John Vincent: Does the 'bigot' comment matter?

In politics, just as in business, you should always talk about people as if they're listening to you.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

At breakfast this morning a radio pundit was saying how ridiculous it was that the newspapers are full of Brown's 'bigot' gaffe; that we should be focusing on the bigger issues. Yes, of course, we should also be focusing on the bigger issues. But the Brown incident is still very important and very illuminating.

The small things matter. Clive Woodward demonstrated that 'critical nonessentials' such as turning up on time to team meetings have a bigger impact on overall approach and culture, while that guy with the weird hair showed us in The Tipping Point that little things make a big difference. And if you believe the hype, Mayor Giuliani stopped graffiti and all crime disappeared overnight in New York (OK, so he and I are maybe exaggerating a little with that one).

In many businesses and organisations, one of the things that breaks teams and destroys cultures is talking behind people's backs. At Leon, we and the team that started with us at our first restaurant created a series of rules as to how we will work with each other. Paramount was the idea that 'we talk about people as if they are listening'. This value enriches the soul and stops that nasty creep (I am referring to a concept not an individual you understand) of mistrust that can set in. I can remember living by this rule as a kid and growing up.

How wonderful it is to talk constructively and positively about people. Instead of 'that woman was a bigot' you might say 'I understand that woman's fears and we need to do a better job of explaining why and how Eastern European labour is enriching us in many ways'. And if you disagree with someone, say it to their face. With openness and compassion. This value of talking about people as if they are listening will liberate you. No looking over your shoulder. No having to remember who is friends with whom. It is a value that has kept us strong at Leon. Mr B, come and do a few shifts with us. Bankside or Strand are probably the closest restaurants to your house.

In today's bulletin:

Will 10% house price jump boost Gordon Brown in leaders' debate?
Argos vulnerable after 11% dive in profits?
John Vincent: Does the 'bigot' comment matter?
Private sector will prop up the job market, says CIPD
Equal pay in Birmingham - a mixed blessing?

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