Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Good Bastards & the Spirit of Christmas

The Christmas message of joy in discovering new life and new hope came together surprisingly for me last week in a business meeting of diverse minds, perspectives and strengths in a common purpose.

I opportunistically (for that is my way) introduced my friends and clients at Challenge Trust (Mental Health Service providers) to my friends and former colleagues at The Social & Community Health Section of the University of Auckland (UoA) School of Population Health (SoPH). My hope and expectation was of new and exciting collaboration.

My role with Challenge Trust is about achieving business growth & development. My connection with SoPH stems from collaborating with them as a faculty member of UoA Business School when it had a division on the same Tamaki campus as SoPH. That collaboration grew out of a sense that the issues in social and community health are congruent with those in businesses and institutions and a passion to do something with that.

The meeting confirmed the expected and discovered unexpected potential for new, exciting collaboration and relationships in common purpose and passion: to make social and business communities healthy and therefore sustainably more productive places to live and work.

We got to talking about Challenge Trust’s dramatically successful model for recovery that they apply to themselves and their professional interrelationships as well as to their clients and their client communities. Their model has six essential elements that must be addressed together:

1. Clinical Health

2. Emotional Health

3. Spiritual/Cultural Health

4. Environmental Health

5. Physical Health

6. Economic Health

We got to talking about how organisations are inherently fundamentally dysfunctional and how through a recovery approach they can become “high functioning”. We got to talking about how individual and organisational recovery relates to resilience and “human resource” sustainability.

This brought to my mind a story that I told them to illustrate how a firm without specific knowledge of Recovery, but seeking to sustainably engage it’s employees and delight its customers, had begun to implement what in many ways amounts to the Recovery model:

A labour hire firm were seeking to identify an inspiring, engaging common purpose or goal; one that would profitably differentiate them from their competition. They tried typical business goals like being the preferred supplier to the top/largest/best operators in the construction industry with decade-spanning interpersonal customer relationships. But it didn’t catch on. Too much bicycle, not enough frog?

So back to the drawing board they went and realised that what they would really like to be is “Good Bastards who do business with Good Bastards”. A good bastard is NZ vernacular for a rugged individual with a good heart, who looks out for his mates and, all said and done, loves them, has their welfare at heart and would do anything for them.

They then imagined what a firm of good bastards would be proud to look like in 10 years if it was a raging success. They decided that they would be proud to be in the news for having flown an A320 full of their people (150) into a disaster zone for a week long recovery mission where their people volunteered their time and the firm paid the rest of the costs. That would require them to be a successful business, largish and most importantly be a community of really good bastards. This big hairy audacious goal (Jim Collins) caught on fast.

Building the capability to respond at the drop of a hat to such a disaster clearly required long term action that started right away. So they began by collaborating with their banker’s employees to clean up three local beaches and have a BBQ together.

To begin recognising good bastard behaviour they implemented a quarterly Good Bastard Award for clients and one for employees.

They decided that good bastards are safe bastards: they look out for their workmates; an important behaviour in construction site safety. So they began a programme of sponsored safety promotion events on client sites and included aspects of safety and safety awareness in their quarterly surveys of employees and clients.

This firm is The Labour Exchange and to me that’s the spirit of Christmas in action in business.

The meeting of minds and purpose where I told that story is also the spirit of Christmas in action: joy in discovering new life and new hope.

Best wishes for Christmas: peace & goodwill, new life and new hope.



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