From the Cult of ‘Me’ to a Culture of ‘We’ — Why Appreciation Matters.


I have been work­ing with people in busi­ness for 30 years, start­ing as an employ­ee of IBM facil­it­at­ing change, then under the wing of some of the pion­eers in the world of coach­ing (before coach­ing was a thing), I then set up on my own and since foun­ded my con­sultancy prac­tise. I have worked pretty much with every busi­ness sec­tor at every level. I have trav­elled the globe, work­ing with people from every con­tin­ent, I speak English, American and Australian. I was born in Australia of European par­ents, have a Dutch hus­band, my two kids were born in the UK and we all live in Southern Spain and I can tell you across the board some­thing about people in busi­ness.  People are uniquely amaz­ing AND we’re all the same.

In work (as well in life) we just want to con­nect. We all want great big juicy power­ful pos­it­ive con­nec­tions with the people we spend time with — yes even (if not espe­cially) at work.  And I know for sure the simple key to achiev­ing great per­form­ance in any endeav­our from nation to nation, sec­tor to sec­tor,  from the top team, to the shop floor is this: Big ambi­tions require Big Relationships.

We all long for con­nec­tion; with some­thing mean­ing­ful, with each oth­er and with ourselves. In busi­ness and in life, cre­at­ing power­ful pos­it­ive con­nec­tions for the people who count helps us all reach our goals. One word for this power­ful sense of con­nec­ted­ness is…Love. And this is what I have learned  is an essen­tial busi­ness truth: Love Sells.

To cre­ate this power­ful sense of con­nec­tion and build the kind of Big Relationships that make a busi­ness thrive, it requires three fun­da­ment­al things:

Unity: A Unifying Purpose (so people love what they do)

Appreciation: A “We” Culture (so people love each oth­er)

Ownership: Individual enter­prise, account­ab­il­ity and cre­at­ive free­dom (so people love them­selves)

So what is an Appreciative Culture ?

IMG_0548In the 90’s Learning organ­isa­tions adop­ted the phrase ‘no-blame cul­ture. Well I’ve decided  we need to go one step fur­ther — I think we need what I call an Appreciative Culture. This means a real and genu­ine focus on appre­ci­at­ing people, what they are good at and play­ing them to their strengths. It means cheer­ing them on and noti­cing when it is work­ing and mak­ing it easy for people in the busi­ness to do that with each oth­er too (think how well it works to train dogs and small chil­dren; ignore the bad, atten­tion for the good). It means that as a prac­tise, people always stand in each other’s shoes and avoid judging and try and see that every­one makes mis­takes and when we lose, we don’t lose the les­son. We see people as indi­vidu­als and give people chances to put things right, and if it’s not work­ing, we are con­sidered, hon­est, firm and fair because some­times the kind­est thing for every­one is to set someone free. In an appre­ci­at­ive cul­ture feed­back is fre­quent, primar­ily pos­it­ive and always at the request of the per­son or team who want to grow. And in an appre­ci­at­ive cul­ture every­one wants to grow and be the best they can be.


Being con­nec­ted helps us to take own­er­ship, think more clearly and cre­at­ively, make bet­ter decisions and take bet­ter actions, lead­ing to bet­ter res­ults. Creating a cul­ture of ‘We’ versus the cult of ‘Me’  makes great busi­ness sense. It saves a lot of time, money and effort that can be wasted on address­ing beha­viours that are largely driv­en by insec­ur­ity and fear. The cult of ‘Me’, where the ego reigns and sur­viv­al is the game, might work in the short term — but I’ve seen it gen­er­ate debil­it­at­ing stress,  bleed tal­ent and dam­age really great busi­nesses. Insecurity might drive you, but you’ll go fur­ther for love.

In fact, when talk­ing of sur­viv­al of the fit­test Darwin was actu­ally arguing that ‘we are a pro­foundly social and caring spe­cies and our tend­en­cies toward sym­pathy are instinctu­al and more evolved than the instinct for self-pre­ser­va­tion’ Dachar Keltner

It is also my exper­i­ence that people are amaz­ing and truly cap­able of great­ness, all of us.  When we have a clear state of mind, oper­ate in a cul­ture of appre­ci­ation and have trust and good will with oth­ers as the found­a­tion blocks, it feels good and we want to do and give more. We nat­ur­ally con­sider oth­ers’ needs and offer a spir­it of gen­er­os­ity, caring and kind­ness. And when we get treated like this by oth­ers we flour­ish and thrive.  Don’t just take my word for it, latest research into cul­tur­al impact on fin­an­cial per­form­ance has also con­cluded: ‘we can cat­egor­ic­ally state that organ­isa­tions with high levels of cul­tur­al align­ment will have super­i­or levels of fin­an­cial per­form­ance’  Richard Barrett Barrett Values Centre.

When people are con­nec­ted, they feel ful­filled and happy. According to the research over 75 years in the Harvard Grant study, ’the warmth of rela­tion­ships through­out life have the greatest pos­it­ive impact on life sat­is­fac­tion. Happiness is love. Full stop’. Happy people = happy cus­tom­ers = happy res­ults.

A com­pany is no more than a bunch of people at the end of the day, and per­haps to accom­pany prof­it­ab­il­ity, it’s the charge of busi­ness to provide the envir­on­ment and rock­et fuel to allow people to grow and shine, in order to bene­fit soci­ety. Big rela­tion­ships and a cul­ture of appre­ci­ation work for every­one: lead­ers, staff, cus­tom­ers and stake­hold­ers. They will work for any busi­ness, they will work for yours.  It makes busi­ness sense, sta­bil­ity and suc­cess and because:  Love Sells.

If you’d like help to build an Appreciative Culture, get in touch - I’d be happy to chat.

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