Thursday, 3 September 2009

Shouting in capitals

This article from the BBC interested me.

'...A New Zealand woman has lost her accounting job after sending "confrontational" emails filled with block capitals. So why is it taboo to hit the caps-lock key?'

The article goes on to speculate around the reasons why capital letters, mis-used, are so capable of causing grief. It seems to me though to be pretty clear. In email correspondance, writing in upper case is the equivalent of RAISING YOUR VOICE... and no-one likes to be shouted at. It seems this lady also sent instructions in bold and highlighted text in red. I don't even know her and I'm getting annoyed!

The thing is some people just aren't sensitive to this sort of thing, and genuinely don't know when they're causing offence. If anyone out there is unsure, might I suggest this rule of thumb: Pass all your emails through the internal client filter. If you wouldn't feel absolutely comfortable with the tone of your email for a client, then don't send it to a colleague either.

On the other hand some people know exactly what they're doing. AVOID THOSE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Crystal clear

The other day I found myself standing in a wedding shop, tiara in hand, bridal shoe on foot, left to sort myself out while the shop assistant went off to answer the phone.

I didn't mind too much, I'm not a very high maintenance bride, but after a while I did start to think she had her priorities a bit wrong. Tuning in to the conversation it became clear that she was talking to her boss, I would guess the owner of the shop. She was having a detailed and lengthy conversation about the tiaras she felt should be ordered in and what process she thought they might adopt for re-ordering in the future. When she'd finished that, she moved on to the method of filing invoices - apparently one of the other girls had changed the system and she was unimpressed. *Sigh*.

Now I'm sure boss/owner was very pleased that her employee was being so organised and interested in the admin of tiara management. That said I'm equally sure that if the owner of this tiny, independent shop had known that there was a customer listening to the whole thing and being ignored he or she would have been absolutely incredulous... and then quite cross.

It served as a little reminder that owners/bosses/managers/CEOs need to be so clear as to what they want from their employees. To Wedding Shop Lady, being good at her job clearly meant being organised, tenacious and detail driven. All attributes which I'm sure no employer would scoff at; however I'm pretty sure Wedding Shop Owner would say that customer service comes before invoice filing in terms of importance.

The point is that you can't expect people to instinctively know that. If there is something that is important to you as a business owner you have to identify it and then broadcast that message. It has to be crystal clear. Like my tiara. Which I bought at Debenhams in the end.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Shoot your employees and get away with it

Errrrr... someone sent me this and suggested I blog about it. The thing is I have no idea what to say. It's a clip of TASER testing its wares on its employees. Its hideous. But there's a tiny part of me wondering what you do to get your employees so engaged that they're willing to let you paralyze them?

And hang on a minute, how an earth did this get past their legal team... and their HR department?! They do have one right?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Closed loop communications

Oh dear, oh dear. It would appear that I haven't blogged since April and it's now nearly the end of July. I think that counts as procrastination don't you?

So then, a quick post (when procrastinating my advice is to do something, start small, get back in the swing), on a theme which is showing up as a problem for a few of my clients at the moment: Closing the loop on a conversation, or rather, not closing it. Comments like this are symptomatic...

"My boss said he was interested in any ideas I had when I joined, but none of my suggestions have been followed up".

"No idea sorry, we're always the last to know".

"Didn't someone say something about an office move at Christmas? Is that happening or what?"

This sort of dialogue can be light hearted, but if it's a regular occurence then boredom, frustration and cynicism are probably just around the corner. It's not that closed loop communication is hard, far from it, it's because it's easy that it gets forgotten.

Take the employee who goes to their boss with new idea. The boss listens, thinks it's a good idea and tells the employee he'll discuss with some others. EMPLOYEE EXCITED. In discussions it becomes clear that the idea won't work right now because of X,Y and Z but could work later on. The boss decides to review in 6/12 months. Great. Except the boss forgets to tell the employee what happened to the progress of his idea, because there's no real result yet. The employee is too embarrassed to chase up. EMPLOYEE SAD. (If it happens a second time it will be EMPLOYEE PISSED OFF).

The thing about this example is that most of the hard work was done. The manager made time to listen to the idea, took it forward, discussed its merits and made a decision. It was just the last little bit, which changes employee perception of the situation so drastically, that was forgotten.

My advice? Whatever level of a company you are at, get used to putting items on your to do list that start with "Get back to....". If YOU are the employee with the idea, then catch up with your boss to ask what happened to it, loops can be closed from either end!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Getting it Right - ?What If! Innovation

A couple of weeks ago I went to see
?What If! The Innovation Company. I’ve been a fan of their work ever since I was lucky enough to benefit from their creativity training back in 2001 – training which inspired me to launch a new career. So when Alexander Kjerulf, author of, ‘Happy Hour is 9 to 5’ suggested them as a candidate for the Getting it Right series, I didn’t need too much persuading.

?What If! are values led. These days, every other company out there claims to be “values led”, but in this case it’s actually true. Today, just as when they started in 1992, the ?What If! business is driven by, ‘Bravery, Freshness, Action, Love and Passion’. These values are inherent in all that they do and at the heart of their undeniably successful engagement of employee, client and innocent bystander.

Let’s start at the beginning – the reception area. It IS a reception area in so much as there are welcoming people who’ll point you in the direction of the right meeting, but there’s a bit more to this space than that. It’s an eating area, a kitchen, a place for meetings, a place for parties, an internet cafĂ© and a space for congregation and recognition.

The walls and ceiling are completely and colourfully covered with nominations for the monthly values awards, ensuring that clients and employees alike are constantly reminded of what’s really important to this company. The nominations themselves are refreshingly down to earth. One for ‘Action’ was for someone who’d used CPR to save a delegate’s life when they had a heart attack in one of her coaching sessions. Another for ‘Bravery’, was awarded to someone who did their first ever pitch and blew the client away, even with their knees knocking.

Each value has a Patron Saint, who role models the behaviour throughout the business for 6 months until it’s someone else’s turn. I know what you’re thinking. ‘A patron saint of Bravery? Sounds a bit fluffy to me’. And to some extent you’d be right, the style and ironic humour of a ‘patron saint’ is spot on for ?What If!, but would be wide of the mark in many companies. Here though it’s taken seriously; if you want to be the Patron Saint of Bravery (for example) you’ll need to put together a campaign and make an election speech at either the Christmas or Summer party before the company makes their vote. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of work. I asked my host Maz, (Marian Connolly - UK Head of People) why people do it, what’s in it for them?

“They just want to get involved. Everyone here does. We only hire the kinds of people who are really passionate and pro-active and who believe in our values”.


So say you do want to, ‘get involved’ how do you get to be a part of the ?What If! team? Anyone can apply, however not unusually for a company with such a specific culture, many new hires are made by referral. This method of recruitment is so successful that there’s a standard introduction bonus of £2000 and a family tree which shows who introduced who on the wall in the kitchen area.

Even if you’ve been referred though, there are still a number of hoops to jump through. In Maz’s words,

“I think it’s probably easier to get into a MI5, than it is to get a job here”.

She’s probably right. First there’s a values based application, then a formal interview process in which a person's individual values are drawn out and aligned with the company’s. Then there’s a team interview, where the candidate has lunch with the team they’d be working with. And then a social interview, in the pub, where the candidate is taken out by a peers from across the business to ask questions and to see if they fit in.

Presuming all goes well the successful candidate then goes through a short but intensive induction process called The Academy which includes the popular creativity and innovation training that ?What If! are known for. In fact the induction process starts even before the new employee’s first day, when they are sent their ‘Love Box’. In the Love Box is everything you might want to know before your first day, and a little more besides. It includes the staff handbook Little Book of Nurturing which explains the ?What If! policy on caring holistically for their staff – but more on that later.

There’s also a lovely practice of asking the new person to come up with the ten things about themselves that their new colleagues might like to know. You can create the ten things in any format you like (unsurprisingly there tend to be more pictures than lists) and say whatever you want. You send your ten things back before your start date and they are pinned up somewhere for everyone to read. Hey presto on your first day, everyone has 10 easy conversation starters to choose from.


I’ve talked frequently in the past about how a company must make sure its recruitment process is scrupulously on brand; not only to allow engagement from the very beginning but importantly to make sure you get the right person for the job in the first place. However I can honestly say that it had never occurred to me that the way redundancies are handled should also be on message. However when ?What If! were forced to make a few of their cherished staff redundant in August this year, they put huge amounts of time and effort towards making sure that this too was done in a ?WhatIf! way.

A rigorous strategy and planning process was put in place to determine who, why and how – and what support they could give to these employees through the redundancy process and even after they had left the company. Having discovered what the people who were going to be leaving wanted to do next, ?What If! drew on their contacts and resources to try and help make it happen. Rather than just give plain old references, Maz sent out a personalised reference to prospective future employers detailing just why they were so sad to lose the person in question. She sent an email to everyone left behind asking what they would miss about their former colleague, collated their responses and added these into the reference. While I was there in fact, one of the ladies who had moved on popped in for a chat. Maz smiled and waved,

“It took a lot of hard work to plan a way of making redundancies that could be as painless as possible for those involved. But it was totally, totally worth it. These people are our friends, and they remain so – which I hope means we got it right”.


Maz told me that if there’s one thing that distinguishes ?What If! from all the other companies that she’s worked for, it’s their culture of continuous feedback. In fact she admits that it came as a bit of a shock to her when after a couple of weeks of being there, someone sat down with her and gave her some friendly thoughts on how she was getting on. She soon got used to it though, and clearly cherishes an environment where anyone can give feedback to anyone, whatever level of seniority, and it will be taken in the spirit in which it was given.

To make sure that ‘continuous feedback’ is something they do, not just say ?What If! don’t have yearly appraisals. Instead they have 3 monthly development conversations, casually referred to as BOB chats (Bringing Out Brilliance). To fit in with the fast moving culture, individual plans are constantly updated as existing objectives are met. Importantly line managers get specialised training on how to handle these conversations in order for both parties to get everything they need from them.

To help me appreciate how important ?What If! think this feedback culture is. Maz shares with me a vivid mantra which co-founder Matt Kingdon ‘says all the time’…

“Communicate until you puke”.

Charming. I’m sorry to tell you that this effective little phrase stays with you. It’s not a very pleasant image, but it’s pretty good advice – if in doubt, communicate some more.


As they’re not a huge corporation, ?What If! have no obligation to produce an annual report – but they do a version of one anyway. Produced some time around March each year it is simply called “Our Impact – The Full Story” and covers everything from carbon footprint to client case studies. It also includes some top line results from the employee survey that is done each year; in which ?What If! survey not only their employees, but remarkably their friends and family as well. They ask the questions some employers don’t want to hear the answers to, about whether work is interfering with quality time, if their spouse/ roommate/ daughter tends to come home stressed or happy (or both).

Rather than just paying lip service to caring ‘about the whole person’ ?What If! provides numerous employee benefits that go above and beyond the schemes in place in most companies. To take a few from their “Freshness and Fairness” leaflet; free independent financial advice, sabbaticals, a visiting GP, £100 towards supporting stopping smoking, etc… What’s really eye catching though is the Friends and Family Helpline. It’s a support service which can be used to get professional, confidential advice on financial issues, emotional problems or legal advice. And this service can also be used by anyone who lives with the employee – parent, child, spouse or flatmate.

Also deserving of a mention is the Dream Catcher Award. If an employee has a dream (like writing a book, or creating a piece of art, or inventing something) and some time off and a bit of extra cash would help them to achieve it, ?What If! are interested in helping them to do it. Twice a year they award someone £1k and a week off work to go and get started on fulfilling their dream.

The ethos behind this is that if you want someone to perform to the best of their ability, you can’t just look after the part of them that comes to work, you have to care for the whole person.

“At the end of the day our clients pay for fresh, exciting minds. We do everything we can to make sure our employees are able to bring those exciting minds to work, if we didn’t it would affect our bottom line”.


Frankly I could go on and on about the numerous, unusual ways ?What If! find to engage with their staff. They’ve probably come up with 5 new initiatives since I was last there. The point I think is that they never do nothing and whilst their methods are fun and quirky, they are based on sound, serious reasoning. Innovation is their whole raison d’etre and everything is geared towards supporting it. Here's how the ?What If! philosophy translates to their own working culture:
  • Employees are always thinking about what they could do better or differently to create freshness at work.

  • They give each other continuous feedback and are comfortable with praise, debate or constructive criticism, which means they live in a blame free environment in which it’s easier to be brave.

  • The company provides employee benefits which take care of the whole person’s health and happiness, and are rewarded with people who love their jobs and are passionate about the company they work for.

  • Employees are empowered to do what’s important to them, and reward those who take action, creating a culture of “I can and I will”. And they do!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Factory in the Garden

Goodness, apparently the Cadbury Brothers understood the importance of work/life balance and an enjoyable working environment way back in 1879! Just found this lovely little post on Cadbury's new blog about their journey to fairtrade certification.

"The Cadbury brothers didn’t want their staff to resign themselves to living in the slums of the city, so instead, they bought a plot of land miles from Birmingham with a canal and good transport and built their Factory in the Garden"

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Girl's Guide to Employment

Just come across this brilliant advice on employment for women, written in the 1916 Girl Scouts manual - How Girls Can Help Their Country.
This really made me smile at how things change. The list of possible jobs for a woman are probably all seemed quite progressive at the time, and the advice that one should choose a career and stick to it was sound. Both now are of course happily outdated. Reading a bit further however it occurred to me that though the context has changed, the advice for getting a job is still spot on.

"Luck is like a street car; the only way to get it is to look out for every chance and seize it - run at it and jump on; don't sit down and wait for it to pass".

Absolutely! In this crowded job market, it is only the people who are looking out for opportunities and doing everything in their power to lure them their way who will get the great roles. Employers know that it is these people - positive, inspired, proactive - who are the employee holy grail.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Happiness at Work - Podcast

I've just listened to this fantastic podcast by Alexander Kjerulf and I think you should too. The man just talks good sense!

My favourite quotes:

"Two things make us happy at work, results and relationships."

"Focus on your employees, so your employees can focus on your clients".

"In bad economic times, when the markets are tough you need the best from your people".

Yes, yes, yes!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Engaging Freelancers

Just recently a couple of people have asked me for my thoughts on engaging freelance employees. I'm not surprised they're asking. As our economy relies more and more on flexible resources, so the way we work with our freelancers becomes more important.

The thing about freelancers is that many of them are very good at what they do, otherwise they wouldn't be able to do it for very long. Dodgy freelancers soon get found out! However as with so many good things in life, they are often taken for granted. Companies tend to think that time and money should only be spent on developing and engaging full time staff. However there are huge benefits to doing the same for your freelancers as you would for Jo Employee.

Freelancers represent your company to your clients in just the same way as your full time staff do. They need to have the same understanding of your history, your brand and your ways of working. They also represent your company across your industry and in the big wide world. Do you want them to tell everyone how brilliant you are? How smart and great to work for? Or do you want them to shrug their shoulders, and say 'yeah, they're all right, work is work'?

Here are some suggestions for engaging freelancers so that they believe in your brand, give you their best work and become advocates of your company.

1. Invest in your freelance resource

Is there training that you would send your freelancer on if they were a full time employee? If they're a regular face in your office, send them on it anyway. Apart from the benefits to your company of having your flexible resource fully skilled up, you'll find freelancers are grateful for this kind of trust and investment. If the training only benefits you, then you'll still need to pay their day rate. However it's more likely that relevant training will benefit you both, so you might find your freelancer will reduce their fee - or if it's really valuable to them, waive it completely.

2. Freelancers are people too

Don't allow freelancer freeze-out, it happens a lot. You remember how hard it is to start a new job right? That tricky first week when you don't know where to have lunch, or who with. You're not sure of company processes and who to ask to get things done. Well if you're a freelancer that happens several times a year - if not more.

Assign your freelancer a buddy
Sit them in a busy part of the office
Show them round and introduce them to people
Behave as if they'll be with you for 6 months (even if the booking is for 2 weeks)

3. Tap into all that lovely knowledge

Look at your freelancers as an opportunity for you to tap into lots of lovely freshness for your business. Full time employees have a valuable in depth knowledge of your company. Balance that with the of-the-moment breadth knowledge of your industry which a freelancer can bring.

Let your freelancer know you're interested in their opinions, not just their output
Ask them to join brainstorms, or put time aside to discuss other projects together
Ask them to pitch with you
Find out their story

4. Pay invoices on time

Does everyone in your company from the person suggesting that a freelancer should come in for a couple of days, to the person processing the invoice, understand how important it is that freelancers get paid on time? Make sure they do. This is unequivocal. I know someone who has £17000 owed to him for work done in the past year alone. A good chunk of this was for a big company with plenty of money and credit - but they are so late with payment as to make you wonder if it's ever going to happen. This person's work is beautiful and he's known to be one of the best in his industry. He gets a job offer at least once a week. Think he's ever going to work for that company again? Nope. Freelancers can't afford to take second chances on people that don't pay them.

5. Give them all the information

Put together a mini induction for your freelancers to make sure they know as much as they can about your company, as soon as possible. Freelancers have to hit the ground running, so you should be trying to give them as much information as you can to help with that.

Give them the skinny on who makes what happen
Show them examples of past work for various clients
Make sure they have materials which demonstrate your brand behaviour and tone of voice

Just like you do for your full time employees... (you do, don't you?).

6. Turn your freelancers into advocates

I'm walking, talking proof that freelancers make excellent advocates. Have you heard of a company called Involve? They're a results focused, experiential change agency based in Clapham and they totally rock. Look them up. If you're a client, call them. They are passionate about what they do, fresh, clever and effective. I did some work for them last year and:

On my first day I had a full induction, including meetings with members of each department.
I was given lots of lovely material to read...
...And DVDs to watch of previous work they're proud of.
I was included in lunch trips and invited to the pub.
I was included in the monday morning staff meeting and invited to the offsite half-day and trusted with all the news that gets shared there.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Involve use a lot of freelancers, and it's part of their culture not to treat them any differently than their full time staff. It's an investment which pays off, rewarded by effort, commitment and advocacy.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Lipstick and Heels at the Bank

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. You've all heard about this right? The Bank of England 'sent' their female folk to a "Dress for Success" seminar. Then someone leaked the memo reminding all the girls how to look appropriately lady-like but not dress like prostitutes. Here are some of the gems:

“Look professional, not fashionable; be careful with perfume; always wear a heel of some sort (maximum 2 inches); always wear some sort of makeup, even if it’s just lipstick." Shoes and skirt must be the same color. No-no’s include ankle chains, “professional, but not the one you want to be associated with;” white high heels; overstuffed handbags; an overload of rings, and double-pierced ears."

I know I ought to be outraged, but I'm actually sitting here giggling. Come on - this is ludicrous. Who ARE these consultants and what were they thinking?! Does anyone have the actual context of how this all came about? I'm having real trouble picturing it. Were the powerful female executives of the BoE strutting the halls in mini-skirts and white patent heels, tossing their bleach-blonde-3-inch-regrowth hair as they go? Or was the problem the they all stood around in tracksuits, complete with bulging love handles and drooping fag? I'd love to know what prompted that bloody awful note.

On a serious note though, I think it's a bit too easy for the media to get their sexism knickers in a twist over this. The Bank of England didn't actually pay for this seminar, it was provided by the company in question free of charge (no wonder) and run in a lunch hour. Totally non-compulsory and the "rules" in that memo are not binding. Shame it's been such a mess. I know several male dominated companies who have paid for this sort of training (but better) for the blokes and in all those cases it's been well recieved.

There's no getting away from the fact that it does matter how you dress at work. Out of respect for the people you work with you should try to look professional and approachable. However everyone has off days and you're not a clone - you wear your white heels if you want to!

Monday, 26 January 2009

In praise of project managers

A new day - I’m not frightened,
Though the budget has tightened
And the client is grating my nerves.
Black coffee and toast
Will prepare me for most
Of today’s little sidesteps and swerves.

First job, email reading
Oh God, hear me pleading
How can there be 32?
Left at ten, now it’s eight
I ALWAYS work late
Do you get this many too?

OK, now what’s next?
To-do list I guess,
My favourite part of the day!
So neatly ordered,
Coloured and bordered,
One could get carried away…

Profit and loss
Must please the boss
Did I mention the budget is less now?
Increase the margin
Give the client a bargain
That’s how we measure success now.

Oh no!

Here comes a chatter to stand at my desk
She wants to look busy while taking a rest
No time to chat
She’s a bit of a….

Phew. She’s gone.

But our designer is here, with a brilliant idea!
I love it! Fantastic! But wait…
Did you get my note on that new budget quote?
We need something a bit less ornate.

A brainstorm, a meeting
The day is fast-fleeting
It’s hectic but never mundane
I’ll laugh and I’ll cry,
Demand and supply,
And tomorrow I’ll do it again

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Dangerous Engagement

Last week, French Justice Minister, Rachida Dati returned to work 5 days after the birth of her child by caesaerean section. Ouch! Lea Simpson - Feeling the Fear - sent me a note to ask, "is there such a thing as being dangerously engaged in your job?". Good question. I would say the answer was a big fat yes. And further that when an employee becomes over-engaged, obsessed, the benefit to employers drops off.

You'll have heard the expression 'married to the job' and it's never meant as a compliment. Long hours and narrow focus can mean this type of employee knows their job inside out, but they're not getting any fresh cultural input outside of the office. Strategic and creative thinking suffers. As the employee gets more and more frustrated and tired, their productivity and judgement declines and they start to affect the engagement of those around them.

This sort of cycle normally happens to people who are really good at their jobs, and who want to do everything that they do really well. They get caught in the cycle of decreasing effectiveness, and fall into the trap of thinking that putting in more and more hours is the only way to do what they do. I know because I was that person once.

Happily I can report from experience that there is a way back. Obsession with a job tends to come just before a huge engagement crash - at which point you either decide to quit, or you find a way to do the job differently. For me, it was the second option I chose. I went back to doing my job with medium engagement - I still loved my job and my company but decided that I could no longer compromise my quality of life for it. I changed my working hours thinking that my employers would just have to get me more help, but to my surprise they didn't need to. I became more productive, more creative and my new found sense of perspective made me a wiser and better manager. My engagement in the job was balanced, but my value to the company was far higher than when I'd been obsessive about it.

Which brings us back to Rachida Dati. At the risk of judging someone who's circumstances I know nothing about, I'd say that going back to work when you have a 5 day old baby could be described as obsessive - caesarean or no. On the other hand though, everyone is different, and Rachida Dati may well be the world's most fulfilled woman right now. I just hope there aren't any employers out there who will look at her example and decide that this is real commitment. It's not always good for business, to go beyond the call of duty.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Note from my boss - by Alexander Kjerulf

After my last post on the subject of fresh starts in 2009, I stumbled across this article by the brilliant Alexander Kjerulf. For all you leadership types the post is entitled "Note from my boss". It fashions itself as a letter of intent from a boss to a new employee stating the employer's commitment to the employee, and what they would like in return.

Interestingly if you read the comments, you'll see that this post caused a lot of controversy. Some people think this is an incredibly manipulative exercise designed to squeeze every last drop of energy out of your employees. Which is a bit sad really. I think the point is that you shouldn't actually send this note, but that any employer who has this two-way street attitude to management is going to end up with a lot of very happy, engaged people on his or her team.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Ten great tips for employee engagement in 2009

Woohoo! Its 2009! I am genuinely excited about the opportunity for businesses in the UK this year. Economically times have been hard and they may get harder, but now is the time to up your game. The companies who take this chance to excel will come out the other side of this recession head and shoulders above the competition. With that in mind, here are 10 great ideas to create energy and engagement in your place of work in 2009. In the spirit of the times, every suggestion is cheap to implement - or free!

1. Look after your Receptionist - the first person your employees see every morning. If he/she is smiling, interested and happy (not bored, ignored and glum), there's a much better chance that your other staff will start their day in the right frame of mind.

2. Environment. The surroundings that people work in have a huge effect on how they feel and behave. Take a look around with fresh eyes and see if there's anything you'd like to improve. Involve your staff and get their creative input before you make a change - it doesn't need to cost a fortune, the simplest things can make a difference.

3. CSR. Do you have a "Green" policy? Research shows that employees who feel positive about their company's CSR activity are far more likely to be engaged than those who do not. Start small and ask for input from your staff.

4. Fresh fruit. If you can afford to do it, providing your staff with a big bowl of fresh fruit once a week is a lovely idea and always appreciated.

5. Get people talking. It doesn't matter what people are talking about, it's relationship building that's important. Lead by example and get to know someone that you've previously had no relationship with. (Take this one slowly, or you'll freak people out!).

6. Social media - do you have a blog? If not, find out which of your employees do and ask them to help you make it a reality for your company. Nominate an editor and let it be known that anyone can contribute. Your blog is not the right channel for important announcements, but you can use it for the 'interesting stuff', design ideas, fun, events - anything that has relevance to your team.

7. Put vases of fresh flowers around the office sometimes, to make people smile. Once a month is enough and daffodils, gerberas and carnations are all cheap as chips.

8. Pay attention to birthdays. Forget a free holiday on your birthday - it'll be taken for granted and then resented if things get busy and the day can't be used. Instead make sure birthday at work is a great day. Experiential change agency Involve nominate a different 'birthday fairy' for each person, and brief them to make it special. The fuss making is public and puts smiles on everyone's faces. (This one's harder for big companies so if you're small, work your advantage!)

9. While around the office, ask people how their day is going. Stand still, focus your attention on them and listen to the answer. You'll be surprised how much more your employees start to open up to you, and how much more in touch with your own business you become.

10. Don't delay, get started. Think of one small, inexpensive thing that would be nice to do for your staff, and just do it. You'll be glad you did.