An opportunity arose this week for me to give a talk at the Chartered Institute of Marketing. My friend Sukh had been due to speak, and for family reasons he needed to be elsewhere. I was therefore offered a chance to help a friend and stretch my creative muscles – thank you.
The brief for the talk was “how can marketers challenge the status quo within their organisations – specifically how to discover the hero inside yourself and become an agent for change within your own organisation”. I confess I’m not big on heroes – most of mine are flawed, and there’s a danger of aspiring to these seemingly mythical creatures. But change agency, that’s my life. It’s what I do, it’s what I am.
I didn’t have the luxury of time to build something from scratch and rehearse it, so I used my Principles of Work as the backbone for the talk. Relevant, simple, handmade visual aids. I am an artist (keep saying it, keep saying it – one day it won’t feel wrong).
I was on after Eamon Fitzgerald from Naked Wines who gave an interesting talk on how Naked Wines is changing the wine business through its angel investment model, and how employees are trusted to deliver a great customer experience. Eamon did a great job – nothing like a little gentle, self inflicted
pressure excitement to get the adrenalin going.
I’m on my feet, and in the moment I decided to pass the hero challenge back to the audience. I invited them to talk – not about their heroes as individuals, but rather to discuss the behaviours that heroes demonstrate. We were in a large room at the University of Westminster – there are an abundance of whiteboards on the walls so I asked people to transcribe the essence of their heroes conversations for all to see. In those moments, we cocreated a story.
I added this to the mix…
…and off we went.
I’ll not bore you with the detail, but the time passed in a blur – we covered listening, experimenting, presence, leading by example, cocreation and more. Above all – three things stood out.
Small things make a big difference. The importance of gentle, repeated persistence.
Taking responsibility – in fact, embracing it. Absorbing negative feedback and blame, offering thanks in return, and finding ways to improve myself, yourself first. Don’t get me wrong – this is really hard – and if you can endure the initial desire to protect yourself and shift from apportioning blame to taking responsibility – you, and those around you will discover and do great things.
Kindness – in particular the ability to be kind to yourself. You know I struggle with this – and last night I had surges of imposter syndrome, even though people were smiling with me, talking, taking notes and cocreating an engaging environment. And in my head, the occasional scratch at the door of doubt…why am I here…why are they listening…I’m not good enough.
The talk over, I stayed a while for some informal Q&A, as did Eamon. People were kind to me, and I lent heavily on the words thank you as a way of accepting that kindness.
I got home late – and this morning in my inbox there’s some lovely feedback:
Hi Eamon and Doug
Many thanks for two riveting sessions tonight – it’s not just me saying that, I’ve attached the results of the feedback survey and you’ll be very pleased to see a plethora of 5s for both of you. Two of the best sessions of our current events season!
Someone, I don’t know who, added this.
Loved Doug’s speech. Innovative and simple content made it perfect. Truly inspiring.
Normally I’d come up with a dozen reasons why I don’t deserve this, but not today. To the person who sent this note, I say thank you for your kindness, I am happy things went well.