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Unas Spotlight: Telling lies and Barclays…

Never mind Barclays, lies could be costing your organisation money too

In case you haven’t heard Barclays Bank is accused of fixing rates and BBC News Business Editor Robert Preston asks if it’s ever acceptable to lie? (

You may think so if asked by a loved one, “Does my bum look big in this?” but what about in business? Lies have a tendency of snowballing if not nipped in the bud, you need only watch pretty much any soap or drama on TV to see that!

Some time ago I worked with a client who had a major major issue with a project that was I believe completely avoidable. This mess threatened his career and was costing the organisation lots of time and money.

It began with one person who was not performing to standard, who interacted with everybody else on the team, let’s call her Jane for sake of anonymity. Jane didn’t provide information on time, didn’t complete tasks on time, and and when my client was brought in to get the project back on track, Jane started playing political games to make them look bad. Jane was adding no value and because of her interaction with everybody else was actually negatively leveraging!

Team members began to realise what was actually happening, Jane started to do everything she could to make others look bad, even lying and giving others false information – no doubt in an attempt to take the focus off herself.

Let’s look at the impact of Jane’s behaviour:

  • The project was behind schedule
  • There was little trust in the team
  • Team members had clocked up hours, days, possibly even weeks talking about the situation and complaining to each other
  • Actions to mitigate the situation (such as emailing to ensure everything in writing to cover their backs) took extra time and therefore reduced productivity

Clearly this organisation did not at the time have a culture of effective performance management in place or this situation could have been picked up as part of it.

How much of what Jane did was conscious or unconscious I’ll never know, however the impact on others and the organisation was just the same.

Often when people’s key accountabilities take them out of flow, it causes them to feel insecure because they find it really hard to achieve what they are meant to. Even if they performed well in the past they can loose faith in their abilities.

Add into the mix an environment of restructuring and redundancy and many will find it hard to speak up and say “I’m no good at XYZ” because they are concerned with losing their job.

Can you see the potential negative impact of not having a team in flow? There are situations like the one I described above going on all around the world, in all kinds of organisations. The cost must amounts to millions, let alone the hours of misery endured by people out of flow and those around them…

The three key mistakes made in this situation were:

  • The project team was not selected for flow in the first place
  • No teambuilding work took place to help the project team build trust and work together instead of against each other
  • The issue of non-performance was not addressed with people skirting around the issue when attempting to recitify the situation. This is likely to lead to similar issues happening again

You see what is really required in a situation like this one is honesty. Honestly addressing the issues at hand, ideally in a way that takes the personal sting out of underperformance. It’s amazing how when somebody comes face-to-face with their strengths and weaknesses in a supportive environment how nine times out of ten they really want to address things and fast!

For instance those with Creator profiles who suddenly understand the impact of their lack of delegation and communication on the team. Or those Lord profiles who realise how micromanaging has driven away perfectly good employees in the past. Or the Trader manager who discovered they were buried in the detail and dragging their team down with them.

Leaders knowing what activities and roles build – or destroy – trust and flow for the different profiles, allows them to structure teams and accountabilities accordingly so that everybody has the chance of great performance.

Perhaps if Barclays had done this too, building trust and flow from individual, team, to division, enterprise and stakeholder levels, it would have been a very different story!

* Flow: Put simply is the path of least resistance. In Talent Dynamics terms a team is in flow when you have the right people doing what they are naturally talented at and love to do. Team members working to their strengths to add value in a way that can be effectively leveraged by the team and organisation.

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