Lookout for culture creep!

22nd May 2018

You might not associate Lee's fridge with a valuable life lesson but read on...!

"It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Jackson’s, we kept our house in an endlessly minimalist/tidy state (with cupboards bursting full of stuff) as we tried to sell our house, and at the same time, we are preparing to move house. Obviously, these two things have to happen at the same time, but it would be easier if they didn’t! While trying to keep the house tidy for viewings, we got rid of 17 years worth of rubbish from our loft and cupboards. This strangely therapeutic tidying process turned up a few surprises and some great memories along the way, including old records, lost photos and my bronze ballet medal, that I sometimes talk about on stage – I was aged five and there were only three people in the competition!

But the biggest news of all is the most trivial first world problem I’ve ever written about – our fridge-freezer stopped working! Now, this seemed like an easily solvable problem in my activist head “my fridge freezer is broken – I’ll go and buy a new one.” I thought. Oh, how naïve I was! We went to Curry’s and it dawned on us very quickly that in the 12 years that we’d had the fridge freezer, the world has changed! Seriously changed. Not only have smartphones become the norm and cloud computing has revolutionised the way we do business but 12 years ago fridge freezers were white and had no nationality. Now they are black, silver and grey and are ‘American or French style’. My 45-year-old brain was, as they say – flummoxed. There wasn’t a good fridge freezer that would fit into the fresh new gap that had opened up in our kitchen. So, we had a big gap in our cupboards and nowhere to keep our milk cold. Tricky.

Not only that but we are moving soon so we had to think ahead and get the right fridge freezer for our new house kitchen too. It was a conundrum worthy of Carol Vorderman. So we opted for the new house solution. We bought a Stateside-style fridge freezer ready for our new house, with one small drawback, it doesn’t fit into our current kitchen. So we’ve got a fancy new silver fridge freezer that’s stood in the middle of our kitchen. It has sadly made that strange throwback from the ’80s, our breakfast bar, unusable. It’s weird but it’s not a bar and never eaten breakfast there, anyway I digress. It’s a big old thing and its in our way, but we’ll put up with it for a few weeks until the big move happens and we move a mile up the road. But the new appliance has had quite an impact.

We have noticed in the last few days that this fridge freezer is cold, really cold! Yeah, I know – not a great shock to you I’m sure *|FNAME|* but to us it is. The freezer is very cold -18C to be precise and the fridge is about 5C or so it says, and because we have more space now I think we have realised that 1. Having more space in the fridge keeps things cooler and 2. Our old fridge freezer has been failing for months, and we didn’t even notice. The kids have said “Dad this is really cold” at least half a dozen times now, our new silver member of the family has changed things.

Background

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to go to dozens of schools, colleges, businesses and organisations and see things from ‘fresh eyes’ all the time. I get a visitors perspective on an organisations attitudes, values and culture. A view that people who have worked there for years, often don’t see anymore. I can often learn a lot just from the reception staff and seating area, as I spend a lot of time there waiting to be ‘shown through’ to the hall or training room. I did some presentation skills a few months ago for a very big organisation and I asked as I arrived if I and the people on the course could get a coffee to start the day. I was told that the only coffee available was a dodgy machine, three floors up and through four sets of double doors. In the end, I paid for a Costa instead. This organisation is being turned around slowly, but hospitality obviously wasn’t a value that they hold dear, just yet. In other places I’ve been to, I’ve been treated like a king, where my clients couldn’t do enough for me. I genuinely don’t expect the red carpet treatment, far from it, that's not my style, but it's funny how companies in the same sector can have such different culture and values. I’ll work with almost anyone, as I like variety, but I do remember how people treat me, as I’m sure you do. It’s only human.

Look out for culture creep

The issue we need to be aware of at work though is ‘creep’. ‘Creep’ in our personal and professional life can be dangerous. Our old fridge slowly got less efficient and we didn’t even notice until we got the new one that actually worked! Organisations are just the same, bad values and practice can creep up on us without us even noticing. I heard a story a few weeks ago where a 15-year-old had done work experience in a company and did really well, so well in fact that a few weeks later the boss sacked a member of staff because they realised how slow and inefficient they’d been in comparison. Fresh eyes, made their business better.

So, here’s a few big questions for you this week:

If you are a leader – when was the last time you had a fresh set of eyes on your workplace and culture, to find the good, the bad and the ugly? If you choose the right person, it can only help make you better.

If you present up front – when was the last time you asked someone to give you feedback? Someone with your permission to really tell you the truth? I do this a lot when I’m teaching and coaching presentation skills and I’ve seen people become engaging speakers, with just the right amount of encouragement and honest feedback.

And lastly, the big one – what about your personal life? We all love friends that we can have fun with and those who comfort us too, but do we have friends who tell us the truth when we need it? It’s a tricky one, we don’t like it, but can make a real difference. I knew a guy who had a ‘donkey’, this ‘donkey’ was one of his friends who he told his wife she could call anytime if he was being a ‘donkey’. “She never called him,” he said, “but she did pick up the phone a few times”. I’ll always remember that."

See Lee's full bio page and showreel HERE or contact Jane Farnham for bookings on 01753 439 289 jane@greatbritishspeakers.co.uk