‘We Can’t Get On Together with Suspicious Minds’

Developing a Culture of Kindness as The Foundation of Social Business


Why Companies Shouldn’t “Do’ Compliance

Many managers are struggling with the potential of social media to harness and connect the talents and passion of their people to collaborate for social good because the inherent company culture is built on distrust and compliance; rather than trust and contribution.  As Elvis, that great and wise management guru sang, ‘we can’t get on together with suspicious minds’.

Here is a question I recently posed on Twitter – as a manager or leader, do you spend more time on that which you want to avoid or that which you wish to accomplish?  Another version of this question is – do you approach your social media policy through the lens of compliance and stopping bad things happening, such as cyber bullying, or do you approach your social media policy from the lens of what is possible; that connecting people in open, authentic conversations together on social media will do more good than bad?

In my experience, many organisations in Australia are approaching social media with the first lens, not the second. They are looking to stop the bad thing happening on social media to the extent that the possibilities and opportunities that social media provides for collaboration, understanding  and innovation for social good are being missed because the focus is on compliance and the firewall.

In my work with organisations across diverse sectors in Australia I am coming to realise that the advent of social media is a real challenge for many organisations; to the extent that some are deciding to ban the use of social media altogether, rather than seize the opportunity that the digital technology affords us to build collaborative across our workforces and engage them to innovate and co-create as a living ecosystem for social good.

Some far sighted leaders in Australian organisations get it and they are seeing social media through the lens of possibility, not as a problem but equally they are seeing social media through the lens of Contribution not Compliance.

We are living at a time when there has never been more compliance and regulation in organisational life and it is killing the joy, adventure, wonder and passion in our work. Everywhere I go, I hear from people that they want to spend more time on the bigger, life issue for working, which is to contribute something meaningful and less time on the ‘paperwork’ and compliance aspects of work. People are crying out to be engaged in more meaning, more contribution and less compliance.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that we don’t need checks and balances in our organisations to ensure that we are ‘safe’ and secure across the board; what I am saying is that we need to restore the balance and change the order of the questions. Rather than safety first, let’s put adventure first. Rather than compliance first, let’s look at how we can experience more contribution and meaning.

The current focus by managers on compliance is not a problem limited to Australia.  Dov Seidman in Forbes Magazine writes

‘Most companies today are committing a fundamental mistake: they are “doing” compliance –the U.S. spent $29.8 billion on compliance activities in 2010 according to a study from AMR Research – but they are not “getting” more compliance. The frequency of compliance violations is increasing rather than diminishing and the impacts of non-compliance in a more interconnected and interdependent world are much more dramatic. 

Organizations are implementing new frameworks, software, training and other control infrastructure at a pace that calls to mind the enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation era of the late 1990s.  Much of this mass adoption is a direct result of increased regulatory mandates and external auditor expectations.’

Seidman, goes on to say that we need to experience a shift in organisations from one of compliance and risk to a new focus on fostering a positive culture which emphasis ethical behaviours and innovation, not compliance.

‘There is a limit to what “compliance programs” can achieve in this regard—a limit that many companies have reached.  Beyond a certain point, compliance activities can actually harm the organization, imposing unnecessary costs, undermining proper conduct and restricting creativity and innovation.  We’ve made similar mistakes in other areas. Companies spend millions on “doing” employee-engagement programs, yet engagement remains at an all-time low.  The companies with the best retention “get” employee loyalty as an outcome of being a highly innovative company, having a superior organizational culture or fostering inspirational leadership.

To be truly effective in shifting behavior, and moving an organization forward, leadership must move from a “governance, risk and compliance” to a “governance, culture and leadership” mindset.  Focusing on actions that will build and maintain a values-based system of “governance, culture and leadership” will mean less compliance activity, less cost, and more compliance as a result of real, tangible and sustainable behavior change.’



Social Media: The Opportunity to Engage People to Contribute

The Gallup Group has produced a comprehensive survey of employee engagement involving 140 countries world-wide.


Gallup concludes that only 13% of people are engaged at work; a group t I call the Contributors.  This group of employees is worth six times more to the bottom line than their non-engaged or Compliant colleagues.

The Contributors are the group who readily embrace change, who do the right thing on social media but who are also authentic, open and highly collaborative; looking to grow the organisation with their colleagues; to explore, to take risks in the interests of discovery and work for social good.

Interestingly, Gallup’s research shows that the Contributors almost variably work for organisations which foster a positive or kind culture; where there is an emphasis on the positive, on extending strengths, not weaknesses and on possibilities, not problems. Conversely, the Compliant, work for organisations which foster a culture of compliance and control; not contribution.

Another way of putting this is to say that those organisations which focus on a compliance culture are spending time on managing survival; whereas organisations focusing on Contribution are looking to grow and make more of an impact and difference in the world. They are two different conversations coming from two different cultures.

When you first focus the conversation with your people on Contribution, you not only get Contribution, you get Compliance



Outside of work, people flock to social media because it engages them in ways that work currently does not; unless they are lucky enough to be in the 13% who work in a positive or kind culture.

Social Media commentators Peter Kollock and Marc Smith have found four principal reasons why contributing to online social networks is so popular outside of work. If we take the liberty to overlay these reasons with the Gallup Group’s hierarchy of engagement; some interesting patterns emerge. (See Gallup Model below)

Anticipated Reciprocity – a person provides valuable information to others in the expectation that they will get helpful information in return – what do I get?

Increased Recognition people want to be known for their expertise. Many people online want recognition for their contribution –do I belong & how do I give?

Sense of Efficacy – people may contribute because they feel that by doing so they are making a difference, having some kind of effect – leaving a legacy by learning and growing together

Communion – people are social beings and by commenting on a like, it encourages others to reply to them, creating a social interaction feeling part of a community





Contributors work for leaders who take the time to engage them as unique individuals, not as cogs in the factory machine or ‘human capital’ register. They ask their people – how can I help you be more of who you are at work so that you can contribute your best – which means helping people to give and be kind and generous to others, both colleagues and customers.

The Compliant are engaged rationally by their managers and the conversation is usually around ‘what do I get’ and it often becomes adversarial; rarely rising above the subject of money, working conditions, performance outputs, compliance, efficiency improvement and negative consequences for poor performance.

We live in an age when it is supposed to be all about me and my success, yet the research is showing that people, including the Gen Y and the Millenials, want to be engaged from the heart around something bigger than them and they want to give and be kind to others. Blessing White’s international 2011 Employee Engagement survey concluded that the best leaders ‘create a culture and work flow where people are inspired to give more than they get’.

Many people are quitting jobs because they worked for leaders and Enterprises who do not show them sufficient kindness. Many of these people do not have other jobs to go to; they have simply had enough. This trend will get worse for those leaders who do not manage by a code of kindness. The Millenials won’t put up with unkindness at work and they will tweet or post on Facebook about their experiences.

The best workplaces, defined as those that achieve exceptional contribution from their people, develop a Culture of Kindness which they nurture, develop and sustain over time, even when cash flow and economic times are tough.

We can call these Positive Enterprises and they focus on creating an abundance of good and positive things, as distinct from the mainstream business practice for 300 years which focus on preventing bad things from happening, on fixing problems & eradicating errors, on narrowing the deficit gap rather than building the Abundance Bridge.

In building and nurturing the Abundance Bridge, Kind Leaders

  • Take the time to discover and extend their unique strengths, as a company, as teams and as individuals through collaborative whole group approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry,   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JDfr6KGV-k


  • Rather than spend time preventing bad things happening, Kind Leaders spend time looking for good in their enterprises and how to extend good in order to grow. So rather than trying to prevent cyber bullying, instead they look for peak examples  of when social media has been used experience kindness-  the opposite of bullying – and they work with their people to co-create a Culture of Kindness by discovering and extending what works or what is good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYCociy29TA




  • Take time to engage their people from the heart, which means taking them off the dance floor regularly to discuss matters which are deeply important to them. Kind Leaders involve their people in shaping the future of the Enterprise, starting with questions such as who are we, what do we care about and what is our destiny together and they use social media to shape and tell the story.


  • Kind leaders treat every person as a unique human being and they help each person to be more of who they uniquely are at work and yet manage to align these talent differences around authentic relationships and high trust team work. Kind Leaders build and sustain caring, compassionate community at the core of the Enterprise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kHO9bA0QuQ