Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's a "trust thing"!

In all my years of being either a leader and/or a consultant (now a total of well over 45 years) there is one factor that I have found to be consistent if an organisation is to be successful in both the short term and the long term. There needs to be a high level of internal trust at and across all levels and areas of the organisation while simultaneously there needs to a high level of trust between the organisation and its customers and potential customers.  In other words, ultimately success is based on trust.

And that is one of the prime reasons why I am worried about the current Australian Federal Government.

On September 7, 2013 the Australian people threw out the incumbent Labor Government primarily because it had lost their trust. A key factor in them losing much of this trust was the behaviour of Tony Abbott. As Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott ensured that any failing of the government was highlighted and that any discrepancy between what had been promised and what was done was well and truly advertised. He was, as I have said before, certainly the most effective Leader of the Opposition in recent memory and probably among the best Leaders of the Opposition that Australia has ever had.

However, from published opinion polls as well as from discussions with a wide variety of people it is clear that our current Federal Government is rapidly losing the trust of the Australian people. Everyone with whom I speak, no matter what their political leanings may be, tells me that this losing of trust is because of the behaviour of Tony Abbott. A previously highly successful Leader of the Opposition is currently widely seen as a mediocre Prime Minister at best. Under his reign, the Liberal-National Coalition seems to lurch from one self-inflicted crisis to another. The examples I am quoted include:
  • The apparent rorting of parliamentary expenses by politicians in both sides of Parliament including Tony Abbott himself
  • The intransigence of rhetoric against the Indonesians when it emerged that the previous government had tapped the phones of the President of Indonesia, his wife, and his closest confidants - President Obama had given a case study in how to defuse such a situation yet, probably for ideological reasons, this example was totally ignored
  • The buying in to a dispute between China and Japan regarding airspace over islands whose ownership is disputed between the two countries and which has nothing whatsoever to do with Australia
  • The fake military secrecy over asylum seeker boats arriving into Australian waters and the attempted politicising of an Army General in an attempt to ensure the Australian people are kept in the dark and fed bovine excrement
  • The absolute fiasco over the reform of education funding with a series of insults to the Australian people over what was said and what was believed to have been said followed by a backflip worthy of a series of 10's at the Olympics' high diving competition
  • The use of the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to seize evidence and to prevent a key witness from traveling in order to try and impact on a case (currently before the International Court in The Hague) that claims Australia acted immorally (and probably illegally) when negotiating oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea during 2004 because it bugged the Cabinet Room in East Timor and the information thus obtained was used for commercial purposes rather than for matters of Australia's national security.
  • The public disclosures from a senior member of Tony Abbott's own Coalition Government that the Prime Minister's office is obsessive about controlling information and micro managing its own people and activities - the very factor (obsessive control) that was a direct cause of the demise of previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
And, given that its not yet December 7, all this within 3 months of being elected!

There is good news and bad news in relation to all of this. The bad news is that trust - an essential ingredient of success - is being lost and goodwill squandered by what appears to be ineptitude from Tony Abbott and his Ministers. The good news is that there are almost 3 years to go before a new Federal election must be called and so Tony Abbott and his government have time to turn the situation around.

I have said before that, when there is inappropriate behaviour evident at any level of an organisation, the root cause of this is found in what the Chairman does and/or doesn't do. The "buck stops" with the chairman. Tony Abbott is, in effect, the Chairman of the organisation "Australia". We need to see some proper leadership from him - and right now that's another missing ingredient.

For those who want to ponder a little more widely, there are some messages here for those running commercial organisations, too.

I'd love to know what you think. Please make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tricky or downright dishonest?

"We will keep the promise that we made. It's not the promise that some people thought we made, or that some people might have liked us to make," Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Sunday December 1, 2013 in relation to funding of education in Australia.

Prior to the September 7 Federal Election in Australia, the issue of funding for education threatened to become a "wedge" item for the Liberal-National Party Coalition. The then Government (Labor) was using the Gonski Committee recommendations to illustrate a clear difference in policy - one (the Gonski Reforms) that would provide equitable funding for every student and the existing system that ensured non-government schools that were able to charge fees on top of funding received had a distinct financial advantage over government schools. When the possible wedge became apparent,  the Coalition promised to meet Labor's Better Schools funding promises and this was promoted as showing that there was no difference between the parties. Voters went to the September7 election clearly believing that the Gonski Reforms would apply no matter who the new government might be.

Tricky Tony! Right up there along with Tricky Dickie (President Richard Nixon) of so many years ago.

There is no doubt in my mind that, despite Tony Abbott's statement today, his statements prior to the September 7 election and the public relations exercises that accompanied these regarding education were deliberately designed to have people think that the Gonski Reforms were now "set in stone". What Abbott is now saying is "We haven't changed a thing. If you believed something other than what we are now saying then you were stupid!"

Prime Minister Abbott, we expect people like you to "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". If we examine your words closely, it is clear that you told us the truth but you didn't tell us the whole truth - you provided us with a statement that could be labelled "suggestio falsi" - a Latin phrase meaning suggestion of something which is untrue. I'm not a lawyer but I understand that suggestio falsi are grounds for rescinding an agreement because suggestio falsi amounts to a fraud whenever the party making it was bound to disclose the truth.

The problem that I have with what we are now seeing from Tony Abbott is that, despite all our hopes for a good government, he is proving the truth of a statement he made many years ago (prior to the 2010 Federal Election) when he said in effect "you can't trust anything I say. The only things that can be relied on are those that are in writing." Like many others, I had hoped that this soundbite was just a throwaway line and that the truth was different.

Clearly I was wrong. Tricky Tony is telling me that he cannot be taken at face value; that I have to examine the fine print on anything that is written and to pin him down to very tight specifics on anything that he says.

Prime Minister I am not stupid and neither are most of the other people who voted for you and your Coalition Parties in the last election. We believed you when you said you would govern for all Australians. We believed you when you said your government would not give us any surprises. We took you at your word and I for one am now bitterly disappointed.

The question I am now asking is "Is Tony Abbott simply tricky or are you downright dishonest?" Either way you are quickly losing my trust. Your actions over the next few years will give us the answer - tricky or dishonest could mean you head a one-term government.

I'd love to know what you think. Please leave your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at