Washington DC. I have been there several times…but up until last week the closest I have been to seeing any famous site was from the airplane window coming into land at Reagan airport. Three visits – best I can remember – staying at three different hotels. And that was it.
I was in DC again last week. And found myself inside another hotel. Same name. Same room (it seemed). More modern fitness centre. Unimproved, unimpressive (and tasteless) coffee machine in room.
I was attending our Spring Sales meeting. Splitting my time between the meeting itself, phone calls, and teleconferences.
This week in DC was different though. This week I saw and was inspired. I saw monuments and memorials – monuments to individuals and memorials to armies. The scale and the significance just hits you. I was surprised how moving and evocative I found our evening guided tour.
I was due to talk with our sales team on the first morning. I know most of them very well. There are always new members though. A great opportunity for me to put faces to names…and maybe for them as well.
But what to say? And how to say it? Always the same questions. There’s such a temptation in these situations to focus on our goals, progress to goals, benefits of hitting goals. It’s an easy presentation to prepare and to give. The slides are just charts and numbers…peaks and troughs. The messages are clear enough. It can feel satisfying to do.
But I always struggle with whether this approach works. How well does just reminding any team – let alone a team as driven, motivated and committed as our sales force – about their goals and objectives help, let alone make a difference?
I knew I wanted to do something different. I decided as I travelled, and through my early morning jet lag. I wanted to remind them how driven, motivated and committed they are – individually and collectively. How skilled, able and supported they are. How inspiring they are to me…and how certain I am in their ability to seize opportunities and solve problems, to help our teams and our sponsors…every day, week, month, quarter…and year!
I only had two slides. I wanted to tell some stories. I wanted to share – rather than just communicate – my message of trust and of confidence.
I showed an old black and white picture of a couple. A couple in love. A couple just starting off on their life together sixty plus years ago. I talked about what we learn from our parents…and what we inherit. I told a couple of stories about that special couple. They were personal to me, common to us all, and reflected in our team. Experiences and beliefs…beliefs that drive us without us realising and empower us without us knowing. I felt proud to share that special picture, surprised I was sharing my personal stories, but inspired by the faces in the room.
My second picture was easier – less moving for me, but still inspiring to me. A screen shot from a film I had watched on my flight over. A film about three mathematicians in the 1960s involved in the space race. Three mathematicians who persevered, achieved and succeeded individually, collectively and as part of a team, despite facing immense challenges.
There are always reasons why we cannot achieve more, or shouldn’t try again. Giving up is easy. But that’s not who we are, let alone who we want to be. That’s not the people I was with last week. Any more than it’s the people I am with next week…
Same town. Different pictures. Similar messages.