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Taming the Tigers at Think FM

Jim Lawless

Jim Lawless

The tiger is the thing that stops us. The voices of self-doubt that talk us out of our bold action.” So said Jim Lawless, the opening speaker at Think FM this week, kicking not only a superb conference but also a day of tiger talk among the 350 delegates.

Lawless, who shouted down his tiger and transformed himself from fat corporate lawyer to skinny champion jockey within a year, set out his ten rules for taming tigers. Act boldly today, he urged, time is limited. “Change doesn’t take a long time. Deciding what that change is going to be takes the time.” His comments had @fmcoach wondering whether if all the delegates acted boldly, Lawless would have an audience left.

The presentation, which saw Lawless relive his jockey days crouched balanced on a chair’s arm rests, and the audience, bottoms firmly in the air, mimicking the jockey pose, resonated with everyone at the Royal College of Physicians. “Rewrite your rulebook, challenge it hourly,” Lawless said. “Head in the direction of where you want to arrive, every day.”

Think FM 13 Ian Lawless Chair

Lawless, who in addition to his jockey feat had also trained himself to be a free diver and who broke a record by diving to 101 metres, was testament to the success of his rules. “It’s all in the mind,” he said. “What’s in your diary is on there because you like it.” The tools for taming tiger are all around you, he added, describing how he had approached 70 jockey trainers and experts before finding the one, perfect, person to transform him into an elite athlete.

There’s no safety in numbers, Lawless added. “You can’t sit in the bar criticising the people on the track. Get out on the track.” His seventh point was to “do something scary every day” followed by “Understand and control your time to create change.” Describing his routine as a jockey which involved 5am wake-up calls, driving across the country to ride three races in the pouring rain wearing silk, only to go home where a five-mile run awaits, Lawless argued his ninth point: “Create disciplines, do the basics brilliantly.” Everyone has their own Derby to win, Lawless concluded. “80 per cent of the journey feels tough and odd. The tiger roars at you. But never, never give up.

A buzzing audience, set up for the day, left the main auditorium to choose between three hubs: Talent: Raising our Game; Performance: Making our case; and Relationships: Realising our value.

In the third hub, the talk turned from tigers to adding value. But Ian Schollar, from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, had his own tiger to fight. “As a buyer, the tiger will roar and say “I need to be in control’. But you must ignore him, be open and transparent and share things with your supplier.” Schollar, who was presenting the CIPS research into the future of procurement, called on buyers to ask their suppliers what’s new, different and innovative rather that thinking they have all the answers themselves. “Get the supplier involved, they are the experts.” He also predicted a move from focusing on cost savings to a focus on profit.

True partnerships are possible if the ground rules are established early on, said David Howorth, director of operations at MITIE Client Services, in hub 3. But although he cited some good ‘partnership’ words including honesty, communication, integrity, engagement and understanding, he argued that unless those words are translated into changed behaviour, then partnership won’t be achieved.

He discussed strong partnerships such as TV presenters Ant and Dec, who are both insured for £1 million against each other’s death, and compared them with David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and Noel and Liam Gallagher, demonstrating how badly things can get when a partnership breaks down. “Partnerships aren’t just between a client and supplier, they should also happen between teams and departments within an organisation. If you don’t have internal partnerships, then you don’t have a hope in hell of getting them with your supplier.”

Relationships and value were back on the agenda in Hub 2 later in the day when Alan Williams and Dr Alison Whybrew discussed how to use the FM team to bring an organisation’s values to life. “The impact one person can have on another is immediate and can last a long time,” said Whybrow. “People will forget what you said and did but not how you made them feel.”

Williams demonstrated how facilities professionals can bring an organisation’s values to life – or cause long-lasting damage to an organisation. He used the example of an anonymous PLC who had a lengthy, and impressive, environmental policy, which Williams shared with the audience. “But their staff car parks are all full of gas-guzzling company cars and there are indestructible foil packets in the coffee machines. When official messages clash with personal experience, personal experience always wins.

Translating the organisation’s values into everyday behaviour can be a challenge and needs constant communication – perhaps a reminder of today’s value on your PC in the morning, or on a daily meeting agenda. “But when it becomes ‘the way things work around here’, it is incredibly powerful.

Think FM 2013 Library

Closing the event in the library (rather than the fabulous gardens, thanks to the vagaries of the great British summer) Chris Kane, CEO of BBC Commercial Projects, gave an insight into the FM world at the broadcaster. “’Stay on air and don’t kill anyone’ is the FM mantra,” he explained. A remarkably simple aim for a complex organisation. The future will be all about productivity, and not cost, he said, echoing speakers from earlier in the day. But he left delegates with a simple question – do we, as an industry, focus enough on outcomes, or is it all about outputs?

Royal College of Physicians Think FM 2013It wasn’t just the great speakers, the whizzy iPads, given to each delegate to follow the presentations and rate the speakers, or the fabulous venue – the Grade 1 listed Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park – that gave ThinkFM an unmistakable buzz. The sheer number, and quality of delegates, the constant Twitter coverage and analysis, the great food and the difficulty in getting people to leave after the drinks reception, made for a memorable day which elevates ThinkFM to the must-attend industry conference.

Cathy Hayward is interim editor of FMJ

For more conference coverage: #thinkFM    @fmjtoday    @cathy_magenta




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