Less ‘Star Wars’, more ‘The Water-Babies’ this week.

Remember Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By?

Here’s what happened.

It all started when we booked a meeting room. (The offices will remain nameless. And identity-less. Unchallengeable credentials of grooviness and minimalist coolth rendered this building indistinguishable from anywhere else that has suffered a design-led re-fit in the last 5 years)

This booking process wasn’t a walk in the park, by the way. The keypad on the wall outside had to be activated at the right time, with the right code, and the right closing minute. You can do the arithmetic- those are big odds in favour of failing to even get into the room.

Perhaps this system ensures that every meeting starts on a note of triumphant achievement. And then. We all noticed the gradual increase in temperature at about the same time.

Amidst jokes about meetings held wearing only underpants, it became clear that no-one had magic power over that deceptively simple and small wall-mounted dial.

The service people were called. Most warmly.

It would be fixed – they were delighted to report – well within the contracted 24 hours.

Far, far away. The people to whom maintenance services had been contracted were based far, far away.

Look, the coffee shop was fine. Better, in fact. But this stuff matters.

‘Employee Engagement’ is a current top topic in this particular office.  How can employees be expected to ‘be engaged’ when basic aspects of support and the environment have been, literally, ‘dis-engaged’?

Can anyone be expected to be enthusiastic, energetic, innovative and committed when no such qualities are apparently demonstrated in return?

Do as you would be done by?

I heard that the problem was fixed the next day, and that a ‘how did we do?’ customer satisfaction email was sent the day after that.

What was the name of Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By’s buddy?

Oh yes, the tough and unyielding Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did.


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’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WUxb8YB88o . 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: pennyhunt@changechemistry.co.uk