Andrew Thornton: What it feels like to work in a Business with a Heart

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The main differences between heartful and non-heartful businesses are around care and interest. If I work in a business with a heart, others in the business will care about me – my boss, other managers, the owners/directors will care, will see me as a human being and not just a resource to be used to meet the (profit) plan. My input will be valued and my ideas perceived as worthwhile. I will get the chance to try out ideas I have and get support in that.

I will be able to be who I am and express how I am feeling and that it will be OK for me to do this with people at work. The company will have higher purpose beyond just making money and I feel that I am spending my working days contributing to that, that I am involved in a ‘project’ that helps make the world a better place, no matter in how small a way.

And that the company I work for is mindful of the impact of its actions on the planet. That’s different from saying has no impact, but at least there is some consciousness about our actions.

At Thornton’s Budgens people often describe work as being their family, a place where they feel at home. As I watch people going about their jobs, I notice lots of laughter and smiles, people having fun. They seem to genuinely enjoy what they are doing, And as time goes on, they are getting more and more responsibility. For example, right now we are working up plans to change our Deli in January, to develop it so we can keep capturing our customers imagination. We have held a number of meetings with the team (using a talking stick which allows everyone to get their say) in which they are getting to develop the plan for their department. In the space between meetings, they get to work on ideas and overcome the challenges they see. Such that when we get to January, it will be their plan they are implementing – not mine or that of the store or deli manager.

One more example – due to the competitiveness of the UK grocery market, we recently needed to undertake a restructure to reduce costs and two senior members of the team were made redundant. At every meeting we had on the subject (and with modern HR law and procedures and practices, there were lots!), I set the intention of being heartful. Everyone in the company knew that they were doing a good job and that the people who left did not have to leave because they were doing a poor job; that it was nothing personal and purely circumstantial. This was repeated at each meeting to ensure they really heard it – for it is very easy, especially in challenging times, for people not to hear things. And in leaving they were honoured in front of colleagues, were provided with outplacement support (to help them find new jobs) and both left giving me a hug; as if it where the end of a chapter and they were ready for the next chapter.

I would love to hear about your experiences and where you have seen or experienced businesses with hearts and what it felt like.

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