No matter what the barriers are, invest in people

Mashpi Lodge

Photo credit: latour.com

In 2001, former mayor of the Ecuador capital city of Quito embarked on an ambitious journey to transform the Andean forests, which had suffered from deforestation for many years, into a global tourist attraction.

As a lover of nature, I recently watched a BBC TV programme with my jaw anchored to the floor. Roque Sevilla, former mayor turned businessman turned environmentalist, shared his personal multi-million dollar project with us; the incredible Mashpi Lodge and Reserve. It’s a striking structure which provides a holiday home for just 42 guests, placing them in the middle of the tropical forest just outside of Quito. It’s constructed almost entirely out of huge glass panes in an attempt to place its visitor’s, as-one, with nature in a way they’re unlikely to have ever experienced before. I was in awe.

As you’d expect, delivering such an ambitious project would never be plain sailing. Roque had several obstacles to overcome, including a machete-wielding local!

Jose was a farmer who lived in the nearby village and farmed in the Mashpi Reserve. He worked for a logging company that had moved into the area in the 1990’s for a lumber concession so spent his days hacking through the dense woodland.

So, how did Roque deal with this? How would you deal with this?!

Roque offered him a job.

Upon meeting Jose for the first time, Roque brought along an orchid expert. It was a brave move. As they talked and walked through the forest, the idea was to re-channel Jose’s thinking; to remove any negative thinking, to re-imagine his surroundings; to really open his eyes and look at the positive things which lay before him – to not only see what good the forest can do for him but what he can do for it.

Jose admitted to never noticing the colourful and fragrant blooms before. He was blinkered, channelling his anger and frustrations at the innocent trees. However, through this intervention, Jose quickly built a trusting relationship with Roque, and now, thanks to this new found knowledge, he quickly took up his offer of employment as Village Chief (that’s a resident tour guide to you and me).

Thriving in his new role, Jose not only welcomes and chaperones guests to the Lodge, he’s now a botanist; cultivating and blooming a personal collection of orchids in the newly developed tourist village.

Mashpi Lodge has firmly inked itself a place in my bucket list, but in reflection I was thinking how much Roque had achieved with Jose and Quito’s wider community.

Jose

Photo credit: mashpilodge.wordpress.com

In some ways, Bromford has its similarities. Our coaching approach allows us to get closer to our communities in ways we’ve never been able to do before. Much like in the case of Jose, if you truly want to make a difference to peoples’ lives you’ve got to get to know the person first; what are their hopes, their dreams, their hurdles and their barriers.

When we recruit we’re looking for the right person, with the right skills – not just for today, but for tomorrow too. We offer a job with a good salary that has an excellent benefits package. We offer excellent in-house training with opportunities to grow and develop. It’s a two way thing; we’ll show what we can offer them – but equally we want to know what they can do for us.

Mashpi Village didn’t just happen overnight. The money helped, of course, but it took time to develop – and by that I don’t just mean physically. The natural habitat and the local community had to be considered and respected. By simply ousting Jose, for example, could’ve had catastrophic consequences. Instead, time was invested into him as a person and because of this both parties reaped the rewards.

So, whether you’re recruiting for a vacancy, coaching someone through life, or building a luxury holiday lodge in the middle of a mountain forest – make sure you take the time to invest in people.

Think inside the box!

Just recently leadership took on a whole new meaning for me when I realised a certain someone started to watch my every move, they were repeating things I’d say but not always doing as I’d ask of them. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a disruptive colleague – in fact, this person doesn’t even reside in my workplace.

At 08:32 on Monday, 5th July 2010 I became a father to the most beautiful creation on the planet; Jessica Rose. Since taking on this new heir of responsibility I’ve watched with admiration how she has grown and developed over the last couple of years – from drinking that first bottle to taking her first steps; nothing comes close to the sense of pride I get from these milestones – all of which came from the nurturing between my wife Julia and me.

20121004-091623.jpg

But, as with all relationships they are a two way thing and I’m learning lots from Jessica as she is from me. There is something we can all learn from the way children think; they know no boundaries. We all share the same stories at Birthdays and at Christmas time when the giving of presents results in a young child being more likely to play with a box than with its contents, but why is this?!?!

Children are not bound to a set of rules that would come with a toy; it goes forward, it goes backwards; this goes here, that goes there; it turns on, it shuts off. A child’s natural inquisitive nature tells them to look at the bigger picture, to take a step back and look at their surroundings. What is it that’s actually before them? That brown cardboard frame that housed the expensive toy you just brought for them is more than just a box; it’s a den, it’s a train; it’s a house; a castle! The toy they have just unwrapped hasn’t gone to waste, they’ve just found a much better way to enjoy it – that we hadn’t thought of!

I recently heard a story how Disney’s Chief Imagineer kept trying to convince a room full of board members how it feels to be close to animals on safari – he was trying to sell an idea to them that would eventually unfold into what we know as Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After a number of failed meetings, unsuccessful presentations and countless heated discussions, he had one final go to convince the jury; he took a tiger into the meeting room!

How could we use this realness principle for our new ideas or service improvements?We all need to get more creative. We need to be radical in our approach. We need to throw out the rulebook. Take down the boundaries. We need to get inside the box!