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Barilaro and the cultural drift towards ‘what I can get away with’: he and Stuart Ayres may have gone into NSW politics with the noblest of intentions. It didn’t last. Once the emotion has subsided, perhaps they will reflect on where and when they departed from good governance including ethical behaviour.

We’ve all seen this repeated many times. Good people give way to the natural drift towards ‘what I can get away with’. Excellence is too hard.

We know, from royal commissions, senate inquiries and investigative reporting, that ‘what I can get away with’ is culture-forming in churches with sex abuse, compliance failure in banks, cheating and sexism in the big accounting firms, hidden payments in superannuation funds, councils remixing sorted garage during collections, misinformation in journalism, misleading PR and advertising, and more.

It’s important to appreciate that the younger generations are awake to this. With almost unlimited access to information, they are more alert to the weaknesses of leadership.

This brings us to Premier Perrottet and his role in the Barilaro Affair. It’s not OK to outsource responsibility to an investigation as an early step in finding out what happened. Bosses need to find a balance between kind and tough. ‘Tough’ Perrottet needed to interrogate his ministers, formally, with a note-taking witness, to find out if any of them overstepped a line. That assumes of course that Perrottet knows where that line is. He would quickly have discovered the little leg-ups granted to Barilaro not available to others.

Good governance starts with a principled leader that can articulate, and insist upon, a required set of behaviours, built into a Code of Conduct.

Those behaviours need to be inoculated into a team culture endlessly, and insisted upon, to prevent the drift towards ‘what I can get away with’.

The difficulty is that it takes daily effort to prevent the drift. And once you have drift internally, it bleeds into every corner of an organisation and its relationship with other stakeholders.

To put the counterpoint, if you can identify a company with excellent customer relationships, it’s likely it has a strong internal culture with safeguards against ‘what can I get away with’.

In our work, issues or crisis resolution in an organisation starts with addressing an immediate problem, but then transitions to helping a leadership team develop better relationships both internally and with external stakeholders – communication built on an ethical foundation.

Matt Kean, the new NSW dep leader of the Libs, is potentially a new-look politician who purports to be up to the rigours.

Likewise, Chris Minns, the NSW opposition leader: “I have seen with my own eyes – inside my own party – what happens when a government loses the will to place integrity at the centre of everything they do.” (below)

A high standard of governance takes constant rigour.

For further reading: I’ve seen what happens when Labor and the Liberals ingore integrity. I want to bring it back as premier.

Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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