He had big career goals until his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The final days with his father ignited an awakening.
Whenever I think about the subject of “inspiration, not manipulation,” I always look back and think how great people of their time attracted and inspired the masses.
Look at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for example, he brought people together through progressive actions and his historic speech. Doing so without the aid of social media, 24-hour news or a modern marketing campaign. Can you imagine how many Twitter or LinkedIn followers he would have in modern times?
To use the example of Dr. King, inspirational people don’t sell things; they stand for things. As a good leader or a good manager, you don’t have to sell people your ideas or philosophies. You should stand for them, which in turn inspires others to do the same. The difference is seismic.
Manipulation tactics can also work of course, but only for a short space of time. That’s why those who manipulate have spikes in sales or recognition, usually when offering a discount or a special offer. These tactics can manipulate and win a one off purchase, but they don’t inspire people, certainly not in the long run.
My evolution story starts back in 2008 when I first started to think differently. I was a stereotypical career upstart, looking to climb the ladder as fast as I could. Like many, I did so without really caring who I stood on during the climb.
For me, it was always about power and I needed to prove to myself that I could be the next big thing when it came to sports business and management. In particular, within the football industry in the UK.
At the time, I was at a club that was doing OK in the second tier of English football and things were going well. I had gained a few promotions, and I had just taken over a department in the business. My plan was going swimmingly well.
I have to say at this point, my rise had nothing to do with inspiration, but more to do with manipulation.
Then one day in late January, I took the call I had hoped would never come. My dad, my hero, had just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Ever since I can remember, my father had been the brightest light in my life. He got me through everything, supported me in everything that I did and was with me every step of the way. As the horrifying news sank in, I knew that my time with him was now on the stopwatch.
My world just seemed to stop, and everything around me seemed to pale into insignificance. It was, as you can imagine, a game changer. To see my hero slip away at the mercy of this terrible disease was the hardest thing I had ever encountered.
For a period, I let things slip, as my focus was just trying to spend time with and help my father. In terms of work, things took a turn for the worse. With everything going on, I also had to have major surgery on my leg from an old football injury, which kept me out for four weeks.
Others spotted the gap I had left within the workplace and manipulation was rife. I was eventually called into the CEO’s office due to momentum campaigns and spin from others, as I had similarly done in previous years myself. I was told at this point that someone else would be coming in to take over one of my areas.
At the time, it didn’t matter to me, as it was during my father’s closing days. April 28th, 2008 is a day that is etched in memory for the rest of my life, as my hero passed away. For those who have lost a parent, you know all too well the grief and upset it can cause.
It’s at pivotal moments like these that you realize that life is not forever and that you are by no means immortal. You understand that the world isn’t the way you first thought it was. From this day on, my whole attitude changed. It would no longer be about manipulation for me, but inspiration–a theory that is now applied to everything I do.
I returned to the office and changed my style and my process. I played the long game with the CEO and just made sure I made the right decisions every working day, based on inspiring people.
My club took off, and we started to increase revenues and attendances like never before. We were previously infamous for all the wrong reasons, and we worked tirelessly to turn this around. Suddenly we were making headlines off the pitch for the right reasons, turning historically dark problems into new rays of light. The club won national and international awards, gaining positive recognition, as never seen before.
I left the company in 2014 to take up the offer to become CEO of a major sports team in Europe, where I applied the same principles of inspiration, not manipulation. I reached the top and did it in the right way, winning accolades and praise along the way. I had proudly built a personal brand that had strong values, good beliefs and a clear vision. By doing so, I was able to win hearts and minds, using purpose and not power. I communicated the importance and potential rewards of substance over spin.
June 2015 was another breakthrough for me as I started my Fanalyse brand. Even in these early stages, I’m a very busy consultant, helping other brands to build by using the same principles for success.
I firmly believe the brands that inspire draw people towards them, whereas brands that manipulate drag people for the short term and a ‘quick buck’. Brands that also manipulate spend a disproportionate amount of money on advertising to stay in the market.
In the UK, we have hundreds of adverts, especially from furniture companies. It’s always a case of the biggest sale ever since the last biggest sale ever. It’s all smoke and mirrors, without substance. When was the last time you saw the apple corporation advertise a sale?
Brands that succeed in inspiring us have had a positive social impact on our lives. It’s vital that you create a brand that creates value through core values–building and nurturing results that are equitable for your company and community alike.
Humility and honesty hold the keys to success, which in turn creates an emotional connection with people and evokes loyalty to your brand. This doesn’t only apply to your company. It also applies to you as a person, along with your employees and the wider community.
It’s proven that people who work for companies with clear corporate and social responsibility programmes attain higher productivity and a lower turnover of staff. You can win hearts and minds by maintaining strong values, good beliefs and a clear vision. Empower and inspire people to do things don’t manipulate them.
Thanks, Dad, I will always be grateful for this invaluable lesson.
Photo: Flickr/ Michael Clesle