February’s Members’ Meeting took place on a blustery Wednesday morning the day after we had all heard the news of inspirational, World-Cup-winning goalkeeper and legend, Gordon Banks’ sad passing. I say inspirational because it is quite fitting that most entrepreneurs seldom see themselves as inspirational, merely carrying out instinctive actions that they are particularly attuned to. I think Mister Banks was like this, too - he was always humble and hard-working, and, like many of my peers here in FEO, some incredible feats come by way of pure instinct. Also, I got to thinking about that paradox (anxiety to some of us) about successful people reading ‘How to be Successful’ tomes as if our future relationship with our bank depended on it! Just as that wonder save from Pelé’s unforgivingly gifted forehead could never be transcribed into a ‘How to’ manual, many of our unique businesses are in the same mould – we don’t quite know when or how that idea dropped into our consciousness or, where the tentative burst of fearlessness came from to pursue it either.
What we do know, and, I wish I had had the support of a supportive group of peers thirty-five years ago or, even the knowledge that it merely required a simple permission to ask. Our wonderful FEO members are enriched by the amazing fact that their peers are open to nurturing conversations and mini-workshops to develop burgeoning ideas further – how brilliant is it that we have access to the private portfolio of tricks, tips and advice of already successful people!
Which leads me on to the particular portfolio of our local football club, Hull City AFC’s manager, Nigel Adkins and, that is what he presented, an animated Curriculum Vitae that left us pondering which bits we could take back to the desk or boardroom depending on our respective approach. Just as we have at times had to be Personnel, Finance, R&D, Mentor or Trainer, Nigel opened up his invisible folder and gave us an insight into maximising the talents of his many charges along with, of course, developing himself. We also got an insight that modern teams simply do not respond to the ‘Cloughie’ style of management and, coincidentally, neither do modern businesses no matter how romantically attached we may have become to days-of-yore thinking.
What we do see in parallel to running our own businesses is developing trust in our personnel to help turn our moments of risk in to refined delivery and, sometimes, excellence. We’ve all experienced those ‘nearly there’ moments of developing ideas to reality and, to some extent, Nigel has exceeded this season – how many games did we see the team robbed in the last few minutes of games against far superior players? What we did gain an insight from was that he, and his portable skills; Goalkeeper, Physio, Trainer, Coach, Manager and Mentor, provided his bedrock - his template is all about fine-tuning incremental changes and communicating those changes to those that have the ability to carry them out. Converting faith into trust into responsibility… Before starting Jenko, I had a couple of years working and learning a new area of philosophy and the guru of that process had a quotation: “Responsibility is a light-hearted thing!” We have all had times when we have witnessed innate possibilities in our own teams and, the difficulty we had in presenting ‘change’ to unleash those possibilities just to have a negative or sense of doubt being played back to us. I made a point to him at the Q&A about putting his faith in appointing a captain the fans were not so sure about, not playing certain flair players despite the fans becoming angry that they were seemingly kept on the bench, how two young centre backs (the engine room in our businesses) have too many mistakes in their game. What a coach or manager cannot do is give people natural ability, what he can do is engender trust and ask for responsibility and, to be fair, Nigel has done that and, now it is great to see players with smiles on their faces as they deliver this “light-hearted thing” that means so much to us as individuals, teams, businesses, sponsors, communities and city.
When we come to tossing the coin ourselves, we have to realise that if ‘heads’ equals responsibility, then ‘tails’ equates to honesty – or ‘authenticity’ as us therapistas might say. You really can’t have one without the other and, just as Nigel pointed out, you can have all of the drive, endeavour and fearlessness of young talent, yet without older more experienced colleagues alongside, they will inevitably make mistakes. This was the point of divergence – we make ours, hundreds of them and we dust ourselves down and get on with the next – football, sadly is mercenary, cruel and transitory. What we do know as mentors is that those young players will never forget that those ‘circles of power’ or ‘moments of learning’ as they become lifelong philosophies to sustain their progress in life.
It was a great treat to have an insight into a world more precarious than ours, a life on the edge, the highs and lows made only bearable by the successful mini-actions of a select few. We got a lesson in disconnect between global corporates and small groups of players as teams and their brand-loyal followers. We also got to hear about the rare thing in football – loyalty and joined-up thinking and total, bigger picture football that had to include academies or it would be deprived essential lifeblood for the future.
What started off as a memoir about a legendary England goalkeeper saw the baton being passed onto a former goalkeeper himself, Nigel Adkins not without, it has to be said, a curtain-raiser from our very own, David Kilburn; Astutely weaving in video clips of Tigers’ peak points, we heard David’s amazing journey from light-hearted start-up, re-connecting with talented and committed colleagues and creating a common goal – to provide something different, something better – there can be no substitute for knowledge that delights an audience with experience. Did I not love that?
Speaking of not loving that, could I include a shout-out about Senior Tigers FC? It is part of the Senior Tigers Club and Tigers Trust initiative to improve fitness in the over-60’s – no, I don’t do I? We meet at TT Arena, Monday and Thursday 10-11am, it’s non-contact and great fun. Last year, we went to Mallorca to a Dutch organised tournament and topped our group – it was great saying to NA that we have scored more goals in Europe than the first team, which probably prejudiced my request for sponsorship for this May’s event – so, if you are interested in joining in or sponsoring, please do contact me.
Finally, I cannot say how difficult it has been to write this piece without resorting to footie cliché and comparison. What does resonate is the notion of ‘team’ - it’s what binds us or eludes us in our everyday operations and, just as we home-in on fabulously skilful strikers, creative and defensive midfielders, dour defenders, it is always worth remembering that only the greatest teams have invincible goalkeepers!