Bankers and Pat Hickey

I think I heard that bankers in Ireland, who are in jail for fraudulent financial transactions involving millions of euros,  no, Billions of euros, are taking their case to the Supreme Court or to some higher level.

The families of Pat Hickey, the Olympic Council Of Ireland official, who is in jail in Brazil for ‘excessive generosity or hospitality’ are also taking his case to the higher authority of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Ireland.

I wasn’t thinking of any of this when I was co- facilitating  a meeting of 20 senior managers in a company recently. They were talking about decision-making in the company, a very complex organisation and a very important and sensitive one.

While it looked a little bit mechanistic to me, I did admire their thinking, the intricacy of their network of meetings and the sense of care behind most of them to ensure people were kept informed and involved. I had reservations, but maybe they knew better than I did. I was only an outside facilitator.

However, my reservations turned  into worry when the presenter moved on to the subject of ‘Escalation’  as he named it.


It was then that the bankers and Pat Hickey suddenly loomed large in my head.  “Here we go.”  I thought, “the beginning of the failure to resolve issues between themselves, the beginning of disempowerment, and the beginning of the washing of hands of accountability.   Business as usual and managers back on their  rightful thrones.”  I was about to sit back and switch off. It wasn’t my gig, anyway.

But then I heard the presenter say: “If or when we fail to reach agreement at a particular level on something of importance, we will inform the next level of management so that they are aware of what we are working on and struggling with.   We will continue to work on it and resolve it at our level but, keep our managers  aware of  what we are working on, which will or may allow them to support us in reaching a good decision.”  Or something along those lines.

Level of Detail:

Now I was sitting up again. I looked around the room at the ‘next level of managers’, who were present in the meeting, for any signs of surprise or even shock at the  apparently more minor role they were being given to play. There was none. No surprise. No shock.

The presenter continued, speaking on his own behalf and for the small group who put the presentation together: “We believe it’s very important that decisions on issues  are made by people at the right level who are in touch with and have the detail around the issues.”

I couldn’t refrain from butting in and asking: “So that’s what YOU  mean by ‘escalation’?”

“Yes,”  he answered without a blink.

Role of Management:

You might see nothing new in this. I do. I see a turning of ‘management’ on its head. From arbitrator, adjudicator, judge, approver, disapprover, superior TO ally, supporter, Coach, ‘empowerer’, ‘truster’.

Of course Management can get involved if they see the need but they are not being asked to nor expected to because people are taking the responsibility themselves to handle the issues and decisions.  “Support” was the word the presenter kept using and everyone seemed to understand and accept its importance and value and saw it as the rightful and best role for managers to play.  I agree.

Not only will interference from above  complicate the whole bankers and Pat Hickey scene  but it will most probably lead to some dishonest, devious, wrong outcome resulting.

And it has bigger and longer lasting consequences too –  a loss of faith in people, institutions, and in the possibility of finding out and doing what is right and best.

That’s unlikely to happen in the company I was working with because of the level of confidence and trust they have in each other and because of the philosophy of management they espouse and practise.