I love the anticipation involved in a New Year.
Making plans for the future, setting out to achieve new things and making commitments to myself and to Impact that I genuinely intend to keep. The excitement of getting together with colleagues and clients as we discuss our hopes and fears for another year. Everyone seems to be re-charged with optimism and expectation for what lies ahead. Privately though, the thing I enjoy most about the New Year is reflecting back on what has happened, what achievements am I most proud of and what mistakes have I made that I genuinely need to learn from.
2015 will be Impact's and therefore my 35th year in business. Like many great ideas, it all started with a conversation in the pub,'The Golden Rule' in Ambleside and this year I made a point of seeing in the New Year in the same pub where, nearly 35 years ago, the concept of Impact was created. Maybe I am feeling a little more nostalgic than usual, but I sat there and remembered the fantastic times, the amazing people and the affirmative experiences that have all compiled to make Impact what it is.
In today's fast paced business world, it can be all too difficult to carve out time for personal reflection, to remember why we are here and to re-focus on what is truly important. I have always believed that Impact is here to help people achieve their full potential and enable them to create organisations that are genuinely worth working for. It may seem like a noble aim, but in fact it's something we achieve every day with our clients and people across the world.
This year I received an email from a colleague of ours, Jane Pearce, who, after many years of enthusiasm and loyal service, has decided to retire from her role as an associate to our Australia business to focus on building a new home and to go travelling.
We first met in the 1980s when she was a participant on a programme we ran for Apple computers. She probably tells her story better than I can:
"It all started in the mid 80s when Apple UK was a fledgling company based in Hemel Hempstead. The Macintosh had just been introduced and we were struggling to get noticed. Then two senior executives were hired from Gillette - but what on earth did two guys who marketed shaving equipment know about computers – honestly nothing…but they did know about marketing. To get us thinking in a different way, the marketing team were asked to go on a team building activity in the Lake District – in January. We arrived late one evening, were asked to get changed into outdoor clothing and then proceeded to abseil into a disused quarry in the pitch black and sleet. The next morning we were taken back to the same site and asked to do it again in daylight, where we could see the drop and of course many of us were now shaking in our boots. Impact showed us that if we believed in ourselves we could do anything and we all succeeded. To be honest the rest of that programme for me is a blur of activity, challenge and amazing insight into how humans can work together and do amazing things. The rumour – which can only be confirmed by Dave W, is that Apple could not afford to pay Impact but as Impact had no computers the two companies did a legal barter deal and Apple’s first evangelist company in support of Macintosh had been formed.
A few months later, I returned to the Lake District with a new marketing director and I am still in touch with many of the people who were on that training programme. We are talking about a programme that happened nearly 30 years ago and yet the memories, the learning, the insight gained and the fun we had is still as clear today as it was then. Finding and chasing the Old Yeti of Coniston, dressed in a gorilla outfit, carrying a rucksack full of beer; building the tallest pyramid of empty Budweiser cans to get more Impact money; suspending the smallest and lightest member of our team from a branch to get a clue from a tree; trying to find, meet and negotiate with the spy on the bridge in Ambleside; chasing sheep across fields, 100% certain that the black sheep in the flock carried the final clue. My personal performance was noticed by the Impact team and by the new Marketing Director and as a result I was offered a promotion to form a new team and my career took off.
A few years later I moved to Sony and facilitated the introduction of the two companies. My boss at Sony UK had been invited to attend an Impact programme for all European Senior executives. He was a non believer – he did not think the type of programme being offered would engage and make a difference. He was stubborn and said he would take his windsurf board and windsurf across Lake Windermere and not get involved. In my head I can still hear myself saying these words to him: “ I can not tell you when or how they will do it, but I can assure you that sometime on the first day, you will be engaged, you will get involved and it will make a difference”. Those at Impact who managed that programme can still to this day probably remember the lack of action taken by the group initially and the ultimate positive outcome achieved after much soul searching. My boss then will be known to many of you at Impact UK and became a strong supporter and a true convert to the Impact way. This was the start of many Impact programmes for Sony and gave me my first experience of the ‘pamper pole’ - excellent training for climbing the mast on our catamaran and a fantastic way to, at last, get the respect of the Sony Financial Director!
My final involvement with Impact UK was just before I left to come here to Australia as I wanted to run a team building programme for the European product team. The brief was clear and concise: “Organise a team building like the one we did at Apple in 1985”. Some of the activities had changed, but the level of engagement, the professionalism of all Impact staff, their ability to challenge people, support people through tempers and tantrums, guide us to a result and help us learn about how to interact with others was the same and the memories are once again still as clear.
When asked what, for me, made Impact different, it was the insight offered, the ability to link activities back to the work place, the readiness to challenge people whatever level they held in the client hierarchy. Before I left the UK, I asked Dave if he would introduce me to the Australian team. He did and he also made it clear that Tim, and subsequently Dean, was in charge and any decision would be a local one.
Now 10 years on, I have many wonderful memories of my time working as an associate for Impact here in Australia and Asia Pacific. The challenge of building the business, the excitement of working in Asia, the opportunity to work with staff from across the Impact world have all enriched me. I know that I was able to offer our clients the same insight that had been offered to me. When I found myself doubting if I should challenge someone, I found the courage to voice my thoughts and in the majority of situations, the feedback was taken on board and appreciated. In the same way that my interactions with Impact made a difference to me, I know that I have made a difference to others and that makes me proud to have been part of the Impact team.
All organisations evolve, the business model changes, but the fundamental needs of clients do not change that much and the core values and beliefs of Impact should not change either. So as I move onto the next phase of my life, I wish you all well. Thank you to all of you for being part of my Impact journey. I know the Impact vision will continue to make a difference to people and I will always be proud to be part of the family.
I know there are many other stories like this one out there and it's by focusing on what we have achieved already that I can really enthuse myself and our team to set out to achieve even greater things in the future.
So this year, why not take a little time for yourself and celebrate the great things you did last year, what you learnt and how you will use this to create an even more amazing future.
Happy New Year.