Changing the World with my Culture Ambassador Family
Picking someone up from the airport is a very emotional experience for me. And no, not because of the extortionate car parking charges at Heathrow Airport (which are eye-watering by the way). But rather because I love seeing the happy tears of people meeting at the arrivals area; friends reuniting after years of being apart, teenagers coming home from their year traveling abroad, grandparents meeting their grandchildren for the very first time.
You see longtime friends and family re-connecting here in ways unlike any other. And you might think that that fourteen of Cisco’s “Our People Deal” Culture Ambassadors (who have only met in-person ONCE before) couldn’t possibly share the same emotion and bond as these friends and families reuniting at baggage claim, right?
Wrong. But, then again, at Cisco…we are family. And my fellow Culture Ambassadors have felt like faces I’ve always known.
We reunited at The Mothership (aka Cisco HQ) in San Jose recently to kick-start our global culture project. And on day one, Maria Abeyta and Phoebe Leet, our lovely People Deal Movement leaders shared our project:
“Create a plan to embed Our Principles across our organisation so that our people embrace, internalize and live them every day.”
I’m going to bravely bet that you are one of two people right now. You either don’t work at Cisco yet and aren’t sure what “Our Principles” are (see below) OR you do work at Cisco, and you could probably place yourself in one of three categories; skeptic, believer or evangelist.
You might be surprised to know that some of the ambassadors were even skeptics when Our Principles were first launched too! None of us were skeptics of Our Principles themselves, of course, we were fully behind them – but we were skeptical on the uptake of them.
Some may see this as a corporate initiative rolled from the top down. They may ask themselves some of the following; we already have Our People Deal, so how is this different? How does this impact me? What can I do as a leader to bring this culture to life?
We were conscious that if we, as culture ambassadors, had some questions in our group, then chances were – some of our 70,000+ colleagues that weren’t as closely aligned to Cisco’s culture may as well.
From Skeptics to Evangelists in a Day
Our second day was spent learning in a Cisco Design Thinking workshop. That afternoon we spent discussing the project and preparing for our presentation to Chief People Officer Fran Katsoudas and Chief Operations Officer Irving Tan due to take place the following day.
Throughout the day, there was a lot of discussion, conflict and collaboration – we kept circling the same scenarios until we realised something! Ignore for a moment how Our Principles are worded. Take Cisco out of the equation, in fact take any company out of the equation. Find any person in the world regardless of country, role, background or age; a Doctor in Shanghai, a College Student in New York, a Waitress in Australia, a Teacher in Amsterdam.
It comes down to one thing. Our Principles are about being a better human being. Period.
We realized that it doesn’t matter how Our Principles are worded or phrased, or who they come from. What’s important is that our people understand the premise of each one and live them every day. That’s what our project is all about.
It’s about converting those skeptics to believers and evangelists, and showing them what it means to live Our Principles.
Now, it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t a challenge, would it?
Presentation Day: Knock Knock. Who’s there?
Day three came around and it was presentation day. Eeek! Channeling every single ounce of passion in us, we presented our ideas to Fran and Irving, and you will not believe what happened mid-presentation.
We hear a knock on the door. A polite voice says “Oops, sorry. Wrong room” and then walks back out. We all look at each other in surprise – it was our legendary CEO, Chuck Robbins!
He walks back in and takes a seat right in front of me. And in his always-oh-so-cool way, says “Hi, sorry, please carry on.”
Completely unfazed and with our continued passion for Cisco, our people and culture – we did, because we know that Chuck is just another (awesome) member of our Cisco family. We were thrilled that they were on-board with our ideas and were excited to share our next iteration of our project with them!
Our People Deal Ambassadors: We Are The Bridge.
Then came time to head back to the airport. For me, saying goodbye at the airport is just as emotional as saying hello. It’s a time for reflection and gratitude. I am grateful because every single person I have met at Cisco, including the culture ambassadors, has taught me something new and valuable. Every single interaction and experience, including this one, shapes me into the person I am today.
I am incredibly honoured to serve as one of Cisco’s fourteen Global Culture Ambassadors. We are on a mission to make Cisco a better place to work, and to raise the workplace culture bar for the future.
And, we aspire to do so much more than that.
We are on a mission to make the world a better place. We intend to do that by giving our best and taking accountability. By giving our egos the day off, and taking difference to heart. And by giving something of ourselves and taking a bold step. We are the bridge between hope and what’s possible.
And, we are the bridge between the world as we know it today, and the best of humanity where every single interaction in the world is made more meaningful in this increasingly digitized world.
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