“As for Phileas Fogg, it seemed just as if the typhoon were a part of his programme” Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
When GSK launched the PULSE programme 10 years ago I knew it was for me. The opportunity to make a difference, in the heart of a community serving some of the most deprived people in the world was always there, as part of my inner purpose. Two toddlers in tow meant a waiting game. Fast forward to 2018; and it was finally time for PULSE to do it’s work on me. Personal circumstances meant it wasn’t possible to tick the ‘international assignment’ box on the application form – but that didn’t matter, I knew the fantastic experience and opportunity I needed would be in store with a home assignment.
As I crystallised my personal PULSE objectives before I started; I knew it was less about the ‘life-swivelling-eyes-wide-open-dive-into-an-unknown-world-culture-experience’; and more of an ‘out-of-comfort-zone-time-to-find-my-purpose-career-journey-booster’. I hoped the opportunity would truly test my learning agility and top of my list of learning objectives was mastering the art of stakeholder engagement. Something I’ve certainly had plenty of chances to practise …
A key element of my role at Save the Children International has been liaising with the 29 members of the Save the Children movement (from Italy to India to Iceland); building strong relationships, keeping them abreast of the evolving Centenary project, understanding their challenges, influencing national plans to align with the global vision and representing their diverse views with the global teams.
While I’ve not had opportunity to physically travel with my assignment; I have had to continuously juggle time zones, be tuned into global cultures and ways of working and lend a careful ear to the words of those where English is not the first language. I’ve learnt one thing; transcending cultures, countries and continents is not the trickiest part by a long stretch. It is understanding and navigating the personalities – which are as varied and unique as all the far flung places in the world.
In the past few weeks, as our project has been through a pretty foggy patch, I will confess to having a few wistful twangs of wanderlust as I see the daily adventures and colourful photos from all the far-flung places where my fellow PULSE10ers are deployed. But let me take you on my adventure and journey of the world; where the pictures are from that biggest of all destinations; the imagination.
Around the world with 9 stakeholders
Since it would be most unprofessional to name names, I’ve given my stakeholders alter egos from my virtual travels, as well as some apt quotes from the adventures of Phileas Fogg. It should be noted that any resemblance to person/s inside or outside my organisation is purely a figment of your imagination.
- The Pyramids of Giza “The game was in his eyes a contest, a struggle with a difficulty, yet a motionless, unwearying struggle, congenial to his tastes.” The Pyramid thrives on hierarchy; he may be the one at the top giving orders or he may be the one nearer the bottom paralysed without directive from the top. Either way there can be struggles of power, an impasse of wills and stifled channels of communication. Expect some verbal sparring and learn the rules of the game to ensure he is squarely playing for your team.
- The Colossus of Rhodes “It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans are, when they are prudent there is good reason for it.” The Colossus exudes power, be that through authority or the sheer weight and size of the organisation she has behind her. That weight and size speaks experience, capacity and capability – so any ruffled feathers do need to be smoothed and the pecking order recognised. When you get on the same side she’ll definitely ensure you are a flock to be reckoned with.
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon “Unhappily for his master, as well as himself, his curiosity drew him unconsciously farther off than he intended to go. The Hanging Gardens is a creative; full of ideas and difficult to keep on the straight and narrow. You think you have agreement and a decision; but no! there is always another seed to plant or a new exotic flower about to bloom. Take care to look beyond all the foliage, and make sure the right substance is there; or you may just wonder if he ever really existed at all.
- The Great Wall of China “But Phileas Fogg, who was not traveling, but only describing a circumference,…” The Great Wall is in it for the long run. She polices all the borders and knows exactly where the next line of attack is. She is well-oiled in all aspects of the project, and holds the keys that will enable all the prerequisite doors to open (or indeed close). Keep on her right side, patch up the little cracks as they appear and you’ll have a faithful guide for the duration of your travels.
- The Grand Canyon “A well-used minimum suffices for everything.” The Grand Canyon works miracles at cutting a straight line through the complexity. Days, weeks, even years of seemingly well-trodden paths are dashed to the shortest route with his wisdom. Engage him early; he’ll help you find the best way through – as well as taking you on the helicopter ride so you can understand how all the relevant dots connect together. Impressive.
- Great Barrier Reef “The chance which now seems lost may present itself at the last moment.” The Barrier Reef always has a valid reason why something is not possible, you need to be careful to tiptoe around her fragile corals and not expose the bedrock or break her trust. The effort is worthwhile, as there are many unique beauties hidden within, if only you can swim deep enough and with enough oxygen to stay the course.
- Lighthouse of Alexandria “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” The Lighthouse provides vision for miles around. When the spotlight is on you, you feel energised and excited by everything that can be. But slip into the shadow and you can be left feeling challenged at how you will keep everything afloat on the stormy seas. The trick is to help him cast his light nearby, not only miles into the distance. The rocks may be closer than you think and those on the shore are the ones with the means to make things happen – for better or for worse.
- The Taj Mahal “The unforeseen does not exist” The Taj Mahal is a stickler for detail, her success was borne out of meticulous planning and exquisite orchestration to deliver an intricate pattern of simultaneously moving parts. She’ll stride boldly ahead while others are stalling and still asking questions, but is just the ally you need to turn strategy into action. But do be careful that she has the right plans in hand first or you might just end up with Brighton Pavilion, a nice but lesser version of your imagined dream.
- Christ the Redeemer “It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things.” The Redeemer is a distant saviour. High atop his hill, he is always looking down and providing a guiding hand when it is needed most on the journey, grounding you back to the reason it was embarked upon it. His head might be up in the clouds and out of view for much of the time, but in times of doubt the steep steps are worth the climb when you need some level headed counsel and help with the toughest of decisions.
So there you are; my ‘wonders of the world’ – my stakeholders are always a beauty to behold and a conundrum to resolve. The journey on PULSE continues to be fast, foggy and at times furious; but, oh my, I’ve certainly learnt one heck of a lot from my global masterclass in managing stakeholders!
#changeyourself #lifeisajourneynotadestination #sevenwonders #ivolunteer #PULSE10