#3 Reuse, Reinvent, Recycle - Nike did something magical with their Foundation. Instead of doing the expected thing and get involved in some philanthropic work connected to sport, they decided instead to apply the organisation’s ability to think really big against one of the world’s greatest problems – world poverty.
And so the girl effect was born. This is the unique ability of adolescent girls to solve poverty for themselves, their families, communities, nations and ultimately the world. Nike landed on the most powerful global force for change and then applied it’s greatest thinking and communications skills to bring it to the world.
My last couple of years at Nike were spent applying the 14 years of brand mastery I’d had the privilege to learn in the business to creating local brands for girls in Africa that inspired them, empowered them and started to shift the conversations around girls. Ni Nyampinga in Rwanda, Yegna in Ethiopia – the beginnings of real change for girls, their families and their countries.
Frederic Hudson, one of the greatest greats of coaching, would have approved. He reminds us that we must ‘know how to recycle yourself…weave, unravel and reweave your life, over and over’.
That indeed is a gift that keeps on giving!
#2 Without Risk there is no Genius – when Nike decided to get into football, everyone thought they were crazy. Here was an upstart American company who new nothing about the world’s favourite game. But it was for the very fact that it IS the world’s favourite game, that Nike decided to go after it.
They rallied, created an incredible football organization, signed the Brazil national team, threw everything that was brilliant at product innovation and before long, became the credible force they are in the game today. They just believed they were going to succeed. And so they did.
I loved this constant sense of risk. It was addictive to be around. Yet so often as individuals, the fear of failure gets to us before we even try.
Sheryl Sandberg asked the question in her book Lean In: ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and I think it’s a brilliant question because it not only encourages us to go places we don’t usually allow ourselves to go, but it also starts to show us that maybe the answers really just aren’t that scary once we say them out loud.
I’ve seen so many people get to grips with their fears through coaching and every time it thrills me to see the leaps that people make when they break through the invisible barriers that fear creates.
Bring it on…
Having written the previous blog, I was asked what I actually talked about in the Lancaster speech so thought I’d share a quick summary. (these are the last blog posts about Nike and then I promise to shut up about it…).
So here they are, my 3 biggest gifts from Nike (and there were many….)
#1 The Guts to Lead from the Front - Nike’s first sponsored athlete, Steve Prefontaine, had a race plan that meant leading from the start line. It was a confident, some might say cocky, strategy that pretty well always paid off for Pre.
Nike always takes this approach. Whether in product innovation or brand marketing or pretty much everything they do, they just refuse to follow the lead of others, to worry what other people might think or what the competition might do. For sure they passionately care about what their consumers care about but for everyone else, they pretty much block them out.
In my coaching, I’m constantly staggered about how much people worry about what other people think, the constant pull to follow the herd. Yet when people don’t follow, when they forge their own path and refuse to listen to the naysayers, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when people feel liberated, when they grow and feel mighty. That’s when people take stop blaming and complaining, take control and see extraordinary things happen in their lives.
Pre died tragically very young but his legacy lives on in Nike and certainly continues to be a great lesson for the rest of us.
 I was recently asked to give a speech to the current incumbents and alumni of Lancaster University's MBA program on the subject of 'Is there life after Nike?'.
It's a fair question - having chosen to leave after 17 years many people questioned my sanity. What was I going to do next? It's better to get a job from a job! What brand could you possibly want to work for that beats Nike? You only get to play your Nike trump-card once so you better use it well! And on it went…
So what did I do? Nothing. I just left. I decided to a) take the summer off and b) refuse to answer any of the 'big questions' that kept coming my way. Instead I made one rule and that was that was to say 'yes' to any opportunity or idea that came my way. For the first time in a long time (or possibly ever) I created the space to let destiny unfold.
Within days I was asked to coach some of the smartest people I had come across whilst working at the Nike Foundation. Amazingly bright, talented individuals from all corners of the earth. Each one striving to make a better world. I'm constantly in awe of their energy, their drive, their ability to balance crazy ambition to create change with swathes of compassion. So I said yes.
Three weeks later, whilst sitting in Sussex doing a silly-strict detox retreat, I got a call from my great friend, mentor and creative guru Chris Baréz Brown saying that his equally talented wife, Anna was looking for a partner to create a new coaching-based programme for women. I had no idea what it was or what I could do to help but I said 'yes', rerouted to Lyme Regis for a decent meal and got to work. 6 months later we launched Shine, a workshop for women to build a bigger vision and plan that gives renewed energy and focus to their professional and personal lives. Shine is now firmly established with our 4th workshop this week, we've made it into the illustrious pages of the Sunday Times and I now get to belly-laugh at least twice a week with my very shiny co-founder Anna.
A month after that, Tiger for a Day Ltd. opened it's doors for business and I now work with extraordinary individuals and teams across the world. I'm attracted to people who are basically restless. People who want more, expect more, will put in everything to achieve more. Running Tiger for a Day is fun, thrilling, creative and at times, massively challenging.
This all came about for two reasons. Firstly, I did nothing. When I left Nike I literally left a huge gaping space and didn't try to fill it. When we allow that to happen, we find out what our true value is in the world. What others really wanted from us. We end up doing what we're good at and what we love and as many of us discover to our surprise, that doesn't always come from a 'sensible' plan based on our CVs. How often do we allow that to happen in our lives?
Secondly, I said 'yes'. Saying yes opens up avenues and presents experiences that we just don't seek out otherwise. It creates some fear for sure but the kind of fear that comes when we're moving out of our comfort zones and growing. Just like the 'doing nothing' approach, it also creates the environment for happy accidents to happen, to meet people you wouldn't usually meet, work with people you wouldn't usually work with, do things that you discover you enjoy. Now I’m giving speeches, running workshops for some of the highest performing teams in the world, putting more women in the limelight, coaching cellists, social entrepreneurs and future presidents. How did that happen?
Seems there is life after Nike...