This week I wrap up a short term assignment with Tesco’s Group Communication team at the company’s head office in London. On reflection the assignment has given me a new perspective of work, culture and life.
My role was to help audit and refresh the company’s core purpose branding across the business. It led me to offer a creative solution – a Challenge – which crowdsourced stories from employees to celebrate and recognize how their work impacts customers every day.
A new core purpose takes longer to embed especially with a company as big and diverse as Tesco. Considering the scale of operations and the pace of change there is always that balance you need to strike between what is possible and what is right for the business.
For someone from a different culture to come to the UK and lead a change campaign is tough yet exhilarating. Tough – since it takes time to get familiar with the work ethos, dynamics and expectations of a team and organization. Exhilarating – cause there are immense opportunities to make a difference.
Before coming over I researched and read about the culture, attempted understanding the ways of working and sought peoples’ opinion on what I could expect or need to factor in. My Linkedin contacts were a fantastic source of inspiration and insights. People who worked locally and others from different geographies with some knowledge and experience of working in the UK contributed suggestions. I was overwhelmed by the response and here are a few of the suggestions that came in.
- “Be aware of the company’s culture”
- “Understand the local culture and sensitivities”
- “Ask lots of questions”
- “Listen intently”
- “Look for opportunities to improve how things work”
- “Be aware of physical spaces between people”
- “People will be fairly objective”
- “At work, think of reaching remote workers, the usage of technology for communication and engagement”
- “Be yourself”
- “Consider the differences in writing styles”
- “The style and tone of voice can be conversational”
If there is one key take-away from my experience it is the need to be culturally integrated and immersed in the business. In other words – ‘fit in’.
This means appreciating the culture, valuing and tapping the strengths of people around you, seeking help when needed, being available for others, serving the community and leading with conviction. It isn’t easy to do so when the people you meet may have limited context of your background and capabilities or not know the relevance of your role in the wider scheme of things. I am grateful for the support and encouragement I received from my colleagues during this stint and hope to continue the engagement in the future.
Have you worked in the UK? What has been your learning?
To understand the ‘Keep Calm’ poster context look up this page .