Meet the Ambassador...
Conduct Change has a small number of specially selected Ambassadors, and we'd like to introduce you to these people who generously give their time to support our work, and help raise awareness about the need for a change in the way workplaces deal with bullying.
We've asked them about themselves, and what motivated them to support Conduct Change, and we'll be sharing their answers with you in a series of interviews. Today, the spotlight is on David Howell.
Tell us a little about yourself, David.
Having retired from the police in July 2019 you would have thought that I would slowed down somewhat but I seem to be busier! Having married last April these are exciting times and we love to travel, especially to our favourite holiday destination of Jersey.
We have just started our new year’s resolution and that is to learn how to dance, Latin and ballroom. From being somewhat anxious and a little nervous during week one it has turned out to be really enjoyable with another 12 couples being in exactly the same position as we are. Learning a new skill, improving fitness, laughing (a lot!) and being in a wonderfully sociable situation has got to be good for your mental welfare, once the legs have finished aching. I don’t think Strictly have much to worry about…
A new set of golf clubs and course membership have been acquired and when the weather improves hopefully my handicap will too.
Another longstanding passion is that of playing the cornet and listening to brass band music. My favourite band, other than the band I played with (Derwent Brass) is the awesome Black Dyke Mills Band. I still get asked to help out on occasions but I generally play solely for my own pleasure and generally when the house is empty.
We also like walking and the camera is always to hand when we do. I was fortunate to be trained by the army’s master photographer when working on air support and as a result got the bug. Capturing a moment still inspires me, be it a person or landscape.
What made you get involved with Conduct Change?
In July 1989 I joined the police service and began a career that would expose me to all manner of human behaviour, not only from within our communities and those people we policed, but also from within the police service itself. That behaviour ranged from truly inspirational to downright evil and it was that negative and dark side of people’s characters that left a defining and lasting impression on me, prior to retirement in 2019.
During those 30 years I was fortunate enough to have spent 18 years of those years serving on police air support working in the Midlands and latterly in London. This area of policing allowed me the opportunity to work with friends and colleagues whose sole intention was to make a positive difference.
It was however during those last three years of my career that I experienced working within a toxic culture and within an organisation that did not know how to deal with a style of leadership that was based on manipulation, coercion and bullying. I learnt so much from this negative and destructive culture and appreciated, more than ever, what great leadership was and also how important culture is in providing a psychologically safe environment for good people to flourish and develop, ultimately benefiting the communities that they desperately sought to protect and serve.
Although this period was undoubtedly a dark time for me personally, I was however fortunate to be supported by some inspiring people who had gone through, and experienced, similar situations. It was evident that the issue of workplace bullying, and the resultant cultures it produces, was more prevalent than I had initially envisaged.
Workplace bullying is, put quite simply, destructive. Organisations suffer from high rates of sickness, struggle to retain and attract good people and are creatively paralysed as people simply attempt to survive, managing their lives on a day-to-day basis. In the worst cases suicides can be directly attributed to this behaviour. The cost of this behaviour, be it consciously or unconsciously driven, is astronomical with failure being the resultant organisational consequence.
By supporting Conduct Change as an Ambassador for this truly worthwhile cause, I can now turn all those negative experiences into a positive, helping others and heightening people’s awareness. Together, we can bring clarity around workplace bullying in order to create more courageous and compassionate approaches to changing behaviour in workplaces.
How are you using your learning from your experiences?
After leaving police air support in 2019 I was fortunate enough to obtain a role within Organisational Development where I was able to develop my passion for cultural change, leadership and teamwork. It is a combination of these three disciplines, along with emotional intelligence that will ultimately reduce the instances of bullying in the workplace and the unwitting creation of toxic cultures. Having witnessed first-hand what the extremes of leadership can achieve, from vibrant to destructive cultures my mission now is to reduce toxicity and increase psychologically safe working environments where people can flourish.
To assist with my own personal development, I attended Go MAD Thinking and completed their Success Focus Thinking Course and also the Success Factory, Change Pro course; being extremely fortunate to build a network of forward thinking and enlightened associates as I did so.
The amazing outcome of having experienced some really dark days and the destructive powers of leadership was now to meet so many truly wonderful and positive people, who want to make a positive difference. These people are determined to change such toxic cultures and to make work and relationships an enjoyable experience. I want to use those experiences, both good and bad, to inspire others who are going through tough periods of change, helping them to understand the natural emotional process they will undoubtedly experience.
To say that I am now in a far better place than I was just over a year ago is a huge
understatement. I also have learnt so much from my manager who has invested her time in me to explain the psychology of change and culture. The experience of going through the Strength Deployment Inventory was a fascinating insight into peoples natural behaviours, based on their value system and a truly worthwhile experience. It certainly helped me deal more constructively with conflict and to appreciate other people’s behavioural mechanisms.
Two other consequences of this period of personal change were to become involved with Conduct Change and The Sustainable Leadership Forum. Both initiatives resonate deeply with my experiences, values and goals and involve people who are truly passionate to see positive change. Leadership, toxic cultures and bullying are intrinsically linked and by focusing time and effort in these important areas, influencing the right people, heightening awareness, supporting others who have been through similar situations and showing courage in order to challenge such negative behaviour, more collaborative and vibrant workplaces can be built.
What’s next for you?
It is as if I have completed a 30-year apprenticeship, having had the privilege to work with some fantastic, devoted and passionate people within the police service. Within air support we worked for each other and kept each other alive as a consequence, making a real and positive difference to so many lives. Locating vulnerable missing persons, flying very ill people to hospital in their moment of need and protecting communities from truly evil people were just some of the remarkable things that I can look back on with pride. It is these colleagues that deserve to be supported and served by great leadership, not bullied, manipulated, coerced and paralysed by leaders whose sole ambition is one of self-gratification and power, which is at the expense of others.
I ultimately hope that by passing on my experiences, training and awareness can help others and encourage organisations to promote cultures that seek to be productive with engaged staff in an adult/adult environment, treating them in a respectful and dignified manner. If this happens then undoubtedly wellbeing will increase along with staff retention and a reduction in mental illness and physical sickness.
This is one of a series of articles about the impact of bullying and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. Conduct Change was founded by Nicki Eyre, owner and Director of Conduct Coaching Ltd based in Harrogate, offering training and coaching support programmes for businesses and individuals. She and her team support businesses to prevent bullying, as well as individuals struggling to cope with bullying, during and after the experience. Nicki is also a speaker on the topic of workplace bullying.
Contact Nicki for a confidential discussion about your experience: e firstname.lastname@example.org t 07921 264920 www.conductcoaching.com