Sorry about missing the last two weeks, I have been delivering workshops for clients starting on Monday mornings and, after seven years, I find that Monday mornings is the only time I can write.
The 2012 Tour de France has already started. I believe that, like last year, this years Tour is largely clean. It is obvious to see that the whole atmosphere of the event has changed. There is a generosity of spirit and humanity that was previously missing.
There was a time when winning, or succeeding, appeared to be enough. As long as we could triumph, how we did it did not seem to matter. This can only be true in an environment of ego-fueled ignorance. Ego, because we can only operate this way before we mature beyond childhood self-centredness. Ignorance, because as soon as we become mature enough to see the effects of our dishonesty on others, the corrosive effect of that dishonesty starts eating away at our character. We then have to choose between the dark and the light.
Back in the ’90s and ’00s so many Tour riders were cheating that the playing field was, at least to some extent, level. Even though it was clearly wrong, against the rules and blighted the career of anyone who rode, or wanted to ride, clean. Virtually all of those at the front were cheating. Those that won, were still the ones (of the cheats) who were fittest and trained hardest.
It is time to draw a line under that era. There is no need for retrospective investigations or sanctions any more. If you were to strip away the results of everyone who has been implicated in cheating, there are some years where you might easily go down to 20th place, or further, to find a “clean” winner. An amnesty then for the brave and fit, but foolish and weak, riders of the time. We have learned that there is a better, healthier and more honest way to succeed, which does not blight the lives of others. The culture has changed and there is little chance of a return to the old ways.
Banking, on the other hand, is at the beginning of its transformational journey: only beginning to have it’s “Festina Moment”. Remarkably, most working bankers appear to have shrugged off the Credit Crunch as “somebody else’s problem”. (I have spoken to several ex-bankers, who had to leave when the toxicity of their environment became clear to them, their own careers blighted by the culture).
We can only hope that the Libor-fixing scandal will strike fear into the hearts of enough, the veil of ego, ignorance and denial will begin to lift, and characters and culture will start to reform. It is difficult to contemplate an amnesty for bankers. Too many lives have been blighted on the altar of their “success”, the consequences of their ego and greed too vast and too significant.
Tour riders of the past only risked their own health, the disappointment of the fans, the careers of the clean and the existence of professional cycling – and yet, cheats were imprisoned, cheats were banned, lengthy investigations and tearful admissions took place.
With all of that incentive, it took professional cycling 13 years from their “Festina Moment” to 2011, to change the culture and learn the lesson – almost an entire professional cycling career – suggesting that it was not so much the old guard learning the lesson themselves, as their replacement by newer, younger and wiser riders. Although within that there are some obvious examples of riders who have had a brush with doping allegations and returned to the peleton considerably slower.
We cannot afford to wait 40 years or so for banking to change its culture. Banking has far too great an influence on us as a society for its toxic ways to continue. As customers, citizens, employees and investors we must ensure that culture change occurs more rapidly.
Reportedly, there is the beginning of a migration to more ethical alternatives, such as Triodos or The Cooperative. The project I am involved with, Civilised Money, has been delayed by too many potential investors turning out to come from the old world and is still in need of backers who believe in a new, ethical future for finance.
We all need to play our part in relentlessly demanding change. If you have not already written to your bank manager demanding change, please consider forwarding this blog post to them or sending them your own message.
It is not about what you think you can get away with, it is about taking the trouble to know what the right thing to do is and doing it right, first time, every time, even when you think no one is watching. Do the right thing, even when no one is watching. If we can get that message through to the most senior bankers, the culture will have changed.
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