Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsIn Wimbledon the Verona TCS sighs out a little steam, the ceiling fan lets out a teeny squeak, and we all look like crumpled extras in a film about …being hot and sweaty. Set in Havana in April perhaps.

I wonder if anyone else is thinking about ice?

Everything’s slowed down. We are a sleepy, drama free zone. Possibly a little bored. Should paper sound that loud?

So right on cue some entertainment arrives.

Crisp linen, dazzling white, a little scented waft of freshness, and a team bundles in. I’d guess they’re straight out of a presentation, or a talk of some sort.

It’s something I hear, booming across the sleepy tables, that gets me thinking.

‘ Whose FAULT was THAT?’
There are a few reactions to this (as well as running away of course).
What actually happened surprised and impressed me, but we’ll get to that.

There’s something important here that I really mind about.

When I was a munchkin at Leo Burnett, we would all watch, as part of our training, the grainy black and white video of Leo’s speech (made when he was 79) entitled ‘When to take my name off the door’ . Yes, there would be a chortle, and cynicism, about this coming from a seller of cigarettes.
But it speaks to a couple of thoughts that seem even more important now than then.

The idea of building ‘ A corporation with a conscience ….. that sense of the fitness of things’ and the importance of never getting to the stage ‘When you disapprove of something and start tearing the hell out of the man who did it rather than the work itself’ feels of the minute, doesn’t it?

Criticise the issue and not the man, he’s reminding us.

Perhaps you think this sounds holier than thou, or ‘nice’, or soft, or downright unrealistic.

But it’s good business.

I worked in a company this week – a fast growing digital company – where the issue of ‘Leaders that tell the truth’ came up. As I enquired a bit more, it emerged that this wasn’t the whole story. A particularly charismatic leader had the habit of painting everything in glowing terms, essentially ignoring and denying anything other than successes.

And this had a most important effect on everyone.

Steadily, corrosively, a culture of ‘no mistakes tolerated’ had begun to grow. The innovation ‘pipeline’ had begun to slow down as two things came into play – a blame and cover up pattern of behaviour, and teams losing their energy, finding it easier and safer not to try stuff or to experiment.

It is so simple. Mistakes are how we learn. It’s really not smart to wish them away. Demand them, in fact.  So remember Leo: talk about the work, don’t blame – and the more mistakes the merrier.

You wonder what happened to the finger pointer? A team member slapped her on the back and said ‘It was my evil twin, boss. Shall we all work out how to make it fly next time?

Buy that man an iced coffee.

Penny works with senior people who want change.

Her approach is unconventional, and fun.

By challenging perceptions, creatively re-framing situations, and reclaiming their energy and bravery, her clients create new options and successes for themselves and their businesses.

If you’re feeling stuck and want to get moving again, contact Penny:

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