The no fools policy

As man continues to push back the frontiers of knowledge, leaders who belong to the Jurassic Park of history are being left behind to wallow in self-pity and chase their elusive legacy like a mongoose chasing a rat.

Whether they acknowledge it or not the crop of Caribbean leaders who were born before Hurricane Janet and grew up studying by candlelight are at the brink of becoming extinct due to factors beyond their control.

Something about those dark hard days has left a halo of backwardness and lack of innovation hanging over their heads for which we have had to pay the price. As Culture puts it in his song, “I tried and I tried to make them understand….But they just can’t understand …The more victimisation is up on their back….. The more foolish they become…..This one turn fool…..That one turn fool.”

Prime Ministers of the Caribbean should embrace recent thinking on leadership in an effort to better serve their people and ultimately themselves.

Two leadership elements stand out in particular.

· The Personal SWOT analysis; and

· The no fools policy.

The theory suggests that the leader should perform a personal SWOT analysis and publish it for all to see. SWOT is the acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Training companies have set out a series of typical questions that the leader must ask himself and answer honestly to develop a bond with the people he serves.  Some of these questions include:

– What do you do better than others?

– What do other people see as your strengths?

– What values and ethics set you apart?

– What are your negative habits?

– What do other people see as your weaknesses?

– Are you succeeding in your approach?

– Is there demand for your skills?

– Is your industry contracting or changing directions?

– Are there new professional standards that you cannot meet?

Generally strengths and weakness are considered to be internal and as such we have control over them. On the other hand opportunities and threats are external and may not be within our control but the test would be how the leader reacts to it.

One CEO suggested that he gained the confidence and support of his workers when he was man enough to admit that a certain policy change that he had implemented was not working and that they had to revert to the old system. His display of humanity and frankness earned him the respect of those below him in the structure.

The second theoretical construct is the “no fools policy”. Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University uses the correct terminology in his book but for the purpose of this article we will use “fools”.

Sutton insists that there is no substitute for his word (feel free to look it up) since words like “jerk”, “bully” and “tyrant” will not do.

Sutton argues that policies should be instituted at the recruitment stage to ensure that fools are not recruited. He further argues that even if they get past the screening stage the employees should be made to sign an agreement that they will not be a fool while on the job.

Sutton further argues that there is “emotional contagion”. That if you stay around a fool for too long or you work for a fool you can easily become one. He advocates open discussions about fools, documentation of their behaviour and reporting to management.

According to Sutton you should not allow success to deter you from standing up against fools. A manager can be successful even though he is a fool. There are successful fools.

It may very well be that we have gone through a period when we were lead by fools. In the event that this proves to be the case and having committed ourselves to these fools we may be faced with no choice but to weather the storm hoping that this too shall pass forever bearing in mind the no fools policy.

Garvey Louison

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