Building a Culture of Trust at CoppaFeel!

In: BlogDate: Sep 04, 2023By: Claire Lickman

Natalie Haskell is the CEO of CoppaFeel!. CoppaFeel! is a renowned breast health awareness charity with a commitment to enabling happy workplace ideas. Natalie has fostered a unique culture with CoppaFeel! where the ways of working are designed to support productivity and individual needs.

In this entertaining talk from the 2023 Happy Workplaces Conference, Natalie shares how her enthusiasm for implementing a four-day working week turned to disappointment and how she worked with her team to bring about a solution that worked for everyone.

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Natalie Haskell speaking at the 2023 Happy Workplaces Conference

Maureen Egbe: Our next speaker is Natalie Haskell, the CEO of CoppaFeel!. CoppaFeel is a renowned breast health awareness charity with a commitment to enable Happy Workplace ideas. Natalie has fostered a unique culture with CoppaFeel where the ways of working are designed to support productivity and individual needs.

So today, Natalie's going to be telling us more about enabling Happy Workplaces. Now, before I do that, I just have to say today as I was watching the BBC News as I was getting ready, There was a segment about, CoppaFeel! Yes, I saw it! I saw it. It was awesome. I was like, oh my gosh. Yes. Do you wanna tell us about that?

Natalie Haskell: Yeah, I'd love to. Hi everyone. It's really good to be here. I'm glad the energy's so high, and I thought this might be the graveyard shift, so it's good to join when everyone's dancing.

We've got a trek happening at the moment. We do two treks every year. We've got one at the moment in the very glamorous Northumberland. We've got some celebrities that have gone on that trek. So one of our patrons, Giovanna Fletcher, who goes on every single trek, has brought along a couple of friends with her. Who is Matt Willis? How do we describe Matt? Busted. Star of Busted? Personality, TV personality? And his wife Emma Willis.

And they've been getting a lot of PR for us and talking loads about CoppaFeel!, raising loads of awareness. So it's been a really busy week, but fun and lots of positive coverage, which has been great. It was really great to see that. So it is the fifth day from 100k trek ?

Yes. Okay. All right, perfect. Shall I get started then? I going to share my screen because I did have some sides, but actually I've just realised, my system preferences won't allow me to share them. So I'm gonna talk you through it instead. You have to look at me.

So. I've been working with the wonderful team at Happy for a number of years now, and I'm going to talk to you about some of the things that I've learned and maybe some of the mistakes that we've made at CoppaFeel! when it comes to creating a happy organisation.

 The first thing I want to talk a little bit about is within the context of motivation and specifically purpose. The great thing being a charity is immediately we can kind of tick that purpose box. Like, great, we have to have public benefit. We need to demonstrate that we are doing the greater good in order to exist.

So when I discovered this on the Happy training, I was really, really delighted. So at CoppaFeel! as a breast cancer awareness and education charity, we exist to ensure that all breast cancers are diagnosed early. And we do that by raising awareness of breast cancer, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and empowering you to take action if you find anything that isn't normal for you.

 What's really important about the way that we do that at CoppaFeel! aligns with our values, so we try to make sure that everything we do is really positive. So we take something that is, you know, really quite hard, quite challenging, quite difficult in a subject that is breast cancer, and try and talk about it in a really lighthearted and accessible way.

We try to be creative because people don't necessarily wanna engage with cancer on a daily basis. So we try and find fun ways to disrupt, to impart our message that might be a little bit unexpected, but give you a little bit of added value or put a smile on your face. So some examples of that might be we hijack labels on the inside of bras, we put lots of awareness materials on the inside of showers. Actually you can find us in the Love Island villa at the moment. We've hijacked the Love Island villa with breast awareness messaging in their bathrooms.

The next value is all about community, as you would expect. We're a smallish charity, we're 30 people, and we really couldn't do the work that we do without the support of our incredible volunteers. I'm sure lots of people on this call also feel the same way. And then the last thing's really about impact and creating meaningful change. We really want to make sure that the work that we're doing, whilst it feels quite lighthearted and fun, is actually saving lives. That's really, really important to us. So having that demonstrable impact is really, really key.

So, yeah, when I came on the training, we talked a bit about a guy called Dan Pink. He has a book called Drive, and that book is all about motivation. He talks about autonomy and mastery. I'm not sure whether you will have touched upon those pillars today, but the third pillar that he talks a lot about and I was really interested in is purpose.

And he talks about the need for all of us, in everything that we do, to feel like we're contributing to some collective goal. So I thought to myself, great. We do this at CoppaFeel! all the time. we're saving lives. This is amazing. Tick that box. We don't need to do anything there at CoppaFeel! and of course we do save lives and we had actually relating to the example very recently, a wonderful professional dancer from Strictly, some of you may know her, a lovely lady called Amy Dowden, she participated in one of our treks last year as one of the celebrity team captains, and earlier this year she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which we're always devastated to hear, but she credits the fact that she got to know of CoppaFeel! and that she was educated on the signs and symptoms that when she found a lump, she took action very quickly and it meant that she was diagnosed early. So we have lots of purpose at CoppaFeel!, we're saving lives, but I looked more into Dan and his book Drive and he added an addendum. He said there's one thing he wanted to change about his book. He said he talks a lot about purpose with a big P, but it's important that we all feel like we're contributing collectively day to day. How do you know you're making a difference day to day? And it talks about the value of the small p and the reality is at CoppaFeel! we don't have people coming to us every single day saying, you've saved my life, or you know, I've just been doing the audit, quite hard to link the audit and all of the governance processes and accounting with saving lives! So how can I really create some meaning and value for myself in that? And so as an organisation, we came together and really looked at the small p and what that means for us. And we actually came back to something that our founder talks a lot about.

So, CoppaFeel! was founded by Chris Hallinger. She was 23 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Chris was turned away by her GP on four occasions because she was told that she was too young to be affected by breast cancer. And so she made it her mission to ensure that no other young person found themselves in a similar situation.

And she talks about her breast cancer being the turd, I'm sorry for this image, the turd that she was handed, and whilst what we're dealing with breast cancer can be really, really awful, what we can do is roll it in glitter and our small p, at CoppaFeel! is about that sprinkling of glitter. How can we create, in every interaction in everything that we do, that little bit of extra positivity, that extra sprinkling of glitter? And so what that means for us organisationally is, you know, we may not always be the most effective, but we always have the most attention to detail. We hand write all of our thanking cards, so every trekker that is on the trek at the moment, there's 120 people, they will come back to a handwritten note when they get back from that trek. We have a day every single year, our Gratitude Day, which is purely dedicated to celebrate all of the wonderful members of the CoppaFeel! Community that make our organisation what it is.

So, that is our big P and our small p purpose. That's one of the things that we as an organisation, really, really took away from the training with Happy and the conversations that we had around motivation. And I guess my prompt for everyone here is to really have a think about how it is that you know that you are making a difference in the work that you do, both in terms of that bigger purpose, but also day to day.

I'm interested to hear how people are gonna respond to my next learning. Just because I joined while there was a lot of conversation about four day weeks. But the next thing that I'm going to talk a bit about is change management. So I first started working with Happy organisationally. We were working with Happy, kind of in the midst of the good old pandemic, organisationally we were going through as many organiations were, lots of change. We were very lucky in that we were in a position where the organisation was growing. So financially we were in a, a really good position, fortunately, and we were also recruiting quite a lot of new team members. So our team doubled in size during that period.

And so we first started working with the wonderful Happy team to help support us with our ways of working and how we communicate with one another. And how do you get to know new team colleagues while you're doing hybrid working? They were the issues that we were really grappling with. And we then started getting into a bit of a conversation about the return to work, how is CoppaFeel! going to work in this new world post pandemic where they're not kind of working from home or not forced to work from home every day. And I got talking to one of the amazing team members and she said, we do a four day working week! It's amazing! And I was thinking, I'm the chief executive so I can make this happen. How incredible. Let's do a four day working week, and so, I went away and worked on it. I looked into it. I spoke a lot to the team at Happy about logistically how they made it happen. I did lots of reading online as you do, and I sold it into our board of trustees. So I was feeling very proud of myself, and I announced it in our team meeting. I did a brilliant presentation and then I said, and so we're gonna now all move to a four day working week, which was met with absolute silence. I got nothing back. I was thinking, God, this what I'an ungrateful bunch. I've done all this great work for you. I'm giving you this amazing gift.

What's going on here? And I remembered the lovely change management curve from my training with Happy, and I thought, oh, they're just in shock and denial. They'll come round a bit and this and soon will have everyone on board singing the praises of the four day working week, being very grateful to me.

And it didn't happen. And actually the more we discussed it, the more questions I got, the more nervousness, the more anxiety, the more barriers. And I was dumbfounded. And I went back to my little yellow change management book and I started reading it, and then it dawned on me. I guess I'd kind of assumed that you only need to apply that kind of change management behavior when you're working through "negative" change.

So I thought, this is a great thing. I'm gonna make happen to you. You'll be grateful to me. And I didn't get the response I was expecting, and so we had to kind of draw a line. Under that, and I had to completely rethink my approach. And I looked at a lot of the materials from the trainings, and I remember one of the, one of the kind of speakers was talking a lot about the important of authorship and actually giving people the ambition, but allowing them to decide the means on how to get there.

And so we created a lot of sessions. We did some exercises around the Four Doors exercise. I'm not sure if people are familiar with that, but it's a really useful tool to enable people to understand what they still can do, what they still can't do, what they might be able to do, what they won't be able to do with this new solution.

And the team went away. And they then came back with what is the solution that we have adopted now currently at CoppaFeel!. So instead of a four day working week at CoppaFeel!, we now have an alternative, which is called Flex Friday. It's a nine day working fortnight instead. It's what the team felt a bit more comfortable with in terms of the shift from what we were doing before to this new proposed solution.

And I guess a bit of a stop gap and a test between moving towards, and committing to, a four day working week, and the team created all of the parameters for it. So they have decided how we implement it, how we maintain it. They hold one another to account. we do pilots and they feed into the nine day working fortnight and what works and what doesn't.

And it's been a really iterative process. So every quarter we'll review how it's working and make amends and make changes, and that's run completely by the team at CoppaFeel! as opposed to something that's led by me. And that was that was a massive learning for me at CoppaFeel! and a real shift, a real shift in our way of working in terms of empowering the, the team to understand the vision, but determine collectively how they want to get there.

I'm interested in that beause I know that in the exercise formally, a four day working week came up as one of the most popular suggestions. So I guess perhaps it's interesting for some people to understand the reality or the practicalities in trying to implement that and maybe some of the resistance that you might face. So that was one of my learnings from the Happy trainings that we have participated and our experience of conducting a four day week. And so I guess the next question or the, the next exercise, which I'd be really interested in you working through, is an experience of change that you've had that has worked and what it is that made that work.

Henry Stewart: Nine minutes for questions for you.

So Joanna's raised her hand.

Joanna: Hi Natalie. Thank you so much for very inspiring session. My question is, so how does the four day week differ from what you've implemented in CoppaFeel? So how does it differ from Flex Friday because now you are working all the way. Well, you are working nine days, right? What is the difference, really?

Natalie Haskell: So it means that the office doesn't, in effect, have one day where everyone's out each week. So the way that it works is half of the organisation will take their flex Friday, one week and the other half take it another week.

I guess the other nervousness that we had was people were worried that by working fewer days, they were just gonna work longer hours, and for many, they felt like they'd rather just work on the Friday and do the a five day week rather than the four day week. Whereas the nine day fortnight felt it's slightly more manageable in terms of actually being able to get all of their work done and then benefit from a full day off, when not then having to think about work.

Joanna: Okay. So that essentially means that the change overall has been positive. Right. Because people are actually still getting the job done. It's just, the holiday Friday allows them this additional, I dunno, time for recuperation, right?

Natalie Haskell: Yeah, I think so. I think some of it in the breakout group I was in, it was actually Chris who was talking a bit about it and made me realise, I think some of it was just about gradual change management, and so in getting people comfortable and confident in the logistics of a nine day fortnight, it meant that they might then feel more comfortable to transition at some point in time to a four day working week.

I think there was too much scepticism potentially around the proposed change and that it would actually work and deliver the benefit that we were talking about.

Joanna: Yeah. I see. Thank you.

Henry Stewart: Chris. Oh, you, Chris, are you there?

Chris: Yes. Just a bit related to that last question. Our experience has been you put the rationale for something up there upfront before you propose the change. And people might question the rationale, or, and then, then you're on the back foot and I guess the alternative is to try something, and if it's successful, you can say, Ooh, that works. Should we go further? I just wonder if you had any experience of, of this when making change or any tips?

Natalie Haskell: The rationale as opposed to just trying some things out ?

Chris: Yeah. Of kind of leading with the conceptual, why it should work versus would it be safe if we tried this, and then decide if you like.

Natalie Haskell: I think in this example it was really important for collectively all of the participants to feel confident that the solution was gonna work for them and their circumstances. I think where it fell apart was me leading and proposing this solution and giving everyone all of what I perceived the answers to be. Yeah, I probably took a bit too much control over.this and didn't involve the, the team and allow them to input enough. In this instance, it was too big a leap, I think.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Henry Stewart: Thank you. Katie, do you want to ask your question?

Katie: Oh yeah. Thank you. Yeah, you obviously did a really great job in showing your team that you weren't like 100% attached to this thing that you were so excited about, and I'm really interested to learn how you managed to do that, you know, to avoid this sense that they're thinking, oh, this is a done deal, we are wasting our time here looking at alternatives. What, what did you do to engender that trust?

Natalie Haskell: We've got a very open culture at CoppaFeel! I think it, it's just reflective of our ways of working. I would hope that anyone in the CoppaFeel! team would be comfortable feeding back to me. I think that is part of our organisational culture and values. Which can be frustrating sometimes when your ideas get shut down but I think it's really important that we have that openness. And I'm not just imposing things on the team, especially with something like this, the whole ambition and intention behind something like the four-day week is to benefit and serve the team. And so if they didn't feel that that was something they wanted or would be of use to them, it was important to hear that.

So yeah, that feedback culture is really important and also I think that helped me to develop and grow in bringing me around and actually, empowering them and allowing them to come up with a solution they felt was right.

Katie: That's great. Yeah. So that kind of trust culture was already there when you started that process?

Natalie Haskell: Yeah, I think so. Yes. Yeah.

Henry Stewart: Thank you. We have a question from Lucy C. Would you like to ask that?

Lucy C: Hello. Sorry, my neighbors just pulled out the lawn mowers - background noise! I was just gonna ask, is there any formal way that you kind of recognize your own and each other's, like small p purpose? Do you write it down or record it anywhere, or is it just being mindful of it while you go about your day-to-day work?

Natalie Haskell: We do actually. So we use it as part of our one-to-one frameworks as well. So really understanding how people know they've made a difference. But we also do this thing organisationally, and I got no idea how sustainable this is gonna be as we grow. But every week we do a weekly roundup and we share it in a few different formats, but it's a kind of email newsletter, and we also use it in our team meetings, but at the end of the week, each of us will reflect on what went well, what maybe didn't go well, perhaps something we've enjoyed, something that we're grateful for, a way that we may have contributed. And it's completely optional, which fields you input into, but it just allows you to share and celebrate with colleagues and for me whilst working remotely and also not being close to all of the thing. It's so useful to get a sense check on how people are feeling. You get so much insight just from those couple of sentences in the weekly roundup you know, it might be that you follow up with someone to check in or you can really recognize something that someone's done or that they're proud of and you really get a great view on where the team is at.

Henry Stewart: Okay, Natalie, thank you so much for this. That was brilliant.

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In this talk, Natalie Haskell talks about productivity, individual needs, and creating happy workplaces. She emphasizes the importance of purpose in motivating employees and the collective sense of making a difference.

Natalie describes how, whilst working with Happy on post-pandemic change management, she was inspired to implement the four-day working week model implemented at Happy. She gained backing from the board of trustees and announced this new way of working to the organisation. Rather than people feeling excited and grateful for the move, instead Natalie was greeted with complete silence. She felt totally unappreciated and frustrated by her team’s negative response. Her team felt anxious and gave lots of reasons why it wouldn’t work.

However, Natalie recovered, and outlines how she built back her people’s trust. CoppaFeel! then implemented a new solution of a nine-day working fortnight, proposed by the team, that has left her people feeling comfortable, empowered and listened to.

Natalie says: “I guess perhaps it's interesting for some people to understand the reality or the practicalities and maybe some of the resistance that you might face.

“It's been a really iterative process… Every quarter we'll review how it's working and make amends and make changes, and that's run completely by the team at CoppaFeel! as opposed to something that's led by me. And that was that was a massive learning for me and a real shift in our way of working, in terms of empowering the team to understand the vision but determine collectively how they want to get there.”

What you will learn in this video:

  1. How what has been implemented at CoppaFeel! differs from the four-day week model at Happy
  2. Overcoming staff nervousness and scepticism over working fewer days
  3. The importance of gradual change management
  4. The pitfalls of leading with the conceptual, rather than just going ahead and making changes
  5. How Natalie avoided giving the impression that her proposal was a done deal, and what she did to engender that trust
  6. How she empowered staff and allowed them to come up with a solution they felt was right for them.

Related resources

  • Making the 4 Day Week Work — In this one-day workshop with Henry Stewart, you will understand the key elements required to make the four-day working week work for your organisation
  • Why the 4 Day Week is the Future of Work — In this video from the 2022 Happy Workplaces Conference, Andrew explores some of the data supporting the four-day week and challenges you to think about how it would work in your organisation.
  • Could a 4 Day Week Work in Your Sector? Yes! — Henry Stewart had lots of interest when Happy moved to a four-day week, but the main objection is that ‘it won’t work in my sector’. So in this blog, Henry outlines a range of organisations from different sectors who have implemented the four-day week.
  • Happy to Make 4 Day Week Permanent — In December 2022, Happy’s staff voted to permanently change to a four-day working week – getting 100% of their pay for 80% of the hours, as long as they continue to be 100% as productive. Find out more about Happy’s experience in this blog.
  • Is it Time to go Beyond Empowerment? — For years we’ve talked about empowering people to find their own solutions. But maybe it’s time to move towards self-management. Henry discusses more in this blog.
  • The Happy Manifesto by Henry Stewart — Download your free eBook, full of great ideas for creating a happy workplace

Learn the 10 core principles to create a happy and productive workplace in Henry Stewart's book, The Happy Manifesto.

Download for free


About Natalie

Natalie Haskell is the Chief Executive of breast cancer education charity CoppaFeel!. She has been at the charity for 8 years, formerly responsible for CoppaFeel!'s brand, communications and marketing, stepping up to run the charity in 2017. She has played a leading role in the growth of the charity, spearheading more diverse, inclusive and accessible breast cancer campaigns and resources to ensure that all people have the agency to advocate for their own health, with the mission of ensuring that all breast cancers are diagnosed early, where treatments are more effective and survival rates are higher.

Next Conference: 2025 Happy Workplaces Conference

Our Happy Workplaces Conference is our biggest event of the year, and we'd love for you to join us on Wednesday 25th June!

Our 2024 event was our first ever hybrid event, and so we hope to run next year's in the same way. We will host up to 50 people face-to-face at Happy's HQ in Aldgate, London, and we can host up to 200 people online via Zoom. However you choose to join, there will be interaction, discussion, space for reflection and opportunities to network with others.

Stay tuned for full details of our speakers for next year's event. As always, our speakers share practical, hands-on ideas that you can implement to create happy and engaged workplaces.

Find out more