Olympic Gold – It all starts with a dream….

Shaa Wasmund is a renowned enteprise guru whose own achievements both as an entrepreneur and as a provider of enterprise support have massively outweighed my own.   Shaa asserts that…

Every athlete once had a dream to stand on an Olympic stage. But, they didn’t just talk about their dreams, they put in the hours, hard work and dedication to make them a reality. They gave all they had for one moment in time.

In my experience many who achieve excellence entered their field because they loved it rather than because they wanted to stand on an Olympic podium or to be a millionaire before they reach 30.  Sometimes it IS the big dream that allows you to put in the hours of dedicated effort.  But much more frequently it is the hours of dedicated effort that eventually allow you to dare to believe in the big dream.  Most of us, to begin with at least, were not motivated by thoughts of winning on the big stage, but by pursuing our interests and exploring possibilities….

Our progress is driven by the dedicated development and exploration of passion and identity.  A journey that often begins with no real clarity over where it might lead, or how far it might go.

I think this openness to journeys that start in different places with different intensities and ambitions is absolutely critical to make the most of all potential, whether it is in sport, business or any field.

And where should we invest our time and money?  In helping people to navigate the ealry stages of their journeys.  Because late stage development is, relatively speaking, child’s play.

An imaginary open letter: To those who would ‘engage’ us…

To those who would ‘engage’ us…

We are already engaged.

We may not be engaged with you, or in what you think we should be engaged with, but none the less we ARE engaged. The things that we are engaged with offer us what we are looking for, perhaps consciously, perhaps not. Our chosen ‘engagements’ give us some combination of love, power and money.

There is a fourth thing that some of us get from our preferred engagement, and that is freedom from pain. Freedom from the pain of hope denied. Freedom from the pain of optimism dashed. Freedom from the humiliation of yet another ‘failure’. This pursuit of freedom from pain is what you label ‘apathy’.

We may choose to engage with you, and your agendas, if you offer us what we want. Unless we see possibilities for this our engagement with you is likely to be short lived and will change nothing. It might be enough for you to tick the box called ‘community engagement’, but little more.  Love and fun might attract us for a while, but it is making us powerful that keeps us engaged.

Many of us who you find ‘hard to reach’ or ‘difficult to engage’ have ‘been engaged’ with people like you before. We have been sold false hope and have suffered the pain of having that hope dashed when you let us down, or when you run out of funding. Your reputations go before you. Sometimes even your promise of cash can’t persuade us to engage…we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

You might pay us to move our muscles, or answer your questions, but you cannot buy our hearts and minds.

If you want to encourage us to change what we engage with, then you need to understand us, understand what we are looking for, and understand where our engagement is likely to take us. It is this ‘where it leads’ that is often the hardest part of the story for us to explore. Some of us have learned to live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself. But, if you can really offer us something that provides us with a genuine shot at a better future….

Often your approach appears to us to stand on the premise that you have the right to engage us in what you believe to be good for us. You impose your sensibilities and priorities. Or you impose the policy objectives of those who pay your wages. You force us into a parent child relationship.

Imagine that a powerful outsider came and tried to persuade you to live your life differently. To give up some of the things that you enjoy. To ‘persuade’ you to work on a project of their design.  How would you respond? With enthusiastic compliance?

Perhaps instead of seeking to engage ‘us’ in your decision-making processes, or in co-creating your services, or in spending your budgets, you should instead seek to engage yourselves in our agendas, our decisions, our opportunities. You should put us as individuals and communities at the heart of your endeavours.

Before you seek to engage us in your agendas, perhaps you ought to spend a bit of time trying to engage yourselves in ours? Not by pushing your way in with your authority and your money.

But by winning an invitation. By being ‘helpful’.

So, the next time you sit down to write your engagement strategy, just think about what you might need to be like for us to invite you in.