What Do a Manager and an Underwater Photographer Have in Common?
The focus of Donna Reeves’ work is internal communication and engagement challenges. Although currently head of engagement at Fenwick, Donna previously worked at British multinational retailing company, Kingfisher, directing internal communication and engagement development.
Donna refers back to her time at Kingfisher in her talk at the 2018 Happy Workplaces conference. In this two-minute excerpt, Donna reflects on an expression that she used with the managers: "calm the fish." Just like an underwater photographer has to move in a way that doesn't scare the fish, when a manager enters a room, they shouldn't cause anxiety or stress for their team.
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Efficient and practical workplace decisions are easily stymied by policies and edicts. The on-the-ground team members in retail spaces often have a better understanding of what needs to happen than senior leaders and board members. So it follows that if you get the team get involved, you’ll get different solutions to problems.
Donna, however, realises that not all managers can recognise what’s most important. “You know when somebody walks into the room and immediately changes atmosphere? They create anxiety or everybody suddenly sits up a little bit straighter,” she says. To counter this, she introduced the expression, "calm the fish."
An underwater photographer won’t be particularly successful if they continue to scare the fish. They can’t show up bashing their chest and making a point of their job title. It’s the fish who’re important and they have to respect that in order to succeed at their job.
“We try to say to the guys, 'it’s not all about you as the manager; it’s you as a team, being involved and being together',” Donna says. She underlines the value of trust in these situations, indicating that teams will rise to the task once they feel trusted.
Just in case an underwater photographer is too obscure of a reference – how many do you know? – Donna uses the example of an orchestra conductor. “In an orchestra, the only person not playing an instrument is the conductor,” she says. But the conductor’s role is no less significant for not playing an instrument – they’re responsible for bringing out the best in every individual and navigating through every section. Similarly, it’s up to store managers to notice sections that are lagging or lacking harmony and focus attention there, while always promoting trust as a core value.
- 11 takeaways from the 2018 Happy Workplaces conference: read Henry’s blog about all the big ideas discussed at the 2018 Happy Workplaces conference
- Take The Happy Challenge – Henry’s challenges managers to make no decisions for three months
- 8 Principles From Some of the Best Workplaces on the Planet – Pim de Morree looks at eight trends from some of the world’s most engaged workplaces
- The Happy Manifesto by Henry Stewart – click here to get your free eBook, full of great ideas for creating a happy workplace
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This year's conference took place on 30th July via Zoom. We were delighted to welcome James Shaw, a minister in the New Zealand government on putting wellbeing at the heart of policy and Ynzo van Zanten of Tony's Chocolonely on creating a culture of happiness to achieve an important mission (ending slavery in the chocolate industry).
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