This week we are delving into another of our stated values, ‘displaying loyalty and trustworthiness’. We’ll deal with loyalty at the end of this piece but wanted to start off talking about trust. In the 90’s, most companies had trust or integrity as one of their ‘single word’ values. As we’ve discussed before here, it’s not good enough to just have values committed to paper – you have to live them. Below is one of Enron’s stated values:
We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.
Hmmmm. The collapse of Enron was a watershed moment, exposing dishonest leadership behaviour, hiding the true picture of losses and about as far from ‘Integrity’ as you could get. There have been other examples of a mismatch between words and actions, whether the emissions scandal at Volkswagen or the collapse of Lehman Brothers’ bank. Following Enron, trust became a very different sort of capital, and in the internet age, post the financial meltdown of 2008, there is a demand for transparency and a need for companies to demonstrate their trustworthiness.
We enjoy trusting and being trusted
Trust is key to good business relationships and good business practises. When we first started working on trust with leaders we used an exercise that began life as a theatre game, ‘the guided-hand’. One person closes their eyes, the other person guides them around the room. Simple. The prime objective is to guide them safely, without colliding with others, and quickly establish for participants what it feels like to trust and be trusted.
During one workshop, global leadership delegates were undertaking the exercise in silence and carrying out the instructions with great care for the safety of others. The exercise was progressing perfectly until we heard a large clang and laughter as two senior leaders walked into the tea trolley. We stopped the exercise and asked what had gone wrong. It turned out they had both closed their eyes and each thought the other had theirs open. Happy to report we’ve never had it happen since! From these early beginnings, we have gone on to explore trust in so many ways and as these pictures show, helped design and deliver an international summit on trust with our wonderful partners at One Philosophy and Changers in Kyiv.
We believe in each other and relish other’s successes
Alana became a ‘monster’ 10 years ago this August. She joined us as office manager, at a time when we needed administrative help, having found herself in between jobs and looking for a new direction. It was obvious that she was capable of the role we needed, but Alana also had a real passion, and talent, for art. At that time, we didn’t offer graphic or illustrative work and saw ourselves fundamentally as facilitators.
10 years later, Alana is our chief artist and illustrator and the drawings, paintings and illustrated animated films that she has created over the years are a testament to her talent and success. She also collaborates with freelance designers, film makers, printers and all things creative and has her own illustrative work outside the company.
In the autumn she will also be able to enjoy her 10 years’ service sabbatical, which will give her the opportunity to explore a variety of artistic avenues.
We operate a blame free environment that promotes lifelong learning
Hilary joined us at the beginning of February, taking on the aforementioned administration and financial role that is such a challenge for our creatively focused company. We had a catch up three months into her tenure and one of the most pleasing things to hear was how supported she felt working in the company. Hilary knew that there would be plenty of ‘mistakes’ as we transitioned to a new accounting and reporting system and that it would be ‘unlikely’ that the current directors would be able to offer much practical advice to her. (She is being kind – she means none. Ed.)
She had previously experienced working cultures where blame was part of everyday and was delighted and surprised to find it absent here. H, as she prefers to be called, is also an avid reader and has an extensive knowledge of literature and film and is happy to learn new skills.
We have always liked learning, but over time, we have transformed from being what was once a training company into a team of people who consider that learning is the best journey to undertake at work. H is a great fit and we will learn a great deal from her too.
So that leaves us with loyalty.
Many years ago, Robin undertook some psychometric tests, facilitated by the wonderful coach, Lesley Cox. It considered his strengths and weaknesses and anyone who knows him, would recognise the behavioural trait she identified – a fierce sense of loyalty. It can be seen as both strength and weakness, but for us, mostly strength. There is no doubt that this characteristic has permeated the company because of Robin and is in evidence especially with our clients and partners.
We love to build long-lasting and trusted relationships. We meet up and enjoy the company of many who no longer work in the organisations where we met them. Indeed, quite a few are retired, but you can’t get away from us that easily. We love our clients and enjoy remaining loyal to them and appreciate the loyalty that has been shown to us over the last few trying months of the Covid-19 crisis. You’ve been there for us, and we’d like you to know, we are here for you if and when you need us. Thank you to you all.
To read more about the rest of our values, click here.
This week it seems entirely appropriate and right to break the (random) order of our written values and go straight to this one. Treating everyone individually. This week has seen the glare of the world’s media and the outrage of responsible humans focus on the United States.
We at Purple Monster have worked in the United States for the last 16 years and some of our most lasting business relationships and friendships have come from the wonderful experiences and people that we have met and worked with there. It is a magnificent country with extraordinary landscapes and climate and we are fortunate to have seen so much of the country and met so many of its impressive and meritorious individuals.
We respect diversity and difference
Of course, on some occasions we have worked with people whose ideologies and political stances we entirely disagreed with. It’s inconceivable that we would not have worked with people who stood across the political divide from us and there is still a deep-rooted belief that the second amendment is sacrosanct. We may not agree but we respect their right to hold that opinion…
Fortunately, in those 16 years we have not encountered a company or organisation that we have thought to be overtly biased, prejudiced or racist. However we are also fortunate, through working with two US organisations, IBIS and Consciously Unbiased, to have learnt that bias, prejudice and racism, every day, affects Black people, People of Colour, Latinx and Hispanic people, Indigenous people, Jews, Muslims and anyone who is deemed to be different.
And that is fundamentally the issue. What is different? Different from what? The norm? What is that? This is why we treat diversity and difference as a precious commodity. However, our work on Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald’s book Blindspot proves that whether we like to think of ourselves as right-minded thinking individuals or not, we still have unconscious biases. Treating everyone individually means there is no agenda. We do our conscious and increasingly unconscious best to treat every individual with respect, with equity and with no bias. But most of us at PM are viewing the world from a very privileged position and we must constantly guard against that privilege affecting our instinctive views and judgements.
We operate with a level status
At Purple Monster there is, what we call, a ‘flat structure’. Everyone has the same input as everyone else. Some of us are the business owners and have more direct financial responsibility but everyone in our organisation has a strong equal voice and that voice will always be listened to.
We worked a lot on status, in our early years, because it was a key tenet of our customer service training. So we know what it looks and feels like when someone with so-called, high ‘social status’ behaves in a way that betrays a low personal status (see unelected official’s behaviour during the latest health crisis). And equally we all know individuals in our organisations who may not be at the top of the tree but always behave impeccably and with consistent decency. Operating with a level status means treating people with dignity and respect. We will always aspire to do that. We are also very mindful of the fact that there is still a great deal of work to be done in organisations to unpick the gender, race and religious inequities that have existed for so long.
We believe in support, nurturing and trust
Who wouldn’t? Well, toxic environments and places with nasty cultures clearly don’t. Trust, like reputation can be hard won and easily lost. We mentioned last week a company we worked with who searched their employees on leaving and entering their place of work. Unsurprisingly employee engagement wasn’t high. We worked somewhere else where staff were not trusted with new handheld devices because, ’they would be on facebook all day’.
At Purple Monster we have been on a journey of discovery around fairness, equity and equality throughout the last 25 years but we are hopeful that that all of our colleagues who have proof read this, believe and agree that we try to support, nurture and certainly trust them in carrying out their duties both as monsters but also as humans.
So in a week where we have seen the All Lives Matter trope seeking to drown out the fact that Black Lives Matter, we would respectfully point you towards Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald’s seminal book Blindspot and please take an IAT to contribute to Harvard University’s Project Implicit. We are pleased to also point you to the work of our colleagues from IBIS and Consciously Unbiased and leave you with a quote from CU’s website, which we endorse wholeheartedly, and hope with all of our hearts that all those who have lost their lives because of racial injustice will not have done so in vain.
This is a moment in history where we can all be part of the change. We’re grateful to you, our community, for helping us stand together to demand equality for all.
You can find the rest of our values here.
s promised in the last issue of Monsters Unmuted, we are introducing our values, one by one, over the next few weeks. Deliberately top of the list for a company who ‘bring creativity to work’, is…
We are constantly looking to be creative
Most of us have an arts background, which means the creative process was ingrained in how we learnt to work. Theatre, music, art, dance, film, storytelling, poetry; all means of creative expression and all applicable in some way to the challenges of business. Really? This might not be everyone’s first thought, but our job is to bring a different perspective to business challenges, to push the creative possibilities and have fun doing it.
As ex-diplomat, Sir Mark Allen, advised a group of young leaders when discussing diplomacy and relationships “… avoid most business books and instead pick up a novel or go to the movies, because … the treasure-house of human experience is contained in the arts”
We think he has a point. A quick glance through our client folders shows how we’ve helped leadership teams to perform an opera on the theme of ‘possibilities’; consider sales relationships through ballroom dance; use Gaudi’s art and design to inform an IT transformation project and utilised Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 to explore innovation. But whilst we may always find some inspiration from Shakespeare or Stravinsky, we also look for creative input across the cultural landscape.
As Alan will point out when asked, ‘Creativity is the effective application of the imagination’. Thus, you can find creative inspiration just as easily from Stephen Hawking as you can from Shakira, Snoop Dogg or Salvador Dali (creativity is available from people without the letter S in their names too). The best artists/scientists/business leaders and the rest have found a way to express their imagination and the best of the best, truly elevate the human condition. Why would we not want to bring some of that creativity to work?
We are curious about ourselves, our clients, their work and the world
In our role as conference designers and facilitators, we’ve been very privileged to hear inspiring stories from some remarkable people; astronauts, Olympic medalists; mountaineers, diplomats, business leaders, T-Shirt bakery owners (we put this in specially for Johnny Cupcakes) and many writers and broadcasters.
One of the speakers that we have quoted for years, is Bob Lukefahr – a futurologist. We were working with bp at the time and he was predicting the future energy picture for the next 50 years. It was an interesting and thought-provoking presentation, but there was one phrase that he used at the end of his talk that we took to heart.
“I urge you to remain intensely curious”
Whether it’s because at the time we were younger and more impressionable, who knows, but it stuck, and became a mantra for the company. We became curious and interested in learning about everything and mostly, everyone.
It led us to saying yes to many adventures and learning about and participating in a wide variety of businesses across the globe. We are fortunate and grateful to have made so many friends along the journey, such as our partners at One Philosophy in Ukraine, who have really encouraged our curiosity and learning as a company.
There is always something interesting to discover about people and when you find a leader who is passionate about their role, it is a joy to encourage them to tell you about themselves, what they do and why. Ultimately, most of our inspiration comes from the people we get to know well and work with, undertaking bold creative journeys together. This in turn has led us to learn more about ourselves, our mindset and behaviour and we have taken great pleasure in bringing that learning to life for others too.
We are determined to encourage your creativity
If we had to own up to the way we have most fun, it is at the intersection of creative ideas and collaborative clients. The creative process is about testing and trying ideas and being courageous in their execution, especially in the face of criticism or fear of failure.
When our clients place their trust in us and say yes, they are most often rewarded with a special shared experience … and so are we. We will often be the ones who arrive with a creative suggestion, but when teams pick up that ball and run with it, there is an incredible excitement and energy.
Like everyone else, we have had to transfer several planned face-to-face events from a physical to a virtual venue. One of our favourite clients refers to this challenge as a ‘beautiful constraint’. We need to use plenty of creativity to ensure we keep our audience fully engaged as they join individually from their homes. But for us, there’s something much more exciting, triggering creativity in the participants.
We thrive on connecting people, creating an experience that is meaningful and memorable and that is still possible online. We won’t go into details for this specific event – we can’t because we’re planning it with our client and partners now – but it’s fair to say that the best thing about this ‘Festival of Creativity’ will be the collective contribution of the delegates, rather than all that we do. As the pandemic has shown, it can be seriously uplifting to witness great creative moments; online choirs, kitchen recreations of great sporting achievements, in-house proms and the rest. But, there is one thing that tops that experience and that is being part of it, rather than a spectator.
You can find our other values here.
As always, if you are looking to inject some creativity into your teams and organisations, get in touch. Stay safe, and we look forward to hearing from you.
For the first 20 years that we were in business, whenever we were asked about our values, this was our reply:
“If you want to know what our values are, then please ask anyone who has worked with us. The stories that they tell you will demonstrate them better than any list. Better still, ask us for a story.”
In those early years, when a good deal of our focus was on customer service, we experienced first-hand, managers behaving in ways that totally contradicted their corporate values and so we had little appetite for following that path. Values seemed more of a wish list for employees than any kind of behavioural standard for leadership. One example was a company that included ‘Trust’ and ‘Respect’ among its values, but whose induction process treated new joiners as thieves. Things were different in the 90s.
There are a number of factors that point to what Simon Sinek refers to as the need for a CEO to ‘preach the cause not just sell the product’, one of many being the rise of the information superhighway. The internet has led to people asking more serious questions about a company’s purpose, values and mission statements and gone are the simple one word catch-alls, One Team or People First. It’s no longer good enough to paste up vanilla corporate values to pacify awkward customers or shareholders.
Social media enables your consumers to test your integrity and see if your choices and actions as leaders are matched and aligned to your stated purpose and values. And if not, well then, they’ll take their business elsewhere. If you say your organization will ‘Do the right thing’, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be plenty of stakeholders and commentators who will be checking to see if you are. This is 2020, not 1990.
In 2018 we were working very closely with a company who were developing a new set of values and leadership principles. They had a new CEO and needed values that reflected how their employees wanted to do business and how they would like to see their leaders show up. Not a top-down initiative, but instead a grass-roots reflection of the company culture, based on its legacy stories. We were very fortunate to be there whilst this work was undertaken, and we had the privileged job of helping bring those values to life for people at a leadership event.
That led us to a change of heart and mind. We realised that we needed to rethink our own approach and wholeheartedly commit to values that reflect what we believe in, express our culture and our way of working. So at the start of 2020, before Covid-19 hit the world, we sat down and had a rich discussion that lasted a couple of days, where we talked about what we valued as people, and chose a set of values that illustrate who we are and what we believe. Here they are.
Inspired by our client, we also worked on our purpose. Why do we uniquely exist? What are we for? We know we could spend months noodling around the words, but this is where we’ve landed. Our purpose is …
What has engaged and entertained us all throughout this lockdown period have been the people who have turned the ‘beautiful constraint’ into an opportunity for creative thought and expression. Whether in industry, frontline health care, essential services or entertainment, creativity has been widely celebrated. It’s a good time to be creative. We love thinking and working creatively and our performing arts legacy has always influenced how we think and work. Nothing is more enjoyable for us than when somebody says yes and opens up the art of the possible.
Over the next few weeks we will look at our new values one by one, illustrating them with art and stories – because we think that will be an enjoyable way to get to know more about who we are. These are the things that we believe in and if you ever find that we are not living our values or fulfilling our purpose, then please tell us and we’ll put it right. It may have taken us almost 25 years to commit them to paper, but now they’re here, everyone can see them and we are responsible for living them, every day.
When asked to write ‘A day in the life of a monster’ my immediate thought was, ‘which day do I pick’? I’m pretty certain there is no such thing as a typical day for most people and absolutely certain that the word typical doesn’t exist here at Purple Monster.
So, here is ‘A Day in the Life’ that I picked from earlier this week. It’s certainly not typical and it’s not exceptional but it will just give an insight into what goes on when we’re designing, planning and delivering events.
0645 – Woke up at home. Now that sounds strange I know, but when you are bombing around all over the place and designing and running lots of events for different clients then it’s not always your own bed that you wake up in.
In the next few months we are running big events in 4 different countries, as well as doing the day to day running of the business, which foolishly is still 180 miles from my house.
0745 – try unsuccessfully to persuade my dog to come in from the garden.
0805 – dog comes in, in her own good time.
0830 – catch the train to London and deal with the emails en route that have come in overnight from the US, where we are about to run an event next week.
One of the really lovely things about this job is the variety and diversity of people that we get to work with. That meeting will contain people from North America, Canada and Central and South America.
I’m off this morning to design an interactive exercise for a particular session at a workshop in 3 weeks. There we’ll be working with people from Asia, Europe, America again and many other nations. Meeting and sharing thoughts with people from all over the world is such a privilege.
1030 – meet up with Alan who has come in from his home. Grab a quick pre-meeting coffee and ask the barista if the almond milk is sweetened. I wouldn’t normally drink almond milk but I’m trying to be a bit healthier this year and have cut out sugar for a bit.
They assure me there is no added sugar in the almond milk. They lied. There is. Re-order a black coffee and enviously watch Alan finish his breakfast pastry.
1100 – The session that we are here to design today is with Alan and two of our clients. One can only join a bit later so we decide to get cracking and see how far we can get before she is able to join.
After a couple of productive hours filled with laughter, conspiratorial whispering and some pretty agile pacing around the small meeting room to get our creative juices flowing we arrive at the bones of the exercise that we want to create.
1300 – break for a spot of lunch and to see what the sweetened milk situation is like in this cafeteria. It’s not great so I opt for a diet coke to go alongside my chicken, olives and humous. Apparently I’m getting healthier but i’d prefer a hot cross bun any day!
1330 – Our second colleague re-joins us and we collectively run the idea past her. Thankfully she loves it and not surprisingly has some great builds that will make it even more fun and relevant.
1400 – the third of our clients joins us for a check in of logistics and a detailed run through of the workshop that we are about to run in 3 weeks.
There’s a lot to think about and thankfully there is someone with us who knows their way around an excel tracker and we all finish the meeting knowing that we’re in good shape for the workshop and we’re all clear on the actions that we’ve all got to get after in the next week or so.
1500 – We now have to decide where to do the next meeting. It’s a video call on Teams to the US and requires us to have an internet connection. This is common.
So many times we have had to do calls in the car park of motorway service stations (not always successful) and less often tried to join calls on trains (that never works) but this time our friends here can find us a room and they graciously allow us to use it to call our other client who has now woken up in the US and is keen to catch up.
1600 – the call is done. We are slightly surprised to learn that because of the leader’s commitments we are now having to change the order of the meeting around. Just be aware of this if you’re planning a conference you may very well want to have the agenda nailed with 2 weeks to go. But things change and you have to be adaptable.
Our history as actors and improvisers does thankfully allow us to not be too troubled by the idea of switching the gala night around with the BBQ evening. Mind you, we don’t have to call the hotel and deal with all the logistical implications. Thank you, Greg, for dealing with that so artfully and without fuss. Impressive.
1700 – arrive across town and ready to board the train together this time back up to Leamington. We have an interview for a new role tomorrow and we both need to be there.
A bit of commuter style working writing up notes from today and then switching off for an hour and listening to a podcast or two just to recharge the batteries. Its about cricket. What better way to recharge the batteries.
1830 – Arrive in Leamington and pop into the office just to drop off some things before I head my way to the Airbnb that I’ve booked for tonight. After spending many years staying in hotels, this new trend for staying in someone’s home is really nice.
Almost all the places that I have stayed are lovely and tonight I’m greeted by an old friend. Mabel, the Great Dane is there when I reach my digs and I get ready to listen to my football team lose again before waking up to a busy and fun filled day tomorrow at Monster towers. I’ll just have a cup of tea before I hit the hay. I wonder if they’ve got almond milk?
If you want to get touch with any of the Monsters contact us here.
Meet the newest Monster – I’m Hilary!
This week, we take a break from our tips and tricks articles to welcome our newest Monster, Hilary! And what better way to introduce her, than to have her tell us in her own words how she is finding life at Monster towers…
I recently joined Purple Monster as Office & Commercial Coordinator; my dream role to take me through to retirement (fingers crossed)… From what I’ve seen so far, in my 9 whole days in the role, is Purple Monster’s way of working is a breath of fresh air and a whole shift for me.
They seem to create a working culture which allows people to flourish and develop in ways I would not have believed possible – when I first started in the world of work, I was one of the lucky ones to be allowed to sit in a ‘no-smoking’ office – and that was in a Hospital!
I have worked in many admin roles, and also as a Trainer/facilitator for 7 years, up in Liverpool, first for a voluntary organization and then a Students’ Union
I loved my ‘Facilitator role’ especially at the voluntary organization I worked for – The Women’s Health, Information and Support Centre on Bold Street in Liverpool.
They had been a fabulous source of support for me when I was going through a bad time, and the payback was I got to go on a course to learn how to put training sessions together and deliver them.
It was great to see the women who attended the courses going through a sort of ‘realisation’ process, that they mattered, they counted, just as I had done.
Since then, I have upped sticks, moving down to Leamington Spa in 2004 – it felt like coming home.
I have had the same feeling since starting at PM. Finding out more about what they do has shown me that a new direction is always possible, and that learning, opening your mind to learning Soft Skills is one of those possibilities. Looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck into this new role.
I love reading – particularly Sci Fi and Fantasy – favourite Authors are Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan, Sheri S Tepper and Julian May.
When I don’t have my head in a book I can be found relaxing with my cat and a sudoku or codeword puzzle.
My passion for Steampunk/Goth takes me throughout the UK attending events and is the perfect excuse to get all dressed up and meet like-minded people.
So if our paths cross in the next few years do let me know what you get up to in your spare time, as well as doing the business thing too of course. Oh, and please do call me H.
If you want to get touch with any of the Monsters contact us here.