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A little recognition goes a long way

May 14, 2010
Image of Avro Lancaster MkIII

Avro Lancaster - The disgraceful treatment of Bomber Command crews after WW11 is an abject lesson in how to undermine and demotivate people (Image by Royal Air Force via the website/

Whatever the rights and wrongs of war, today’s announcement that a memorial is to be built in recognition of the 55,000 airmen of Bomber Command who lost their lives in the Second World War is long overdue.

No one who has read the memoirs and histories of the great bombing raids can be anything but moved by their bravery in the face of abject terror. While the results of their actions are now questioned (indeed, Churchill himself disgracefully distanced himself from the raids at the end of the war), there can be no doubt that brave men did brave things because they were doing their job.

War is terrible but wars have to be won, and for many years the crews of Lancasters, Wellingtons, Halifaxes, Stirlings, Hampdens and Whitleys took the war to the enemy when all around was a litany of military failures. These were brave men indeed, having to undertake a “tour” of 30 raids each, with the average lifespan of the crews being 6 weeks.

If they weren’t shot down or blown up in mid-air, crews that didn’t return were lucky if they parachuted to safety. Many crew members who landed in rural areas or away from police stations were subjected to kangaroo courts and hanged in the streets by vengeful civilians. Such is the atrocity of war and the terrors men face in its conduct.

But in the shoddy treatment of airmen comes a lesson for business. Team members need to have a sense of purpose, a sense of direction and a sense of achievement when targets are met. Yet talking with colleagues and friends in industry today, too many managers take the role of Churchill who, when he realised international opinion was against him, turned against Arthur “Bomber” Harris, Bomber Command’s chief. In uncertain economic times, managers are turning against strategy, against teams and are corroding morale.

But business leaders must set an example to their organisation and their teams. They must support them in what they are trying to achieve. They must congratulate men and women publicly for what they have done. But what they must not do is isolate them or undermine them as they strive for better things for the company’s good.

There is no doubt that a team which has public support from senior management is a team that will deliver excellence for customers. And with excellence comes orders, loyalty and repeat revenue. After WWII, campaign medals were given to all British servicemen wherever they fought. Except for those in Bomber Command. This was an injustice born of political expedience of the lowest kind. Honour and duty demands that those who work on our plans deserve proper recognition.

Managers who, by changing tack and blaming others dismantle the confidence of staff, should be ousted from business. The best businesses are those were direction is clear and consistent and where achievement and delivery are recognised and rewarded. To those in business today who are subjected to shoddy or aggressive management, A Brand Day Out salutes you. To those who manage badly, we ask you to change your ways before it is too late. Or, if you can’t change your ways, just go and go now. The success of your company depends on it.


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