Much excitement in the Lucas household yesterday when we awoke to three inches of the fluffy white stuff and the sound of the neighbour trying to shovel the car out of the drive.
Number one son set off, complete with sledge, for the Sunday morning newspaper run – only to burst through the door half an hour later, red-cheeked and flushed with snow-induced goodwill towards all men. “Everyone’s so much NICER when it snows mum,” he said, handing over a soggy Sunday Times. “It’s taken me ages because everyone I passed on the way to the shops stopped to talk to me.”
Now I didn’t like to rain on his parade by pointing out that people’s goodwill may have evaporated somewhat by this morning when they were faced with the realities of having to negotiate the icy roads in order to get to work. But he certainly has a point about the way snow – or indeed any adverse circumstance – has a tendency to break down barriers and create community spirit.
Never in Cezanne’s history has this been more graphically illustrated than by the experience of the employees who battled their way through sub-zero temperatures to reach the company’s annual conference in Bologna, Italy last week. More than 100 staff set out last week from across Europe (UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Greece) as well as from Latin America, UAE and North America. What should have been a fairly straightforward journey for most turned into a nightmare as temperatures plummeted, heavy snow took hold and the airport at Bologna was forced to close.
The Cezanne team, however, refused to be beaten and took to trains, buses, cars and even hiking boots to complete what for many turned out to be an arduous 12 hour journey. Everyone eventually made it – although not necessarily with their luggage in tow – spurred on by support and encouragement from senior management who were determined to make sure the once-a-year-only opportunity to get everyone together was able to go ahead as planned.
The result of this ‘can-do’ attitude and the camaraderie that was created as employees shared their travelling woes? Probably the best start-of-year meeting the business has ever had with morale at an all time high and team spirit much stronger than before. Now apart from being a damn good snow story, what this tale actually illustrates is the important role that managers have to play in motivating employees and encouraging everyone to pull together when times are tough.
As Cezanne’s experience shows, employees are willing to go the extra mile (sometimes literally) if they can see that the business is doing what it can to support them, is concerned about their welfare and appreciates the sterling effort they are making.
Keeping the lines of communication open during times of confusion and uncertainty is also a vital part of keeping employee spirits high and making sure everyone is focusing their efforts in the same direction.
Food for thought perhaps for the next time your people are grappling with a tricky project or faced with a seemingly impossibly deadline? In the meantime, remember that for some employees just making it into work this week may be something of a challenge. When people have put themselves out, it’s often the smallest gestures that count the most. So make sure you greet your weary travellers with a smile, a hot cup of tea and a thank you for their efforts to get there.