The recent Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris has brought the topic of free speech into the news. It has reawakened the debate about the balance in free society between the right to say what one wants to say and the duty of not causing deliberate offence. The debate’s very existence is a defining factor of a “free society”. In the world of work and commerce where people interact in groups (i.e. organisations) there should also be rights and obligations on free speech. Those rights and obligations are necessarily more restricted than in society at large, and an inspiring leader will use them to create a culture of high-performance, rather than one of “political correctness”. In such a culture “free speech” becomes a strong type of feedback, where all are expected to give and receive it positively (and to act on it). Not causing deliberate offence is recognisable as the condemnation of bullying and harassment (and some sorts of discrimination) in the workplace. A strong leader will set out in formal policies the company line on feedback and offending, and then communicate consistently the expectations and boundaries on feedback and harassment. In addition to coaching on leadership, we also offer practice hands-on guidance and training of formulating and communicating those expectations and boundaries in the desired organisational culture and in the relevant culture of the society at large.
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