This week we could almost hear the screeching tyres and smell the burning rubber as Philip Hammond performed a handbrake sort of U-turn about national insurance contribution increases announced in last week’s budget for the 4 million or so self-employed in the UK today.
The measures announced were deemed rather insignificant and initially approved of by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and apparently other cabinet ministers including the PM Theresa May.
Keeping Promises
Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that it conflicted with what the Tory party promised at the last election, which was not to increase income tax, national insurance or VAT. The promise made by David Cameron and George Osborne may have been naive and it was certainly at odds with a stance of continued austerity. But it was a promise made and the backbenchers were mindful of the doorstep views of those hard working self-employed some of whom are probably their voters.
The facts and figures showing that lower earners would actually pay less were drowned out by the issue of broken promises. A lack of understanding between decision makers cushioned by generous pensions, sick and holiday pay, seemingly attacking the growing numbers of self-employed with none of those benefits, became a central theme fueling negative press.
A sign of authenticity
On one level U-turns, personal business or political, are a sign of authenticity; a realisation that we are on the wrong path and that a correction is required.  At another level, they appear to be thoughtless and brash. As with most things it’s not the what but HOW they happen that matters.
In order to avoid abrupt change there must surely be a clear understanding of what’s at stake before big decisions are announced and changes put in place which effect lots of people. Have we consulted enough people, listened to the true voice of customer, are we sure we are not only listening to a biased view which confirms our desire to change? A U-turn will certainly be less likely here, it’s more likely that changes can be made as the process evolves. In this instance a clear understanding of what it’s like to be self-employed and why, may have proved a useful backdrop. The announcement could then have included this and perhaps included changes to provide better conditions to provide more security for this growing constituency in the future.
Tell me why
Communicating the ‘why’ is vital, in this instance why it was necessary to change direction from the previous Chancellor, what the actual figures really meant and why the measures would help to create a more equal society and of course what the actual impact would be with live examples.
At this week’s CCA Industry Council Thought Leadership Forum we heard presentations about the importance of honest supplier/operator discussions to avoid costly U-turns on critical technology investments. And we concluded the day with a fantastic leadership development session from Emma Bell with a focus on authenticity and the need to reveal the True You.
Even after all the necessary steps we sometimes get things wrong and it's going to make perfect sense to do a U-turn, or a right turn, or a sideways step, or any kind of change in direction that makes sense for you.
Just remember to say why, why and why again along the road and a handbrake turn can turn into a lovely, smooth transition.