Saturday, April 26, 2014

The material world

When I was  14 years old, my well travelled Aunt gave me a gold lipstick holder she had bought in Japan (when on her latest overseas adventure).  I wasn't even wearing lipstick then but I treasured as only a young teenager does.  You can read more about my Aunt here.

That piece of ''Chokin Art" represented a big wide world, impossibly exciting experiences, and also became more special as I visited Japan so many times myself and saw 'Chokin' products on sale there.

As years went by that holder went everywhere with me - and if it could talk would tell of going round the world with me three or four times, accompanying me to parties, dates, and special events - and  being witness to decades of colour trends (blood red, dark maroon, frosty pink, and more latterly conservative rose).

But this week, the worst happened.  The lipstick holder has gone.  I can only assume that it fell out of my handbag as I raced between appointments.  I have scoured the car, the house, the office, to no avail.  I know it shouldn't matter - it was worn and old and the mirror was cracked - but this little thing had been literally everywhere in the world that I had been, and I have to say - I'm kind of grieving for it.  It represented so much, it had BEEN THROUGH so much with me!  It reminded me of the lesson my Aunt taught me (never leave the house - or the car - without fresh lipstick on.

A search on Google suggests i could replace it without too much trouble - and for not much money. But it's not the same.  I don't want another one.  I want THAT one - the one that reminded me every day (often more than once) of my impossibly glamorous Aunty, that thing that has seen everything in the world that I have - that was my most used possession.

I know material possessions don't matter (after all am I not the queen of minimalism) but there are some things...a few things... that really do. And this was - is - one of them.

I vainly hope it will turn up.  But if it doesn't, I can only hope that the person who might find it will not idly throw it in the rubbish, but wonder where it came from and what it might have meant to the person who lost it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

a little more than a hundred days of happiness

I've been following a few people as they chronicle blessings for one hundred days. I'm not quite sure how this movement started, nor how it had the ability to get so popular and so long lasting (100 days is a long time on the Internets after all...)...but it's nice reading warm fuzzies and positive stories.  You can read my favourite here.

Never one to follow the crowd, I have been musing about how I might take part in this phenomenon but in a different way. (Actually, the stark reality is that I'm a big picture person and I already know there's no way I'm gonna get to 100 posts in 100 days...).  Instead, I've decided to list 100 things that are my ''small pleasures'' and blessings in life.  In no particular order here are the first 50...

1. impromptu dinners with my favourite people
2 a new toothbrush
3. a new hairbrush
4. cats purring
5. rain on the roof when you're tucked up inside
6. moonrise viewed from the spa pool
7. something fabulous and coveted on sale for a fraction of it's original price, and in my size
8. scarves
9. high heeled boots
10. Nana's and Grandads
11. Real letters in the mail
12. Clean sheets on the bed
13. An empty laundry basket and no ironing to do either
14. A freshly ironed shirt
15. Kid cuddles
16. Grown up cuddles
17. A favourite song on the radio in rush hour traffic
18. Random ''thinking of you'' texts received in the midst of a busy day
19. Lie ins on a weekday
20. New paint
21. Car washes
22. A simply awesome cup of coffee
23.Dark chocolate
24. Best Friends and enduring friendship
25. Siblings
26. Knowing I can always ask my Mum what she thinks
27. Knowing I can listen to the advice but I don't have to act on it
28. Panadol, disinfectant, and toothpaste - three of the greatest inventions of the 21st century
29 that moment you walk out of the hairdressers feeling a million bucks
30. Comfortable underwear (especially if it actually looks good too)
31. A shared sense of humour and the ability to share a laugh at the most inopportune moments
32. Discovering a great new restaurant
33. Dancing
34. Two people, one motorbike and a long road on a sunny day
35. Campfires
36. Fireworks at New Year (or any other time really)
37. The precious half hour between waking yourself, and the kids getting up
38. Watching your children when they are asleep
39. Reading a great book
40. Ticking something awesome off the bucket list
41. Sharing that something awesome with someone awesome
42. Fabulous kitchen utensils and appliances (never underestimate a good knife)
43. Spending time with a friend you haven't seen in ages and picking up like it was yesterday
44. Christmas morning. And Christmas Eve.
45. finding a great recipe and reproducing it
46. staying at goal weight longer than you ever thought possible
47. losing the last couple of kg that makes all the difference
48. capturing something on camera and realising it was a perfect moment and it's a perfect shot
49. Hearing I love You
50. Saying I love You

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The culture of business

Back in my days as a trainer, when working with a company that was undergoing a massive organisational change, much of what we were asked to deliver to employees focused on 'company culture'.  In this case it was the merging of two very different organisations that required gentle handling: a community bank and a large international one, joining forces to create a new business.

It took a long time for the two ''cultures'' to merge - physically it was literally an overnight transformation but it was several years, and a fair amount of staff churn, before there was a real gelling happening on the shop floor.

There can be challenges in all sizes of  organisations too, not just monoliths like this one. Consider the ''mad inventor'' who suddenly - or not so suddenly - finds himself running a large organisation on the back of what was once just one guy and a great idea. Often unskilled and usually unprepared, the poor entreprenuer can easily get trapped by thinking that their sole trader model can simply grow into a larger version of itself.

The culture of the workplace can make or break the success of an organisation. And so I offer this as my 8 point guide to creating a great business that people want to work in, stay in, and be proud to tell others about.

1. Lead from the top. The Board and/or CEO need to live and breathe the (carefully developed and clearly communicated)  values of the company - to the extent that their own behaviour/s need to be ''beyond reproach''
2. Start at the bottom. The way people dress, the language they use, the layout and decor of the office all impact on the way a business operates - even the kind of music playing in the background will contribute.
3. Make it clear. Expectations regarding the little things (clothing, language etc) need to be spelled out (better to be obvious than obscure).  Similarly, the big things (strategic goals, long term plans) should be shared freely with your employees as a way of engendering trust and buy-in. Demonstrate zero tolerance for behaviours that don't fit with your company values.
4. Stop look and listen.  That message is especially for business leaders, who are often too busy running the business to see what's happening on the shop floor.  Pay attention to the lunch room conversations, see what is on the office walls of employees, take heed of their feedback in meetings (and act on it)
5. Make room to move. Whether it's little (what kind of coffee is in the lunch room), middle size (changing the seating plan) or big (allowing team members to contribute to planning, or to give feedback on the company and it's leadership), get people talking.  Encourage conversation and open communications. A secretive organisation is unhealthy. As is an inflexible, prescriptive work environment.
6. Act on it. If something's broken, fix it. If there's an opportunity to improve, take it. If your values include generosity, for example, act on it - buy coffee, give vouchers!
7. Tell a good story.  Develop a great narrative about your organisation and share it.  Live it, believe it, and let others continue to share it on your behalf.  That doesn't mean ''spilling company secrets'' but it does mean creating positive messages about the business and letting word of mouth do the rest.  And if you're telling porkies you're going to get caught out. Refer points 1 through 6.
8. Stay balanced.  If you're a leader, act like a leader - but remain connected to your team.  If you're on your way up, be mindful of your position in the company but keep striving.  If you're in an unbalanced work environment by way of age/gender/other diversity, consider how you could change it. Embrace differences. Listen to advice, take the best from it. Surround yourself with people who are honest in their opinions.  Don't just listen to the things they know you want to hear.

Lower staff turnover, higher productivity, reduced costs, better marketing and publicity. It takes time for sure. It requires effort, sometimes a dash of bravery to maintain. But a strong and healthy company culture means nothings but good things for the business.

a definition of Corporate Culture from Investopedia

The beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.