Joined Up Thinking

Pause and Reflect – Putting People First

As a (former) New Yorker, I have had many opportunities to observe the differences in business cultures. While one is not necessarily better than the other, there are lessons we can learn from each other.

Creating a relaxing environment can accomplish more

Netflix Queer Eye Interior Design Expert Bobby Berk

January 2022 I celebrate 15 years of life in London.

As a (former) New Yorker, I have had many opportunities to observe the differences in business cultures. While one is not necessarily better than the other, there are lessons we can learn from each other.


I’ll never forget one of my first meetings at Burberry that two staff members were holding for my benefit. One was late. The one in attendance began to worry that she had done something wrong. Had she forgotten to send a calendar invitation? No, she had sent it. Did she put a location in the invite? Yes, she had. She had been busy that morning and she hadn’t confirmed the meeting. Should she have? She hadn’t put her phone number in the invite, so how was he to call her if he was late but still coming? That was so silly of her. Had he sent an email advising that he needed to reschedule? No, he hadn’t.

As she stressfully went through this roster of “What could I have done differently?” the meeting attendee briskly entered the room

“I am so sorry,” he began rather breathlessly. “I had a meeting in the other building. I simply didn’t give myself enough time to walk to this building,” he apologised.

“Oh no, it’s really my fault,” my colleague replied. “Firstly I should have confirmed, and secondly, I should have put my mobile number on the invite so you could have reached out!”

“Oh no no no,” he offered. “I just didn’t realise these meetings were in 2 different buildings. Very silly of me. It’s all my fault.”

“No need to apologise,” she replied. “I completely understand. And I could have made this less stressful for you had I only ….”

And so the back and forth “it’s all my fault” continued for five full minutes. Literally. I timed it. And as an outsider I had to stifle the giggles.

The politeness was indeed comical to me as it was a stark contrast to New York. Yet it was utterly refreshing. But it also further delayed the already late meeting. And while things would have been handled differently in NY, would the result have been any better?

Allow me to explain.

In New York less than 5 minutes would have been spent asking where the other attendee was. Had anyone heard whether he was attending? No? Well then we can’t wait. We are wasting time. When he did arrive, someone would have quipped, “You’re late. We started without you as we’ve already lost valuable time and we are all very busy.” The meeting would then have railroaded forward without an “catch up” for the tardy attendee—who then might have either withdrawn from participating for fear of further public scolding OR perhaps begun grandstanding to push ideas over the reprimanding associate as a way to regain ground. So no more “wasted time apologising” in exchange for an entire meeting with suboptimal results because participants were acting out on hidden agendas created as a result of overt rudeness and “professional bullying.”

Here in London was a very different approach. A more forgiving “human” approach—“at the fault of no one”—that perhaps did consume time at the beginning of the meeting but allowed all participants to feel welcomed, understood and valued. The London approach fosters open collaboration.

In New York we race ahead. We don’t look back. And if the result is undesirable, well we will just race ahead and re-do it (and maybe blame someone for not participating or not listening) We may get a lot more done, but is that any better if a lot of what we do has to be re-done because we were too forthright and didn’t really foster transparent collaboration?


But perhaps my favourite British business cultural nuance is to “Pause and Reflect

This can be done as frequently as daily but most certainly is done weekly, often at the pub on a Friday immediately after work

The team asks each other So…
How was the week?
What did we do well?
Who was outstanding?
What could we have done differently?
How is so-and-so and have we done what we can to help them? (This could also include personal challenges colleagues are facing)

I LOVE “Pause and Reflect

We don’t have time to do this in New York. LOL!

Pause and Reflect“ is a chance to celebrate success, re-examine strategies, course correct activities, and bring everyone along the journey. Because we are taking the time to remember that we are all human (and therefore will have ups and downs at work.)

In these uncertain times, no one has all of the answers.

As 2022 unfolds, shouldn’t we all just “Pause and Reflect” not only on 2021 but also 2020?

What have we learned? What are we still learning? How are we helping each other?

Let’s not race ahead in 2022 (Yeah I know it’s mid Jan already. COVID hasn’t left us. We are still shaking our heads over the Festive Trading Season results. We have to revise our quarterly forecasts, blah blah blah.)

But what have we really accomplished? What can we do differently? What no longer serves us? What can we simply just let go of?

The work we are doing needs to be re-affirmed as important, impactful, revolutionary and FUN

Have you asked yourself, “How does my organisation foster collaboration and participation?”

Are we on the right track?
Are we doing incredible work?
Are we learning?
Are we informing each other?
Are we agile?
Are we authentic?
Do we care?
Are we motivated by LOVE or by FEAR?

Digital transformation is enabled by tech, but it happens because of people.

Let’s look after each other. Haven’t we at least learned that from this Global Pandemic?

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