Having worked in retail for many years – back office support admittedly – I quickly understood that retailers are much like farmers and are impacted by the weather
and it’s almost as if there is no perfect weather …
The cold March we have all experienced has been reported as a massive disincentive for us to go to the high street and so foot fall and sales were below normal. Probably in part because when there’s snow and biting winds then shopping for summer clothes probably doesn’t feel very appealing.
In many ways humans are like flowers, we need the sun – not just because we like the warmth but our bodies need it to synthesise certain chemicals. And there’s no doubt that sunshine lifts our mood, brings a lightness and lifts our spirits. I’m very sure that you are like me and relish looking out of the window first thing in the morning when it’s sunny far more than when it’s raining.
Although, have you noticed how there can be clear skies and sun first thing in the morning and by 8 am its overcast? Some might feel that’s it for the day and others think “oh well, I’m sure the sun will be out later”. The meteorological equivalent to a glass half full.
And have you noticed that when the sun’s shining people in general are much nicer to each other? Instead of walking with heads down against the wind and rain we walk with our heads up and so see much more of what’s around us and engage with others far more. There are fewer accidents on the road and yes, inclement weather plays a part in that, but also the subtle change in people’s feelings does indeed make a difference to how they drive and their courteousness to other drivers.
We even talk about people as having sunny dispositions or bringing sunshine into our lives because they are usually people who smile, radiate happiness or have a warmth about them and we feel connected to them. Where on the other hand we talk about people as being like a wet blanket or something as being a damp squib or that someone feels cold.
So how does that play out in business? In my experience in two different ways; firstly the obvious way when it’s sunny and our spirits are lifted we often engage with others more, smile and connect, happy to help, will take time to talk to someone and listen to what they have to say. I have absolutely no doubt that there would be a difference in a meeting where the sun is shining through the windows compared to a meeting where all that can be seen is heavy rain and low cloud. And when I say difference my experience, on reflection, is that whilst the overall outcome of the meeting could be the same the start of the meeting is different because of the difference the sunshine makes to us whether it’s a conscious thought or not.
Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that our happiness comes from anywhere but inside – it’s not that I, or you, will be happier when the sun shines but there is no doubt that it makes a difference to us; perhaps it’s our limbic brain? Just observe the difference in your own environment on different days and I’m sure that you’ll notice there is a subtle difference too.
The second way is simply this. When the business is going well it’s as if the sun is shining every day. We are all more open to talking to people and connecting because they are easier conversations. There is far less thinking and doing in our head. We are more open to new suggestions and probably even more open to taking risks and trying new things because we are not so reliant on a perfect outcome.
Whereas when the business is not doing well, it’s as if it’s overcast every day with a gloomy outlook and, by dint, people will walk around looking down, shoulders hunched, as if protecting themselves against the cold and chilly wind they feel in the corridors. They tend to look up less and engage less with others in every day things. They have less time for people, are less open to new ideas and become much more risk averse. The risk aversion is sometimes for good reason and sometime because they have lost sight of possibilities and are battening down the hatches further against any storms.
The feeling in the different circumstances is quite different as I’m sure you have recognised through your own experiences. Is it as simple as remembering the sun is always there, it’s just obscured by the clouds? Well, probably not; and I’m sure those businesses which are failing one way or another really wouldn’t thank you for that.
But what would be helpful is for the leaders in those businesses to recognise the impact that the business is having on the people and their behaviour too. Even more so since the impact on the people then has an impact on the business and can lead to a downward spiral.
“leaders of all businesses should start to think more about the impact of the business on the people and their behaviours as well as the impact of the people on the business”
There are lessons to be learned for all in engagement and connection. Businesses where there is more connection between its people at peer level – and from the bottom up as well as top down – are the businesses that will weather all the storms as they are far more resilient.
And if you would like to learn more about having clarity of thought and less doing then I recommend reading these two books. Clarity by Jamie Smart a friend and mentor and The Inside Out Revolution by Michael Neill who have I worked with on a number of occasions.
If you would like to explore more ideas of engagement and connection and how that can improve reliance and sustainability within your organisation then do call me on +44 (0) 1296 681094 or click here to ping over an email and I’ll get right back to you.
Until next time …