The Bullog -July 2021

Greetings Bullogers!

Tails can wag dogs
Trouble is brewing in the corporate corridors of power. Societal expectations on the role of business to do the right thing have risen dramatically of late—perhaps even more so during the pandemic—yet employees are making it clear that those expectations must be met in the right way.

There are signs that business has at last started to take its role in society seriously. Positive statements around social purpose, renewable energy and generally making the world a better place are now fairly commonplace—and rightly applauded.

Not so for the recent employee revolt at Scottish craft beer supplier, BrewDog. Media reports illustrate that warm words on well-being and eco-jargon will no longer be tolerated by a new breed of activist employees. In fact, they’re ready and willing to call out inconsistencies between empty rhetoric and reality.

As regular Bullogers know, I believe that this is merely a symptom of a much wider shift in culture and power within business—from traditional leadership hierarchies to more socially engaged, vocal and, dare I say, democratic workforces.

From the outside looking in, the phenomenal success of BrewDog has made it the envy of its competitors. For many prospective employees, it’s been seen as a highly desirable place to work. But, according to “Punks with Purpose”—a group of current and former disgruntled employees who signed an open letter to air their grievances to the world—it hides a toxic culture.

Criticism ranges from citing a “cult of personality” at the top through to a “growth at all costs” culture and bullying which has led to many suffering anxiety and poor mental health.

James Watt, co-founder and subject of the scathing attack is clearly a lightning rod for their criticism. It would seem that Watt suppressed his initial instincts to crush the rebellion with a counteroffensive (I’ll resist the temptation to make a dad joke about James Watt letting off steam) and instead opted for a more contrite and empathetic response, claiming to be listening.

And in many ways, it would seem, the tail can indeed wag the dog. Through collective, focused and often brave action, employee activists in BrewDog—and many other corporates such as Microsoft and Amazon—are able to have a significant impact on business ethics from the bottom up.

Is the BrewDog story merely the tip of the iceberg?

Well, you can get my thoughts on that by reading the full blog I wrote on the topic for Speakerbuzz, the Scottish purpose centric Speakers’ Bureau which I’m registered with.

Bumble creates a buzz with the gift of a young cow
On a related note, but contrasting good leadership behaviour as opposed to Watt’s toxic stuff, did any of you see that Bumble, the dating App’s CEO Whitney Wolfe, spontaneously gave all of her employees a week off for themselves (in a Scottish accent, “week off” is pronounced “wee calf” in case you’re wondering about the young cow reference above – sorry).  Her stated reasons were to avoid burnout as she feels that with everyone working so hard from home during the pandemic, there’s a huge risk.    I’m sure she’s right about that and they’re not alone.

This was a point I raised when giving a presentation recently to a consultancy client who were wanting to kick off a programme about mental health and well-being.  I brought in a fellow Craigberoch Cast member, Michael Matania, who is the CEO of Tough Cookie.  Michael is a real expert on all things mental health and speaks passionately and eloquently on the topic from his own (very) personal experience.

I think it was quite complementary to what I normally like to talk about. I really don’t consider myself a “technical “expert having not had years of exposure to the mental health community – I don’t know all the signs or science of underlying causes or treatment. I consider myself more of a lay preacher on the topic of mental health as opposed to having been fully ordained!  That said, I’m all for breaking taboos on the subject and am always willing to speak from my personal experience and hopefully I was able to related to these consultants peer to peer, having been one of them most of my career.

The Cult of Busyness
The concept of business “deceleration” that I’ve been preaching for several years now is, I know, quite alien to many and far from what they believe business is about.  However, when a mainstream media organisation like Vice talks about it, then my hope is that people will start to take more notice.  Check out their recent article on “The Cult of Busyness” which is a great critique on the crazy pace and culture of modern business environment.
Therefore I’d like to think that the Craigberoch Business Decelerator is tapping into the business zeitgeist.   There’s been some great progress made in the past month and I was delighted to be back in Scotland for two weeks in June (first time in 6 months) and visit the land. After multiple PCR tests and double vaccinations, followed by some self-isolation, I was able to connect with many from the local community who will be supporting us. 
One of the headlines is that we have almost doubled our land up to 10 hectares and we’re also in exciting discussions about leasing an amazing place to run our programmes from, while we continue to raise funds for the new building.  Watch this space (no pun intended).     

I’m also delighted to announce our Autumn programme of events (Spring if you’re reading this Down Under, I suppose) and including links to what I think are very beautiful flyers you can download.

There are several dates, but basically two main choices of event: 

Decelerator Labs (10-13 Sept, 8-12 Nov)
Our new improved flagship event will run over a weekend and again during the working week in November
Building on our successful 2019 pilot, these events will be immersive and, we believe, transformative experiences for all participants

Co-being” Residencies (6-10 Sept, 13-17 Sept, 1-5 Nov)
Co-being residencies: Our term for a more self-directed work week, providing a change of scene and a chance to reset the work/life balance. “WeeWork in the Woods” as someone jokingly called it. (See what I did there?)

No, we can’t promise you a sun tan, so if that’s your priority then Corfu is the island you need, not Bute on the west coast of Scotland.  If, on the other hand, you’re craving stimulation, innovation and collaboration then I’d suggest we might just be what you’re looking for.

Best of the rest……The rise and rise of the intrapreneurship movement
Craigberoch was in action at Global Intrapreneur Week which brought together over 1000 intrapreneurs from all over the world for a packed programme spanning several days.   I hope many of you were able to join some of this event or watch recordings of sessions you missed.  I’m just delighted to see how the movement continues to go from strength to strength.
Another indicator of the growth of the movement is the launch of the Unusual Pioneers programme which Craigberoch is supporting as a content partner. Craigberoch Cast member Viki Lazar is taking the lead from our side, and designing a programme which focusses on resilience of intrapreneurs. Again, this is clearly a topic close to my heart.
We will be running the resilience session during the third week of August to the 15 intrapreneurs who were successful during the application process, two of whom I actually know very well: 
Saulo Di Pizzo came on our first Decelerator Lab in 2019 and (I’m sure as a direct result), created an internal innovation programme for intrapreneurs and in so doing, a new role for himself as Head of Social Innovation and Community Engagement.  It just goes to show that if you want to find your dream job, you might have to create it for yourself.
Congratulations also go to a very old friend of mine from my early days in consulting, Lisa Neuberger, who is running a similar intrapreneurship programme in Accenture.  Hats off to both Saulo and Lisa and all the other Unusual Pioneers who were selected for this prestigious programme.  Maybe one of you might be up for joining next year’s cohort?

On the personal front…….
The trip back to Bute was a chance for some family time and my sister and brother-in-law joined me for a little Birthday celebration on Bute. It was also great to see my mum, aka “Wee Marj”, after what had been a very long time.  She’s still playing three rounds of golf a week by foot, but sadly has still not quite managed to break the magic 100 shots (at least not the full 18 holes) which has been her life goal since retiring as a teacher 25 years ago.   But then, we’ve still got the rest of the summer season to go and hopefully many more. Wish her luck.

Lastly, in case you had thought I’d been keeping secrets, the cute little baby I’m holding in the picture below is not mine. He’s called Constantine and is the son of proud father and friend of mine, Chris Magennis.  I was able to meet up with Chris and a number of other close friends when I passed through London for the first time in months.

OK, that’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here.  Until next month,

* The Bullog  = Bulloch + Blog
Make sense?  Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.