Boardroom Psychopaths

Boardroom Psychopaths

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It’s been a while since I wrote my own blog, favouring to write for Care Plus & IG3, but such focus is now fixed elsewhere, although I will continue to work towards making a positive difference in the quality of care being delivered in this country. I do believe that I have a lot to offer in terms of experience, skills and innovation to make such a positive difference a reality, but I must ensure in the future I surround myself with likeminded people, as no one IHS_ImprovingPatientCareperson can do this on their own. I really don’t know how much time I have left, who does, but with this degenerative condition of my spine I need to make every moment count and this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, making a positive difference in care quality, it’s not a bad aspiration to have. As some that I have worked with go with a very commercial model of sell, sell, sell, volume sales and all the pressure that goes with it, I believe that you have to give something back, leave a legacy of improving quality, as the money will always follow quality. But if you have been successful I do think you have a duty to give something back, help the next generation understand that you can be an entrepreneur and operate morally in business. I just don’t like the more ‘traditional’ corporate model of maximising profit no matter what the cost or the effect on Directors, on employees, on our communities, on our society and even environment. Chasing the illusionary power of money (or should that be delusional) and bugger the consequences does not work for me, so I choose not to have this in my life and work for the betterment of the receivers of care, the betterment of my family and yes me too, but with a good team by my side of course.

There was an evening on Channel 4 dedicated to Psychopaths which was very interesting and my attention was particularly acute when they went through the common features:

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  • Increased observation skills
  • Grandiose
  • Interpersonal and conversation dominance
  • Better able to read you than you can read them
  • Uncaring and callous
  • Lack of empathy, guilt or remorse no matter what the act
  • Ability to manipulate your emotions
  • Nothing is ever their fault
  • Completely self-focussed and self-absorbed
  • Prepared to do anything that will meet their own needs, wants and desires
  • They can switch on and off the charm
  • Tendency to extreme violence
  • Extremely skilled game players so that they can get what they want
  • Pleasure in beating people in areas such as sports, games, careers, promotions, etc.

hannibal_lecter_anthony_hopkins_wallpaper-normalIt made me really think about some of the people I have worked with and why I find it difficult to tolerate people that are so money focussed. Yes we all need money but psychopaths in business will walk over you to get it and get your money too. To be absolutely honest we all have traits of the psychopath and we are all somewhere on a spectrum that runs from St. Teresa to Hannibal Lecter, and it is with honesty that I say we should all work to minimise such traits, control the effect they have in our lives and interactions, and prevent such traits in others harming us whether in business or in our personal lives. I know what I am talking about too, I have worked with psychopaths behind bars (thankfully) and with psychopaths in the boardroom (unfortunately). I recall one particular situation whilst I was a Director of a prison working in the private sector, every month the Directors of each prison and security unit in the group would video link together with head office. Each month, like masochistic rodents on mass heading for the cliff, with an executive board of Directors at head office waiting to push you over in full view of the others.

Behind the scenes the Directors use to call the monthly meeting with the executives as the ‘Firing Squad’ and in a way that’s what it was, these late 50’s Directors looking to finishSense-of-relief-when-meetings-like-that-over-1024x744 their career on a high note, passing judgement over the rest of us, led by the most ruthless Managing Director one could imagine. There were times I just knew I did not belong there in such a vicious environment, and to watch these executives break prison Governors/Directors into quivering wrecks was as scary and as intimidating as it was impressive. I actually saw them sack an Assistant Director of a neighbouring prison because they had messed up the operational report two months in a row. It was the verbal equivalent of Evil Dead Two, blood and gore everywhere wrapped in pure horror, as most of my team got out of the room or out of camera view, mouthing W>T>F! ! ! ! ! ! ! It was awful to watch and there was nothing I could have done to stop it, we all got beaten up that day. One of the executives told me there was a deliberate tactic each month as they would decide before the video-links who they felt needed “beasting”, or put another way a verbal beating, but why? I did ask and I was told that this kept us all in line and all in fear, as this way they got the best out of people, but at the same time making sure they knew who the alpha-males were. This pack of psychopaths was then ruled over by the alpha hell hound who no one wanted to get on the wrong side of; he was also nicknamed ‘CT’ the ‘Career Terminator’ as that’s what he was.

screen-shot-2013-06-21-at-10-42-29-am-png_2_20130727-565But in reality this just spread resentment, fear and destroyed loyalty. The whole structure fed off rumours, game-playing, betrayal, back stabbing and total lack of trust. I was good at what I did, the work in secure environments without a problem, but I was totally unprepared for the corporate viciousness as I got promoted. The higher I got the more vicious it was, and I suspect this was not the only organisation like this.  Needless to say, as with others, as soon as one had the opportunity to move one took it without a second thought. Unfortunately I found that these boardroom psychopaths were more common than I had imagined and I struggled with them for sure. I set things up with the desire to make a difference, improving quality and knew the money would follow but as soon as a quick route to money presented itself I would be pushed aside with the core values of I had set up, and the psychopaths ruled the roost. I did try and explain that the money would come but the need to be in control, the need to make money and adopt a more traditional corporate model of dog eat dog took over the boardroom.

I tried my hardest to learn the lessons from all my jobs, taking the positives and implementing them, hoping to put systems in place to keep the greednegatives I had seen out of the company, keep it focussed on making a positive difference to others. But in the end the psychopaths ruled and took over in a typically ruthless manner in the pursuit of money irrespective of the hurt and damage they would cause. No morality, no humanity, no sense of social responsibility, what was the phrase from that film Kirk Douglas stared in, “Greed is good”, how apt.

My wonderful Mother figured it out for me, as I struggled with why things go wrong and decent principles were turned on their head and all that was good was destroyed. My Mother explained that myself and my family were orientated to serve, whether in the military or socially, Nurses by the bushel, Navy, Army, Vicar, Social Worker, etc., generations of service, in our genes she felt. So we looked to do what was right in business, what served and also looked after our family, but we all wanted to make a difference in our careers. We found a way of turning this unspoken belief we Back-StabbingFriendscarried into a business idea, was the right thing but this also meant attracting people that were money focussed and not socially focussed – gosh I think I must be sounding like a Communist! Then as the company became established on the principles of making a difference and everyone sharing in the prosperity this brings, when there is the potential of making large amounts of money, then they strike. These people throw off our model and flip it into a traditional corporate entity, where they grab for the money on the back of a decent reputation and smash all that was built within the team, all gone, destroyed, left in tatters in front of me. I was helpless to stop it as my disability was increasing and putting me on deaths door, that’s when these people showed their true colours, took control, took everything including my trust, self-esteem, self-belief, you think your judgement on people is flawed, your vision of how to do business with morality at its core must be also flawed.

But these things, essential in business, return with the love of your family, their understanding, their support of you wanting to follow your aspirations and dreams. I am so very lucky to have their support, never taken for granted, and I look around and realise that I am not alone to fall to the unstoppable ruthlessness of psychopaths in the boardroom:try-being-a-friend-and-not-backstabbing

  • Wasn’t the recession due to boundless pursuit of money regardless of the consequences that unfolded in 2008? In the C4 programme they mentioned Lehman Brothers and how ruthless their Directors were to squeeze every penny out of their clients. Although I am not claiming they or any of the directorship were psychopaths, the following video from their MD does make you wonder about the culture that prevailed, culture being set from the top down – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x93EHs627GI This is the type of culture I have endeavoured to avoid, only to be wrecked upon the sharp, piercing rocks of corporate greed;
  • More recently was not the near collapse of the Co-op bank because they had over stretched, wanted more, lost their focus on their morality foundation and wanted to buy up another bank to double in size overnight. It nearly cost them everything and when one sees the Chairman and his antics you can see why they had moved so far from their founding principles;

hostiletakeoverSo from my point of view, I can only continue with my nature, follow my beliefs, follow my aspirations and operate in a corporate morality that suits my aims. I will never be money focussed; I will always believe that by doing the right thing in life, by delivering the best quality you can, that you and your family will be taken care of. And this is the key to it all, never let the corporate psychopaths you come across change how you are or what you want to do, be true to yourself regardless of the pressure such people place upon you. A very wise woman said:

“Don’t forget, this moment will pass, this pressure will ease, negative experiences will be replaced by positive experiences, all you have to do is just get through each hour, each day, and things will change.”.

Have a very happy Christmas and a really good New Year.

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Yours most sincerely

Jonathan Wade

Smiling Cat Ventures (www.smilingcatventures.org)

Innovative Minds @ Work (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)

IBCV (www.ibcv.org.uk)

Mind the Step (improving accessibility)

Able Politics (increasing disabled peoples engagement in politics)

Twitter: @AbleNotDisabled

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Linked-In: Jonathan Wade (Innovative Minds at Work)

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