Archive for the ‘The Monday Musings Column’ Category

on developing leadership qualities

I suppose that, to start this blog off, I should define leadership qualities, but they are something that I can know when I see them, but find it very hard to pin down exactly what they are. It is a bit like looking at a painting. What makes a great artist? There are things like composition, brushwork, use of colour and so on, but put something done by a competent amateur alongside a Rembrandt or a Turner or whatever and the difference is obvious even to an uneducated eye like mine.

One my years at work I have seen leadership good, bad and average and would say that most of the leaders that I have encountered were inconsistent. There were some who had one moment where they could have stood with the top ten percent and then never reached those heights again, some who were generally awful, but had the odd moment where they did well and others who were average performers with the occasional moment up or down.

This leads to another question and that is how do you evaluate success as a leader? Results in terms of the way that the teams that they lead have performed is one, but it is not entirely reliable because I have seen badly led teams achieve remarkable results despite the person at the top. Perhaps a more reliable indicator is in the number of people that come through their ranks and go on to achieve good things. Some good leaders may be loved, but some are unloveable despite their abilities. Respect might be another criteria, but are we talking here about respect for their professionalism or as a person? Either could be relevant, but neither is a given.

And so it is hard to pin these things down. Physical presence might be a factor, but now always. Chaerisma is often mentioned, but it does not always make for a good leader even if it does tend to attract followers. Most measures are subjective and they are in the eyes of those who follow or look on. I know what I like as they say, and when I see it I know it.

The problem that I had to face, as do all leaders, is how do you develop others? John Adair maintained that it can be taught and his Action Centred Leadership principles are well established. I agree with that to some degree for I have attended and ACL course back in my early years as a junior manager in a large corporation. It is not a course that I remember fondly because the tutor was somewhat wooden and gave no signs of leadership qualities whatsoever, they worked through the syllabus by rote and I did absorb some of the thinking, but I made my way home thinking that it would have been so much better had it been delivered by someone who demonstrated leadership from the front.

For me trying to teach leadership is a bit like teaching someone to play an instrument. There are many people who can pick up enough of the rudiments to be able to play a recognisable tune, but you they may never get much further than that. The better leaders will benefit from tuition and, as I discussed last week, blending theory with practice is the most effective mix. It depends on the individual though and they have to have something that represents a talent for leadership; some spark that will light their fire.

All leaders have to start somewhere and trying to spot those elusive leadership qualities in someone who is not yet leading is your next challenge. In my most successful years of doing this I used to give people mini projects to deal with, allowing them support, but room to fail and always being prepared to accept the consequences of any such failure. Another opportunity was to have one of the team chair out monthly meeting. It provides an element of pressure in that you are amongst your peers and have your boss down the table too, but you are in a more benevolent environment that you might otherwise be. Seeing how someone manages to control a meeting like that is an opportunity to observe whatever leadership qualities they may have and to see where they might be helped along with advice. (Many of these meetings were videotaped and the results could be observed and dissected at leisure afterwards).

These are slightly artificial pressures, but observing people in the heat of battle is a great opportunity to see how the lead. Are they just watching their own corner or are they looking out for the team? Do they encourage their colleagues or harangue them? A good leader will always be observing and forming judgements, if for no there reason than you want to improve team performance generally, but within that looking for signs of tomorrow’s leaders is important.

What specifically am I looking for then? Mostly it is about subtleties; do they have a feel for when to push and when to back off, are they seeing the different needs of individuals in terms of what motivates them and makes them tick, how do they assess the mood of the team and evaluate the environment in which they are working. Life is dynamic and so change is constant. Having the ability to read that change and be able to adjust the focus of the team accordingly is another leadership skill. Seeing how people think, how they reason things and their decision making process against what is known and what is predicted gives an indication of their potential.

Something else that I will be looking for is whether or not people naturally follow because you cannot lead without followers. Someone with good leadership potential will show that tendency to naturally take charge, but if you put someone in charge of a task will the others accept that leadership or not? There is a difference here between leading and being bossy that you should be able too see.

There is no one size fits all here. List your own top ten leaders and consider them in as dispassionate a detail as you can and you will probably find that there are a range of styles; there may even be ten different ones. You can learn from what you deduce, but do try to develop your own styles for copying someone else is unlikely to work for you. Also don’t be afraid to learn form lessons of poor leadership as there are bound to be a reasonable number of such examples around you.

on theory versus practice

That title almost suggests a rivalry or conflict between the two, but they are complementary tools. A leader needs both and the more of each that they have the more effective their leadership should be. You can start with either, it really doesn’t matter which. The important thing is to keep a balance between the two. 

Theory is fine from the basic thought process through to detailed research. Taking time to consider why things work, or don’t work, is important. Reading, listening and discussing should be something that we all do so that we can understand out actions and the likely consequences of them. Continuous improvement is essential, but theory alone will not be enough.

As a practitioner you gain experience and that builds two things. One is that you can improve your judgement and, for some tasks, you will cease to consciously think about certain things and just do them automatically. Think about driving a car, operating a piece of equipment or playing an instrument. To begin with you are slow and jerky in how you do things, but, with practice, you just do them fluidly. The same applies to how you lead or manage as your experience makes some things instinctive in the way that you respond. The other thing that experience brings is that you can better understand the theory if you have done the job and being able to relate theory with the practice of doing. For some they will begin to contribute to and further develop that theory.

There are theorist who have never practiced and there are practitioners who have not studied theory. It isn’t a problem, but the better people in either discipline have experience of both fields and the marriage of both makes for the best results. From my own experience some of the worst people that I have had to work for have been stuck in one camp or the other and, if I had to choose, I would go for a practitioner every time for there is an element of truth in the old adage that those who can do and those who can’t teach.

One example comes to mind of a boss who was on an MBA course and at team meetings we would get to some point of planning and he would announce that he had just done that module on his course and, pulling the relevant binder off his bookshelf would regale us with its contents. Now there would be the odd nugget that we could use, and did, but most times he was not bright enough to spot the relevance and would go banging on past that point with all sorts of bullet points read verbatim off the page; he had no real idea of how to apply the knowledge let alone apply it to any good effect. The theorist at his worst.

Your abilities will evolve as you go along. You will learn from your mistakes and, better still, from the mistakes of others. If you also try and learn from your successes you can pool all of that and go read some theory to see where you can spot the joins; how much of your success and failure can you match with the theory. The correlation of these points of reference can help you improve through a better understanding of the theoretical side of what you do and a better understanding of why certain results come from your actions (or inactions).

It is not always easy as a practitioner to find the time to study, but it is worth finding some if for no other reason that the better you get at your job the more time you will find that you have. All too often you can find yourself firefighting issues and coping with re-working mistakes. These are the two biggest wastes of your time and as you get better they are the easiest things to fix. Use the time that this gives you to think further about what you do and how you can do it better is the best investment you can make in yourself.

It is not easy, but none of the good things are cheap. Something as worthwhile as this is worth working for. Give it a try, starting today.

on the snowflake generation

I only have myself to blame; in fact pretty much all of us of my age do, for these are our children and grandchildren after all. I don’t really know where I went wrong, possibly I did not really see the warning signs, or did not realise their significance if I did, but we are stuck with what we have for the time being.

Maybe we were all too liberal in our thinking and in the way that we wanted to protect our loved ones against the less pleasant aspects of life, but the result seems to be that we have bred successive generations of people who seem much less able to cope with the realities that they will have to face up to.

I first became aware of this in the late eighties when a group of us in the office were making jokes about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. We were mostly male and aged from our thirties to fifties and some, not me, were ex services people including one of the ladies present. Black humour was a defence mechanism generally and was a standard part of our conversation in our open plan office. It applied to the minor frustrations of day to day work as we tried to cope with our myriad tasks, but on this morning one of the crew, a former merchant navy officer walked in to start work and asked what NASA stood for. After an someone had called out the correct answer he replied; “Need Another Seven Astronauts”. Poor taste maybe, but it got a huge guffaw from around the room to be followed by another question; “Where do astronauts go for their holidays? – All over the South Atlantic”, this greeted by groans, but also one of the two eighteen year old girls who had just joined the team rushing out of the room in obvious distress.

She had been so upset by the comments that she flatly refused to work with us anymore and arrangements were made to swap her with another team, but before we had sorted that out the other teenager also asked to move. It was a chastening experience and caused a lot of debate amongst us. Some were in the good riddance camp; if you can’t take it, get out whilst others were much more sympathetic and felt that we should cut out at least the worst of the banter and, as always, there was a group in the middle who didn’t really care either way. Nothing much changed and I remember a similar clutch of jokes about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster a year later. Another teenager, this time male, who had joined us from school the previous Summer burst into tears at his desk. It was pointed out to him that one of the protagonists in the jocularity has seen colleagues killed on the streets of Belfast just a few years previously and that some of us dealt with our grief very differently.

I will talk specifically about some of my own experiences as a boy. I saw my first dead body when I was thirteen and I found a corpse in a ditch beside the road, a victim of a hit and run accident. The person had disappeared around three days earlier and this was in mi-Summer; the corpse was not an attractive sight to say the least. About three months later whilst out on my Sunday paper round I witnessed a serious road accident and, as the smallest person present, crawled into the crumpled wreck to try and stop the bleeding from the driver’s leg whilst an ambulance was summoned. I didn’t succeed in my endeavours, but was still trying when he died.

Yes, I did cry a little over the second incident, but I don’t feel that either trauma had any adverse effect on me. Instead, like my parents generation who had experienced WW2, it helped me learn to cope. It isn’t that I am unemotional, far from it, but I have an acceptance that the world can, at times, be a nasty place and bad things happen. I have no need to try and find someone to blame or otherwise justify what happened, I can just accept that it has happened and move on.

I feel sorry for those who do not seem able to cope with the slightest setback, let alone bereavement and I feel guilt for having been part of the cause. There is not a lot that I can do to help fix it either expect, perhaps, to try and raise debate as I am doing here. It has taken us about forty years, maybe more, to get to this point and, as the pendulum swings, at some point it will come back the other way. I will be long gone by them I suspect, but I hope that the world that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are growing up in will see them better able to deal with life. I, and my generation, have not had it too bad as Harold Macmillan pointed out in my boyhood. I am sorry that my legacy is not even better.

on the ABC principle

I’ve joined a new Facebook group recently and have been sharing memories and catching up with people from a 30 year career. A lot of things have come flooding back including the ABC principle, although that was something that I had learned even earlier.

I’ll take you back to around 1975 and the East End of London. Much of the docklands area was abandoned and near derelict, but it made good space for some transport operators to use and these were amongst my customers as I plied my trade selling commercial vehicle parts and hydraulic fittings. I worked for a franchise operation and was asked to spend a couple of weeks with someone from the parent operation who would advise on credit control and debt management, not that I had much trouble in that direction as most of my customers paid cash and my only concern was to be sure that they were not dud notes I was accepting.

My new partner was ex Royal Navy and ex Kent Police and he looked it. I am not sure how much value our two weeks together were, but I hope that he, being new to this job, got an insight into what really went on at the sharp end rather than what those in the ivory tower thought. For my part I got little from it as his appearance, and the fact that we were running around in his dark blue Morris Marina rather than my usual van, meant that a lot of my customers that that we were the Old Bill when we drove into their yards and my orders plummeted. However, on the last day he gave me a nugget; the ABC principle.

I had taken him the he Waterman’s Arms on the Isle of Dogs, Dan Farsons’ old pub, for lunch and he gave me that bit of advice which he claimed came from his days in CID. ABC: Accept nothing, Believe no-one, Challenge everything.

To me at first it sounded very cynical and, to a large degree, counter-productive for a salesman who was trying to build trust with customers, but as he explained it a degree of sense emerged.

Accept nothing, at least at face value. That isn’t the same as rejecting everything because it is all useful, but don’t trust anything until you can verify it.

Believe no-one. It is not because they are lying, rather that even if they believe what they are saying is true, it may not be. They may also be only telling you what they think that you want to know. If you ask ten eye witnesses what they saw you will get ten different answers, so listen, question, and file it all away until, as with the first point, you can verify it.

Challenge everything. Look at it from every angle that you can think af and then think of some news angles. Test every theory and, you guessed it, verify it.

On that day I took the advice and did not believe it. It all sounded like it had come from an episode of The Sweeney, but I considered it and, in time, tried it. I found that it worked for me. I accept that it is a little extreme, but if you apply the ABC principle with a little common sense it works and will serve you well. For my own part I have applied it very strongly when considering disciplinary matters and accidents at work through to a more casual application pretty much every day when considering something that needs doing. It has kept me out of trouble more often than I can remember.

So don’t take my word here, but do challenge the thinking if you do nothing else. Think about it, work on it and see what you can do with it. You might find that it works for you too.

on heroes and villains

Which are you, hero or villain? If you have made anything out of your life you will almost certainly be both and this is one of the things that leaders have to accept and learn how to deal with. How you deal with it will define you, so getting it right is important.

The hero thing mainly comes through results. If you are constantly delivering then you will be well regarded from above and, if you ensure that your team get the glory, or at least share the rewards, then flowers will be lain in your path. Or not, because any success you enjoy will bring about jealousy from some of your less enlightened peers and they, along with anyone above you in the hierarchy who is also none too secure will see you as a villain. They will feel threatened and it is no use trying to present that they won’t because it is a fact of life that in any organisation there will be some who react that way.

If you are at the top of the tree then you can set the agenda for your organisation and one of the first things that you should be doing as a leader is to establish the right kind of culture, but for most people they can only do that within their own team and hope that others see the benefit and follow your lead.

Jealousy and fear are emotions that are common throughout the animal world and is not just confined to us humans. It is unlikely that we can ever change so what needs to be done is to try and avoid the things that trigger them. You can’t hide success, and you shouldn’t, but don’t ram it down other people’s throats: A little humility goes a long way. Being open with your peers about how you do things can also help, not least because if they can use some of your methods to help themselves the the organisation that you all work for benefits too.

Fear is harder to cope with because it can be even less rational than jealousy. If you are more successful than a colleague then they may fear for their job. Again, sharing what you do and how you do it might help, if nothing else it shows that you want to be on their side and not a threat to them. The fear factor can also apply to your boss as I have found more than once. There is nothing wrong with having one of your team who can run rings around you in some aspect of work; you should want people who are better than you working for you, but not everyone can cope with that. My approach has been to always be open about what I am doing and, when I get the chance to talk to the next person up the line, to say how supportive my boss is and how much that contributes to any success coming my way. Taking the threat away as much as I can.

When all is said any done you can’t win them all and some people will not be won round. My consolation has always come from two sources; firstly in results. If my part of the empire is doing well then I am doing my job and I expect no less from myself. The other factor is through having a motivated team who are, because they are generally happy, delivering the results that are cheering me up. If I have these then it does not matter if some see me as a villain and, most of the time, I don’t care if I am a hero to anyone or not these days: I have been around long enough to become comfortable with who I am.

It wasn’t always that way though and I have had some hard times with self doubt and all the baggage that comes with that. If that is where you are then stick with it. Experience is everything and do not worry too much about the times when things go wrong, just learn from them and get better. Trust your team and work with them to make them better. Learn from your peers even when they don’t want to help you and encourage feedback on how you are doing. If you can believe in yourself through it all you will make it. One last though: it doesn’t matter whether others see you as hero or villain for if they think of you as one or the other then you have been noticed and people who are noticed have a tendency to get the opportunities to get on in life.

on standing up for a cause

I do try not to get into political issues here, but there is something bothering me and so I shall air it. There is a fashion for adopting causes these days and a new hostage will sweep the world faster than a pandemic. Fortunately, unlike pandemics, most of these fads get replaced by a new one fairly quickly and fade out, but therein lies a problem.

Most of these causes do have an important issue at their centre, but these get lost in the rush to join the bandwagon and that is a shame because, without the core issue being front and centre, there will never be enough real debate nor any resolution. I’ll take BlackLivesMatter as my example here because it’s the one that has been on my mind for a few weeks. Ask anyone what it is all about and, if you are lucky, they might say something along the lines of it being about that white cop in America who knelt on the black guy’s neck and killed him. If you then ask what was wrong about that then answers start to get a bit vague, but there is an important issue there that had nothing to do with skin colour: An officer of the law effectively executed a prisoner without trial or other judiciary process. That is wrong and if you then want to take up the cause of it being a white guy killing a black guy fair enough. I am with you as long as we keep our eyes on the prize of justice for all (ie; equality).

Now for a time you could barely move without seeing or hearing BLM in some form or other. Pressure was brought to bear along the lines of you are either with us or against us; neutrality was latent hostility and bullying was rampant. Celebrities were everywhere promoting BLM yet where are they now for there is another threat to darker skinned people that they are all curiously silent on.

Covid-19 seems to like people with darker skins. It appears to infect them more easily and have a more devastating impact on them. There is some generalisation here, but every time I read about the pandemic this problem comes up, usually accompanied by the news that the BAME communities are suspicious about the vaccination programme and take up amongst their ranks is significantly lower than it is for lighter skinned people. So if Black Lives Matter where are all of the celebrities now? Why are they not out there pushing for a greater take up? The only celebrities I see coming forward, and there are not that many, are the likes of Michael Caine and Elton John with their comic advert (for which I applaud them both; it is very well done).

I think that there is a big problem for genuine causes in that they get lost in the noise and so the real message disappears, watered down by all of the people jumping on to the bandwagon when they do not understand what the real problem is. People mean well and are usually in favour of a good cause. It is one of the nicer sides of human nature, but in these days of instant communication through social media something that is trending gets picked up and thrown around with gay abandon. Sadly that means that very little progress gets made on solving the problem that kicked things off.

If a cause means something to you then please do take it up, but do try to understand what it is about and look at ways that you can help that go beyond bunging our a few tweets with that hashtag. You never know, you might just make something happen.

on masks

I had seen on film and TV clips people out East wearing masks in the streets before I first saw people from that part of the world wearing them here in the UK or over in the US. In both of the latter they stuck out like a sore thumb, but I did wonder whether or not they had a point regarding pollution in our cities. Having worked over in China and Thailand it was me who stuck out in the street for not wearing a mask (and being a lot taller and wider than most of the locals), but I did not at any time on those trips consider wearing a mask myself despite the very obvious air pollution, especially in China.

Now we have a different reason for wearing masks, or face coverings, here and I do admit that, at first, I did not bother. It was only as things moved forward that I felt that it would be a good idea and, shortly before it became a requirement, I started to wear a visor that I had originally bought for DIY jobs around the homestead. The visor I only wore at work; when shopping I wore a disposable mask and, despite trying as many of the possible remedies that I could find, I was not able to stop my glasses fogging up so I started to go without them. With mounting evidence that visors were not as effective as masks I stopped using the visor and went full time with masks. There are some disadvantages to a mask without my glasses, but I am OK most of the time and can work quite well in my myopic state.

At work there are only a small group of us there until around 0730 and as I have almost not contact with any of the others, not they with me, none of us wore a mask until about 0725 when we would mask up in preparation of everyone else turning up. But then it occurred to me that the Covid-19 bug does not know the time. It does not have a stretch and a yawn about 0725 and consider clocking on the get infecting people. So I started to put my mask on when I got in in the morning and then opted to mask up in the car before I walk over to the building in the morning. The rules have caught up with me now and we are required to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking.

I do not enjoy wearing a mask. I am asthmatic for one thing, but I do not suffer from claustrophobia as some claim to. About two hours is a long as I can go without changing my mask as it gets wet with the condensation from breathing. In cold weather outdoors that steamy breath escaping from the top of my mask starts to develop icicles from my eyebrows too. I have a poorly formed ear one side so the elastic strap doesn’t fit too well and occasionally chafes behind that ear so generally mask wearing is a pain for me in a number of ways, but it is safer than not wearing one so I shut up and get on with it. Some things we should do for the common good and this is one of them.

on roadmaps

My loathing of management speak is well documented here and being asked, or more likely told, in any state of crisis to produce a “Roadmap” to recovery always made me seethe. Roadmap is a wonderful example of management speak; it is a great sound bite, short, snappy and seems to encapsulate a need in just the one word. Simple isn’t it?

The problem is that it is, in that sort of context, bollocks of the first order. A roadmap implies that someone has laid out all of the routes from where you are to where you need to be and all you have to do is choose one, but whilst you might know where you want to get to in a crisis you often don’t know exactly where you are starting from and that situation can change minute by minute let alone hour by hour and day by day. There are times when you can’t get your head out of the trench long for enough to see which direction the bullets are coming from.

You will have a crisis plan and another for disaster recovery and these should have been rehearsed and polished, but the real thing never perfectly matches the events that unfold and so you are working to stay on top of events as they unfold. It is a bit like finding your way out of a maze and there will be times when you have to back track, but if you think about it even a successful way out of a maze is full of u-turns. Information that points you one way today may well change to point you another way tomorrow and trying to get two experts to agree on something is a futile exercise. You need patience and tenacity along with the ability to react quickly to changes in circumstance.

At some point you will have come out the other side and there will always be a need for a drains up on what happened, but this should only be about learning not blaming. In all probability you will never face exactly the same situation again, but you can learn about what you did well and why and what you didn’t do well and why. Being able to improve your processes for gathering and managing information to aid the decision making process is crucial as is making sure that your communication channels work as well as they can.

Leaders need their people to believe in them and whilst the management speakers can sound good I have not yet met one who could actually deliver anything like as well as their words might imply. Most of them I would not have trusted to lead me out of a 50 metre cup-de-sac in broad daylight. Fine words might gain you some followers, but they will soon desert you for another you is actually delivering results. Ideas are great but actions are better. But someone on the sidelines spotting platitudes is a waste of space and the best thing that you can do is to not let them distract you.c

on living through interesting times

My parents, and their peers, used to tell me how good I was having it not facing living through a war. With the generation gap in full swing I would reply that it wasn’t my fault that we didn’t have a war on and, more often than not, would get a clip around the ear for my pains. One’s elders could do that then with no fear of being charged with assault…

It did not occur to me that I would ever live through a war. Even in the darkest days of the Cuban missile crisis, although then we did not expect to live through what we seemed to be on the brink of; we were all going to die. But all of that faded away and life was generally fairly quiet on the home front and, having avoided National Service by dint of age, I had not expectations of facing too much strife here. Yes we have had various terrorist threats and I have twice found myself holding a ticking package in my increasingly sweaty palm, but nothing like the sustained threat of death that my parents generation went through.

When my mother and father talked about the war years it was more that often about the pulling together; they community spirit that a common danger brought to people, but if I was to dig a bit deeper there would be the stories of those who exploited or flouted the rules and regulations for their own benefit. Beneath the veneer of good there was always a a darker side.

It is almost a year now since the world was plunged into the Covid-19 crisis and we found ourselves at war with an invisible killer. I make no comparison with what my parents went through, but this is probably as close as I am ever likely to get. None of us know whether today is the day that the virus will infect us or, if it does, whether we will survive. Working on the front line as I do now I see first hand every day examples of how different people are affected and, in the people that I see regularly, how the accumulated strain of living through these times is taking its toll.

There is a lot of irresponsible behaviour and a lot of anger. Some of the latter is driven by fear and some by frustration, but the majority if people are just trying to live as normal a life as they can. The world is always changing and very now and again we get a period of accelerated change, Covid-19 is an extreme example and it has changed our lives forever. Personally I doubt that we will ever get back to what we had this time last year if for no other reason that too much has had to change. Shopping, leisure and working habits are good examples and I think that we need to be looking towards a very different future rather than longing for a “return to normal”.

Perhaps it is appropriate, given the source of this plague, to consider the old Chinese curse of “May you live through interesting times”. We certainly are.

on the work time directive

News that we in the UK are to review the directive in the wake of leaving the EU is good news for it is one of the benefits that those of us in favour of leaving wanted. Predicatably there have been anguished cries from the left, but I have very different recollections from that quarter when we had to introduce the WTD.

At the time I had ti agree various changes to working agreements with the national executive of the union that represented many of my team. People were not happy as it meant an end to much of the overtime that we were offering and it was only the fact that we were simply implementing what was to become employment law that got us an agreement in the end.

It wasn’t that our wages were low; they were better than average so there was no need to do extra hours top make up a living wage. Nor was it any headcount fudge for I would have been happy to recruit extra people if it had have been possible, but unemployment locally was effectively zero and one of the town’s newer employers was bussing people in for 100 miles away. No, the overtime was on offer because we were able to pick up ad-hoc contracts and needed labour to complete them. Offering overtime kept people happy and made us money.

My predecessor had run these contracts on agency cassual labour and whilst I could have done that to a degree, there are always people who do not want long term employment or full time either, but that always brings quality issues and I was happier using my own people. The problem was that many had begun to rely on the extra pay and implementing the WTD spoilt that. The union claimed it was a 20% pay cut, but we could only find a few that got anywhere near that (18% was about the highest). Overall, for those who regularly volunteered, it took around 10% out of their gross pay and that was still a significant figure. As a consequence the WTD was very unpopular in these parts.

It is a one size fits all regulation and working practices vary so much from country to country. The Dutch have a very short working week for example and whilst the UK does not have the highest weekly hours we are at the upper end of the spectrum. Ambitions to reduce the working week and allow more leisure time may sound like a nice thing, but in reality not that many people actually want it here,

Having introduced the WTD I moved on in my career and in my successor went back to using casually labour for the extra work. Times were changing locally and the influx of EU immigrant labour who would work for lower rates of pay made a significant difference. Had I wanted to use casuals they would have been paid £9.50 an hour; my successor could pay them £6.50…

There are good things about the WTD, for example the restrictions on hours for those driving commercial vehicles, even if in the UK we have not, so far, made adequate provision for drivers to take their breaks. It is not all bad, ut just needs looking at and tweaking to suit our needs rather than that of a composite regulation designed to placate the needs of a disparate group of nations spread across many degrees of latitude. Reviewing it is not sinister; merely sensible.