If you can’t change the people…

As you can probably imagine, Live Long and Prosper II, has a few choice words reserved for the banking industry. I’ll begrudgingly admit, though, I was quite impressed by the shot that new Barclays CEO, Antony Jenkins, fired across the bows of his own motley crew last week.

For starters, it was very much in tune with my own take on sustainability as longevity, typified by his assertion that:

“Over a period of almost 20 years, banking became too aggressive, too focused on the short term, too disconnected from the needs of our customers and clients, and wider society. We were not immune at Barclays from these mistakes.”

While some copywriting gurus will no doubt flinch a bit at that (it does come across as a little mealy-mouthed – “It wasn’t just us, sir, the big boys made us do it”), Jenkins is admirably direct and to the point elsewhere:

“There might be some who don’t feel they can fully buy in to an approach which so squarely links performance to the upholding of our values. My message to those people is simple: Barclays is not the place for you.”

No ambiguity there, then!

But – and it’s a two-hundred foot tall ‘but’ in flashing neon letters…

As anyone who works in strategic communications and change management will tell you, saying it is the easy bit. If you don’t back those words up with action, it’s all just empty rhetoric, and translating such words into lasting behavioural change is a different kettle of fish entirely.

How many organisations do you know who truly hire and fire on values? Does Barclays – or any other business for that matter – really have the balls to show the door to someone who’s generating fantastic (and quantifiable) returns today, but who, by going about it in the way that they have, may cause (as yet unquantifiable) damage over the longer term?

In short, and to complete the thought in the title of this post, if Barclays can’t change its people, will it really have the guts and the foresight to change its people?

 

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