Since 2009, I have founded and lead a voluntary community project in Dorset. The Phoenix Legacy aim is to inspire people over 50 to be more active in mind,body and spirit, based on the London 2012 ‘inspire a generation’ concept.
This project has been a steep learning curve for me and I would like to share some of that learning with you over a series of blogs. I believe you can apply the lessons to any leadership role, whether business, community or family. I hope it may also help anyone thinking of getting involved in projects in Rio for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
If you are going to inspire people then make sure you have the support in place.
We can inspire people in different ways, but especially through inspirational speeches. I was first inspired to get involved by a passionate and engaging speaker, Gary Fooks. He was asking for ideas of legacies for Dorset with the London 2012 sailing events coming to Weymouth.
When we inspire someone, it is like bouncing them up on a trampoline. We take them to new heights of action. If there is no support in place afterwards, then it is like whipping the trampoline away; and they struggle to stay aloft or fall even further and harder back to earth.
On a major scale, we have seen this around the world, when with good intentions, ‘developed’ countries inspire others to reach for democracy. Without sufficient planning going into the support they need, the consequences can be dire.
As a business leader, you can inspire your team to achieve more, but how will you support them as they strive? Fail to plan, plan to fail is a key motto. The de-motivation from not providing the necessary support for those you inspire can be enormous. When you prepare that inspirational speech, why not build in the support you can offer?
With the Phoenix Legacy, I found that there was very little real action from some organisations which had given extremely positive verbal offers of support. (I am sure with good intention.) My mistake was to take verbal promises literally and did not dig deep enough to clarify what this would mean in reality or gain written commitment. I have learnt that a good question to ask when someone says ‘Oh yes, I will support you’, is ‘So what will that actually look like and when?’ Expectations need to be specified for both sides.
Having inspired others to volunteer their services to the Phoenix Legacy, I apologise for not having communicated or supported them as well as I could have. Despite my shortcomings, the volunteers have been brilliant.
The key lessons I learnt are that:
- There can be a big difference between verbal support and actual support; even when intentions are good.
- You need to be very clear of expectations.
- If you inspire people, then support them.
If you would like further detail or to add your comments, please let me know.