Over the past week, I have been in and out and then back to hospital on an infectious disease ward. (Don’t worry; sounds much worse than it is, and I’ve now made a full recovery). But the experience had me thinking about how, when tough things happen, you often find yourself feeling more grateful than usual for the little things in life.
I was discussing this with a colleague and wonderful advisor of mine, and he pointed me in the direction of the Broken Windows philosophy by James Wilson and George Kelling. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness. Thus, caring about broken windows prevents more serious crimes from happening. I personally believe this rule can apply in our lives and in our workplace, reminding us that every action counts when it comes to what we do and how we act toward others.
In my recent time of recovery and uncertainty, I had to rearrange my whole week of meetings at work, to which every single colleague responed “Get better soon.” In my opinion, this says much about our company and our employees, and they’re willingness to help and make things easier. My manager certainly is an exceptional example of an authentic leader, saying to me “How are you and your family holding up?”
I also posted to social media a photo from my hospital bed, which was a beautiful view of the Australian bush. As a result of sharing, I received a lovely message from a fellow CSCer in Germany on Twitter and a lovely email (to come back to) from one of our data scientists. It reminded me that people I didn’t think would notice or care about my illness — as I don’t work with them directly on projects or share an office space — actually did and do.
This got me to think about the other little things in life and work could make a difference for a colleague, a client or a project, the broken windows that — if fixed — could have a ripple effect to drive success. Here’s a few ideas I had:
- Make a cup of tea or drink of choice for one of your teammates and have it ready for their arrival. One of my favorite managers did this for me about 10 years ago — and I still remember it! A simple gesture of kindness can have a deep impact.
- Buy an extra lunch for someone when you know they are in back-to-back meetings. I have done this a few times for team members, and it makes a difference to everyone by stopping that “hangry” feeling which we all get now and again from ruining the meeting.
- Have the Lollie (Sweet) Jar on hand for your team or in a time of intense sharing/ collaborating/ learning. It helps bring everyone together. One of my favorite architects I worked with taught me this.
- Ask how someone’s day is going while in the lift. The simple act helps you get to know people on different floors, plus it encourages a sense of caring in an organization.
- Hold the door open — for everyone. Oh I love this one, and it’s definitely helped my husband earn a few brownie points every now and again. But doing this for others can make a difference to someone’s day.
- Say hello to your team every day. This can help you gauge how everyone is doing and shows you care.
- Invite everyone in your team to lunch, brekkie or coffee, even if someone keeps saying no or you struggle to accept some people. Inclusion is much better than exclusion when it comes to invites, and then people can decide for themselves whether or not to attend.
- Say thank you to those who help and ensure they realize how much they helped.
- Say sorry, for making someone feel bad or for doing something that in hindsight you are not extremely proud of. Acknowledging what you did will repair the relationship and helps you to stop doing it next time.
- Speak openly and honestly. This is not for everyone, but I certainly try to speak openly and honestly with everyone. Being honest leads to respect and ensures that expectations are clear.
- Smile. This can make a huge difference in someone’s day, and indeed can make you happier too. It can also help you radiate the feeling you want to give, and not what your face shows by default. For instance, when I am concentrating, I can look angry, but I’m actually happy because I love ideas.
- Shake a hand. At the hospital last week, one of the doctors who saw me decided to shake my hand when she introduced herself. This was a wonderful way to instill a sense of respect and the feeling that I was still a person, not just another patient in a hospital bed.
- Leave offensive language at home. If you have to use the language, remove yourself from the team and the general floor, as it can have a negative effect on everyone. One of my favorite leaders insisted on using a swear jar (and gave me authority of it). A slipup meant $1 in the jar. It made everyone stop and think about what they were saying at work, even in a high -stress environment. It also meant that we had enough funds for a team get-together at the end of the project.
- Share knowledge. I have a network of people inside and outside of CSC who share with me fascinating articles, philosophies, ways of doing things, ideas and inspiration that feeds the soul. In return, I share with these people when I find something I feel would interest them. “No thief, however skilled, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why it is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
A final thought: These little things may not mean much to you, but to someone else, they could mean the world. You never really know what other people are feeling or struggling with at any given moment, what challenges they are going through in their personal life or at work. The right gesture can turn someone’s day around in a heartbeat.
What “little things” do you treasure and what gestures do you take to make a difference in your life and workplace?