The Business Improvement Network

Shit or roses?

By Colin Russell

Colin Russell

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day, talking about business, leadership and reputation. We talked about the recent coverage of Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United. Perception of our behaviours yesterday, today and tomorrow are going to be key to determining how we emerge from this crisis. To this you can also add the treatment of the Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Captain Brett Crozier USN, the comments about the UK Chief Medical Officer - Professor Chris Whitty and many other examples both national and international. On the flip side, the behaviours of a number of teams, businesses and individuals shine through as positive, constructive and caring. Just look at those building ventilators, face shields and volunteering – not to mention the amazing key workers on the front line.

Ultimately, it boils down to a number of key elements:

  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Care
  • Support

Whilst these are all great words that are being said over and over again, there are a number of examples where the words said and the actions taken don’t seem to line up. Integrity is another of these words – having the commitment to act honestly and aligned to what you are saying. Those perceptions will be formed based on whether you acted, not on what you said. In addition, we don’t have control over who forms those perceptions, and how widely they spread. They will include:

  • Peers and colleagues
  • Competitors
  • Communities
  • Friends and family
  • Media (social and/or mainstream)

So, in amongst all the noise, the bustle and the challenges when trying to work effectively - do we each have the balance right when it comes to our actions:

  • ‘Holding to account’ vs negative/destructive commentary?
  • Caring vs uncaring?
  • Looking after stakeholders vs shareholders?
  • Communities vs Individuals

Her Majesty the Queen summed it up perfectly last night

“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any, that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humored resolve, and of fellow feeling still characterize this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”


The acid test in all of this is what will you tell your closest friends, children and grandchildren about the role you and your team, organisation or business played in helping us overcome this global challenge and emerging safe, strong and united.

  • Did you help or hinder?
  • Did you warm hearts or protect your own pockets?
  • Did you care for yourself only or did you care for others?

Can you hold your own head high, and take pride in your own actions and behaviours?

About the author

Colin is passionate about leadership, safety and the things that drive great teams to succeed. Outside work he loves sailing, towing horse trailers and making the most of his chainsaw (safely of course!)

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