Article written by Svend Elkjaer runs the Sports Marketing Network
To be really successful in community sport and physical activity we must engage the head, heart, hands, and yes, the hormones!
A plan without passion is just delusional, passion without a plan equals chaos.
The agenda within community sport and physical activity are increasingly focused on getting inactive people active and on creating social good and change through sport and physical activity.
This is bringing together many bodies, institutions and people who previously did not engage with sport and who have no experience of working with sports and physical activity providers. Also, many governing bodies and traditional sports bodies have little experience in working with ethnic groups, community enterprises, patient groups, youth clubs and the many other community organisations who engage with many of the inactive groups.
But, the challenge is that if we are to attract and retain inactive people and play a broader role in society we need to think differently, have more empathy with groups whom we have never worked with before and be more flexible in the way we engage and communicate.
We must engage the head, heart, hands, and yes, hormones!
The Head will normally produce a framework, blueprint, strategic plan or something similar which are supposed to give an overview and structure to the project. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. The challenge is that there are too many cases where these weighty documents are produced in splendid isolation from 'the real world' and with little or no reality checks.
Yes, there are lots of abort points, risk assessments and check and balances but the danger is that these fine documents are soon forgotten when they have been used to get the project approved.
It takes a very brave project manager to propose a review of the project against the original plan.
The Heads do a great job of solving the problem on paper but don’t give enough consideration on how to motivate (heart) people to take action, or specifically what the direct reports (hands) need to be doing or how to involve those weird and wacky Hormones. Lots of high-power thinking, but that is about it. The solution is too theoretical, complex, or radical.
Advice to the Head: Leave that office, go out and really learn about the lives of the people and communities you want to work with, have genuine empathy with them, be brave and tell your bosses the true version and don't promise the earth. (Remember, all those promises may come back to haunt you):
The Heart represents by definition the emotive aspects of getting inactive people and for sport and physical activity to play a bigger role in people's lives. I think that most of us work with community sport and physical activity, have an emotional attachment to our work and involvement with the sector and the area.
But I have also met too many people who 'love their sport' and can't understand why the BBC doesn't show their sport day in and day out. I know I am exaggerating, but only slightly.
Yes, most innovators in community sport and physical activity embark on their journeys due to a passion for the area. Otherwise they probably wouldn't ensure the hardship and set-backs they inevitably endure. But the successful ones understand that they have to work with the Heads, while at the same time use their Heart and community engagement to deliver real results.
The sad news is that the Heads often only engage with the Hearts when the latter have proved their point. Remember, the Hearts were not part of developing The Strategy.
We must ensure that the Heads who produce the strategies always involve the Hearts, Hands and Hormones to ensure that they survive and succeed when the have to be executed. Flexibility and responsiveness are key.
Out there in the community are the Hands. They are the people who work at community or leisure centres or volunteer at sports clubs or community groups and generally 'just get on with it'.
They deliver, day in and day out, but many of them, unlike the Hearts, just want to deliver their stuff, coach whoever turns up at their sessions, but the notion of getting participants to take selfies to spread the word or sending out follow up text emails or texts, simply does not feature in their thinking.
The Hands are invaluable when it comes to delivering sport and physical activity to people like themselves, i.e., active people who turn up on their own initiative. But often they lack empathy with inactive people and the barriers those people feel they experience - maybe they love sport too much to understand people who don't?
And then finally we have the Hormones. They are the ones who, come hell and high water, will want to make things happen. Often, they have little time for strategies and plans; they just want to get on with. In many communities they make a significant positive impact, often ignored and overlooked by the Heads. If indeed they meet, the Heads find it very difficult to work with the Hormones as the latter use innovation and enterprise to make an impact. This doesn't always fit in with strict frameworks operated by the Heads.
So how do you use this? If you want to get inactive people active, you really want to get to full engagement of the Head, Heart, Hands and Hormones.
Whenever working in change, when you are trying to understand people or when you are just trying to persuade them of something, it can be very helpful to consider all four Hs in your analysis and plans. If you can get the Head, Heart, Hands and Hormones all working together, then you can make a real impact.
Svend Elkjaer runs the Sports Marketing Network and he is widely regarded as one of the leading advocates for applying more innovation and enterprise if we are to deliver more vibrant, visible and viable community sport and physical activity.
For more than 10 years SMN has been working across the UK and Denmark using conferences, workshops, study tours, webinars and consultancy to support and inform. Clients include NGBs, CSPs, sports councils, local authorities and universities amongst others. More information can be found on http://www.smnuk.com/.