I have two important engagements next week. On Monday afternoon I will stand up at the TTF event in Westminster and ask those in Government to do more for workplace pensions and on Wednesday I’ll host a session at L&G’s DC Conference where we will be looking at how to make change happen.
I hope they go better than the blog I wrote after my last speaking slot, where I tore into my co-speakers for being lazily all the same. My blog caused a lot of angst among the conference organisers and has probably annoyed the sponsors. The net result is that I have lost a useful platform to talk about positives and widened the divide between my position and that of the asset managers and investment consultants.
I have been trying to discover where I went wrong.
Of course some will say I was right to speak my mind but it’s clear it was not good etiquette to bite the hand that fed me. Thinking about how your comments will land is part of the craft of communication.
The first lesson is that feeling right does not give you the right to shout about it!
The second lesson is that people’s feelings matter and while it is sometimes worth kicking an obstinate and brutish thug in the shins, collateral damage has to be avoided.
The third issue relates to the use of anger itself. Examining why I get angry (and I get angry a lot) , I identify two reasons; the first is the frustration with things getting in the way and the second is because I think that my anger can get things changed.
Both are very selfish motivations, in the sense that they are about me, and I think of those people who don’t get angry – or at least exert more control than I do, and I see a sublimation of that selfishness.
I was troubled by last night’s episode of Coronation Street last night, in which David Platt vowed to stay angry about the death of his wife and was seen plotting revenge against the accomplices of the killer. David has become an avenging fury , using anger as a means of working through his troubles. Bearing in mind the senseless killing of his wife, it is hard not to sympathise.
And yet you sense regret will follow his anger. Cutting off a young girl’s hair- as David has just done to someone bullying his niece is one thing, but we all know the scope and depth of David’s wrath.
The very public spat between two factions of the TTF is an example of anger working in different ways. Andy Agethangelou -who has kept his feelings to himself- has continued to champion Transparency and made this conference happen. Undoubtedly it will be a good conference and will do more good than can be achieved by continuing to be angry with his pact with the Investment Association. This is why I am going and supporting Andy, I cannot be angry with him despite my feelings of anger about his earlier behaviour.
As regards the L&G meeting, I suspect that some of the people I have criticised last week will be there. Will my anger – expressed in the blog- make any difference- I very much doubt it. It brings me only remorse. As with arguments with the IA, there is little to be gained from regret, better to have apologised, learned a lesson and move on.
When our panel met last week , we spent some time discussing how the change we had brought , had happened. It had not happened because of our anger that things were wrong but because of our desire for things to be right. Our conversation was about how we had made things better.
Those who historically have created most change- Ghandi, Mandela, Martin Luther King have changed things because they had a dream, their anger drove them to take positive action. I sense that David Platt- who has no end game other than revenge- will see his anger destroying himself.
Looking back at my anger over the conference and how it created negativity, I can see where I went wrong. Rather than put distance between myself and other speakers, I could and should have worked to bring those speakers to me. This is how Andy has got past the problems his alignment with the IA created. It is how I intend to meet the challenges of next week
I share this blog because I know that many, like me , suffer bouts of anger and feel remorse when that anger spills over and creates unexpected consequences.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
But the world he was talking about was a broken world anticipating apolcalypitic and destructive change
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
For me passionate conviction is what makes for positive change; we do not live in a broken world but a world that can be mended.
Mending things doesn’t mean breaking things on the way, it takes a different kind of anger than David Platt’s – one that channels effort into making things better.
I hope that is what will happen for Andy Agethangelou and Tom Tugendhaut on Monday and with those people with whom we debate on Wednesday.