One of the biggest challenges I think facing businesses today is the culture that exists within them. Companies have gone to great lengths in the past few years to create better work-life balances, more modern offices and added benefits like gym membership and bike-to-work schemes. But where companies can really let themselves down is how senior executives interact with employees across all levels of the firm.
A number of years ago, I worked in a company where managers wouldn’t speak to people beneath them (unless necessary) and I can recall a few occasions where my “good morning” was ignored. I’m not sure why the people I had greeted felt it necessary not to reply (obviously because I was a junior member of staff) and if by doing so, I would look at them in awe or be impressed by their stature; but whatever it was, it had the opposite effect. You see, the very best leaders are aware of their surroundings and make an effort with everyone from their management team right down to graduates.
This is perhaps a lot easier in a small organisation, but I can recall meeting a CEO from one of Ireland’s most high profile companies last year. I was waiting in reception for him to arrive and when he did, the first thing he did was greet the security guard by his first name. Before I had even spoken to the CEO, he already formed an impression on me that he was a kind and modest person who knew that the most important thing about his business, no matter how good their products were, was the people that worked in it. I brought this up with him in our meeting and he duly acknowledged that he made it a priority to know as many people’s name in the company and greeted everybody with the warmth he did to the security guard. It is of no surprise to me that he has led this firm to significant growth over the last number of years.
The reason for me writing this is that I was in an “upmarket hotel” during the week having breakfast and I took the time to watch other guests and how they interacted with the people waiting on them. To my surprise, very few of them made eye contact with the waiters and even fewer managed to utter the words “thanks”. With most of them dressed like businessmen, I wondered it they acted like this with people they work with.
The easiest thing for us is to get caught up in our own self-importance. Not in any malignant way, but our lives are so busy that we don’t recognise the people around us and our behaviour to them and how the smallest acknowledgment can change how people see you and react towards you.
Although my business is relatively small compared to a large corporation, I make sure that everyone is treated equally and everyone is available and approachable to one another. This, I feel, has created a comfortable and enjoyable working environment and has built a team spirit where we like to see each other doing well instead of competing against each other or hoping someone doesn’t succeed. This, you may feel, is a harder thing to do in a larger company, but I think it can be even easier. If a CEO can take time out of their day to acknowledge people in their business, this small gesture will create a trust, loyalty and a following from their employees who will feel appreciated and motivated to do their very best for the company. And the beauty about this is, it can been done with a simple “good morning”.
What does your company do to create a better culture? I would love to know.
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