I watched a fabulous TED talk by Margaret Heffernan a few weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.

“It’s time to forget the pecking order at work”, referenced chickens and corporate veggie gardens (making me love it instantly!), but more importantly, she talked about creating a culture of helpfulness.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had dealings with an organisation and either walked out or slammed down the phone (as much as I can slam the off button on my iPhone – but that’s a whole other issue) muttering sarcastically “now THAT was helpful”…

I’m sure you’re no different.

And have a think about the culture of helpfulness when you have actually worked in the organisation. Earlier this year I called a colleague to let her know I thought one of her staff had a problem – a very public problem that was on the TV news and all over social media – and she snapped back at me saying “why do you think I would want to know that”. Ummmm. Turns out he wasn’t in her team, but how was I to know that? They worked for the same company.

Not helpful.

culture of helpfulness - www.melkettle.comNow the chicken reference is about an experiment evolutionary biologist Dr William Muir undertook. He split his most productive chickens – the superflock – and his average productive chickens into two groups. After six generations his average flock were flourishing. However, all but three of his superflock were dead – pecked to death by their feathery superchicken hen-house mates as they all wanted to be the chicken at the top of the pecking order. Sound familiar??

I know I have worked in and with far too many organisations comprising individuals who want to be at the top of their pecking order.

And as for helpfulness?

Just try asking them for help or advice.

You can forget it.

This also reminds me of many industries.

Many years ago I was a member of my local Chamber of Commerce. Fabulous organisation with many fabulous members who worked harmoniously to make our local businesses strong supporters of other local businesses.

The many representatives from our local banks played well together – helpful to each other.

The representatives from our local real estate agents played well together – helpful to each other.

The representatives from our local law firms, accounting firms and engineering firms all played well together – helpful to each other.

The two other marketing consultants both told me – individually – that I needed to leave as there wasn’t enough business for us all.

Um, excuse me???

Not helpful.

At all.

Their view was that business was all about competition. It’s not. It’s about giving and getting information that is of value. Value to each other but mostly valuable to our clients. And if we can’t work well together then how do we expect to best service our clients and customers?

In the end I left this Chamber, largely because the people who should have been the most helpful to me were not. They were too focused on which of us would be the shining star. While I was happy being an average chicken.

Please watch this TED talk and let me know – what is your organisation like? Do your colleagues in your industry support one another? Is everyone vying to be a superchicken or are you all part of a productive and happy flock?

 

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