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Meeting Lord Sebastian Coe and discussing Primary Purpose of Organisations

Engaging the team, winning hearts and minds
It was very exciting to have Lord Sebastian Coe as the keynote speaker at the recent People Development Summit in Barcelona. His opening speech for the Summit focused at why London won the Olympic bid – I said why and not how, as this was one of the reasons London won. Lord Coe focused his team on the ‘why’ and not the ‘how’!

Just minutes before, over dinner with some of the UK’s leading learning and development managers and some of the most respected and competent training suppliers, I had been discussing how Talent Dynamics always begins by focusing teams and organisations at their Primary Purpose and how that links to value and leverage. We had been discussing this as the theme at the table was ‘thoroughly engaging the team with hearts and minds’ and being careful not to run employee engagement as a process.

We all smiled then when Lord Coe backed up everything we had just been discussing in his opening speech!

“Rarely are there only two horses in any race. The markets keep moving”

Lord Coe told us how the Olympic bid was being viewed as a “two-horse race” but in his experience there was no such thing – indeed the 1978 European Championships in Prague had been labelled a two-horse race, between Seb and Steve Ovett. As it turned out, neither of these horses won!

“The perception was we wouldn’t win it: we would get to a worthy semi-final only”

Lord Coe went on to explain that London was so far behind the other cities in approval points to win the bid it didn’t seem possible they could win. He knew why he was leading the bid and it was his passion for connecting young people to sport. He knew the impact the Olympics could have on young people entering both professional sports and sport for fun and could see that the Olympics was an enormous opportunity for young people in Britain.

“If you can get young people to see something different and extraordinary, you can give them a ticket to set them off”

Now his job was to turn the focus of his team away from ‘how’ they would deliver the Olympics safely, securely, on time and on budget (which everyone knew they could focus at later) and shifted the team to ‘why’ they were part of the Olympic Bid team. Why London should host the Olympics. Why they were giving up their time and leaving well paid jobs to be a part of this.

“A generation of youngsters who may now be moved to take up a sport…”

Changing the focus of his team led to London gaining 30 approval points in six months taking then to 60 points! He asked them all to understand internally why they were a part of this bid and why London should be picked and then he asked them to externalise that to others.

“ It happened as a result of a more compelling story and narrative”

London won the Olympic bid – it was a surprise to many people but not to Lord Coe and his team who were dedicated and passionate about the difference they were about to make to millions of young people across the UK!

So perhaps this week you can take some time out with the team from the how and the process improvements and refocus everyone on your Primary Purpose: why your organisation is here… why you are here?

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