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How can basic courtesy help transform organisations - for free?

Imagine the scene - Monday morning, raining, slow commute, depressing news on the radio and no parking space near the door at work......

Walk into the office, feeling grumpy, hardly acknowledge colleagues, straight to the desk, dump the bag and to the kitchen for the first coffee of the day - pass everyone as quickly as possible - not in the mood for a conversation yet and lots to get on with - busy busy busy! Right?......No ……completely wrong!

Why do we treat our customers better than our colleagues, when it is our colleagues who help us make the difference at work? Yes it is true that maybe some of them make it difficult, but is it because our relationship with them isn’t as solid as it could be?

We spend more time with each other at work than with our loved one’s so why do we make it so hard when it should be so easy if we had more respect for one another?

No one comes to work to do a poor job right? Yet how many of us go home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled and happy?

Imagine the same scene above but this time we are meeting a customer - how would we have chosen to behave that morning? What would we have done differently?

The answer is not complicated - respect, common courtesy and choose your behaviour (it’s that simple).

My wife and I do a lot of walking. You would be amazed at the amount of people who walk pass us, head down without any acknowledgement - but of course that’s not everyone! We try very hard not to do the same, but some days it is hard because we may be in the middle of a “passionate” conversation - however, we consciously try to acknowledge everyone we walk by :) We believe that if we do, they may in turn do so the same.

And we do it with sincerity - not just to ‘go through the motion’ - we lift our heads up, we make eye contact, we smile and say hello ... it always works - we always get something back - even a grunt is better than nothing! (or a look of shock as they weren’t expecting it!!)

What about “Sunday cyclists”? They are like some leaders I come across - they carry more of a chip on their shoulders and are quite grumpy - they believe they should own the pavements - they often hunt in packs and they are very tribal! You should see them own the local coffee shop on Sunday mornings - it’s a sight to behold ..! So with them we go the extra mile, we are extra nice - we move out of their way, smile even broader, acknowledge them and even say thank you on their behalf - at times we may even bow (that’s a joke)!!

So, here is some food for thought, for all of us (and before you start to think I have a problem with cyclists I don’t!) What is it about “Sunday cyclists” that makes them so tribal? Why do they appear to act differently? And what about dog walkers or runners or any other group that we label as ‘other’ or ‘not us’ or ‘them’. And crucially who do we see at work as ‘not us’ or ‘them’? – the long standing divide of worker and manager; or white and blue collar; or head office and factory etc; or even skin colour!

After all they are the same as us really, but for whatever reasons we pretend they aren’t and one of the first signs of that is that we start to withdraw common courtesy from them.

I genuinely believe that if organisations instilled basic common courtesy as a culture change, amazing things would happen and there wouldn’t be a need to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds on employee engagement programmes. Here are my 7 tips on common basic courtesy:

  • Say hello and acknowledge each other every day (no matter how YOU feel and how busy you are)
  • Make time to actively listen to each other’s challenges
  • Work together without blame to solve problems without worrying about who might get the credit
  • Don’t be scared to challenge an unacceptable lack of courtesy and poor behaviour - across the whole organisation and at all levels
  • Be kind and considerate towards each other - if you care more for each other you will increase trust and your business will get things done quicker and at lower cost
  • Treat each other better than you would treat your best customer - at the end of the day it is your colleagues who will help you get that annual bonus, help you innovate and make work much more enjoyable.

Finally, do exactly the same at home and in your community - because at the end of the day this stuff is not complicated, it’s just hard!

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