The empress’s new clothes

ESP doesn’t come naturally to business leaders – we all need to work out how to test the water.


Once a month I take all the new employees at RedBalloon out for lunch. It is a chance to hear their story – where they have come from, what attracted them to the role and the company. It also means that people from different teams get to learn about other parts of the business from the new people there.


It is always such a delight. I also share a few of the stories about where we came from and where we are going.


But it is really a chance to listen. Did we fulfil on the promise, is the role what they expected, have we oversold and under delivered or vice versa? I always ask questions such as “what have you wanted to ask but didn’t know who to ask? Now’s your chance.”


Then just as we are leaving I ask “Is there anything that you think I should know?” One responded yesterday with absolute gold – “what is with the kitchen…?”


I of course asked him to clarify. But it is funny how little things can really bother people – but when we are being busy busy, what we never realise is that there could be a problem.


We came from being a home-based business – where everyone used my backyard as the “lunch room” – then when we moved to a terrace house we still had a domestic kitchen and a backyard. Now that we have bigger premises we made sure that there was an outdoor area – but the kitchen no longer supports the ever-growing team. The dishwasher just is not big enough, the fridge not enough – and there is always a level of angst over keeping everything clean and tidy.


I’m rarely in the kitchen, so I didn’t know it was a problem. I then, of course, asked the question of how a bigger business would deal with it… and we have come up with a plan.


My point is though – how much of the details do we not see that people are concerned with? As leaders we don’t have ESP. It takes someone telling us (or sorting it out themselves). My worst fear is to become the empress with new clothes – when no one tells us what is going on… But it is up to me to keep my ear to the ground and create a way that they can tell me their opinions.


For more Get Out Of My Way blogs, click here.



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