abuse of power; that freedom of faith, speech and association are inalienable rights – even if I disagree totally with what you say, believe or with whom you associate, you have an absolute right to say what you want, follow the faith or non-faith of your choice, and associate with whoever you wish."

There are many people in every society who don't think critically about what they hear on the radio, see on TV or in the movies, or read in the newspaper. People who specialise in propaganda (from Goebbels down) have known and do know this. The result is that they are fully aware that if you say something often enough and authoritatively enough, eventually many people will believe it even if it is palpably untrue. For this reason every person and/or party pushing a particular agenda seeks to ensure that their message is propounded strongly and often. The role of "shock jocks" in the media is often critical in this.

Some would argue that this then becomes an abuse of "freedom of speech". I disagree. The real trouble with freedom of speech is that, all too often, the right to speak out is too seldom used by those of us who do apply our critical faculties to what we hear, what we see, and what we read. This failure by us to speak out ultimately runs the risk of letting "the inmates run the asylum". If that happens then, as Goldhagen makes very clear, the following words by Pastor Martin Niemoller (which originally applied to Nazi Germany) could have increasing relevance in today’s society no matter where that society may be:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

What sort of "actual world" do you want? If we are concerned about the messages promulgated by radio, TV, films and/or newspapers our response should not be to advocate some form of censorship. Rather our response should be to ensure that our voices are heard along with the others. But let's make sure we do this in an acceptable and respectful manner. A mark of true leadership is that we ensure all voices are heard - not just those who promote bigotry and discrimination.

What do you think?

More about Doug Long at

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How you respond tells a lot

 Recently I made a serious mistake. A week or so back I read a magazine and thought the material in it was interesting and informative. It contained an article on leadership and I wondered whether the publishers were interested in extending this to a dialogue. So I submitted a brief (1100 words) article and asked whether they accepted unsolicited material. I have done this before and, in a number of instances, my material has been edited and printed – invariably with the result that more articles appeared from other people and some good dialogue took place.

Yesterday I heard back from the publishers who told me that their contributors all paid for the privilege of having their articles published. I was offered a deal of 3 articles providing I paid $900 (plus GST) for each one. Over the years I have submitted many articles to newspapers and magazines (and have been paid by the magazines every time a submission has been accepted) but this is the first time that any publication anywhere in the world has asked me to pay to have a submission published. I politely refused the offer, explaining: “It appears as though I totally misunderstood your magazine – I didn’t realise that its articles were actually advertising promotions rather than informative material to foster general understanding and debate”. I also pointed out that nowhere in their magazine could I find anything to indicate its articles were actually paid advertising.

Did I get a response? Sure did and it amazed me. Within minutes the publisher replied:
Dear Doug,

Thank you for your prompt response. I believe that some part of the society under the influence of the current government and their green comrades has stopped realising that we still live in a capitalistic society and all products in the market place must be paid for.

Thank you for your help and please let all your associates and business friends know that they shouldn’t expect something for nothing from others trying to increase their business profile and/or sell their valuable knowledge and products. I received 4 requests including your kind offer just today to provide my business services for free.

We also have a very informative and self-explanatory website where you and your associates can easily find all the information on how to advertise and contribute an article in ZZZ Magazine.

I wish you all the best in helping others and yourself release your and their potential in yourself, themselves and others.

Yours truly,


PS I suggest you to request help from comrades in ABC for some free media space.

I have talked a lot over the years about the areas of our brain that control how we think and act. Regular readers will be fully aware of the “red zone” – “blue zone” dichotomy that impacts and determines whether we are predisposed to a First Generation Leadership, a Second Generation Leadership, or a Third Generation Leadership approach. My new book, Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience (2012, Gower Publications, UK) sets this out in some detail.

Clearly the publisher of the magazine with which I was in contact operates from the “red zone”. The result is that an innocent attempt to develop a dialogue draws a response that tells us more about the responder than perhaps he realises.

One of the major problems I see in society today is that the “red zone” is the default for most of those in roles of leadership, authority, and influence. This is seen across the board whether we are talking politics, business, religion, or anything else. The result is a closing down of real dialogue and an attempt to “put down” or denigrate those who may have an opinion or stance that is different from one’s own. All too often it leads to extreme “right wing” and/or “left wing” positions that do little, if anything, to bring about a creative, innovative society.

Unconditional respect for all people regardless of any discriminating factor is the underlying concept of Third Generation Leadership and of the “blue zone” area of our brain’s locus of control. A key aspect of unconditional respect is that it never insults or denigrates the thinking of another. This publisher’s response adds reinforcement to the call for us to embrace a new way of interacting.

Do you ever ponder on what the responses you make or receive really tell the recipient? I do!

I’d love to know what you think.

More information about Doug Long at

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Alan Jones’ comments really tell us

Over this past weekend it has become clear that one of Australia’s most influential broadcasters – someone who is sometimes labelled a “shock jock” grossly overstepped the mark in a virulent and totally offensive set of remarks about the Prime Minister and the very recent death of her father.
Before I proceed, let me make some things clear. First in relation to free speech. In my new book "Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience" (2012, Gower Publications, UK), I make the following statement:

I have spent my life believing in the power of a democratic society where the rule of law ensures that people will not be imprisoned without trial; that habeas corpus is a vital component of a free society; that secret police and interrogation without legal representation is wrong and an abuse of power; that freedom of faith, speech and association are inalienable rights – even if I disagree totally with what you say, believe or with whom you associate, you have an absolute right to say what you want, follow the faith or non-faith of your choice, and associate with whoever you wish.

Second, in relation to politics. I am a past member of the Liberal Party in Australia and was once asked to nominate for Federal Parliament. I am no longer a member of any political party and, again as I say in "Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience", I think a strong case can be made for arguing that the rise of political parties is a sign of the decline of democracy. For that reason I support independent candidates at elections.

In other words, I write this with no political agenda and from a perspective which believes Alan Jones (and anyone else) has an absolute right to free speech.

I believe that attacks such as this one by Jones tells us a lot about Jones and, from the fact that, with one exception, no-one at the function where he made the remarks appears to have been offended by them, we learn something about the people who were present that evening. It tells me that these people have no real concept of the unconditional respect for a person that ought to be the hallmark of leaders and aspiring leaders. It indicates to me that these people are ones who are lacking in true self-confidence and who compensate for this lack by a retreat into some form of fundamentalism and attack. In "Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience", I say:

Self-confident people are those who understand that there is no need for any form of ‘talking down to’ or ‘putting down of’ other people. Self-confident people are those who always treat others with respect and who, as a result, ultimately expect to earn trust and respect for themselves ... A self-confident person is one who is always cognisant of the fact that everyone has his or her own issues with which they have to deal. .... Self-confidence is not weakness or any behaviour that indicates a lack of personal resolve. But neither is it the bold, brassy over-confidence that is encountered in the worst examples of some who seek to place unacceptable levels of pressure on people in order to achieve results.

Alan Jones (and his supporters) exhibits all the signs of a G1 Leader and of what I term "First Generation Leadership” – an approach that became challenged during the 1950’s and which has long since reached its “use-by” date. This is a male-dominated, “born-to-rule” approach in which the leader considers himself (it is usually a male) beyond reproach and with no need to show any respect to others unless they comply with his thinking and demands. Invariably First Generation Leadership and bullying are inextricably intertwined.

If a person wants to be a grub and/or a bully, that is their prerogative. But the existence of grubs and bullies should alert us to the need to change both what we look for in leaders and how we behave as leaders. What do you think?

More about Douglas Long at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

#Claymore, NSW: a failure in leadership

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a weekly program called “4Corners”. Last night the program was about poverty in Australia and it posed the question of why, in one of the richest nations on earth, Australia has some 2.2 million people existing at or below the poverty line and some 600,000 children live in a home where no-one has a job. (The program can be viewed at
To illustrate this situation 4Corners chose to visit Claymore – a town of about 3,200 people located about 50 km from the centre of Sydney. This town has the highest proportion of young children in Australia with around 1500 children living in a 1.5 km distance. The program pointed out that, a few years ago, the NSW Government realised that there was a serious problem with the way Claymore had been set up and they decided to tear down much of the town and rebuild it to encourage a wider population mix. The Federal Government agreed to help; joint funding was provided and work started. However, when the new NSW Government came into power they decided that this was an area in which they could save money so the program is now in limbo. The realistic cynic in me suggests that it was an easy target for the money savers because they knew there would be little if any outcry from such an impoverished community.

Some years ago an article in, I think, Harvard Business Review argued that a primary role of leadership was to set people up to succeed rather than letting success be a random end variable. This was a theme I had been propounding in my program “Leadership In Senior Management” (then being conducted at Macquarie Graduate School of Management) and which I continued in both Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia and, most recently, in Third Generation Leadership: knowledge, change and neuroscience (2012, Gower Publications, UK). Claymore (and all other such areas no matter where in the world they may be) is clearly a failure in leadership.

I watched this program last night with an ever increasing feeling of anger and frustration. How and why has this situation come about? The people in Claymore (and in every other similar area) are no different from the rest of us. They are born with exactly the same potential as every other baby. They have every right to exactly the same hopes, ambitions, and opportunities as every other child. Yet, looking at the faces of these children and listening to them it was obvious that they live in a socio-economic environment that sets them up for failure and which, ultimately, destroys many of them.

I had heard of Claymore before the 4Corners program. I had paid lip service to being concerned. But I had done nothing. By my inaction I had become part of the problem – I was no better than the politicians who cut the funding required to renew the area. My anger and frustration was directed at myself as much as to anyone else. I lay awake last night and thought about what I needed to do.
I have decided to become part of the solution and I invite you to join me.

Claymore (like all of its similar areas) was established or allowed to establish itself at a time when our dominant leadership paradigm was First Generation Leadership or Second Generation Leadership. In these models the leaders know what is best and seek to impose their solution - albeit often under a guise of community consultation and discussion. As so often happens, in these models, yesterday’s solutions have become today’s problem. The root cause of the problem was never really addressed and, like a boil which is treated only by applying some form of medical dressing, it later erupts in a more painful and virulent form. First Generation Leadership and Second Generation Leadership have proved to be tragic failures in Claymore and similar areas. We need a new approach.

In Third Generation Leadership: knowledge, change and neuroscience I discuss how individuals can grow and develop when this is facilitated by the right type of leadership – a leadership that believes the answer to a person’s issues is to be found within that person and where the leader listens in the belief that, with supportive facilitation, the person can actually find their own answer.

I don’t have the answer on how to change the socio-economic situation in Claymore and I don’t believe anyone who says they have “the” solution. Every situation is different and what has worked somewhere else has only a random chance of working here. I believe that the answer to Claymore’s (and every area similar to Claymore) problems is to be found in its own community. I believe that there are many people in Claymore who know how the situation can be changed and who want the situation to change. I believe, too, that they feel powerless to do anything because they know that they’re not being listened to and that they will not be listened to unless they say what those with power and authority want them to say. I believe these people are experiencing learned helplessness from the way in which they have been and are being treated by Governments and society at large. This presents an enormous challenge.

There are two key things to remember if you want to join me:

  • First, people don’t “have” to change. Ultimately the decision as to whether or not a person wants to develop a new world view and to grow is a choice that only each individual can make for him or herself.
  • Second, remember that willingness to change is very difficult when a person feels totally helpless and disrespected

From experience, I know that the path forward is to create an environment in which people feel:

  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

I’m unsure as to how to do this for an entire community. But I’m sure it can be done – and I know it must be done.

If you want to be part of the solution to the issues at Claymore (or any area like Claymore no matter where in the world it may be) I invite you to make contact with me and help me move this forward. I know it will take time and money and lots of effort. But I believe the potential end result is worth it. I’m prepared to put in my time, money, and effort. But I need help – tons of it. If you really believe in people and you have a “can do” approach, please join me.

If we don’t put a fence at the top of the cliff we may not have enough ambulances to care for those who fall.

More about Doug Long at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pondering on Paranoia

There's an old joke that goes something along the lines of; "I'm not paranoid. I just think everyone's out to get me!"

I thought of this when I saw recently that the Australian Security Services and Police want to have legislation forcing all Australian telephone and internet usage to be retained for two years so that these records are available if and when the authorities want to have access to them. The argument is that technology today makes it relatively easy for those with criminal intent to communicate in ways that make it increasingly difficult for the authorities to keep track of what is going on. In turn this makes the task of safekeeping Australia and Australians more difficult.

Ever since the events of 9/11 we have seen knee-jerk reactions to the issues of security and policing. The fear of possible terrorist attacks has been used to introduce legislation that subverts long-held and immensely valuable principles such as individual rights to privacy and to free association, the presumption of innocence, the right to legal representation, habeas corpus, and a transparent legal process. Today in most of the western world - certainly in the USA, Great Britain, and Australia - we have legislation similar to that which traditionally has been used only by totalitarian or potentially totalitarian regimes. This has lead to activities by our Police and Security Services today which, in an earlier time such as the Cold War period, we in the west rightly condemned.

Those supporting this shift argue that, for those with nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear. Of course, in theory, they are right. However taking such a stance is really to consider the issue from a simplistic perspective. It is based on the premises that those in authority will always act in ways that are totally ethical and that they will always observe strict probity - and such premises are palpably false as is shown regularly by the all-too-frequent investigations into corruption and unethical behaviour of those in positions of trust.

Some years ago I was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Victoria and, subsequent to that, I sat on the Bench at two local Magistrate's Courts in Melbourne. Prior to sitting on the Bench all of us being commissioned were sworn by the Chief justice of Victoria. During this swearing-in ceremony as an Honorary Justice at the Supreme Court in Melbourne the Chief Justice of Victoria reminded those of us being sworn that, as persons now empowered to fix bail for accused persons, to sentence guilty people to periods of imprisonment and/or to impose monetary penalties, to authorise search warrants, to issue arrest warrants, and perform other activities involved in the legal process we had to ensure that we did not abuse our powers nor allow others to abuse the legal system – the rights of all people were to be respected in the administration of justice.

Criminal activity - including terrorism - is always wrong. But there are serious dangers in allowing untrammelled access to private conversations and legal activities and even more serious dangers in allowing basic legal rights to be removed. And activities which hide behind the screen of "in the national interest" so as to avoid any form of judicial or public investigation are the most dangerous of all. These, as the past has tragically taught us, always contain within them the potential for totalitarianism to emerge.

There is a balance required. However moving further along the path envisaged by George Orwell's "1984" is far from the way we ought to be moving.

Many years ago, Pastor Martin Niemöller in Germany wrote a well known piece lamenting indifference to abuses and atrocities conducted in Nazi Germany. He spoke of general indifference and inaction regarding Nazi treatment of the Jews, Communists, and Trade Unionists before concluding:

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Unless we see some real leadership that challenges current political and security agendas, then I am very worried that Niemöller’s words from yesterday may well be our epitaph tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your trumpet calls

Yesterday I was doing some shopping and, while waiting for service, I casually read the signs alongside the counter. One in particular caught my eye. Written in red on a white background was an A4 card with the words "HFM only stock Australian product".

Over recent months there has been much in the press about retailers sourcing product from outside Australia. Go to your local butcher, fishmonger, fruit and vegetable vendor, and, especially, your major supermarket chains and the probability is that much of the product is sourced from outside Australia. Many in the Australian community are concerned about this and people such as the entrepreneur Dick Smith constantly exhort us to think about the source of product when we are buying anything.

I'd never seen this sign before - I buy from specialist shops rather than from supermarkets wherever possible because I believe the supermarkets need competition and small local retailers are the best source of this. But the sign still made a difference in my attitude to HFM - it made me feel even more positive towards them.

I looked again at the prices shown in the shop where I was waiting. They were very comparable with those in the supermarket next door - clearly no premium for buying the Australian product. When, a few seconds later, I was served, I commented that the sign ought to be larger and that HFM should make more of this. The person at the counter didn't really seem to understand what I was saying. He smiled and agreed but, today, nothing had changed.

The statement that "HFM only stock Australian product" is a strong marketing claim that sets it aside from its larger competition. It is a critical point of differentiation. Yet it seems to have been made almost as an aside by someone who obviously knows its important yet doesn't seem to know how to make the message stand out.

It set me thinking.

How often do all of us have clear and important points of differentiation yet we either fail to recognise them or we fail to make them clearly and prominently enough. I, for one, am sure that this is an area in which I screw up quite often.

It reminded me of a statement I heard long ago: "If the trumpet doesn't make a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" And also of another statement once heard at a seminar: "if you don't blow your own trumpet, someone else may use it as a spittoon!"

In today's highly competitive environment, whatever goods and/or services we are offering can easily be confused with commodities - the similarities are such that prospective customers/clients bag everything together and, in lieu of clear differentiation, make buying decisions on price or familiarity. This can make things especially difficult for the small operator or for the new entrant to any field.

Points of differentiation should be trumpet calls.

How clear is your trumpet call of what makes you different and why people should buy from you? It needs to be very clear. It needs to be loud. And it needs to be frequent.

More about Doug Long at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stop the PPM NOW!

So the Australian Federal Parliament has gone into the winter recess without resolving the issue of desperate people trying to get a better life - refugees - by risking their lives on inadequate boats. I have no doubt that, despite the shows of emotion during the debates, we will now be regaled by blame apportioning - each side will blame the other for its intransigence and, no matter what the rhetoric, all will try to make political capital out of the fiasco and tragedy.

Our politicians are showing themselves exemplars of PPM - Piss Poor Management. They say that political points should not be made out of this. They claim to be interested in and concerned about the refugees. Then go and continue their puerile facade of blaming each other for a failure to stop the boats coming. Their behaviour belies their words. Their behaviour makes it clear that they don't give a damn about the refugees - they are interested only in their own political stance and the possibility of retaining or obtaining power. This applies to all the political parties in our Federal Parliament.

Like many others, I've had enough of the negativism from the Coalition opposition. I've had enough of the resolute refusal to consider any view but their own from the Greens. And I've had enough of the "do it my way" from the Labor government. And I've more than had enough of the rambling rhetoric of the radio and news media shock jocks who foster extremist views through their commentary on the refugees themselves and on any attempt to take a truly humanitarian stance in dealing with them. And I am totally fed up with the demonising of refugees coming by boat when, in reality, they comprise only a small proportion of the illegal migrants in Australia who have arrived legally, mainly by air, and then overstayed their visas.

It is not an offence to be a refugee. It is not an offence to flee from perceived persecution. It is not an offence to be so desperate that you get on an unseaworthy vessel, travel huge distances, and endure untold hardship in order to find a better life for yourself and your family.

After World War II we took in huge numbers of refugees from Europe. Some of what, today, are our most successful business operations were founded from amongst these numbers. After the Vietnam War we took in thousands of refugees. Today many of these are making their mark as valuable contributors to our society. What's different with these new people?

Part of the reason they are refugees is that we have helped destroy their homelands. We invaded Iraq on a lie; we invaded Afghanistan on a pretext; we are complicit in terrorising people in Pakistan's border areas through the use of drones that kill the innocent along with the possibly guilty. We rightly mourn the deaths of our own solidiers in these conflicts; we are rightly concerned at the physical and emotional injuries suffered by our soldiers in these conflicts - but what about the innocent victims - the "collateral damage" -in these countries. This is the source of the refugees. We share a significant proportion of the blame for their condition because we have contributed to their plight.

I understand that true leadership is a foreign concept to our politicians, but, just for once, it would be great to see them look at the really big picture then do the right thing - place genuine concern for these refugees that we have helped create ahead of their petty political posturing. Until they do that then the task given to former defence chief, Angus Houston, is the ultimate act of cynicism (and that's no reflection on Angus Houston - its just that he's not being set up for success.)

People are dying while politicians play games. That's Piss Poor Management at its worst.

Our politicians need to stop this PPM now.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Empires - building and destroying - high evidence of PPM

One of my neighbours used to be a Police Officer. From time to time we chat and set the world to rights - someone has to do it, and it might as well be us! Just the other day he raised the issue of empire building - the situation where managers become more concerned about their status and power than they are with results - consequently they add staff (full-time, part-time, casual, contract etc - it doesn't matter) rather than examining work practices and capabilities then considering these in light of the results to be achieved. Very often the impact of such actions is demotivation of good staff, under employment of many, reduced productivity (it takes more resources to achieve the same output), but increased remuneration for the manager because of the 'increase in responsibility'. As he says, he's seen it too often and, despite the rhetoric of organisations operating efficiently, it is one of the most common sources of frustration at the lower levels of organisations.

In part our discussion arose because of the recent statement by the NSW (Australia) Treasurer that, while currently embarking upon a reduction of 5,000 people from the NSW Public Service, a cut of another 10,000 is to be made in the next financial year. We've both seen it all before! Time and again politicians announce cuts to the Public Service, implement those cuts, demoralise and politicise the remaining workforce, then, when they are eventually ejected from power, leave behind a public service that is larger and, often, less efficient than the one with which they started. In the interim they've lost many really good people and much of the corporate knowledge that is really essential to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Empire building and empire demolition both tend to be indicators of PPM - Piss Poor Management. Both adding more staff and reducing staff levels are very often "easy way outs" for complex problems that managers don't want to confront. Rather than dealing with productivity issues, PPM will add staff even though there is current capability available. Similarly, rather than appropriately deal with serious systems problems its easier to make staff cuts then complain about the amount of leave accumulated by the reduced workforce that remains.

Lets consider a few issues in NSW. Removing graffiti costs the NSW rail service some $60 million a year. Road trauma in NSW costs $billions a year. Crimes such as breaking and entering, theft, burglary, malicious damage, etc cost individuals and insurers millions of dollars each year. The authorities admit that very few of these crimes are fully investigated or offenders arrested and charged because the resources available to Police and the like are inadequate.

There's an old saying that "prevention is better than cure" and another that advocates putting a fence at the top of a cliff rather than maintaining an ambulance at the cliff's foot. If NSW needs to save large amounts of money - and I fully accept that this is the case - then investing money in actions to prevent graffiti, to improve road safety (and speed cameras will never do this but improved roads, increased and obvious police presence, and better driving training will) and to prevent crime at all levels has the potential to save far more money than may be available from simply cutting public service numbers or reducing expenditure in areas such as education, social welfare services, etc. Unfortunately no politician of any flavour seems to understand this.

PPM indicates a lack of leadership. Beware both those who build empires to bolster their own egos and those who slash and burn staffing levels for short term expediency and to gain political points.

What do you think? Please post your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Poor Customer Service Reflects PPM

Don't you just love Apple stores. As you walk past you see all these exciting pieces of electronic equipment and the place is staffed by such happy, helpful people. There's an immediate reaction: "I like the look of this place and I've just got to go in." Now that's pretty good as far as it goes.

But what if you've got a small problem - like your IPhone's playing up? Just supposing you're close to an Apple store when this happens. You walk in and its one of those times when there's a lot more staff than customers. Staff are standing around chatting to each other but a receptionist quickly comes to attend to you. You explain the problem - and suddenly the famed Apple service disappears. "I'm sorry," you are told, "we're too busy to help you with this right now. You have to go on line and make an appointment." You look around. Staff are still chatting to each other - clearly not busy either with technology or customers: "Oh,", you say, "what about someone from over there? Can they have a quick look at it?" "No," comes the reply, "you will have to go on line and make an appointment."

Suddenly having anything other than Apple equipment seems to be a good option!

Now, as you might suspect, this isn't just a hypothetical example. It happened this morning at an Apple store in Sydney.

I can understand making an appointment when a store is packed with customers. I can understand that whatever is wrong with the phone might require a technician to examine it. I can understand that the problem may take a little time to be fixed and that there might be no phone for a short time.

What I can't understand is why, in a store that is obviously not busy, no-one can even make a brief examination of the phone and perhaps be able to help solve a reception issue. Somewhere in Apple is a manager - perhaps more than one - who is more concerned with process than with customers. And that's PPM - piss poor management.

What do you think?

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"nato" Leaders

Some years ago I was speaking at a conference in Finland. In the discussion period that followed one member of the audience said "You have described problems with leadership very accurately. These problems are most often seen in nato (No Action Talk Only) leaders. These are the people who are quick to criticise, happy to utter platitudes, very full of themselves, but utterly useless when it comes to getting something done." Looking around it seems to me that this pseudo nato group is very much alive and well.

I thought of that when I was speaking with a political leader recently. Despite his party being elected with a very strong majority, virtually everything has been referred to a committee and the response to questioners is along the lines of "we're looking into it". Not only does this person appear to be a nato leader but it looks like its a "nato" leader meets Through the Looking Glass" scenario.

Now I have no opinion as to the leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (the "real" NATO) because, in part, living in the antipodes means that we are outside its influence. But I do have an opinion of the No Action Talk Only group (the pseudo nato) who purport to be leaders. My opinion is not positive and it extends to virtually all political leaders (no matter what their flavour); to those who conduct and/or focus on weekly (or other far-too-frequent) political opinion polls; to radio "shock jocks"; and to many of the analysts who prognosticate on what profits should be expected from public companies and who. by so doing, encourage a focus on short term results rather than long term issues.

Frankly I'm tired of low-profile, emphasise-the-negative politics designed to get some person or party into positions of power - and this politicking occurs just as much in large organisations as it does in the overtly political arena. Its not real leadership and its not real management - it is evidence that the scourge of PPM (Piss Poor Management) permeates to even the highest positions around.

Why do we have so much bullying, violence, and significant degrees of anti social behaviour? I suggest because all-too-often it is modeled by our political "leaders", by radio "shock jocks", by one-eyed opinion pieces in newspapers, and the like. The people responsible seem to think that only their opinion or cause is "right" or "just" and they seem to feel free to demean and attack those with different views or opinions. This isn't leadership - its bullying and should be labelled as such. We cannot seek to confront bullying in the school ground, in the work place, on the web, or anywhere else until we have confronted it in our "leaders".

We need leaders of substance. These leaders are those who have robust discussions and debates without total negativity, ego trips, or demeaning others. These leaders will acknowledge both their own weaknesses and the strengths of others. These leaders will seek the best for all followers even when this comes from others. These leaders will seek to act in a way that is best for all rather than just for themselves or their ideology. These leaders will inspire us with a vision and they will set out this vision in a way that makes us all want to work together in order to make it a reality. Where these leaders see something they believe is wrong, they will develop and offer positive alternatives and they will show how these alternatives can be implemented. When given the opportunity, they will act to bring about the better future about which they have been talking. These leaders are truly authentic and are people worth following.

Let's get rid of "nato" leaders. Lets get rid of bullying.

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Keeping good staff

I was chatting with a few people at a Business Breakfast this morning when one of them, a senior executive of a good sized company (300+ employees) commented that they had a difficulty retaining their best apprentices after they qualified. It seems as though too many of the one's they want to keep go on to other employers within about a year of qualifying.

Lets consider a "for instance":

"Harry" (not his real name) finished his apprenticeship in June 2011. he was immediately nominated for advanced training and, over the last 10 months, has completed 25 additional courses that enhance his knowledge and employability. All these courses have been paid for by his employer. Harry absolutely loves his work and is nominated by his manager as the best technician in the company. As a result he gets most of the challenging work and he has a record of completing jobs on time, within budget, and to a very high quality standard.

But Harry's boss fits the PPM (Piss Poor Management) profile. Harry answers to a foreman, who answers to a controller, who answers to a manager, who answers to a general manager. Until recently the controller was the foreman and the constant complaints by Harry and the other techs related to their foreman allowing apprentices to follow questionable work practices and of taking short cuts in repair work rather than doing a job properly the first time. Eventually their frustration forced the manager to act - so he promoted the foreman! To the relief of Harry and the other techs, one of their peers - a person they respected and trusted - was then appointed foreman. Now, everyone hoped, things would improve. They haven't. No matter how much the new foreman tries to have things done the way they should be, he is stymied by the controller and the manager.

The General Manager and, above him, the Group CEO, should be aware of this issue. But, if they are aware, they're doing nothing. They see the company reaping the benefits from the quality and quantity of work done by Harry and his fellow techs - but they ignore immoral (and sometimes illegal) behaviour of the manager and controller. They are oblivious to the frustration felt and expressed by the foreman, Harry, and the other techs. The result? Harry, the foreman, all the other qualified techs, and the top 3 apprentices are all seeking other jobs.

Now I don't know the situation in the company represented by the person I was talking with this morning - we haven't got to any detailed chatting yet - but I do know that poor leadership is one of the key factors in organisations losing good staff - especially younger people. Good people don't work for bad bosses.

In a recent article ( I set out the characteristics of leaders who retain staff and who run high performing units and/or organisations:
  • they engage with others as individuals rather than seeking to obtain obedience or compliance
  • they are collaborative and facilitative
  • they encourage growth and self directed learning by everyone
  • they respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return
  • they invite questions and genuine discussion
  • they ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions
  • they listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions
  • they are totally non discriminatory in thought, word and action
Because of these characteristics, they are able to create environments in which people feel:
  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

Harry and his colleagues are leaving because because their organisation doesn't have a culture that encourages high performance by everyone. They've had their fill of PPM.

If you want to retain your best people, start by getting rid of PPM and develop the right culture.

Do you agree? Please make your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Monday, April 23, 2012

PPM and customer service

Last week I had an interesting interaction with Virgin Australia. I wanted to make significant changes to a booking and I understood that there would be a fee involved. To check on the process I phoned Virgin and received clear instructions on how it could be done on line and what the fee would be. I then went on line to make the changes but, no matter what I tried, something wouldn't work. I again phoned Virgin, spoke to a different person, and was then told that the changes could only be made over the phone and that, because I was doing it by phone, there would be further charges! Even though Virgin Australia's policies may have no such intention, the person with whom I spoke left me with the impression that some form of price gouging may be involved. When I asked to speak to a supervisor or manager I was told that this wasn't possible and that, even if I did speak with one, I would be given the same message!! So much for Virgin Australia Service!

Two phone calls. Two different "service" people. Two totally different messages. I find it very easy to forget the first, helpful person and very easy to remember the second, very unhelpful and uncooperative person. Unfortunately for Virgin, as is usually the case in customer service interactions, it is the negative experience which tends to dominate.

I have written quite a few blogs on customer service (they're all available below). It is a sad fact that today, with organisations' emphasis on short term to medium term results and the use of outsourced and casual staff, cultures of relatively short term expediency seem to be replacing service and commitment. As I have said before about PPM (Piss Poor Management), it starts at the top by actions of commission and/or omission. In the case of my recent experience with Virgin Australia I suspect the "omission" aspect applies as contradictory messages (both direct and implied) were given.

Today's business environment is increasingly competitive and customers are increasingly price conscious. Things like air travel that once were "special" are now a commodity. Those supplying commodities need to offer something special to set themselves apart and to encourage customer/client loyalty - and "loyalty programs" don't fit this bill. Good management and good leadership recognises this and works constantly to ensure this "something special" is always on show and applied.

"We the people" are happy to respond positively when we feel that service providers really are providing service. Don't we?

What do you think? Please make your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is that all there is?

Last week the Reserve Bank of Australia decided that there would be no change in the official interest rates but on Friday one of Australia's "Big Four", very profitable commercial banks decided that it would raise its interest rates anyway - they would hate to see any reduction in their "bottom line" because that could impact not only their international credit rating but, dare one say it, also possibly the remuneration of its senior executives. I suspect other banks will raise their rates this week!

Also during last week there were reports of a rise in the number of bankruptcies in parts of Sydney as well as reports of an increase in the number of mortgage holders who have negative equity in their homes - and many of these are in the more prestigious areas.

The fact is that, in Australia, the gulf between the rich and the poor is getting wider. We are developing at least two classes in society and, as attested by a wide range of social service organisations, many people are experiencing frustration, anger, and helplessness as they try to even survive in what is often an uncaring and vicious economic environment.

Back in 1969, Peggy Lee asked the question "Is That All There Is?" in a song which questioned what we call "success" and whether there was more to life than just the here and now. Recently we celebrated Easter - a time on the Christian calendar that asks much the same question.

We seem to be inexorably caught up in the myth that success is all about power, what you have and your place on the social status ladder. We perpetuate the myth that we live in an economy rather than a society. And we wonder why illegal activity seems rampant; why gambling, substance abuse (including alcohol and nicotine), relationship breakdown and all the other indicators of problems in society show no sign of reducing. We wonder why helplessness so often drifts to hopelessness, to depression, to despair and worse.

Many years ago, a concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, explained the way in which he and others in concentration camps dealt with the question of what life was really all about. Was life just a brief spasm with no ultimate purpose? Was life really worth living? Victor Frankl, having worked through these issues while an inmate of a concentration camp, concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. He concluded that life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death.

As I work with individuals and organisations to help them unlock their potential I find that one critical thing is simply showing that I care - I care about what happens to each person and I care about what happens to each organisation. I show that I care by the questions I ask and by the way in which I listen. I can't solve their problems - either personal or organisational - but by moving things away from "simply an economy" to a "sense of society" it becomes possible for resolutions to be found and for a new future to emerge.

People and organisations in Australia today are hurting. Some of the hurt is self-inflicted because of past choices, other of the hurt is inflicted by uncaring philosophies, systems and myths. Where there is hurt there is also a need for care. There is meaning in life.

How do you show others that you care? Do you continue caring even when what you offer appears to be rejected?

You can make your comments below. I'd love to read them.

More about Doug Long at

Monday, April 2, 2012

PPM Starts at the Top

2012 marks my 50th year in some form of leadership position - school, military, voluntary organisations, business, etc. In that time I've worked for a lot of managers, followed quite a few leaders, and have experienced my own mistakes and successes as a leader. Hopefully I've learned something from them all.

One thing I know I've learned stands out from all the rest. That is:

PPM (Piss Poor Management) starts at the top.

Managers down the line reflect the management that they see as being successful for those at more senior positions. In other words, if a junior level manager sees that senior level managers get promotions and salary increases through bullying or a failure to confront issues or any other behaviour, there is a high probability that this will be reflected in that junior manager's behaviour. (Fortunately the same is also true for good management practices.)

In other words, managers at the top of an organisation set the culture - the behavioural norms - that operate within any organisation.

When I did my PhD research (many years ago now!) it became clear that people join an organisation because they believe that their personal values and those of the organisation are compatible. Most employee separations in the first year occur because either the employee or the employer realise that a mistake was made. For those that survive the first year, the values have either proved to be reasonably compatible or the employee has made changes to fit in with the organisation. By the time a person has been with an organisation for about 5 years there is no significantly discernible distinction between the two sets of values. In other words, whether it is a culture of good management / leadership practices or one of bad management / leadership practices, the employee has adopted the culture of the organisation.


Question: As a leader, what sort of practices do you model to others? If you practice PPM, don't expect your followers to be any different.

Nobody has to be a PPM. Any failure to change is a matter of choice.

I've some more about this at and at

I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Please make your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More signs of PPM

Bullying is only one sign of PPM (Piss Poor Management)! There are many others.

Here are some examples provided to me in the past two weeks:
  • A manager who employs people on the basis of the lowest remuneration possible rather than on ability to do the job required
  • A manager who refuses to confront poor performance and low quality work because he feels it is important to be "liked" by his staff
  • A company where senior executives seldom visit any of the 9 sites away from Head Office and ignore immoral and possibly illegal activity by the managers in those sites - the result is apprentices not paid for overtime work and the emergence of unsafe work practices
  • A company where there is a high turnover of qualified staff because they are unhappy about the high volume, low quality work practices encouraged by managers

My point is that PPM can have many faces.

Good managers ensure that everyone clearly understands performance criteria in both qualitative and quantitative terms. They also ensure that those performance standards are high enough to stretch people yet low enough to be attainable. These performance standards are then broken down into easy-to-understand results areas and performance indicators that are properly monitored. Where criteria are being met, recognition is given and where criteria are not being met, clear action is taken to get things back on track - performance standards are not allowed to slide. Good executives ensure there is appropriate oversight and governance in all areas for which they are responsible.

Its not "rocket science" - supervisory and management programs have been teaching this for at least 50 years and good managers have practiced it since time immemorial.

We need to address and eliminate PPM!

What are your experiences with PPM? I'd love to know. Please write your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bullying - a clear indicator of PPM

The Macquarie Dictionary defines a bully as "someone who hurts, frightens, or orders about smaller or weaker people". It goes on to suggests synonyms that include "bulldoze, coerce, intimidate, threaten, tyrannise".

Leaders and good managers understand that bullying is oxymoronic. A leader and/or a good manager cannot be a bully and a bully cannot be a leader and/or a good manager. We need to remember this because every time we see a so-called leader indulging in coercion, intimidation. making threats etc that person has immediately forfeited his or her right to be called a leader. They may be in command or in charge, they may be #1 in their hierarchy or organisation or on the airwaves (all of which are perfectly legitimate roles) - but they are not a leader and they are not a "good manager".

Over recent blogs I have explored the issue of PPM (Piss Poor Management) and common to every example I have provided - and common to every example provided to me by other people - is the fact of one person using their position, title, money, power, physique, or some other part of their persona to coerce, intimidate, or threaten others. The result is that the other person felt a degree of insecurity, apprehension or fear in relation to their physical, emotional, psychological, or employment security. In other words, the person with the power has created an environment in which increased productivity, creativity, commitment, and motivation are highly unlikely to continue. People have been set up for failure rather than for success.

In my last blog I suggested the media should consider a "bullying index" that they put alongside all reports relating to politicians, captains of industry, talkback radio hosts, union officials, etc - in other words against every person seeking to exercise power and authority in every area of the community. The media often advocates naming and shaming for various other matters - why not for bullying?

If we're serious about eradicating bullying among young people then we've got to stop it in their role models!

Whoever you are; whatever your position in society; no matter what your wealth, status or anything else, you are a role model to someone. What sort of role model do you provide?

You don't have to be a bully! You can choose to be a leader.

What do you think? I'd love to know - please make your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Bullying Curse

At least in Australia (and probably elsewhere), today has been designated as one devoted to awareness of bullying. On the news this morning, there was a lot of attention paid to the issue of both physical and cyber bullying in schools and among youth in general. This is a good thing.

But I wonder if it doesn't miss the point.

Children absorb lessons from role models - that is the message clearly and consistently given by educators, psychologists, and everyone else concerned about society. If this is so (and I believe it is) then surely the place to start in combating bullying is with the role models.

When I read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch TV I am constantly aware of bullying by those with power and authority. Some examples:
  • Politicians bullying others through sarcasm, denigration, and outright abuse that is supported by constantly seeking to portray their opponents in a negative light
  • Mining magnates bullying the country by lobbying and threatened legal action against any attempts to more equally distribute the mining wealth
  • Australia's richest person threatening her children with bankruptcy and enlisting the support of prominent politicians in order to maintain control of huge trust funds then using the legal process to try and ensure the Australian public is kept ignorant of what is going on
  • Business leaders using the threat of moving jobs off-shore unless employees agree to reductions in working conditions and lower remuneration increases while their own salaries and their organisation's profits soar
  • Union leaders threatening industrial action quite early in negotiations unless they get what they demand for their members
  • Radio hosts and journalists who push their own agendas then ridicule or denigrate those who seek to challenge what is presented

I suggest that its no wonder we find bullying in schools when the rich and powerful in society are so blatant in their own bullying while decrying that which occurs amongst children and young people.

Bullying is bullying is bullying - no matter who does it, where they do it, or the guise under which they do it.

When I was a child my parents taught me that bullying always indicated insecurity and feelings of inadequacy in a person. "Be sorry for the bully," I was told, "they're the person with problems. They are so obsessed with themselves that, no matter what their pretence, they have no real interest in others - or in the truth."

Its not easy to ignore the bullies. Like most other empty vessels, they make the most noise. But we need to be very careful about encouraging them.

Perhaps all forms of media should have a bullying scale that they present alongside all reports that show words and/or actions of those who purport to be role models. A type of "name and shame" to combat bullying everywhere.

What do you think? Please post your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Still more about PPM!

The examples of PPM (Piss Poor Management) continue to come in - and some demonstrate either conscious or unconscious illegal and/or immoral behaviour.
  • A Sydney prestige car dealership that refuses to pay an apprentice mechanic (automotive technician) for overtime worked - and threatens disciplinary action if the apprentice complains outside the company. Then, after a complaint is made and a warning is given, still persists with the same illegal behaviour!
  • A private sector social service organisation that is found to have underpaid an employee then, when the employee persists with the claim, corrects this situation but also introduces a new policy designed to prohibit other employees from making similar claims
  • A sales and service organisation where top management confuses employee professionalism with employee commitment - management expects staff to work long hours at low pay - then wonders why they have a high staff turnover when "there's just so much work for everyone"
  • A restaurant where, on an evening when they are seriously short staffed, the manager refuses to assist staff in end-of-night cleaning - instead relaxing with an after-work drink and giving instructions

Seems like I've opened a hornets' nest with this subject!

In Australia we have legislation that ought to minimise the incidence of PPM - Occupational Health and Safety laws, Fair Work Australia laws, and the like - yet I hear of new examples every day.

There is something seriously wrong with workplaces and with society in general when PPM is so prevalent and so seldom challenged. I know that Maggie Thatcher, one time Prime Minister of the UK, famously said that "we live in an economy, not a society" (or words to that effect) but PPM doesn't even make real economic sense. There is plenty of hard evidence that all organisations achieve higher productivity with highly competent, fully committed employees who are engaged with their work, with each other, and with their organisation. And there is plenty of evidence also to show that higher productivity produces better results.

We shouldn't have to put up with PPM and we don't have to put up with PPM! Some clues about this are at and

Share your stories about PPM with the rest of us. Make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, March 2, 2012

The PPM issue!

Last week I wrote about my daughter's experience with PPM (Piss Poor Management) and I have now received numerous accounts from others about their experiences. These anecdotes include:
  • A manager who refused to employ people who knew more than he did, or to promote people who challenged him
  • A manager in a children's day care centre who, when asked for some guidance on doing a new task, ridiculed the a staff member involved in front of parent clients
  • A manager in a major not-for-profit organisation who delayed investigation into an issue relating to remuneration because "your complaint makes me look bad!"
  • A manager who was so concerned about her boss that, every time her boss was seen talking with a staff member, would find an excuse to get involved so as to ensure that she knew everything that was being said

What these illustrate is that PPM is not confined to the retail sector - it is alive and flourishing across the board.

Management education and training (whether from educational institutions or private training organisations) has been teaching good management practices for at least 40 years. Virtually everyone currently practicing PPM has almost certainly been exposed to good management practices in some way or another, yet PPM prevails. Why?

PPM in organisations is characterised by creating a situation in which employees feel their jobs are under threat - reach the performance targets set or be sacked/demoted/moved etc. - and such sanctions, in turn, could threaten my financial security and/or perceived social status. This threat of dismissal or other sanctions may be real or imagined. Its symptoms are people in supervisory/ management roles who refuse to question "the boss" or who will support "the boss" even when this means disillusionment and possible loss of good staff. My self interests and general concern for "me" takes precedence over everything else. These people can be described in the old saying: "they're not 'yes-men': they say 'no' when the boss does!"

I suspect that, deep down, PPM is caused by basic insecurity or fear.

Fear is one of the most basic and powerful factors in all animal life. It is multifaceted and encompasses physical and psychological/emotional aspects of life. It drives us to aggression, to frozen inaction, and to escapism through such avenues as physical removal from a situation, through to such behaviours as abuse of alcohol and drugs. It underlies all bullying and much of the antisocial behaviour we encounter. It underpinned the "cold war" - the West refused to accept that the East may not want world dominance (and vice versa); it underpinned the fiasco around the USA's invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq; and it underpins the current preoccupation with what Iran may or may not be doing in its (currently) totally legitimate enrichment of uranium. Fear is used by politicians and managers to drive people towards a solution that meets the ego needs of the powerful regardless of what is really good for the company or country or whatever.

I believe that, despite the best efforts and intentions of those propounding good management practices, PPM will continue to be prominent until we learn how to shift our brain's locus of control away from the "fear centre" and into the "courage centre". As I have said in earlier blogs, its the issue of "red zone" versus "blue zone" in terms of the way in which our brains work - but it starts in myself, the individual, rather than in someone else. (There are some pointers in how to make this shift at

The thing to remember is that, ultimately, no-one has to put up with PPM in any organisation. We may not be able to change the situation; we may not be able to change how others behave; but we can change our response. We can walk away - but, ideally, find your next job first!

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

More about Doug Long at

Monday, February 20, 2012

Poor Management = Disengaged Staff = Lower Profits

I think it was the 60's folk group, Peter Paul & Mary who sang "When will they ever learn?"

I couldn't help but think of this over the weekend.

I have 2 daughters who are still studying and, like most of their peers, they work part time to generate income as they complete their degrees. One works in a locally owned fashion store and the other in a well known jewellery chain with high quality merchandise but owned by overseas interests. Both enjoy their work - they love the interaction with people and each of their employers recognises them as people who make their targets.

Last Thursday the daughter who works in jewellery mentioned that, on Friday, the regional manager would be visiting the store where she works. She said that her manager appeared a bit concerned because the shop's figures were 8% down on target - a situation that their research showed was somewhat better than most other retailers in their shopping centre and a lot better than the situation with the other members of the same chain in nearby shopping centres.

On Friday evening she came home furious. We learned that the regional manager had shown absolutely no understanding, had not been prepared to listen, and had given all 11 staff members a formal warning of dismissal - this despite the fact both my daughter and her manager were ahead of budget on their individual figures. On Saturday my daughter learned that she was not the only one now looking for another job.

Now I know that retail is a hard business at the best of times and that, right now in Australia, it is especially difficult. But surely the last thing you want to do is to have your good staff looking for other jobs!

The truth is that good people don't work for bad bosses! Once good employees find out that their management is poor to bad, they start looking elsewhere - and, because they're good, its not too hard for them to find alternative employment even when the job market is tough.

Retail trade is very dependent on floor traffic. That is why so many retailers go into large shopping centres where the multiplicity and variety of shops encourages a wide range of people to browse even if they have nothing specific to buy. If floor traffic is down there is very little, if anything, that a small individual shop can do to generate more shoppers. If this low floor traffic is coupled with a reduced spending pattern (such as Australia is now seeing) then meeting targets becomes even more difficult. The evidence of this is seen in the closure of so many retail outlets across the country over the last year or so.

In difficult times organisations need highly committed people who are fully engaged with their employer and their work associates. These fully engaged people will function as effective teams and will search for creative ways of meeting targets. They will engage with potential customers knowing that satisfied customers spend a lot more money than dissatisfied ones. Good management recognises this and seeks to enhance commitment. Poor management destroys commitment by making threats.

My suspicion is that somewhere in an office well away from Australia, is a management team that has looked at the jewellery chain's Australian figures and has put a lot of pressure on the local management to improve results. The local CEO has passed this pressure down and it has reached regional manager level. The regional manager, feeling threatened, has hit out at the managers of individual stores, etc. Its a classic example of PPM ("piss poor management").

Of course, this isn't only found in retail and its not only found in overseas owned operations.

There is significant research showing that the most critical thing in achieving desired results is that people feel physically, emotionally and psychologically safe. Immediately a person is threatened with dismissal this safety factor is triggered. At that time the person becomes more concerned for their own welfare than they do for their employer. A descending spiral commences which results in everyone losing. I can see this starting to emerge with the jewellery chain in question.

All of the data shows that most people want to do a good day's work and achieve results. Good managers understand this so they set clear performance targets in both qualitative and quantitative terms, then through effective feedback and an appropriate balance of control and empowerment, they create an environment in which people are fully engaged and in which they can achieve the desired results. It a pity the senior management where my daughter works doesn't understand this.

I believe its well past time to get rid of PPM practices.

I'd love to hear what you think. Please provide me with some feedback.

More about Doug Long at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ash Wednesday Revisited

On the radio this morning I heard the announcer say that it was today, 29 years ago that the Ash Wednesday Bush Fires erupted in South Eastern Australia.

I was living in Melbourne in 1983 and I remember the day well.

Like today, it was sunny although, unlike recent Sydney weather, February 16, 1983 was the continuation of a hot, dry period of late summer. I was working quietly in my home office and scarcely noticed the wind rising. However, as the day progressed, the wind got stronger and the sky darkened - but not with rain. I turned on the radio and was quickly aware of the fact that fires had started in various parts of Victoria and South Australia. With the strong winds that had developed, these fires were racing across farm land and through the bush. All available fire crews had been mobilised to fight the various conflagrations.

It was late afternoon when I was contacted and asked to report to the State Relief Centre in Melbourne to help out there. On reporting I was asked to coordinate the Centre's operations and ensure that, as far as possible, people and communities affected urgently received the support and assistance they needed. I'm still proud of the work done by the team with whom I was privileged to work.

As I think back over that period, several things come to mind:

First, apart from those who were already part of the various emergency and relief organisations, the absolute commitment to help and the generosity of so many "ordinary" people was amazing. All support agencies in Melbourne were besieged by people offering time, money, and goods to help those in need. The contract drivers for a major trucking company volunteered their vehicles to transport goods wherever they may be needed - and that included all costs involved. Quick food chains arrived with food for the volunteers both wherever they may be. In affected areas, accommodation, food, clothing, and all other forms of support miraculously appeared. There was no need to appeal for help - in so many cases, it simply arrived.

Second, that all too often we give only lip-service to the dedication, courage, and commitment of those in the front line of disasters - how often are we quick to criticise the police, the "fireys", the "ambos", and the others who are actually face-to-face with the issues and doing whatever is necessary for as long as necessary in order to achieve results. We praise them on the day then return to simply treating them as part of the scenery until the next major disaster occurs. We are happy to use them when its to our benefit but largely ignore them the rest of the time.

What my experience with the Ash Wednesday Bush Fires taught me is that, when made fully aware of an issue and given the opportunity to contribute, most people will willingly put in astronomical amounts of time and effort to being about a satisfactory solution. Most people want to contribute to something worthwhile and, given the chance, will become fully engaged with achieving results. When they believe that something is worthwhile and their energies are correctly harnessed, ordinary people achieve extraordinary results. Those with specialist training and roles will draw on all of their knowledge and skills while unskilled generalists will go out of their way to provide whatever additional support is required.

The tragedy is that our politicians and business leaders (totally supported by the media) seem to forget this. We are surrounded by walls of spin that seem to assume people either cannot handle the truth or that we cannot be trusted to do anything satisfactorily unless we are rigidly controlled. Our politicians seem to believe that only they and their bureaucrats know what is best - the strongly and rightly criticised legislation from both the Howard Government and the present government affecting Aboriginal communities in Australia is but one case in point. Our business leaders seem to believe that only they know how what are the issues needing to be addressed in their organisations and how to address them. Vested interests from those "in charge" dominate what is done and how it is done.

As I said, my Ash Wednesday Bush Fires experience taught me that, when made fully aware of an issue and given the opportunity to contribute, most people will willingly put in astronomical amounts of time and effort to being about a satisfactory solution. When people are fully informed with the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" and then are empowered to help bring about desired results, amazing things happen.

Isn't it about time we really learned this?

What do you think? I'd love to know. Please make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You've got to love those skinks!

The skink was back on Sunday.

Well, I'm not really sure if it was the same skink about which I wrote a week or so back, but there certainly was a skink back in the kitchen - and the cat was still around.

For those of you not familiar with Australian fauna, the common garden skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) is found virtually everywhere in South East Australia. It has a smooth dark greyish body with a dark stripe running along each side - a very beautiful creature that is totally harmless, good for the garden, and enjoys sunning itself on rocks and ledges. From tip of nose to end of tail the ones around here seem to be about 18 cm (about 7 inches) long.

But we seem to have a skink with a penchant for danger - or one that
knows that there is a short cut between the front and back gardens if one goes through the house! The cat was sleeping near the door when the skink arrived on the porch, paused, looked at the cat, then scurried inside close to where I was reading a newspaper. There were a few moments of activity then, safely caught in a bag, the skink was removed and released into the front garden.

Now I know that skinks can't think rationally (and probably can't really think at all) but I had to wonder why a creature with no defence mechanisms other than flight or freeze would stray into the path of danger (the cat) and away from an environment in which it can find plenty of places to safely hide. And that got me thinking about the behaviour of people. How often do we act without thinking (virtually operating on 'auto pilot') and put ourselves and others in some form of danger?

We all see it every day. Someone puts an item on the stove (or a bench, or a table), close to the edge and with a handle sticking out in such a way that it could be easily bumped and dislodged; someone listens to music or talks on their phone whilst walking along a street totally oblivious to other people, traffic, or immoveable objects; people remove children and/or items from their car using the door that juts out into the traffic flow endangering both themselves and that which they are moving and passing traffic; people in shops block an entire aisle with their shopping basket or while chatting with a friend; and so on. There are myriad everyday examples, with which we are all aware, of unthinking risky behaviour. People operating on auto pilot with no manual override apparently present!

We all have 2 minds - a childlike mind that operates without thinking and an adult mind that is capable of rational thought, of planning, of "thinking outside the square", and generally enabling us to be creative, exciting people who are aware of others and our surroundings and who seek to operate safely and successfully without endangering ourselves or others. A childlike mind is totally acceptable in a child - in fact it is one of the endearing factors of children - but its not the best mind from which to operate when we're grown up.

You can shift your brain's control to the adult mind. Its not all that hard - all you've got to do is to access something that is already there; that you use frequently; and make it your default way of thinking and acting. There's some more information about how you can do this on

Why not let me know what you think? You can place your comments below.

More about Doug Long on

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Improving Decision Making

Chris Stephenson, a highly successful and well respected CEO who is now a management consultant in Sydney, has recently completed a valuable study on decision making[1].

There is plenty of material available that shows the importance of making good strategic decisions and, in retrospect, it is always easy to nominate “good” or “bad” decisions. Of course, there are also plenty of models around that can work us through a process (usually quite time intensive) designed to ensure we make the “right” decision.

But most of us don’t have the time to work through some complicated decision-making model and, even if we did have the time, the evidence shows that there is still no guarantee that we will make a “good” decision every (or even most of) the time. In fact there is data that shows only about 15% of organisations have the ability to make and implement important decisions effectively.

Stephenson interviewed CEOs and Executives in Australia about their decision making processes. His interest was to find out how we can improve the quality of decision making – in other words, rather than considering decisions that had been made and then deciding were these decisions “good” or “bad”, he wanted to find out those things surrounding the final decision being made so that the probability of a “good” decision improved.

He found that the key factors that resulted in poor quality decisions were:

  • No decision-making process – Decisions are made on a case by case basis often by a small sub-group or by the CEO alone mandating a direction without any discussion.
  • Lack of transparency – Excluding stakeholders from decision-making, withholding information, side-bar discussions between the CEO and individuals outside of the TMT.
  • Low tolerance for diversity and alternate views – A low appreciation of the value of diversity and experience.
  • Disrespect – Treating those with different views as disloyal and not team contributors.
  • Data – Ignoring data when it didn’t confirm favoured outcomes. Over relying on small data samples when they supported desired outcomes. Pretending everything is OK when it’s not.
  • Dominant individuals – A CEO or others dominating the discussion and chiding anyone that offers alternative inputs.
  • Self interest – Allowing self interest to be the basis of decision outcomes rather than organisational best interest.
  • Emotional factors – Taking decisions on gut instinct without cross-checking against the data. Not appreciating the affect of personal biases on decisions.
  • Narcissism – Decisions driven by individuals with an over developed self belief and inability to comprehend other people mattering or themselves being wrong.
  • Ego – Decisions driven by one person’s agenda to further themselves.

All business decisions today are made in an environment of increasing complexity, information overload, reducing lead-times, personal motives, survival and self-serving instincts, and pressure associated with meeting market expectations. What Stephenson found out was that the quality of decisions depended a lot on:

  • Knowing who is making the decision and their accountability for it
  • Understanding the timeframe
  • A robust process
  • Transparency
  • Inclusiveness
  • Appreciating diversity
  • A sense of order
  • Accurate data
  • Mutual respect
  • Active debate on issues with everyone involved having a say

Where this second set of factors were clear throughout the organisation – in other words, this was the organisation’s culture - the quality of decision making improved significantly.

What decision making culture exists in your business? As Stephenson shows, its not hard to make it positive.

More information about Doug Long at

[1] Unpublished DBA thesis through Southern Cross University.