What does culture eat? *
As I mark my one-year anniversary of being a first-time CEO, I find myself pondering a question that has guided my journey thus far: What does culture eat? This reflection comes as I delve into the successes and challenges of the past year, chronicling my experience at the helm of Yateley Industries. In this inaugural blog post I share insights gained from unexpected leadership, the power of community, and the profound impact of a thriving culture – a journey where I discover that, indeed, culture has an insatiable appetite for shaping our every endeavour.
I never planned to be a CEO
When I embarked on this journey as CEO, it wasn’t a path I had initially envisioned for myself. My concerns revolved around potential detachment from the heart of the work and a desire to stay closely connected to the hands-on aspects of what we do. The Trustees quickly helped me understand that at Yateley Industries, I could bridge the gap between leadership and the impactful work on the ground. It’s been a learning experience filled with self-discovery, a determination to lead by example and a year of transformative growth, both for me personally and for the incredible team, volunteers, and community that have joined me on this path.
We have achieved a lot
This team, our volunteers and the community have worked so hard and I’ve tried to model that or at least just give the experts what they need and then get out of their way! There are too many achievements to list here – which sounds like a humble brag but it’s true. Plus, if you follow our socials, you’ll have seen our regular updates. We are engaged in bringing about change at such an incredible pace that I have to keep reminding myself of all the challenges we have overcome so far. Caravans, shipping containers, refurbs, floods, refits… you name it, we’ve conquered it.
Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) are about much more than the physical space – but it’s a great place to start. Making things look better and feel cared for helps people feel safe and cared for themselves. We are building on that to create an environment where people can bring their authentic selves to work, share their experience and generally improve every aspect of what we do here.
Culture, culture, culture
It has always been a bugbear of mine when employers and companies espouse their grandiose values and inclusive culture but don’t live up to them. As an employee, when your values don’t align with the work and you can’t effect change, you need to leave. Similarly, when a company is all talk and doesn’t live its values, get out. When culture is toxic, it will destroy you.
My primary objective here is to nurture and build on the existing culture because it is wonderful and does not need me to impose my ego on it. It needs love and support to grow and after many years of neglect, it is beginning to thrive.
Community is key
I dedicated time when I started to ask our community what they wanted to see and then asked the wider community what it was they wanted – and then I set about helping make those things happen. The simple truth is that both communities immediately embraced what we were trying to do and have been the most supportive in helping to make it happen. Each time I meet a new member of the community or tell someone what it is that we are trying to do, I always come away with new contacts and new opportunities that will benefit our work. I continue to ask our communities what it is what they want – and if it serves and involves the Yateley Industries community, then we will do it.
Often underrated and much maligned but their role and their dedication (at least for my lovely trustees) cannot be understated. They guide me, offer advice, work so very hard and give me the right amount of support and distance to get on with the job – and it’s working. They say in order to grow, you need to surround yourself with people who are more intelligent and experienced than you are. It’s not an easy gig but hats off to my lot, they are amazing.
Tragedy, sadness and setbacks
We’ve had more than our share this year but this little community is resilient and strong. In times of hardship, we have come together to support and lift each other up, so that we can continue our mission. No matter what, together we are stronger.
Doing it for Jessie
Our founder (Jessie Brown MBE) was an incredible woman and I have her in my thoughts all the time, especially when I’m making a decision. As we mark 100 years since she first was inspired to create us, I think she would be proud of what she built and that she would approve of what we are doing now.
Best job ever
Although it’s a heavy weight to bear and sometimes very lonely, I love it. Yateley Industries is a magical place and despite the almost overwhelming enormity of the role, it really is the best.
Year 2 is going to be epic
We have so many exciting things coming this year and at times I consciously remind myself to enjoy the process, not just rush to the end (which will also be amazing!). This charity and these wonderful people deserve to return to greatness. It is my privilege to help make that happen.
Join Us in Shaping the Future
As we celebrate the milestones of this past year, we look ahead with excitement to the journey that lies ahead. We invite you to be a part of our story, to contribute your ideas, passion, and expertise to the ongoing evolution of Yateley Industries. Whether you’re a member of our dedicated community, a partner, or someone who shares our values, your involvement is crucial in propelling us toward even greater heights. Together, we can continue to create an environment where authenticity, inclusivity and positive change thrive. Join us in shaping a future that honours our past and embraces the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.
* “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
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Contact us at
- Helping Hands Charity Shop
- Mildmay House
- High St
- Hartley Wintney
- RG27 8NY
- 01252 845667
Registered at Companies House (00448920)
Registered charity (229571)