My wife bought a fruit bowl last week. Not a particularly dramatic event on the scale of world events, but nevertheless one of great significance for me. It was bright red, striking, metal, almost basket like in appearance. Not the sort of item that I would ever buy myself (I can’t even describe it very well). For most of the week it sat in my apartment kitchen. Resplendent with bright red and green apples. It was there at the end of the week as well…just without the apples.
My wife has bought all the nicest things in my apartment – along with my daughter and son. Little things that make a big difference. A big difference to me as well as to the apartment. Things I would never even think of. A cushion, lamp, picture, coasters, rug. They make the apartment nicer. They remind me of her when she is not there with me. I never suggest she buys these things. She does not ask. She knows and I know.
I had a good week in the UK last week. And not just because of my new fruit bowl. I did lots of work. Lots of things I was very pleased with. Old issues; new opportunities; new ideas.
I also found time to think. A precious activity and one that is often hard to do when we are so busy. I think things through when I drive, work out, over coffee in the morning. Times when I have more time. Less distractions. It’s also annual appraisal time of year for me and everyone else. A good time to think about what we have done and achieved; want to do and learn.
What have we done? What have we achieved? Wednesday morning it hit me – it’s not what we have done (although of course output, delivery, impact is crucial)…it’s how we have done those things. How we operate, work together, partner, solve, seize, laugh, celebrate, commiserate, support…this is what defines us. This is what we experience working together and what others experience when they work with us.
Over any period of time (not overnight unfortunately) we would want to get better at what we do. We have to get better at what we do. Individually and collectively. By ourselves and in teams. This change then is what excites me most…and makes me feel most proud of what we do…and how we have improved.
Ours is a highly regulated industry. We have many policies and procedures. We are inspected and audited frequently. We carry out work on behalf of our partners. It would be easy to operate in a way where we do what we are told, when and how. Where we seek permission.
But this is where I see the biggest difference. We are more empowered. Yes we are still regulated (more so), and have SOPs (more) and welcome auditors (many)…but our people and our teams make more suggestion, take more decisions, make more things happen. Work together stronger and individually better. We are not perfect – that is not possible. But we have grown and developed. In a way we can – and should – be very pleased about and very proud of.
We have changed our culture. We have changed how things are done and how we do things. We have changed for the better. It feels better. It looks better. It is better.
We don’t ask permission. We ask to make sure we know what we are trying to achieve (and why) – we make suggestions and make recommendations. We make things happen. We use our experience, our judgement. We help our partners, our teams. We help ourselves.