leech of faith

To hear the Aurora Cultural Centre’s Mr. Layton deny the more than obvious communications issue between them an the town that was addressed in the Feb 28th meeting  is grossly insulting and shows how he, and perhaps the whole board at the “Cultural” Centre prefer to firmly remain in their own delusional bubble.

Here is an exerpt from page 16 of last week’s Auroran :

“As for any talk of a communications issue between the Cultural Centre, its supporters,
as well as the Town and its Council, that escalated the situation or even created misinformation on the future of the Centre, Mr. Layton dismisses the notion.  Our message was clear,” he said. “There was a resolution tabled to terminate our contract so we were addressing that.  Our purpose for bringing that forward, and not diminishing what the effect of that would be, was a clear message.”

You can read the whole article here:

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Restoring trust requires effective communications.

Our mayor demonstarted his understanding of that at the meeting of February 28th following Mr. Layton’s delegation, which can be viewed online at Rogers : http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=69&sid=3186&gid=91864 

Mr. Layton’s delegation can be viewed between 1:07:35 – 1:21:52.

At 1:19:51 the Mayor in response to Mr. Layton says:

“it is aparent that there is a comunications issue between the town council and the board”

He then goes on to ask Mr. Layton to provide him with the requisite assurance to rebuild the flawed communications that led up to this event.

“I need you assurance that you will do your utmost that the message that comes out of the center is as ballanced as possible.  I need that assurance in order to rebuild trust.  Can you give me that assuarance?

Instead of a straigyt forward answer there is an uncomfortably 10 second long pause which can be witnessed between 1:21:21 and 1:21:31 where Mr. Tracy Smith starts to whisper something into Mr. Layton’s ear.

The Mayor still waiting for a response says :

“it’s pretty much a yes or no question”

To which Mr. Layton offers a reluctant “yes”.

It was that pivitol moment that told me everything I needed to know about Mr. Layton’s intentions and demonstrated the Centre’s unwillingness to cooperate with the town in a professional and open manner.

After this display it was mind boggling to see our Mayor, Clr. Thompson and to a lesser degree Clr. Humfreys bend over backwards  while jumping through hoops to extend into further negotiations to maintain some apperance of “faith” between the two parties.

This action effectively pulled the town down the vacuum created by the complete absense of trust left from the “Cultural” Centre.

What should have happeded was the much needed painful removal of the current Cultural Services agreement.  
Torn away in one clean motion, not unlike a blood sucking leech.

Then, seeking the advise of professionals apply a propper treatment to the wound so that it will heal.

Harvard Business Review is currently publishing a 3 part series on Leadership and Trust.
The first part can be read here:

“Believing as a boss that trust will somehow take care of itself may not work out the way you want. You do need to think about it. And you may need to take conscious steps that make clear to others that you deserve their trust. None of those steps involves dishonesty or manipulation — on the contrary — but they do involve your being explicit about yourself, about what you know, and about the reasons behind your decisions and actions. In other words, it may require that you be more open as a boss than you might personally be inclined to be.

Indeed, the need for such openness may cut against the grain of many managers, especially new managers, who believe that as the boss they’re able to take action without having to explain it to everyone involved.

You need competence and character both to earn your people’s trust.”

The third “c” that could be added to that list is “communication”.

One comment that reinforces this is:

S.Lock 03/04/2012 11:37 PM

“I have developed a pyramid model loosely based on Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. This pyramid has four layers. The bottom most layer (foundation layer) is the TRUST layer. The second layer atop the Trust layer is the COMMUNICATIONS layer. The third layer is the UNDERSTANDING layer. and the top of the pyramid is the TEAM EXCELLENCE layer. 

The basic premise of this model is that without fundamental TRUST between members of your team, there can be no effective Communications between members (including the Boss). Without effective Communications, there can be no Understanding. Understanding between members can only develop with effective and transparent communications between members. Once Understanding has been acheived, then only can the team achieve Team Excellence. 

The basic idea is that certain fundamental criteria needs to be attained before moving on to the next higher level. And TRUST is the most fundamental level that has to be attained before moving on to the Communications layer; and so on and so forth…”

This is not reflective of the “Cultural” Centre’s model, which shape would be more of an impenetrable bubble of ignorance than a pyramid.

The second Harvard Business Review article focuses on the role of competence in trust, and can be read here:

“You ultimately build people’s trust in your competence through your accomplishments over time — through the knowledgeable decisions you make, your practical understanding of how work actually gets done, and your ability to get the organizational resources needed to do good work. Nothing in the long run can overcome a deficit of accomplishment. 

Talk about the why and how of decisions you make and actions you take. Don’t be mysterious. Be open in your choices. That way, people will see your knowledge and understanding even before any results come in. In other words, adopt a practice of explaining yourself. It lets others see what you know and how you think. 

Involve others in the way you manage. Invite people’s participation in decisions and the resolution of group issues. Use their technical and operational knowledge. You retain ultimate responsibility, of course, but giving people a say allows you to incorporate their competence into your own. They will worry less about what you yourself know if they’re confident you will take advantgage of what they know.”

Unfortunately what we have witnesses is an absense of competence at the leadership level from the Aurora “Cultural” Centre that could be defined this way.

The “Cultural” Center’s operations are mysterious.  they are not open, and do not explain themselves.
The “Cultural” centre does not involve “others” (lets say council or members of the public) to participate in their decisions.

Their reluctance to do so until questioned points out both leadership and strategic flaws.

Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” wrote a Fast Company article back in December of 2011 titled “How To Create A Business Where The Truth Is Heard”.  You can read it here:

In it he lays out 4 ways which I have summarized below:

1. Lead with questions, not answers.

Leaders in each of the good-to-great transitions operated with a somewhat Socratic style. Furthermore, they used questions for one and only one reason: to gain understanding. They didn’t use questions as a form of manipulation (“Don’t you agree with me on that?…” or as a way to blame or put down others.”

2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.

In 1965, you could hardly find a company more awful than Nucor. It had only one division that made money. Everything else drained cash. It had no culture to be proud of. It had not consistent direction. It was on the verge of bankruptcy.” 

3. Conduct autopsies, without blame.

Joe Cullman didn’t hold back the embarrassing truth about how flawed his 7-UP decision was. It is a five-page clinical analysis of the mistake, its implications, and its lessons.  Implying that if he’d only listened better to the people who challenged his idea at the time, the disaster might have been averted. He goes out of his way to give credit to those who were right in retrospect, naming those specific individuals who were more prescient than himself.

In an era when leaders go to great lengths to preserve the image of their own track record–stepping forth to claim credit about how they were visionary when their colleagues were not, but finding others to blame when their decisions go awry–it is quite refreshing to come across Cullman. He set the tone: “I will take responsibility for this bad decision. But we will all take responsibility for extracting the maximum learning from the tuition we’ve paid.”

4. Build “red flag” mechanisms.

“We live in an information age, when those with more and better information supposedly have an advantage. If you look across the rise and fall of organizations, however, you will rarely find companies stumbling because they lacked information.”

Collins elaborates on the idea of red flag mechanisms, offering a straight forward solution called “Short Pay”

“I got the idea for red flag mechanisms from Bruce Woolpert, who instituted a particularly powerful device called short pay at this company Graniterock. Short pay gives the customer full discretionary power to decide whether and how much to pay on an invoice based upon his own subjective evaluation of how satisfied he feels with a product or service. Short pay is not a refund policy. The customer does not need to return the product, nor does he need to call Graniterock for permission. He simply circles the offending item on the invoice, deducts it from the total, and sends a check for the balance. When I asked Woolpert his reasons for short pay, he said, “You can get a lot of information from customer surveys, but there are always ways of explaining away the data. With short pay, you absolutely have to pay attention to the data. You often don’t know that a customer is upset until you lose that customer entirely. Short pay acts as an early warning system that forces us to adjust quickly, long before we would lose that customer.”

Considering the Aurora “Cultural” Centre has adopted absolutely no red flag mechanizims perhaps something like this needs to be considered twofold.

1.) Provided the facility is so heavily subsidized by the town all admissions to the Aurora “Cultural” Centre should be subject to a “Short Pay” system.

If an attendee, or purchasor of services is unsatisfied they are not charged, or are immediately reimburced the full amount.

2.) The town of Aurora, when reveiwing the line items covering the Creative Services agreement in the budget process strike the ones that are deemed unsatisfactory based on the previous year.

There should be no fear of adopting such a system from either the town of the Cultural Centre’s boars as the message that continually comes out of the centre is how well received its programs are.

All it requires is a leap of faith, and we are told how both parties are operating in a surplus of that at the moment.

Watts on your mind?

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