Good people is good business: A Q&A with Mary-Anne Merriott
“Good people is good business,” says Mary-Anne, Castleford’s Head of People and Culture. Which sums up a lot about her attitude to her position – and how she wields her experience to constantly improve our team and processes.
We had a chat with Mary-Anne to find out more about what drives her positive attitude, and how it might be applied elsewhere.
You have a strong history in people and culture. What made you passionate about these areas?
That’s a long story! I strongly believe in being a force for good as much as I can, so this is a really value- and purpose-driven career for me. It’s my way of being part of the solution, and doing my bit to contribute to the world.
I come to work every day feeling like I am doing something that matters and helping the people around me. Even a little bit makes a positive difference.
What’s the first thing someone should know about creating a positive team culture in their own business?
Don’t act like a jerk. That’s really the only rule!
Smiling and saying “good morning” every day is actually really high impact. I’ve turned around toxic teams by starting with such a simple approach. It’s not rocket science; a huge HR industry has evolved around this question and I think at times it overcomplicates things.
Basically, for people to drive strong business/commercial results, you want to create a positive cycle – and I’m on a mission to spread it wherever I go. That means treating people well, providing a great environment and experience, developing your team and building their careers, and – above all, really – treating them like human beings.
BONUS TIP: If things are already good, don’t mess it up by trying to tinker around with ‘cultural initiatives’. Just let the good stuff roll! The basics of being a decent, friendly, respectful, polite human being still work and I think sticking to them is always the starting point. The results speak for themselves, and they have big ripple effects.
You’ve nearly been at Castleford a year now. What’s it been like so far?
Wow – nearly a year already! It’s been awesome. I love working in the digital world and at the SME scale – being closer to the action, making a direct and significant impact on things.
And our people are absolutely great. We have a fantastic team and cultural DNA at Castleford. It’s so refreshing to work with a group of people who are actively hungry for development and professional growth, and who love what they do.
When you’re in a big corporate environment, it feels like you need to be more arms-length from the people who you’re trying to help. You can’t be as friendly. That’s not the case here, and it’s been very meaningful to me (because I’m a human being too!).
OK, it’s time to ask the serious questions. We know you love hiking. What’s your favourite NZ walk, and why?
I don’t think I could choose just one!
I had a fabulous solo six days in Nelson Lakes in January around the Travers-Sabine circuit and I already want to go back for more. Six days wasn’t enough time. The next time I’m there I’d like to hit Mt Misery and Angelus Hut, camp by Lake Constance, go up Waiau Pass and down the other side … I’ve been dreaming about it all year.
When will it happen? That I’m not so sure about…
If we’re going hiking tomorrow, what are the top five things we should take?
How content marketing of you to ask me for a top five list!
I would always recommend packing:
- Map and compass.
- Food and water.
- Head torch.
- Waterproof jacket.
- A sense of awe and adventure.
A locator beacon and a first aid kit isn’t a bad idea, either. I always carry one unless I’m on a lazy summer stroll.
Somehow I always end up being the person helping out the confused tourists or unprepared people I meet along the way. I tend to give away lots of sweets and nut bars, so I’m always carrying extra.