Well, we’ve got a new prime minister here in the UK; Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He’s not to everyone’s taste, and in fairness he took the post on the votes of just over 92,000 eligible party voters (the general public having already had their say in which party to elect), but we’re hoping he’ll do a good job.
It was also a surprise to nobody. Born to wealthy upper-middle class parents, a pupil at Eton then on to study classics at Oxford University, and soon enough elected President of Oxford University Union – a path well-trodden by his predecessors. “What chance did he have?” as one friend put it to me, in the same way another might explain the predestination of a criminal raised in institutional care and abject poverty.
Politics aside, Johnson’s election got me to wondering what happens when we don’t elect or appoint the obvious contender. In a recent interview for The Exhibitionists, Fresh Montgomery MD Lori Hoinkes said that there’s nothing in her resume that makes people think she should go and run an exhibition company. When Montgomery selected her for the role, they did so under the realisation that they shouldn’t keep doing things the way they have been, that they needed to look completely outside of our industry and find someone different.
Backwards and set in our ways
Hoinkes’ immediate observations were that she didn’t really understand how generally “backwards and set in our ways” the exhibition industry is, and that we are on the cusp of wholesale industry change, and everything that we’re doing now is going to be preparing us for that.”
Inviting this change into our organisations is not a straightforward task. “I’ve seen examples where people have brought in consultants, but the actual leadership team wasn’t supporting what was done and as a result it has not worked. It really does have to be top-down. Which also increases the buy-in from the most experienced members of an organisation,” she said.
“Generally some of the people who have been in your organisation the longest, and are the most ingrained in the way they have always done things, are the people who have a lot of experience and knowledge. We don’t want to turn them off. We need to get out of them why did we do thing that way, and how do we design the future?”
The importance of a tactful approach
Hoinkes makes the point that when implementing systems derived from outside their known theatre of operation, a tactful approach becomes very important.
“Start with their pain points. I’ll sit with someone and they’ll explain why they do what they do, and why they have to do it that way. Then it’s like – what doesn’t work about this for them, if you listen and you hear some of the struggles they have with the current system, and you’re able to – in a new way – solve those problems, it’s a really great way to get them on board.
“They feel like those problems are there because no one has ever listened, it’s never going to change, and when you can relieve some of that pain, you really get them on board quickly.
“Give them time to learn to adapt, let them understand the ‘why’. Let them know that if they feel afraid, that makes it so much worse,” she says, advising people to explore and try it, and most importantly build in a process that lets them articulate their fears.
It’s a skill that will help her to find solutions for Fresh Montgomery’s clients, no doubt hungry for new ways to make the most of their attendance at trade shows.
“Change is all about bringing together the knowledge of new ways we could do something, with why we do things a certain way, and finding the best solution.”
As Henry Thoreau said, things do not change; we change.
Interested? For more on the topic catch the podcast – Not so secret agent of change – from The Exhibitionists