“YOU’VE not heard the last of this” is almost certain to go down in the annals of unforgettable political quotes that weren’t meant to see the light of day.
Andrew Mitchell’s comments to the policeman on gate duty were pompous, and his non-apology perfunctory, which is why the story has not become yesterday’s chip paper just yet.
It isn’t quite in the league of Sir Richard Mottram, the permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions when Stephen Byers was minister, when he summed up yet another crisis as: “We’re all verb-ed. I’m verb-ed. You’re verb-ed. The whole department is verb-ed. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely verb-ed.”
Sir Richard later described his comments as “over-hyped” – and in his defence, his comments were more analytical than insulting, if inelegantly expressed.
The outbursts provide insights into their management styles. Mr Mitchell comes across as petty and authoritarian, while Sir Richard appears to be disproportionately dramatic, although at least a team player.
They are responsible for setting the tone for others to follow, and a recent conversation I had with the outgoing managing director of a Liverpool business took up this theme.
She had been talking to her senior management team about the importance of creating the right atmosphere in order to motivate and energise staff.
It can’t matter whether you had a row with one of your children, that you’ve had a long day and are late for dinner, or any one of 100 other problems or irritations – staff will be looking at you, and need little encouragement to fear the worst.
They can’t tell the difference between a bad mood because of a domestic problem and a bad mood because the business isn’t doing well. Yet it can be under-appreciated how important tone is, and how senior managers are responsible for it.
This is done through a wide range of conscious and unconscious signals – after all, even no communication is a form of communication – and failing to actively consider the tone you are setting means you are likely to fail to set the right tone.