I’ve worked with many organisations who excitedly talk about the importance of ‘their culture’.
Some do it brilliantly, others get it so wrong.
Offering yoga lessons, a ping pong table or dress-down Friday isn’t a culture.
Culture comes from a behaviours that represent the ‘Why‘ of the business.
Like the now-legendary door desks at Amazon. Don’t waste money on fancy desks; pass the saving to the customers (see below).
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a raving fan of Red Carnation Hotels and Vanarama.
Last Christmas, when other businesses were sending dodgy hampers full of stuff nobody really wanted, Vanarama bought 200 x baskets and filled them with really great gifts.
And when I say they filled them, it was the Senior Management Team that did the packing AND the delivery.
Everyone who works for Red Carnation Hotels is given two days paid leave to support a charity of their choice. This offer is taken up by 88% of the 2,500 staff, meaning 4,400 days are donated every year.
Their MD, Jonathan Raggett, told me how staff bounce back to work wanting to do even more for their guests. Giving increases giving.
What are your best examples of brilliant culture? Please share them below.
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A team I work with changed their “why?” from their existing legal enforcement role to ‘help people have better lives’.
Slowly at first, they did new and better things. Clients who previously couldn’t be helped because they didn’t meet the strict legal criteria for intervention were listened to and helped where possible. Those who were eligible for helped were assisted in more thoughtful and effective ways, all designed by the staff in the team.
One team member who was dealing with a lady facing eviction from her house realised that the best way to avoid her being made homeless was to have her cats neutered so that the landlord couldn’t use multiple pets as grounds. She drove the lady with her cats in borrowed carriers to the PDSA, and drove her home afterwards. She’s not homeless, she’s happy with her 2 cats and her landlord’s happy again.
None of this came out of a business plan, team plan or management instruction. Apart from the cat lady, the team have helped thousands of people to better outcomes than we ever saw before using our existing approach.
I learned about customer service working for a small organisation in the late 1990s. Our customers used to phone us – it was in the days before external email. We had an office (remember those?) with one central phone number, on a hunt-group. When someone called, we all had the chance to answer the call. It wasn’t ever spoken about but everyone scrambled to get to the call first; you’d ‘won’ if you got it. It was so refreshing to work with people who were excited about hearing from customers and inspired leadership that had led to that culture. I’ve always taken that with me. Being busy and having lots to do, the phone constantly ringing, is a great ‘problem’ to have.
When I worked for HSBC they used to allow us to have two days leave to support a charity. Alternatively they would give the charity the equivalent of two days wages. I volunteered at a children’s holiday club each Summer for 5 days and used my annual leave. The two days pay they received covered half the cost of running the club meaning we could halve the fee for the children.
I get your point and a yoga class once a week or whatever isn’t culture – however – companies could do a lot worse than to instil ancient yoga philosophies into the culture, e.g.:
Non stealing (in every way, not just in monetary terms – could be applied to stealing people’s time when late for meetings etc)
Non excess and restraint
Non grasping or non covetousness
Cleanliness of body and mind
Contentment and acceptance
Discipline, practice and commitment
Surrender to a higher being or cause – there are forces or concepts that are more important than oneself.
So, for me, yoga can be culture – it’s not all about the downward dog 😊