The sweet spot: Treat people well and they will reward you

Health and Safety May 04, 2020

By Sarah Mogford, RSK Environment and Planning Divisional Director

At the start of the year, LinkedIn announced my 22-year work anniversary. That got me thinking. Through the ups and downs of personal and professional life, how has RSK held on to me for over two decades? My conclusion? Whenever I’ve needed understanding and flexibility, I’ve had it.

I joined RSK with less than five years’ experience. As environment, health and safety team lead, I had fun growing a team and enjoying a globetrotting working life: in China one week and the North Sea the next.

I was lucky enough to be working for a company that gave me amazing opportunities to develop my career – and I loved it. There have always been opportunities for me at RSK but some bumps in the road in my personal life could have derailed things. Severe postnatal depression after the birth of my first child was a real low point. I went to Alan Ryder, our CEO, and said there was no way that I could do my old job – but that I wanted to be back at work.

I needed a different role and I got one. UK-based and three days a week, with the support to regain my equilibrium. Other bumps and family crises have always been met with a similar response. With the support of a fantastic team, I still work flexibly 30 hrs a week, am a Divisional Director heading a team of over 400 people and most recently promoted to the RSK Group board.

In the time I’ve been here, RSK has grown from 24 to 4,000 people, but Alan is still an accessible CEO. Many of the comments on my LinkedIn post praised my openness and courage in talking about my personal challenges. But it didn’t feel particularly brave – at RSK, we are encouraged to talk openly about our mental well-being, the same way we would about our physical health. Several of our senior management team have shared their mental health stories with the rest of the business, through our internal newsletters, intranet and health and well-being campaigns. We have received such positive feedback from these accounts. They demonstrate that anyone can face mental health struggles and instil a sense of togetherness; no-one needs to go through these things alone. We have mental health first aiders in our business so there is always someone on hand to talk to.

Understanding and flexibility is one reason I love my job. Now, I’m lucky enough to support others on a day-to-day basis, topped up by RSK’s positive approach to mental health and other wellbeing initiatives.

As I recently told CIEEM in my blog article on their website, ‘Why it pays to give colleagues lollipops’, it’s the little things that count (the ‘lollipops’). Lollipop moments is a term first coined by Drew Dudley in his TED Talk ‘Leadership in Lollipop Moments’. Drew tells a story of giving lollipops to a queue of people enrolling at university. One young man in that queue passed a lollipop to a nervous young woman standing next to him, which she later said had made her stay and enrol despite her nerves, and the pair later married! It’s a lovely story, but Drew’s point is that leadership isn’t about a few people changing the world. It’s about all of us making sure we give and say thanks for those lollipop moments. These moments could be as simple as asking if a colleague is OK, a hug (before social distancing!) or saying thank you.

At RSK, my colleagues regularly have a taste of these lollipop moments. They are part of our culture and it always impresses me how much RSK employees really care about one another.

During the coronavirus pandemic, lollipop moments are more important than ever. While working from home, or isolating, a call to check in on you can make all the difference – I know it’s things like that that keep me sane! I will continue to offer my team lollipops as I know from experience the difference they can make, and I am proud to work for a business that also recognises the importance of ‘lollipop moments’.

Treat people well and they will reward you!