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Culture Starts With You

When I was a small child, I often heard the phrase “little pitchers have big ears”. I instinctively knew to prick my ears up, because the grown-ups were talking about things they didn’t want me to know about and using this old phrase (it refers to jugs and their handles) as code to remind each other to be discrete in the conversation.

Just as little kids pick up on what’s going on around them – even when we don’t want them to – adult new employees, soon get the message about what’s OK and not in the organisational culture. Every manager, every longer serving employee and every mentor is a role model of acceptable behaviour.

So, you want to be careful about everything you say and do in front of other employees. You are setting the standards. You are creating the culture. If you start your meetings on time, keep appointments, send confirmations, follow-up with action lists, you are affirming your expectations. If you say “thank you”, take an interest in them, listen, give feedback and show you care, you establish respect and lay the foundation to receive the same. If you are positive about the future, truthful and transparent about the business, you are more likely to get that in return.

And by the way, trust, compassion, stability and hope correlate with engagement at work which translates into higher productivity and a range of bottom-line results*.

People pick up positive behaviours and they pick up negative ones. What is tolerated becomes the norm. That’s why bullying in some environments is so intransigent, if no one speaks out, it persists. It’s why some places I run training, everyone arrives early and other places they all dribble in after the start time. The culture has been modelled, either way.

Little pitchers do indeed have big ears, and eyes and even mirror neurons in their brains! Adults are likely to emulate the behaviours demonstrated as acceptable in the workplace. Another catch-phrase I like is “attitudes are caught not taught”. Give employees mentors and managers that are role models of the culture you want.

*Reference: Tom Rath & Barry Conchie,  Strengths Based Leadership, Gallup Press

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About Ann Rolfe

Ann Rolfe is internationally recognised as Australia's leading specialist in mentoring, and is available for speaking, training and consulting. Here Ann shares her knowledge and allows you to ask your most pressing questions about mentoring.

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