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Once a month I take the new employees at RedBalloon for lunch. It is a chance to hear their story learn about where they have come from, and 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 their fellow new starters.

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

But it is really a chance to listen, did we fulfil the promise, is RedBalloon how they thought it would be. I always ask questions such as “what have you wanted to ask but didn’t know who to, 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 me as CEO being busy, busy often have no idea there is a problem.

Did we come from being a home-based business, where everyone used my back yard and the ‘lunch room’, then when we moved to the terrace we too had a domestic kitchen and a back yard? 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 fridges not enough, and there is always a level of angst over the keeping it 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 small details do we not see that people are concerned by. As leaders we don’t have ESP, it takes someone telling us (or sorting it out themselves). My worst fear is to become like the ‘Emperor 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.

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