Taking a ride
People like this treat you like a fool and take you for a ride.
That’s what I was told. After the event. Several years after the event.
Some years ago I spent a lot of time on the road with a colleague that I’ll call Steve doing regular customer visits, often delivering sales demos and providing training courses. Over several years we shared many a challenging moment and had several experiences worthy of sharing as an amusing anecdote.
One such story involved a harrowing trip to London which feature having a cash card copied and a bank account drained, a laptop stolen from under our noses, and to cap it all on our return we were sitting in the first class carriage awaiting our trip home when the train next door pulled out!
Well, one day an email arrived in my inbox saying “I am moving so I can be nearer my family to help look after them and a property has become available … I apologise for asking this again of you but I don’t really have anywhere else I can go as I have maxed myself out paying for care and such for my family as we’re not the wealthiest family.” It was a request for a loan of a not insubstantial amount of money and wasn’t the first loan I had extended to Steve.
The plan was that the loan would be repaid within a few months, and on previous occasions, it had been. However, this time it took somewhat longer. A lot longer. Over subsequent years our career paths separated, and now the series of promises of repayment had dwindled into the non-return of calls.
That’s when I was given the advice about fools and rides as I explored the options available to me to recover this outstanding debt, and I had the chance to reflect on the values of trust and character (and about fools and rides).
In May 2009 the Daily Telegraph started to publish details of a scandal of character that was to dominate the news for weeks. It also resulted in the resignation of the speaker and several cabinet ministers, a good many MPs and Lords from across the political spectrum and from both houses of parliament, and even in prison terms for some.
MPs’ Expenses: The Telegraph’s investigation, The Expenses Files, into how politicians – from the Cabinet to backbenchers of all parties – exploited the system of parliamentary allowances to subsidise their lifestyles and multiple homes.
The underlying issue was again one of trust. Trust in the political leaders of our country in relation to the expenses incurred in carrying out their duties in their business of managing and governing the country, and representing their constituents.
It was in 1911 in the Parliament Act that David Lloyd George introduced payment for MPs. At that time it seemed to be a good move, opening up a political system to people of all backgrounds that had hitherto only been available to people of independent means. The origins of the MPs expenses extends to a time well before any direct payment was available, and I suspect some of the customs and practices stem from that era too. MPs were entitled then and still are entitled to receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, of employing staff, of maintaining somewhere to live in London as well as in their home constituency, and for travelling between their constituency and Westminster.
Personally, I have some difficulty reconciling the idea of holding people to today’s standards for acts and activities conducted in a different time and culture. However, there were some awful excesses and liberties taken that were exposed and came to light during this scandal that has left a deep and ugly scar in the memories of the British people, of the character of those convicted and the trust placed in their members of parliament that will take years to heal. Details were subsequently published of voluntary repayments by MPs amounting to almost £500,000.
Character makes trust possible, and trust makes leadership possible.
~ John Maxwell
The misuse of expenses and allowances by so many in our government brought the careers or many in parliament to an end, not only from the embarrassment caused and the legal proceedings that ensued but also from the betrayal of trust that was felt so widely by those they had been elected to represent. They knew that their ability to offer effective leadership had been destroyed, and that affected not only those found guilty but also the entire population of this generation of our political leaders.
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.
~ Norman Schwarzkopf
I once told my sister that … “I know a foolproof way to avoid getting a speeding ticket.” She knew that I did a lot of driving as part of my job so was quite curious to know the answer that I had discovered and was about to share. The answer, of course, is not to drive at a speed in excess of the speed limit!
If you want to lead people, they must trust you. If you want them to trust you then you have to work on your character – or not let them find out! How may that advice apply to you or those around you, and how would today’s ‘accepted business practices’ stand up in the light of tomorrow’s exposure?
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.