In the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat
— Theodore Roosevelt


I first heard Theodore Roosevelt's arena speech as it is referred to on Tim Ferris Podcast in his audacious interview with the scariest Navy seal imaginable, Jocko Willink. At the time and until now I always thought of it as something to read when someone who knows not of my struggles passes criticism without providing a tangible solution or adding value.  I was reminded of the quote this week when I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Although it had on my reading list for a while, I think I was avoiding it because it unearths my complex personal struggle with vulnerability, shame and disengagement. But if I'm going to be a better communicator and leader, then I have to be able to work on the things that lead me to hide away from having difficult conversations and confronting ugly truths and deal with vulnerabilities self-imposed or others. So thanks Advita for reminding me of it.

But thinking of the arena speech takes me back to all the conversations that can be summed up in our constant conflict as communicators, “Everyone thinks they can do comms.” Yes, everyone standing on the side-lines assumes that what we do is write a tweet or two, print a few posters and churn out the press releases. But I wonder whether they see the blood sweat and tears behind the scenes. So let's all give each other in the arena a pat on the back and embrace vulnerability. But let’s also make sure we aren’t a critic too judging ourselves harshly and holds on to toxic perfectionism.

 

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I went to FutureNet’s Trailblazer event to get some insights into the fantastic triple awarding winning employee engagement campaign, Trailblazers by Kerry Foods. Jacqueline Ryan, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Advisor at Kerry Foods, and FutureNet committee member shared great insights and here are my five key takeaways.

  • Employee engagement which is leader led has to be precisely that. People need to see and hear leadership at every stage in an authentic way. 

  • Be flexible and allow the campaign to flow. Sometimes the best-laid plans change, and that is fine.

  • Let the stories shine through.

  • User-generated content is the future as budgets gets tighter and communicating with hard to reach audiences becomes harder.

  • Recognise people for their courage and desire to take part. These are the things that cost nothing but mean so much to people and should be at the heart of the business values.

 

I managed to catch up with Jess, The Voracious Nomad who put me on the spot slightly and interviewed me for her podcast. We talked about professional development, storytelling, black tax and the future.  Doing this interview was entirely out of my comfort zone, and I usually would have said no but over the last year I have been saying yes more thanks to Shonda Rhimes. Listen to it here

 

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Who will be my Ellen?

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

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Power and Influence by Ella Minty

The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay