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Uniting Teams

Events, Event Planning, Leadership, Event Purpose | August 2018
I found myself frustrated and pacing in front of a hotel in Punta Umbria on Spain’s south-western coast at 1am on a balmy June morning.

In seven hours time, 600 of the world’s fittest people would be ascending on the beach resort to celebrate 50 years of Les Mills, and I was still trying to figure out how we were going to pull the event off to the standards I had promised.

We had spent six months in New Zealand, creating, planning, calculating and briefing for the success of the five day event, and had just four days on the ground in Spain to bring everybody together, rehearse and put the plan into action.

Those four days were a crash course in how to bring diverse people together to achieve something extraordinary. Something business leaders grapple with daily.

Here’s what I learned.

Your plans are your plans: Your job is to make them everyone’s plans.

As leaders we can spend all our time planning, consulting, briefing, creating, justifying.

But all the double checking of details, diagrams, presentations, skype calls, blueprints mean nothing if we don’t truly understand the people involved.

Our planning for the event was based on empowering our people to execute and be responsible for their own part in the success of the event.

However, the contrast in working styles we were experiencing with the other local suppliers was making it difficult and frustrating to get what we needed to be done, done.

At the end of the day, we had brought our plans and they had brought theirs.

The best made plans of mice and men often go awry.

We had put so much effort and energy into crafting a finely tuned event, that risked turning into a disaster if we couldn’t come together to get the basics right.

It was confusing, chaotic and highly complex.

All our planning was at risk of going out the window if I couldn’t figure out how to bring people from different countries and cultures, who spoke different languages and were led by leaders with different styles of leading, together.

I had to let go of our early stage ideas, and realise that simple execution done well was going to be the biggest winner.

This blog has a happy ending.

The event was a raging success. It has been written about, filmed, tweeted, instagramed the world over.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And it taught me invaluable lessons about forming and leading cross cultural teams. Lessons that apply no matter what business you are in.

Phil Thompson is the strategic brains behind Edge Creative. He's been creating high-impact events that bring companies, their employees and their business goals and visions together on scale since 1994.