Corporate Panic and lessons from the Wolf Pack!

Eleven-member wolf pack in winter, Yellowstone...

I left the UK public sector five years ago.  At that time people management skills appeared to be in the decline.  I noticed this particularly in how restructuring exercises were being handled.  It was the main reason I chose to go!

I had always been very proud to be part of the UK Civil Service! Sadly that ceased when I saw how some of my colleagues were being treated. No, not because we were being downsized – it was how we were being downsized.

Well, the UK public sector has changed a lot since I left and I do not mean in terms of the colour of the government.  In terms of managing change, few lessons seem to have been learned and a good number seem to have been forgotten.

There have always been good and bad employers – bosses with more and less finesse when dealing with their employees.  My encounters with large private sector corporates, has led me to think they are not better or worse at handling people than those in the public sector.  Good practice in small and medium-sized bodies varies widely in both sectors.

Recently I have heard some very strange and rather sad tales from those in both the public and private sectors. I have heard about organizations going through their third and fourth restructuring in a few months.

On top of that, I am being told of people who have had to reapply for their own roles three and four times in those exercises. As you will understand the effect on staff morale is devastating.

Running large corporate change programmes – even when well handled – costs a lot of money.

Right now, not only is there a lot of change but it is very clear that it is not being handled well.

As one former colleague with vast experience of managing public sector change successfully said to me;

“They try to manage a restructure themselves and can’t. So then they bring in one of the large consultancy firms to help and they just seem to make it worse. They are being told to finish the change quickly, so they don’t try to find out what we do really but they get well paid.”

What is going wrong?  Well yes, I do know about the economy and the need to make “cuts”.  And yes I do know we live in a world of constant change.

But there seems to be a kind of corporate panic/frenzy around and that is the worst way to respond.  Now more than ever we need real leadership and we need leadership confident enough to be serene when all about are running round like headless chickens.

Think about a wolf pack!  Wolves have to flex and change all the time as they hunt.  The constants are that they are quite clear why they are there, the strengths and weaknesses they possess and their roles. The leader sniffs the wind and off they go in very good order.

The weather may change about them and the quarry may lead them into new and difficult terrain.  But because they are well led, have a strong commitment to the pack and are clear about their roles they succeed often enough to thrive even in the most challenging times.

Wendy Mason works as a Coach, Consultant and Blogger. 

She works with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;

  • looking for work
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • facing redundancy
  • moving into retirement
  • wanting to do a mid-life review

You can contact Wendy at  or ring ++44 (0)2084610114

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Leadership and the abuse of power

English: Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3...
Image via Wikipedia

I found an article on the Psychology Today blog explaining why and how power corrupts leaders .

It explains that a leader can use his or her power to help others, but, of course the leader can also gain personally.  The obvious problem is that when self-interest rules, the leader gains but often at the followers’ expense.

The dangerous thing is that leaders can begin to delude themselves.  They start to believe that the rules that govern what is right and what is wrong do not apply to them because they have the best interests of their followers at heart.

Leaders can become “intoxicated” by power – doing something unethical or taking an unreasonable risk – just because they can!  They can become addicted to the adrenaline rush and followers can begin to collude – it is OK “He’s the boss!”

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen several times in large organizations and not always at top-level.

Sometimes it is someone in an unchallengeable leadership position in a particular division.  They are getting results so those further up the line choose not to ask questions.  Sometimes, it is someone with particular intellectual capital (the subject matter expert) or a scarce talent.  Again it can be easier for “management” to look the other way.

It does not happen just in large organizations.  Abuse of power can happen anywhere! Eventually, the organization suffers eventually either in terms of legal challenge or financial loss from poor decision-making.  The reputational loss can be considerable!

It happens less in organizations with resilient governance arrangements and in those bodies whose top leaders set an example of ethical and compassionate leadership.

But I fear that the present economic circumstances, a climate may be created in which the abuse of power is more not less likely to take place.

On the positive side, of course, power makes leaders more assertive and confident.  They feel more certain of their decisions. This enables them to move forward towards their vision.

At the end of the day leaders and manager must be given the power to “get the job done.” But I’d welcome your views on how best to keep this to a healthy balance!

Wendy Smith is a personal coach and writer at Wisewolf Coaching. She is a qualified coach and a member of the Association for Coaching as well as being a member of the Institute of Consulting and a graduate of the Common Purpose leadership programme.  Wendy is author of “The WiseWolf Job Search Pocket Book: How to Win Jobs and Influence Recruiters” as well as two novels and a number of articles on management and well-being. Her latest publication is a little eBook; “How to Get on With the Boss.”  You can contact Wendy at

Leader, know your friend or foe!

Image by JimmytheJ via Flickr

As a leader things you do have an impact!

As a leader, the things you do and the choices you make have an impact on those about you.

The more people you affect, the more likely it is that your actions will impact on people who have power and influence over your ability to deliver your vision.

These people could be strong supporters of your work – or they could obstruct it.

Identify key people

You need to make sure that you can find the key people who support you already and those who still need to be won over. Then you can;

  • Use the opinions of your most powerful supporters to shape your plans at an early stage. Not only does this make it more likely that they will support you, but, their input can improve the quality of your approach.
  • Use strong support to help you to win more resources – this makes success more likely
  • By communicating make sure your supporters fully understand what you are doing and the benefits it will bring.  They can then act as your ambassadors.
  • Anticipate what people’s reaction to you may be, and build into your plan the actions that will win people’s support.

The first step is to brainstorm who supports you and who does not.

Think through all the people who are affected by your work.  Who has influence or power over it?  Who has an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion?

And now the analysis

You may now have a long list of people and organizations that are affected by your work.

Some may have the power either to block or advance. Some may be interested in what you are doing, others may not care.

You need to map your list on to grid like the one below.

Someone’s position on the grid shows you the actions you have to take to ensure your success:

  • High influence, interested people: these are the people you must make time and effort to engage with and try to satisfy.
  • High influence, less interested people: for these people you need to try to keep them satisfied.  But don’t over-communicate or they may begin to see you as a nuisance
  • Low influence, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure there are no major issues.  They could be useful on the details and in spreading the message
  • Low influence, less interested people: again, monitor but do not bore them with excessive communication.

Now it is time for you to get to work!

Wendy Mason works as a Coach, Consultant and Blogger. 

She works with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;

  • looking for work
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • facing redundancy
  • moving into retirement
  • wanting to do a mid-life review

You can contact Wendy at  or ring ++44 (0)2084610114