It’s been a long stressful day in the courtroom. I’m prosecuting a very serious Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm case. The defendant is in the witness box and I am cross-examining him on his story leading up to the fight. I am really, really enjoying the cross-examination. I almost reach the point where I have asked enough questions to ‘put the fences’ up around the defendant and I am just about to the ‘close the gate’ so he has nowhere to go. His story is about to lose all credibility.
For the refreshment of all parties involved in court cases, courtrooms have carafes of water and glasses strategically placed on the magistrate’s bench, the witness box, and the bar table.
I am in the zone.
Now, at home, I have a rather unfortunate habit of going to the fridge on a hot day and grabbing the cold water jug and having a good old chug straight from it. Anyone else here prone to this behaviour? Anyone not prepared to admit it? Anyone know anyone else who does this?
I lean forward at the bar table while maintaining my gaze on the defendant in the witness box. Completely autonomously, my hand moves out and down and picks up the carafe of water. I bring the carafe to my lips and start to take a great big mouthful. I notice the look on the defendant face change to one of confusion. I see the defence solicitor out of the corner of my eye also look weirdly at me. I still haven’t realised that I’ve picked up the carafe. My body and mind are completely out of sync. My body’s need to quench its thirst has taken over and as far as my body’s concerned it ’s home in front of the fridge gulping down a refreshing half litre of H2O.
Then I hear the magistrate. Excuse me, Mr Prosecutor, is everything alright? Yes, Your Honour, I immediately reply. I come crashing back to reality as I see the carafe with my hand gripped around its neck like it’s a rabbit I’ve just pulled out of my hat. (If only!).
To say that I went every shade of red would be the understatement of the year. I carefully lowered the carafe back to the tray on the bar table, steadied myself, looked back the defendant, who by now is giggling to himself and simply replied, ‘No further questions, Your Honour…’
This story is a perfect culture example/illustration of ethnocentrism. I was judging or in this case, applying my own culture to another culture and there was a clash… Had the court case been playing out in my kitchen, I would’ve been completely within my rights to take a swig from the bottle, unless of course, my wife was in the kitchen at the time…
Culture is what gives us power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. Nope. Sorry about that. I got my movie and metaphors mixed. The right culture expressed individually and as a group has the power to bring out the best of humanity in all of us.
Believe it or not, every group that has been a part of in our lives so far, have been so because the group shares its values and beliefs with us. Sometimes those values and beliefs are overt and sometimes they are covert. Families, clubs, work teams. The very fact that we are together in this room today is the result of, to a large extent, a shared set of values and beliefs. The key point to make here is that these values and beliefs are shared.
As social animals, we all have a need to belong. Even those amongst us that enjoy their solitude, still crave the feeling of needing to belong. Our families, our social groups and our work groups all share cultures of their own. Whilst these cultures may be unique to the group, the similarities across the groups from time to time get blurred or misconstrued leading us to believe that we may not share similar values and beliefs with other groups. Sure these cultures have borrowed from other cultures so there are a significant number of similarities, but what I will enable you to understand is the importance of culture in your life’s story and how you must make it your value proposition in all that you do.
Life is difficult, confusing and complicated. We need to promote culture to shape positive environments within organisations. A culture that champions diversity and difference. To be welcoming, embracing and inclusive of new ideas, people and circumstances. We’re all in this together.
Culture must be our Value Proposition.