Last week I was speaking with Helen, the General Manager of a residential home for older people I have come to know quite well. We were talking about the upcoming Christmas period and how some of her residents no longer have family or friends that can come to visit them.
Here’s what she told me, pretty much as she said it.
“I’ve been encouraging the staff to come up with ideas for new ways we can entertain and motivate our residents. We do lots of the usual things, and they like those, but I can’t help feeling there are other ideas to be brought forward.
I decided to run a pomander-making workshop just before Christmas. So I bought in a load of oranges and cloves and ribbons and lots of other pretty things to decorate the oranges with. My daughter came to help, and we set up in the lounge for a three hour session.
One resident turned up.
So, we held the workshop with her, my daughter and me. The maintenance man stopped by at one point and took time out to make a pomander. This particular lady made several – and she had a wonderful time, as did my daughter and I. We laughed and chatted and reminisced and generally put the world to rights, and at the end of the three hours, she helped us pack away and took her collection of orange pomanders with her. Before she went, she thanked us both, hugged us both and became quite emotional, saying what a wonderful time she’d had.
Some people might think that my pomander workshop had been a bit of a flop. After all, we only had one taker. But for that one lady, it absolutely made her day, and I have to say, it made the day for my daughter and me, too. So how I see it, it was a complete success.”
It would be hard to view this as anything but a success as described by Helen, wouldn’t it! And yet I know people who would look at this exact same experience and declare it ‘a bit of a flop’.
Perhaps that tells us more about the expectations we place on ourselves than the value of the tiny steps we take every day.
When Dave Brailsford became Performance Director for Team Sky (the British Cycling Team) he introduced an approach that’s become known as ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. His principle was this: “if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together”. (Dave Brailsford, 2012). The approach was credited with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France in 2012 – and Geraint Thomas doing it again earlier this year.
Giving one small kindness – a genuine compliment, a helping hand, a listening ear – may only seem like a tiny thing. But the impact can spin on out to become something bold and beautiful and transformational in someone’s life. We may just never know that’s how it played out.
Licensed Springboard and Spring Forward Trainer
Winnthinking People Development
Views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd