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Double Standards

For many years I worked in the Chemical Industry. Safety of personnel was the highest priority in the sites that I worked on, and any form of injury was treated seriously. Everything we did was also scrutinised very heavily by the media and if any facility had an incident of any kind, action would be demanded publicly.

Thats probably why the response of the media and the authorities to the recent death of an Americas Cup yachtsman have been very interesting to me.

‘The show must go on’ was the phrase in one sports news programme. ‘Its the right thing to do’ was another. ‘Its sport and sport is dangerous’ was cited. Not to mention the comments from some team owners that this event should not be used by other teams to gain an advantage by changing the rules.

I could only imagine the outcry If one of the facilities I was involved with had killed someone. ‘Close them down’. ‘Who is responsible’. ‘Outrage’. Those words quickly come to mind.

So why the double standards?

Its very interesting to see how quickly we can justify things to ourselves as individuals, and in this case as an interested community. As leaders of change its something we need to watch for as double standards can define culture. And at the time you didn’t mean it or didn’t even notice it.

Such things as:

  • ‘In these severe times everyone will travel economy, apart from the executive team’
  • “We need to restructure that team’ when everyone knows the issue is poor performance
  • Leaders who role out training for everyone else but themselves
  • Company wide training that the CEO says is important but doesn’t have time for
  • Mandating annual performance reviews and not doing them yourself
  • Implementing new KPI’s then ignoring them
  • Charters for meetings that the SLT ignore

When leading culture change everything you do is scrutinised as people watch to see if you act in line with the new culture/vision/values/ initiative. Their belief is predicated by your actions. And as culture change takes many months to embed, its no use being squeaky clean for a week. Its your actions on week 60 that can have as big an impact as those in the first 4.

When changing the organisational culture perhaps all leaders should not only ask themselves whether the organisation needs to make that change, but whether they can hold to that change themselves and what are the risks of well meaning, accidental Double Standards?

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