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From the Sponsor’s Desk: The Power of One

It’s easy to follow routines.

But, good things often happen when someone senses an opportunity, deviates from the well-worn path, and chooses to follow a new road to an uncertain but potentially brighter future, bringing others on the journey as well. It’s the power of one!

In this case, a longtime member of a football pool took a different path when another member of the pool died and left his family in the lurch. His insight and leadership helped a community pull together to provide crucial support for the deceased’s family and build a cause in the process.

Related Article: From Doing to Managing to Leading

Thanks to M.A. for the story behind this case.

The Situation

Twelve friends had been involved in a football pool since high school. They went their separate ways in pursuit of their careers, but when the crisp autumn air signaled the start of another football season, they’d get together once again to conduct the draft they each hoped would win them the coveted prize. And, of course, share a few beers.

Shortly after the end of the season three years ago, Frank, one of the pool’s long time members, died of a massive heart attack. In his mid-forties, he was a middle-class guy with a stay-at-home wife and two young kids, one with special needs. His death placed his family in an immediate financial crisis.

Andy, the pool winner that season, saw an opportunity to help. He told his fellow pool members that he was donating his winnings – a little over $800 – to help the family. He asked for them to contribute what they could.

The Goal

Andy’s goal was to raise a bit of money to help the family in the short term. If he could convince some of his fellow pool members to contribute, that would help Frank’s family, at least in the short term.

The Project

Andy emailed the pool members about his intent to donate his winnings and asked them to donate what they could. He also called each pool member and chatted about Frank, what a shock his death was, what a great guy he was, what a great father and husband he was, how he would be missed and what a challenge it would be for Frank’s family to get on without him.

Shortly thereafter, the cheques started arriving in the mail. As they arrived, Andy would send out an update to the pool members with the latest total. He called the contributors to thank them for their generosity. He called Frank’s spouse to give her the good news.

The Results

Andy’s efforts raised more than $13,000 for Frank’s family that the first year. The money came from the pool members and their friends and family who heard about Frank’s death and what the pool members were doing to help.

Andy’s twelve-year-old son heard his dad talking to the pool members about Frank’s death and their plans to raise money for the family. Unannounced, he jumped on his bike, rode to his bank and withdrew all his money, $652.35 to be exact, to help the cause. When he presented the money to his father, Andy was moved to tears.

The following year, the group raised over $17,000 for Frank’s family. The year after, the total hit almost $20,000. Frank’s widow was overwhelmed. She had a little party for the pool members every year so she and her daughters could say thanks. She told the contributors that their donations had kept the family afloat.

Last year, Frank’s widow called Andy to tell him that she and her daughters were doing fine. She had found a good job. Her daughters were well looked after. She wanted the fundraising to wind down or go to another deserving candidate. The pool members decided to continue the fundraising effort and direct the proceeds to a local homeless shelter. The power of one!

How a Great Leader Made It Happen

Andy’s actions were motivated by a visceral need to make a difference for Frank’s family. It was intuitive. In reality, he actually applied a five-step approach to delivering change:

1. Identify the opportunity – This change would never have happened if Andy hadn’t recognized the opportunity and taken a different path. That was the catalyst for all the good that followed.
2. Take the lead – It’s one thing to have a good idea. It’s quite a different thing to actually take personal action in support of that idea. Andy’s decision to donate his winnings provided the example that others would follow.
3. Socialize – Andy talked it up. He told the other pool members what he planned to do. He talked to them about what a good guy Frank was and what a devastating loss his death was for the family. With Andy’s push, the feelings of the other pool members coalesced around the need to help.
4. Champion – Andy told his pool mates when the donations started coming in. He thanked each member when they made a donation. He told them about his son’s contribution. He encouraged them to get their family and friends involved. He passed on the words of thanks from Frank’s widow and his daughters. He kept the ball rolling and the donations coming.
5. Celebrate – We all like to celebrate when a project is delivered successfully. Andy and his football pool members were no different. They all celebrated as the donated amounts rose. They celebrated with Frank’s widow and daughters. The celebrations reinforced the rightness of their actions and the need to continue.

Now, you might ask, what does this story have to do with running a project or managing change? Simply this. A project is all about delivering a new way – a new product, a new organization, a new process, etc. As part of that effort, a myriad of decisions need to be made. If everyone involved in the change keeps an eye open for new opportunities and applies Andy’s five steps, just think of the multiplying effect that would have on the outcome. Stupendous! That would definitely capitalize on the power of one.

So, whatever the situation, always look for opportunities to make a difference. And, when you find those opportunities, put these points on your checklist of things to do so you too can be a Great Leader. And remember, use Project Pre-Check’s three building blocks covering the key stakeholder group, the decision management process and Decision Framework best practices right up front so you don’t overlook these key success factors.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has willingly shared your experiences for presentation in this blog. Everyone benefits. First time contributors get a copy of one of my books. Readers get insights they can apply to their own unique circumstances. So, if you have a project experience, good, bad and everything in between, send me the details and we’ll chat. I’ll write it up and, when you’re happy with the results, Project Times will post it so others can learn from your insights. Thanks

Drew Davison

Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check - The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath - The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success. Drew can be reached at [email protected].

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