What can Mary Poppins teach us about business operations

Whether starting a new business venture or taking on a new role, there’s a lot you can learn from the story of Mary Poppins. I know you wouldn’t figure me as a Mary Poppins fan and yet there are some nuggets in there to think about, here goes.

 Mary Poppins – techniques to copy

Hire carefully. The Banks’ family went through 6 nannies in 4 months before Mary Poppins arrived. Save time by focusing on understanding what the accountabilities of the job really are and how they are to be delivered. Set the expectations early and make sure you understand the expectations of your new hire. If there is a mismatch its best to work that out early, preferably before you hire.

Spoon out the sugar. Like the song suggests, a little sugar makes it easier to swallow medicine. Focus on the enjoyable aspects of a role, the strengths if you will. You should be playing to your strengths in any role you fill. This is where the art of delegation and connection comes to the fore. Know what you are not good at and surround yourself with people that like doing those things. For example, in Independent Executives I focus on contracts, compliance, finance and process and others focus on sales, marketing and stakeholder engagement.

Start out strong. Mary likes to say, “Well begun is half done.” Create early momentum with small victories that drive you to keep moving forward. This is where to-do lists and 90-day priorities come to the fore to deliver on your one-, three- and ten-year business targets.

Clean your room. How can you complete your work if you’re tripping over toys on the nursery floor? Neat surroundings encourage productivity. Clear the papers off your desk, organise your emails and electronic documents in a concise fashion for easy access. You can waste a lot of time looking for things in a messy world….

Resist hurrying. Mary wins a horse race by riding her merry-go-round steed at a steady pace, and politely asking the other jockeys to let her pass. Rushing causes stress and errors. As I was taught very early on in my professional career slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Go to bed. Yes, sleep is important, tiredness and fatigue should not be worn as a badge of honour in the workplace. You’ll function better during your waking hours when you consistently enjoy a full night’s sleep.

Be flexible. Although she set out to buy fish, Mary adjusts her plans immediately when she finds out that a fit of laughter has trapped her uncle on the ceiling. Be prepared to change when you need to. Be ready for change and anticipate it by planning ahead.

Move on. As much as Mary loves the Banks family, she knows that her mission is to train them to get along on their own. Once she restores harmony, she moves on to her next job. A bit like being an EOS Implementer, I love helping businesses grow and when they know how-to run-on EOS – it’s time for me to go.

Mary Poppins – techniques to avoid

Practice humility. Mary is fond of saying that she is practically perfect in every way. Most of us need to allocate our resources so we can reserve our strongest efforts for top priorities.

Bring the appropriate tools. When Mary needs a floor lamp, she reaches into her bottomless carpet bag. In the real world, it pays to think ahead so you’ll have all the equipment handy for tackling any job.

Climb the stairs. Mary reaches her destinations quickly by sliding up and down banisters. You’ll be better off without resorting to risky shortcuts.

Share your reasoning. With all her special talents, Mary sails through life refusing to give references or explanations. You’re likely to enlist more cooperation when you share information.

So, there you have it, a few tips from the story of Mary Poppins. While it might sound a bit trite sometimes it pays to look at things differently. While we can learn lessons from many sources, to be frank it’s more important to execute on the lessons than just read about them, so over to you, what techniques from Mary Poppins do you or will you employ?