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Lord Chris Holmes: Creating a vision to set a mission

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Ahead of Changeboard's Future Talent Conference, keynote speaker Lord Chris Holmes shares his inspiring story about the London 2012 Paralympic Games – and creating a vision for over 178,000 people.

Embrace change

Life rules: Certainty and safety, rhythm and routine, what’s to like and not to like, what to hold tight to, what to promote? Quite so, and knowing where our socks, cereal, car keys and coats live, starts the day right – right?

The problem is when that safety and routine gets in the way of progress. If we want to get from A to (at least) B, if not F, we need to do stuff differently.

When I came back from the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992, luckily with six gold medals in my kit bag, I faced this question: what to do differently? How to change, if I was to give myself the best chance of success at Atlanta in 1996?

The obvious answer, one which many gave at the time and seems plausible in itself; keep doing what you did and all will be sweet and golden. The problem is if I’d taken that route, forgoing Robert Frost’s “one less travelled”, I would have got the same times that I had just achieved. Times which might not have even made the final, never mind topped the podium four years later.

So, to change, not just a bit, a smidge, a margin, but to change everything; put every element under analysis and bring it on, put it all to the test, will it make me swim faster? If it won’t, why am I doing it? And not just to apply that test on the good days but crucially on those cold, dark, January mornings training at 5:30am when it feels as if nothing is working; that’s when change – unflinching commitment to change – that’s when it matters.

Creating a vision to set a mission: with belief, trust and leadership

It was the same approach I took when leading 8,000 full time employees, 70,000 volunteers and 100,000 contractors who planned and delivered the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Prior to the Games, they had at best, achieved 40% ticket sales. They hadn’t attracted the interest of the Olympic sponsors, hadn’t driven global broadcast deals; I knew we had to do this, and more, if we were really going to take the 2012 opportunity.

We could have chosen to move the Games on a bit, gradual, steady, safe: we chose not, we were determined to change, to create a new Paralympic paradigm.

What was the essence of this, the hundreds and thousands of operational details? They were important, but the essence was rooted in the vision, the mission, belief, trust and leadership.

Winning teamwork

A key part of the mission was to run the Paralympics as a challenger brand, the Olympic Games’ cheeky younger brother. This golden thread of a challenger brand ran through every element of our approach. Perhaps one of the best executions was the ad we made with our broadcast partner, Channel 4, following the close of the London Olympics: Paralympic athletes in the tunnel of the stadium with the message “Thanks for the warm up”! Cheeky, cool, the challenger coming of age.

And the real magic of the Games? More than a sell out, with 400,000 extra tickets sold above the 2.4 million originally made available through stretching our teams to deliver new venue capacities. 400,000 new opportunities to experience, often for the first time, Paralympic sport in the fabulous golden summer of 2012.

It happened because we created a vision, set a mission, built a team who believed in it, and then planned, and delivered it.

Watch video: Lord Chris Holmes talks Future Talent

With just two weeks to go until our Future Talent Conference 2016, Changeboard's Sarah Clark caught up with Lord Chris Holmes. He revealed why he thinks the future talent agenda is so important in the world of work today and what he's most looking forward to at the event.

Watch the video here:

"Spending a day with 800 like-minded folk, the positivity and energy in the room is going to be stunning" – Lord Chris Holmes 

Lord Chris Holmes

By Lord Chris Holmes

Chris is Lord of Richmond and the UK’s most successful Paralympic swimmer. He was also the director of Paralympic integration at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. www.chrisholmes.co.uk | @LordCHolmes

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