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Luen’s blog: What’s culture got to do with running a children’s hospice?

Before I started my new role as CEO at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice I had a preconceived idea of what the culture would be like. Since then, it’s clear that while there are sad moments for sure, there are inspirational moments too and overall, the culture of the organisation is very positive and team oriented. And it needs to be because families depend on us, so we must depend on each other. And it’s important because positive people are more engaged, are more able to inspire and motivate others, have greater job satisfaction, are more resilient and will deliver a better service.

Feeling good about the work we do and the difference we make is an essential factor in the delivery of charitable services and none more so than when dealing with families experiencing the most difficult and tragic of times in their lives.

At this time families need people around them on whom they can depend, people they trust and can open up to and who will be there for them. Our relationships and connections with each other have to be based around some key culture shaping characteristics that enable that support to be delivered in a caring and compassionate way. Our families deserve and get that from us.

These are the 6 characteristics that I am fostering to underpin our beliefs and attitudes and shape how we work with families.

A strong team spirit

Strong social connections at the hospice and in our shops can make us even more passionate about our work and more resilient when dealing with the really difficult issues we often face. Working for each other in a purposeful way is key to a strong team spirit and it’s what keeps us going when things get tough.

Thoughtful appreciation and recognition

We often get praise from the families we help, but not all staff see that, despite the fact that everyone here contributes to the support that is provided. Appreciation and recognition, even in its simplest form goes a long way to building a team who truly work together and for each other. We all need to consider how we support and praise our colleagues, especially those not in our own teams or not connected directly with families.

Transparency and honest communication

We are all adults and as such generally want to understand the big picture, even the difficult parts. Transparency builds trusting relationships where we can be more comfortable speaking up, being ourselves, and having great job satisfaction.

Servant leaders

So often, we are “called” to our role because of our unique gifts and talents. But everyone, whatever their role, can also be a servant leader – by which I mean we can use our inherent leadership skills for the benefit of the families we serve. Leadership is not a job title, it’s a mindset, an attitude. And we can use our leadership skills across our individual spheres of influence, our connections – with family, friends and associates – to help us recruit and meet the needs of our supporters. Because everyone in every area of our work needs to be supporter savvy – without them, we simply can’t do what we do.


In our hospice, there is no insignificant position. That’s not because we are lean or super-efficient, it’s because all of us are significant. Whether you are a cleaner or the CEO, influence is not determined by a job title but by how well it’s done. We all contribute in a meaningful way to support our families. We are all important to the overall offer to families. We are all capable of making a difference.


As a hospice, we depend on each other. We are as strong as our weakest link. We are one another’s keeper. Our families depend on us and we depend on each other.


Culture eats strategy for breakfast, they say. Get the culture right and performance improves. Our biggest issue here is income generation, ensuring we have enough money to meet families’ needs, not just today, but tomorrow too. That starts with culture, connecting everyone together and to our mission, and making sure that our people can confidently deliver their roles and work effectively as part of the wider team and with supporters.

All of which will ensure Forget Me Not is a great place to work – and the best place for our children and families to find the care and support that they so desperately need.

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