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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Retribution To Restoration: Using Values With Purpose.

Two spectacle wearing men, one bald, one grey-haired discussing how values can help a business stay on track n the face of real challenges
David Liddle (left) CEO of TCM Group and host, Andy Goram (right) discuss how values can help you face challenges

There are many a well-crafted set values, or a beautifully written mission statement adorning the reception walls of many a corporate entity today. Values, Missions and Purpose have been very popular with businesses looking to refresh their focus, engage with their people and strengthen their employer brand in the eyes of potential candidates and the public. So why do so many of these things can put to the side when challenges arrive?

If you have taken the time to publish your morale code, why abandon it when you face issues like employee disagreements, performance issues, accusations of bullying, general poor behaviour, and other such matters. The way we approach and deal with such matters also needs to stay in line with those values, surely? This common sense approach isn't always common practice, regrettably. Why is this?

On the latest episode of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, I spoke to David Liddle, CEO of TCM Group, about his years of experience in dealing with just such issues. He shared what his years of work had taught him, focusing in on how some of our litigation-inspired policies, procedures and attitudes have set a precedent for dealing with such issues, highlighting some of the problems associated with having the wrong or ineffective values in place when tackling these things.

David left us with some key messages of hope for a brighter future, focusing on dialogue, empathy, bravery and staying true to the essence of a set of core values and behaviours that help the business achieve its goals. You can listen to the whole conversation on the player below, or read the full transcript attached.

Full Transcript

00:00:10 - Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky from the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone. This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that.

Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So ,if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.


The Importance Of People & Culture

00:01:10 - Andy Goram

Okay then. We've spoken a lot on this podcast about the importance of purpose and culture. I have banged on about moving all that stuff from the surfaces of impressive wall murals and mouse mats and into the very mindset of your organisations. Because when you share and really transfer ownership for these things, that's when they have their full effect and benefit.

Now, being seen as a purpose driven organisation that shows more compassion and humanity has been, I guess, a thing for quite some time now. Even though there are still too many, to my mind, that think this stuff is just mere fluff, there is no doubting its current popularity, or the fact that these elements are key to attracting and retaining certain talent nowadays, particularly the younger generations, as they start to make up the majority of the workforce as we move forward. Now, if you're still a member of the fluff party after that, that fact alone should seriously make you take more notice of this stuff.

Anyway, I've also been pretty clear about the need for the promise that's made and marketed to match up to the reality. Now that can be tough to maintain at times with whatever the market or the economy throws at you especially, and staying true to your values when under those sorts of pressures can be a really testing time, especially if they are only skin deep. But that's when they add the most value, guys. It's also fair to say that these values, like compassion, can come under real pressure at the employee level, too, especially when we end up dealing with disagreements, performance issues, accusations of bullying, poor behaviour, and other such matters. The way we approach and deal with such matters also needs to stay in line with those values, but I'm not so sure they always do. So how do we stay true to our values in the face of all of these challenges?

Well, with me today is David Liddle, CEO of the TCM Group, which is an award winning mediation, culture change and leadership consultancy. His 30 years of work as a facilitator, a mediator, a coach, a leader and an accomplished author make him an expert partner for today's discussion around authenticity, fairness, consistency and organisational integrity. And by the way, the TCM group were awarded the coveted HR Impact Award at the recent Personnel Today awards. So you can be sure David will be absolutely steering us in the right direction during this episode. Anyway, enough of me. Welcome to the show, David!

00:03:56 David Liddle

Andy, I've been looking forward to this a lot. Thank you so much for having me.


00:03:59 - Andy Goram

Oh, absolute pleasure, my friend. It's always a joy to speak to you and especially I can't wait to push your buttons and hear all your passion and energy come through on this topic we're going to talk about today. Before we start pushing anyone's buttons, do me a big favour, my friend. Let's just get a little bit more about your background, what you're currently up to and where your focus is.


Introduction To David Liddle, CEO TCM Group

00:04:22 - David Liddle

Thanks, Andy. Everything you've just been talking about, I'm absolutely passionate about. So just kind of where did that fire start burning in me? So going to go right back to the early ninety’s now. I am a young guy just leaving Nottingham on his way up to university and I went to study a degree in race and community relations, which at the time, in the late 80s, early 90s wasn't necessarily quite in vogue. We hadn't had Stephen Lawrence and many of the other things that had brought this into sharp relief for us.

I wanted to be a Copper, actually. I wanted to go into the police, Andy. And I went to go and study this degree in race and community relations, which I think is fair to say it was quite a left wing, left leaning course. I loved it. I learned so much about the social, economic, societal, community factors which underpinned not just racism but discrimination in so many forms. And I went to apply to be a police officer and unfortunately my degree, Andy, was in how the police and the media had conspired to criminalise mugging as a black crime. Where actually young black men were more likely to be victims of mugging than they were to be offenders. And how I looked at in particular The Met and The Sun newspaper at the time. And I stood up in my selection centre, the graduate selection centre for this police force, and we had to talk about ourselves. And everyone talked about their geography degree, and their history degree, and their lovely academic achievements, and I started to talk up in front of this room of very senior police officers in this recruitment centre, about the intrinsic sense of racism that we saw within policing within our societies. And this is in 1992, so it's fair to say I didn't get invited in.

00:06:06 Andy Goram

It didn’t go down well.

Mediation & Restorative Justice

00:06:08 David Liddle

No, it didn't go down as well as I might have liked, no. And goodness me, how things change. So I went away and I started to work in community engagement, which was a real passion of mine. And I got into the area of mediation and restorative justice. I heard about some work being done in Bristol and in London, so I went and found out and started to look at this amazing thing called mediation and restorative justice, which at the time was barely heard about or talked about. So, I set up what was one of the country's first mediation and restorative justice programmes up in Leicester. The lovely city of Leicester in East Midlands, and started to bring neighbours in dispute together, went to work in schools. I set up a project called CRIS, the Conflict Resolution In Schools programme. Teaching young, pint-sized mediators in the classroom and in the playground. I loved it and I was very fortunate. The BBC came in and made a documentary of my work for their One Life series, actually, which was a wonderful achievement. And I started to be invited, go into serious criminal activity, up to and including unlawful killing and bringing together victims and offenders and families together. And I started to realize the power, Andy, of dialogue, of engagement, of empowerment, of alignment, of listening, of empathy.

You talked a lot about compassion. I started to see this playing out in some tough environments. And I got a phone call from the UK Civil service, the Cabinet Office and two large London boroughs to come in and do some work with them, to bring in this stuff around restorative practices, into their work around inclusion and diversity and equity. And it was groundbreaking. This is 2001, and I studied an MBA to try and understand how businesses work. I got a distinction in my MBA looking at restorative practices as a driver of organisational change and underpinning. I'm a big fan of total quality management TQM, Japanese management system. So I looked at conflict management within the value chain and I looked at conflict resolution as part of quality system in organisations. Slightly boring, but really interesting, I thought. And I dived into that.

Organisational Promise Misaligned With Reality

I got my distinction in that and then realized, Andy, I started to go into organisations and I started to speak to people about their experiences of disagreements, quarrels, fights, falling out, grievances, bullying, harassment. Whoa, whoa! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I could not believe how bad it was. I could not believe how woeful our organisations were at handling this stuff. The stuff that's so natural and so human and so inevitable was being handled or mismanaged, I would probably argue, through these horrendous systems and processes. Retribution, blame, avoidance, the kind of punishment, the aggressive confrontational system. So I saw an opportunity and I set up my business called total conflict management. Drawing upon total quality management and integrated conflict management systems. Bit of a geek on that. I loved it. Bought into the Kaizen principles very much in terms of quality systems for managing conflict. So unashamedly borrowing heavily from those Japanese management systems. But it's great stuff coming out of Harvard and Cornell as well around integrated conflict management systems.

And off I went, off I went. And this is in 2001, and a bit of a man on a mission. I went out to try and change the way we handle conflict. But of course, organisations being organisations, they didn't realise that this guy was on a bit of a mission to go and handle conflict. They just thought I'd be quite a handy, convenient person to go and resolve the problem for them.

00:09:47 Andy Goram

Yeah David. You go and sort it out for us.

00:09:51 David Liddle

You go and sort it out, David. And all of my lovely systemic, structural, institutional and cultural work was put to one side in favour of… I was the corporate band aid. I was that person. And I realised I didn't like being the corporate band aid. I mean, look, Andy, I was running a very successful, thriving business by this point. But I realised this wasn't me, this wasn't why I was doing it, wasn't my purpose. So I started to go and bang on… I had to bang, by the way, I wasn't just knocking gently. I had to bang on the door of HR. I had to bang on some of those executive suites. I had to go and bang on the door of managers. I had to almost in a mediated way, force my way in and say,

“Look, do you know what you're doing to your people? I see your LinkedIn posts. I see you celebrating compassionate, purpose driven cultures. I see the wonderful things you proclaim in your employee value proposition. I see how wonderful your organisation is. But when I'm talking to the people who are slipping through all of the cracks in those floorboards in your organisation and you're bringing me in as your corporate band aid, I can assure you with a high level of confidence that their experience does not equate to what you're trying to proclaim to the outside world.” 

And I saw the Ulrich talks about these paradoxes. So I'll use the word paradox because I think it's probably quite nice. It felt sometimes worse than a paradox. I sometimes suspected it was being driven for certain reasons and people gained from these processes, but the paradox was we were talking about these modern and progressive systems. But when we fell out, when we disagreed, when our performance dropped, when our behaviour slipped in one way or the other, we came down and crushed those situations and those individuals, and it didn't feel right. So that set me on a mission, Andy, to go and start talking about culture and HR and leadership and, wow, that's been the last ten years.

00:11:56 - Andy Goram

Fantastic! What a background, mate. That's some impressive background and puts you in the box seat for leading this discussion today. And, David, it would be remiss of me to just pick up with you on the recent award that you picked up. I mean, that's a pretty big thing, right?


Award Winning Work With Burberry

00:12:16 - David Liddle

We were blown away. It was a fantastic night and a real achievement. And it was a testament to the partnership that we've been building with Burberry, who are great organisations, take this stuff so seriously. And Claire Salter at Burberry has been such an incredible advocate and ambassador for new approaches, for managing disagreements, for handling concerns and conflicts. So, yeah, the award was a celebration of a project we've been working with Burberry on for the past couple of years, Andy, to replace grievance and disciplinary procedure with a resolution framework. What we called in Burberry a stepping stones to resolution framework. And we created, and Burberry created within the organisation a tool called the Burberry Hub, which provides support for managers, for employees, and for others who want to find a way of navigating their way through disagreements and challenges. And it's working in the US, in the UK and working globally. The response from everyone involved has been so positive and the award really did shine a light on innovative practices from an employment law and employee relations perspective, and was a fantastic celebration of a new progressive approach for managing these perennial problems that I think many of us understand of conflicts and disagreements in the workplace. So, yeah, it was a real career high for me. And thanks again to everyone at Burberry, but also the TCM team. We all went out, we were all there for that night, and I think it was a real chance for us to come together and celebrate being a fabulous team.

00:13:45 - Andy Goram

Well, many congratulations, my friend. That's some deal.

00:13:49 - David Liddle

Thanks, Andy. I've still got the hangover.

Organisational Response To Pressure & Challenges

00:13:53 - Andy Goram

I sort of mentioned in the intro that words like compassionate and purpose-driven have become almost all the rage. Or certainly they're headlining. But I'm a huge pedant when it comes to promise versus reality. I get really wound up with people spending time, marketing money, telling one story about their organisation; but then something is very different behind the Wizard of Oz curtain. What's your experience been, particularly with that mediation background? When things get difficult, when you're under pressure, when businesses have got performance issues, when there's disagreements, when there's accusations of bullying, what do you see happen to organisations where either that veneer of values slips, or they absolutely double down and deal with stuff in adherence with their values? But what have you seen?

00:14:54 - David Liddle

It's a really great question. A mediator is a person-centred approach, but I also think in systems. And I've been quite fortunate in respect, to be able to bring my approach to the mediator and a restorative practitioner and that close work with individuals. But think of this systemically, so I can analyse that through a sort of lens of the system in our organisation. I think the first thing that I see within organisations is a huge culture (of), which I often describe as extensive inaction, or extensive overreaction. And that results in people falling through the gap of needing to have action. Now, that action are the things we're talking about, compassion. But what does that actually mean as a management intervention? What does that look like?

To be able to listen, to hear, to have empathy, to have a deep understanding of how another person feels, to engage with those individuals. But we don't codify those words. We just use those phrases. So they're not built into management capabilities, into leadership behaviours. We don't see them in job design. How many times have I sat in workshops over the last 30 years and the delegates have said to me, I'll call out to the room in the conference, I'll say, look,

What are some of the causes of conflicts and tensions in your own workplaces?” And I can say with confidence that 100% of those conferences, someone's hand has got up and said, “We're not investing in our managers and giving them the tools that they need.”

This is 30 years later. So we're not giving our managers the tools they need to be able to nip issues in the bud, to listen, to understand. So as a result of that failure to act, the individual experiences an increasingly worsening scenario.

We then move into our formal processes, which is like pouring fuel onto a fire. They're acrimonious, they're hostile, they're driven by a paradigm, a justice paradigm of retributive justice. It's about finding faults, right, wrong, win, lose, blame, shame, defend, punish, sanction, destroy, and, unfortunately, destroy. While it might not be designed in. I don't see the word “destroy” written into grievance procedures, bullying procedures. But if you take a look at them, the word destroy, it's screaming out, they're about destroying. They're about protecting the organisation from the risk of an adverse outcome in the courts or tribunal. And it's about destruction. So when we start to look at those processes, inaction, overreaction, destruction, retribution, blame, punishment, when we start to experience those systems, the stress, the harm, the distress that causes on individuals is profound. And that also then begins to impact on their performance, their productivity, their experience, how they treat customers, the customer experience.

The Importance Of Compassion

So the root of all of this stuff, Andy, is how do we engage with people at a point of difference, divergence and disagreement? And until we can start to get that right, any hope to be able to deliver world class employee experience or human experience or people experience, choose the jargon phrase that's online today, no way we'll be able to deliver that compassionate leadership and that compassionate management. It is just words. If we experience, you and I, you, anyone could fall out at any time. Disagreement is a healthy expression of two people finding a new reality, a new truth, a new way of working together. So, if our experience in the workplace of disagreement is that it is centred around those paradigms I've described, it undermines everything about being a human in the workplace. And what it does from a business perspective is it undermines the potential for creativity, innovation, learning and insight.

Now, in this rising world of automation, in this rising world of AI, what does the human bring to the workplace that can't be automated? That human condition that drives learning, insight, creativity, understanding, they become the currency of the successful organisations of the future. They're the currency that drives the talent retention and attracting the top talent. That's the currency which attracts the top investors. It's the currency which brings in the best customers. It's the currency which drives social value, stakeholder value, strategic value, and of course, shareholder value. So this becomes the currency of the firm. So unless our organisation can readdress how we handle that moment, so much value is lost and so harmful, so destructive, so toxic and so damaging.

But the good news is organisations like Burberry, we're working with the BBC, with Next, with big banks, with big global organisations, these are striving to do it better. But so many organisations, Andy, are like, they've got this vice like grip. And until we can release our vice like grip on retribution and open our minds to a new approach and show some courage, I worry. I really do worry about the impact on our people, but actually the impact on the organisation as a whole.

Do Organisations Stick To Their Values In Times Of Challenge?

00:19:57 - Andy Goram

I think this is where this conversation really intersects with the sort of, I guess, the focus of the things that you and I talk about, and like to talk about that, the differences behind some of those things. But when I'm listening to you talk about the landscape of disagreement in organisations, then what I have to think about in the background is, what's your experience been about how good people are staying true to their values and actually when they get parked or dismissed, because, “Well, this is different. We're dealing with a disagreement or something.”? It's almost a daft question, but I'm just interested because you’re somebody that goes in and talks about this.

00:20:41 - David Liddle

It's not a daft question, and I think it's changed over the 30 years that I've been working with organisations. The 30 years ago, I think there was a sort of suck it up kind of attitude to this stuff. And people did, but it destroyed them internally. And we saw a horrendous impact on people's mental health, their wellbeing. We saw some very serious and very high-profile situations where people affected were affected in a very terrible way and teams were destroyed. I remember doing a mediation in a team where the manager had literally brought one of the estate people in to build a wall, literally build a wall in the team to split two parts of the team. It was a visible expression of this manager's inability to cope with this team.

Changing Attitudes & Policies

I think fast forwarding now, I think people are not sucking it up anymore. People are not tolerating it and accepting it anymore, Andy. And although there are a lot of people out there and people who listening to this podcast, no doubt, who have personal experience with this, will still see the same pattern forming in our organisation. But people are now calling out the paradox or the hypocrisy. People are starting to demand better. I think we are starting to see people shifting. The great resignation that followed the great pandemic, and people starting to make real decisions about where they wanted to put their time and their labour into the organisation, people putting their own wellness and wellbeing above their financial requirements and making some powerful life choices.

I think the rise of social media has given people a voice for challenging and calling out behaviours. I think there's less acceptance of the toxic culture. And of course, we can look at so many examples over the last twelve months of high-profile toxic cultures which have begun to shift the dial in the way that we think about organisations. There was a fire service only this week which had been taken over by commissioners because of a toxic culture. So there is now no regulators. The Care Quality Commission come to mind, amongst others who are out there expecting organisations to be demonstratively building better cultures, there's a change happening. People are starting to become less tolerant.

HR Policies Aren't Changing Fast Enough

The problem I perceive exists still is the canker that exists within the organisation is the policy framework. Because what we're taught, Andy, as managers and as HR professionals, is follow your policy. And that's the first thing you can walk into any CIPD course or any leadership program or any HR conversation. And the first thing is, “Let's just follow your policy.” And it all becomes a mantra. Follow your policy. Follow your policy. If the policy takes you on a journey of blame, shame, punish, destroy, and you're following your policy, then we have to take a long, hard look at the policy environment that's created in our organisations.

So whilst one is optimistic that change is happening and people are calling this out and people are standing up and saying, this is not acceptable, and as I said, big organisations like Burberry and others are doing something better and doing something different till we start to change and rewire our thinking about the rules based system within our workplaces. And this goes to the principles around justice and how we think about justice in our workplaces. It will forever be dressing around the edges until we have this big conversation about what is it that HR are trying to achieve through their policy frameworks, and how do we adjust fair, inclusive, sustainable, lasting, compassionate outcome through a rules-based system which isn't centred around blame, shame, punish, destroy? And we're starting to see that discourse happening. But it's not, in my view, happening fast enough because every day is another life destroyed, another relationship torn assunder, another organisation finding itself in a court over something that should have been dealt with at a much earlier stage.

00:24:30 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I think it's really interesting because you mentioned the support isn't being given to the managers. And on occasions we have referred to that cohort as the frozen middle in an organisation. Because they are being given instruction from on high and caught between the people in their care and sort of oscillating somewhere in the middle at times. And as somebody, I guess, who's had to administer and implement policies, the thing I always found was, and I've had good examples of working with a policy and others where I've felt completely exposed, is that where the difference has been, has always been in the human focus. I found as a leader, director, manager of people, in that we didn't all act the same. We didn't all have the same personal values. And if I fought against a policy to try and treat someone who, in a way I felt that they should and deserve to be treated, then an element of fairness was at risk because I was treating somebody differently to the policy. But the policy felt either out of touch, or inhuman at times. Is that a conflict that you recognise?

Implementing Consistency & Objectivity

00:25:52 - David Liddle

It's a massive one, and you've touched on a really interesting point. So people offer up policy as a form of driving consistency and compliance. We've got the policy, it drives consistency and compliance. It will embed fairness and parity and equity in the workplace. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's like the Wild West, it's that bad. If I gave six managers an example of a colleague putting their hand on another colleague's knee in a pub on a Friday, and I say, follow the policy and take me to an outcome, I'm going to get six different outcomes. I'll tell you why. I'm going to get six different outcomes. Heuristics, bias, personal beliefs, personal experiences, so many factors that will make that up.

Now, there's nothing in the process that provides any governance. There's no compliance, there's no scrutiny of the process. So the manager is a) they're not given the skills to manage it effectively, b) it's full of heuristics and bias. There's no governance and accountability within that process. So the manager is left to hang out, to dry, and if they say or do the wrong thing, they too then will themselves be a victim of said policy. So the manager feels unable to act. Hence that drives that inaction I was talking about. Or if they do take robust action and the organisation perceives it's the wrong action, or the other employee feels it's bullying or harassment of some form or another, then the act falls on their said manager.

So we remove those elements of the policy framework for managers and we build in same way as if you're making an employee redundant, or if you were going through a recruitment process, we build in objective criteria, what I call the resolution index. And we build in a decision-making process, a triage process, if you will, whereby the manager, in partnership with one of their people, partners in partnership with their union, will sit down and look at a particular case and they will start to assess the case against a set of objective criteria. Severity, complexity, the duration of the case, the needs of the parties, the risk of situation, the risk to the business and to the individual.

So we're doing a dynamic risk assessment. And through that triaging process, we'll start to, in essence, score the case from a low medium to higher score, and based on that score would then suggest, okay, which is the best way for us to handle this? Is this a misunderstanding between two people? Well, let's go and have a coffee. Let's get some coaching in and maybe provide some support to help them work their way through that. If it's a more serious situation, then, well, perhaps we could bring in a mediator and a facilitator to bring our two parties together. And of course, in the more serious cases, it may well be we need to go down the more formal route and investigation suspension, resulting in some form of a formal outcome. But what we're doing with organisations is designing in a system for providing consistency, objectivity, and scrutiny.

Dealing With Toxic Cultures

And we also develop resolution centres. They're like a very modern version of an ombud scheme. And the resolution centre evaluates the process. And providing, like Burberry creates the Burberry Hubs, they're supporting managers. But what I get really excited about here is if you look at Baroness Casey's review of the Metropolitan police, or read any review of toxic culture, it is going to contain this line in it, Andy,

The organisation failed to learn the lessons from past situation”,

quote unquote, guaranteed. Every single toxic report I've ever read said that. So within the resolution centre, there's a constant system going back to my Kaizen principles, the idea of constantly learning from cases that are coming through the system, which then drives institutional, cultural, and systemic change.

And the other thing that I think is really important is when I speak to the manager, or the employee of the situation that you've been talking about, I say to the organisation,

Look, did you send out a survey monkey questionnaire, or a type form questionnaire to the parties, asking them for their feedback about how well the process went?” And they laugh. People laugh at me, go, “Why would we send out a survey monkey questionnaire? We know exactly what they're going to say. They hated it. They found it an awful process. They felt ill equipped, under prepared, left to hang out, to dry. Of course, we wouldn't send out a survey monkey questionnaire.”

I say, that's the most important survey monkey questionnaire you are going to send out. Go and ask them for their experiences, and let's build those experiences and bake them in to the way that we handle these situations. So the resolution centre becomes this powerhouse within the organisation. It brings people together. It provides that objectivity that I was talking about. It provides the scrutiny, it provides the learning to drive structural, institutional and cultural change. It gives voice of employees into the system and it allows this whole process and momentum of what's classically known as employee relations and case management to become.

This is why I believe HR has the potential to become the most strategically important function in our firms. Because as they start to handle conflicts, conduct concerns, complaints in a more progressive way and have the ability to do this, it engenders a whole new social contract within our workplace, bringing unions and managers together. It positions that function as a strategic driver of data and evidence of what's really going on for our people. And then it begins to drive the cultural transformation that so many people are yearning for and so many are scratching their heads saying, “Well, where do I start?” I tell you where we start on cultural transformation, Andy, very simple. Go and listen to our people.

00:31:21 - Andy Goram

Listen. Why ask questions you already know the answers to, I mean, what is the point of that? I can put a survey together for you if you want on that, but I don't think it's worth anybody's time. I think that's fascinating because you're now beginning, for me, to add some real clarity around what this move from how you've described, and I always find your language, and this isn't a negative, I always find your language so strong because you use words like retributive and destroy. And what you're now talking about is restorative. These were never words that were used in any HR conversation that I've ever had. Never. But the very nature of taking a breath and thinking about what you're saying and the general theme and push being, well, we need to get a win here. Someone needs to win this argument, and it needs to be us, because otherwise it's going to cost us a load of money. Forget about all the money that you're losing and wasting on all the fallout of all of these…

00:32:24 - David Liddle

Millions of pounds, by the way, Andy, millions of pounds in some organisations

00:32:27 - Andy Goram

Yeah, but we can write that off against something else. To the restorative world. You've mentioned the guys like Burberry and the frameworks that you're now working with as we move forward, where are we going? What's the best practice? Who's leading that and what are the benefits?

Shifting Organisational Value

00:32:51 - David Liddle

Yeah, really great question. So I mentioned earlier in one of my answers a kind of throwaway comment, but I'm going to go back to it, if I may. I talked about the four measures of value. I talked about social value, I talked about stakeholder value, I talked about strategic value and I also talked about shareholder value. So the notion of the value chain and the value proposition in our organisation is shifting. It's been shifting for some time. We've seen the ESG agenda, the me too movement, we've seen various factors in terms of racism and catholic misogyny in our organisation, social justice movement. But there's a paradigm shift in terms of how we measure value. It's much more human measure of value now, much more of an impact on society.

And I think for me, the direction of travel, particularly for the people profession and the HR profession, is to lean into these new measures of organisational value and to connect the external value of the organisation with the internal value within the organisation. And by breaking down some of the old systems which undermined value, the systems we've talked about, which caused a lack of engagement, low productivity, low morale, unhealthy workplaces, unhappy workspaces, poor team climates, inadequate management practices, so on and so forth. So as the HR function leans into this new concept and these new principles of value, and brings that external value into the organisation, in essence, to use the term, to mediate between the organisation's needs and aspirations and the needs and aspirations of the workforce, rewiring the rules based system, equipping and empowering and enabling managers and employees have those conversations. Creating a powerful system of employee voice and employee activism, and welcoming that and encouraging that. That begins to underpin some really important principles.

Transformational Culture From Alignment

But I talked earlier about unlocking innovation, creativity and learning and insight of the future currency that underpins those four value propositions. If the HR function can unlock that currency, then it starts to drive business performance and productivity. And suddenly, again, by unlocking those opportunities and those principles of value, those measures of outcome, and that strategic alignment of needs and aspirations of the workforce, of the management and employer as a whole, then? Actually the HR function sits in this incredibly powerful space, working with unions, working with leaders, and working with managers. And that's the direction of travel. That's what I call a transformational culture. A truly transformational culture is where we unlock all of that potential.

And we're working with some really great organisations and seeing some organisations who are moving beyond values on their lobby walls. Who are moving beyond flashy purpose statements. Who are moving beyond some of the rhetorical or semantic sort of side of values, and actually saying,

How do we use our values as a golden thread that runs through our employee value proposition, into our job design, into our systems and processes? How do we create that alignment between the needs of the workforce and employees? How do we connect customer experience and employee experience, and create that alignment?” 

So the future, I think I'd probably use the words like alignment because I think that's a powerful one. I'd use the words like empowerment. I'd use phrases like enabling people to have the conversation, managers to have the conversation. I talk about courage, the courage to listen, courage to challenge sometimes the courage to shut up and really hear what someone is saying. The ability to create a sense of common purpose and alignment. It doesn't mean we're all going to agree, we're not building robots here. This is person centred, but it means we're at least broadly pointing in the same direction. And when we do disagree, we can turn to each other and have those disagreements. The future of work and the work I'm doing of transforming work and building these transformational cultures and these principles as I'm describing to me, it's just phenomenally exciting and I’m very driven by it.

00:36:56 - Andy Goram

I love the idea of the values in a business doing what they're supposed to be and be that kind of golden thread holding everything together. That's what I kind of, in my sad moments, that's what I kind of wish for, wistfully sitting here at my desk hoping for a world where these things really happen.

00:37:15 - David Liddle

Yeah. Doesn't have to be aspirational. I think when we're talking to organisations and I'm going to say, look, let's get your policy framework, let's get that manager's job description out. Let's look at those competency frameworks. When I ask this question, I don't mean it to be rude. It's like, well, where are your values? Let's take that question forward. What will you do now to put those values in? It doesn't need a degree in rocket science for people to sit down and say, actually we can move. And organisations, I think, can move from aspiration to actual intentional delivery of the values by just asking some very simple questions like, well, where are they? Where have they gone? Have they gone for a walk? Have they gone down the pub? Where are our values? No, they're stuck on the lobby wall. Well, grab, pull them in and get them in and let's have a chat with them.

00:38:02 - Andy Goram

Let's do something with them.

00:38:03 - David Liddle

Do something with them.


Aligning Values, Culture & Strategy

00:38:04 - Andy Goram

If they're not right, let's change them. I think what's interesting is that some still see strategy as one thing and values as another thing. And you've used the word alignment. I mean, the values should be there to help you deliver your strategy, right? It's the way we go and deliver this stuff. And if you haven't got the right behaviours or values in the business to deliver your big missions or vision, well, they're not the right things. And I think the minute you really understand what your organisation needs to hit its targets, its missions, and what the people inside will respond to, when you can find the connections between those things, powerful stuff happens.

00:38:49 - David Liddle

Absolutely. They're the levers that you're pulling. And I think for every manager, every business leader, every HR person, you're pulling those levers because the values are the levers of organisational success. And if it feels like there's a false dichotomy between strategy and culture, or the strategic narrative and our values, then we're constantly immersed in this sort of very distracting battle between these two things, and it's exhausting.

And of course, what happens, it punches lots of holes in the organisation. So our HR department goes in and fills all of those holes in our organisation with these really dreadful policies and processes which are like the little boy sticking his fingers in the dam before it bursts. The alignment closes those gaps. We don't need so many pieces of paper, we don't need to keep chopping down trees to make new policies for our employee handbook. By creating that alignment and using those values pull us together. So moving from those false dichotomies of this or that, this or that, I think I see a lot of those dichotomies in organisations, again, those paradoxes.

But the people function is really well placed, I personally think to become the custodians of values, to be the drivers of purpose, to help to create that alignment. And again, what better role for an HR, a people professional or people and culture professional? If we see HR transform into a people and culture function, which is so exciting, and dropping off the old transactional, retributive, reactive HR of the last 30 years, and embracing a new model of HR, which is proactive, transface, transformational, putting people before process, actually, there are huge opportunities there, and the values provide that landscape. And as you said, if they're not right, change them. But they're your levers of success. We need to start pulling them.

00:40:37 - Andy Goram

But I do think rather than being defaulted to, it's HR's job. No, it's the organisation's job. HR are there to help us, guide us, hold us to account, make sure things are working, change them if they're not, and really help connect all those dots. Time is flying. What a surprise, David.

00:40:59 - David Liddle

It does when we start chatting, Andy

Moving To A Restorative Approach

00:41:00 - Andy Goram

What a surprise, mate. Making this transition from retributive to a restorative approach. Where does one start? And I know you sort of said before, “Hey, have a chat and listen”, but where does an organisation start, my friend? What do we need to do?

00:41:21 - David Liddle

Yeah, I think the first thing I'm going to ask do you believe in the following assertion, that a happy employee works harder, that harmony in our teams is a more effective driver of engagement and customer service, that a healthy workplace helps us to be the best version of ourselves and to thrive. And when combined, a happy, healthy and a harmonious workforce can underpin and underscore high performance of our organisation. So the first question is, do you believe as an organisation in that assertion? If you don't, then let's start somewhere else, because that's going to be the key assertion.

If you don't, then start to go and look at some of the data and the evidence and the metrics. But if we do believe in that assertion, let's go through… let me focus on the policies again. There's so much we can do, Andy, but let me focus on the policy. Let's get your grieving procedure out. Let's mark in red pen all the parts of that procedure that make people unhappy, unhealthy, and where it breaks down harmony. And with a green pen, mark all of the parts of the process which is about driving happiness. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphin, the happy hormones, the positive stuff, rather than the cortisol and the adrenaline that we see so vividly expressed, which are the bits that drive harmony through dialogue. Does dialogue have primacy? Are your values clearly stated? Is it about creating these healthier environments? If you've got a spec of green pen on your grievance procedure, like a spec, and I mean, you might have even accidentally just dropped it on your procedure, please send it through to me, and I'd love to see it as an example of best practice. My bet is it is shining red.

So let's recalibrate… of course you need red pen in your procedure, but let's recalibrate that. Let's rewire that procedure. There's an equal balance of green and red pen. Let's look at our leadership competencies. Are you giving the leaders the tools that they need? Are you leaning into those transformational leadership principles, those wonderful feminist leadership principles around driving equality and equity in our organisation, the servant leadership principles? Do you believe in those? Do you believe they're important? If you don't, then maybe that's another conversation.

But if you do, do they actually start to form behaviours and competencies and capacity buildings for your leaders and managers. What role do your leaders play? Does this become part of your strategic narrative? Is your strategy all about profit and shareholder value proposition? Or is it about the things we've been talking about? And do they feed into the corporate strategy? Do the values feed into that? If not, what can we do about that? To your point around HR, in my book Transformational Culture, I talk about developing culture hub, chaired by the chief people officer, bringing together key players within the organisation. I've offered eight enablers of a transformational culture and we've talked about many of those. To creating these powerful multidisciplinary hubs or culture hubs within our organisation, to bring people together to have these amazing conversations. There's so much we can be doing. There's so much we can be doing. It's so exciting.

Sticky Note Summaries

00:44:28 - Andy Goram

I sit here and I'm just like, wow! Yes, I could listen to those all day. I'd like to see them in action in lots of places. And I'm sure there are businesses out there doing great things. I just need to hear more of them because they don't take the headlines, unfortunately, it's the other stuff that does. Mate, it's the time in the show where I have to ask you to try and sum up your pearls of wisdom on things that could just about fit on three sticky notes. So, if we're looking to really align, empower, engage and have a more restorative approach to conflict and positive cultures, what are the three little sticky notes that you'd leave behind, David?


00:45:11 - David Liddle

Yes, I think the message is brevity. I hear that loud and clear, Andy. So I think we have to give dialogue. Primary dialogue is the best way of resolving issue. Jaw, jaw is better than war, war. Whether it's a geopolitical conflict, whether it's in the Middle East or in Europe or elsewhere, or whether it's an office, a quarrel, dialogue is the only true way to resolve our issues. So give dialogue primacy. Get people talking and throw everything you can at getting people talking and design that in. Build bridges, don't build walls.

Mediation is not a sign of failure and it is a sign of wonderful success. If I've got a dripping tap, yeah, I'm going to go and try and fix the tap in my kitchen. I think I could fancy myself and I'll go onto YouTube and maybe watch a video on how to do it. But when I start flooding the kitchen floor and the poor cats having to swim around to find their food, I think we've got a slight problem. So bringing in a coach, bringing in a mediator, bringing in a facilitator is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. So to do it early and don't be embarrassed or afraid to do that.

I think the final one is going to align to what we've been saying today. But our systems, in our organisations, the rules-based systems, draw heavily from a litigation inspired model of win, lose, right, wrong, defend, attack, balance of probability. If you rely on those old systems of the past, if you rely on the status quo of the past, you will get the same results tomorrow. But things have to change. They have to change now. There's an urgency for us to change things. Design out retribution. And by designing out retribution, you're not putting your organisation at risk. There's no statutory requirement in the land that requires you as an HR professional or an organisation to blame, shame, punish, destroy your people. So it's not going to put you at risk of doing something innovative and creative. And of course, the tribunals and the court service are encouraging greater compassion, greater focus on alternative dispute resolution processes. So be brave, be courageous, and do the right things for your people and for your organisation.

Final Thoughts & Close

00:47:16 - Andy Goram

Wonderful message to finish with, my friend. A wonderful message to finish with. I think for me, this whole conversation just has doubled down the fact that if you're going to be a purpose-driven organisation, you need humanity and consistency, and something like your values can absolutely act as a roadmap. And they will be especially powerful if you've got that kind of framework you've talked about today. And we'll see more people retained and happy and fulfilled in the work that they do and businesses being successful as a result. David, I've loved talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on. If anybody wants to find out a bit more about you and TCM group, where can they go?

00:47:58 - David Liddle

Sure, there's a couple of pointers I can give. So the first one is the TCM group dot com, and of course, I'm all over LinkedIn, as you would expect. I'm also the president of a fantastic little organisation called the People and Culture association, which is a global hub for people, professionals, for leaders and managers who are interested in this stuff. So you can find and I've got books coming out, so I'm working on two books at the moment, which I think they might well break me. Andy. So I've got my two books that are out Managing Conflict and Transformational Culture, so kind of pop David Liddle into Google or TCM Group into Google and you'll probably track it down somewhere.

00:48:36 - Andy Goram

Well, we will put all of that in the show notes, my friend. I'll make sure people get access to it. Thanks so much for coming, my friend and I look forward to our next conversation. You take care.

00:48:45 - David Liddle

Fantastic. Thanks so much for having me today, Andy. I really enjoyed it.

00:48:48 - Andy Goram

No problem my friend.

00:48:49 - David Liddle

All the best.

00:48:50 - Andy Goram

Okay everyone, that was David Liddle, and if you'd like to find out a bit more about him or any of the things we've talked about today, please check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting, and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps.

I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world. 


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