Like many people, fitness has been a big part of my adult life. Sport in particular has inspired me, not only because of its effect on individual wellbeing, but because of the way teams work. How culture can help a team achieve its competitive goals, how the integration of talent is critical, and why training and tactics can make or break a team’s morale.
Perhaps that’s why I have a certain level of admiration for Dubai Fitness Challenge. Almost one million people signed up when it was first launched last year, which not only says something about motivation and the power of persuasion, but also about commitment to a cause. This year those numbers are likely to be higher, with the goal of turning Dubai into the most active city in the world moving a step closer every year.
The individual lessons to be learnt from such an initiative are clear enough. That the value of 30 minutes of exercise a day cannot be underestimated, or that barriers to commitment are frequently self-built. But what about collectively? As companies that is. What can we take away from such a challenge? After all, aren’t we the ones who propose half a dozen initiatives a year, only for most to fizzle out before they are even born? If one gets off the ground it is considered an achievement.
What is it about Dubai Fitness Challenge that has struck a chord? To me there are three important factors, all of which we can learn from.
Firstly, the leadership behind the initiative has put themselves out there. They committed to it, they set an example, and they lead from the front. I know this can sound clichéd, but leadership from the front really matters. And by this I don’t just mean simply waving a flag on the starting line, I mean active participation. Leading by example. Practising what you preach.
Secondly, they set a goal that was achievable. It wasn’t wildly unrealistic or implausible, but obtainable. With a bit of hard work and dedication anybody can exercise for 30 minutes a day and reap the rewards of improved fitness. The importance of this achievability cannot be underestimated.
Thirdly, and arguably the most unpredictable of them all, is receptivity. Dubai Fitness Challenge has been embraced because of the above factors, but also because a can-do attitude exists. By that I mean positivity, not negativity. And this is crucial. It’s the difference between success and failure, because ideas should be amplified, refined, improved, made stronger, not dampened or drained of possibility. There is no greater killer of ideas than cynicism.
For companies, this is the hardest nut to crack. Organisations should be set up in such a way that ideas are embraced, not dismissed. Communal mindsets should be receptive, not filled with pessimism and defeatism. This requires a company to be operating within what I refer to as a positive cycle, whereby decisive change is built through momentum. Real change can only happen when you’re in that cycle. When you believe you can achieve something.
This is largely down to company culture. After all, it is culture that binds people together – and people to the company itself. It defines an agency’s ability to achieve the common good and to unite in the face of adversity. Too many times I’ve seen the will and desire stripped from people because they feel undervalued. Because they are taken for granted. If you don’t encourage, support and cultivate your staff, somebody else will.
Ideas have to be protected, nurtured, made stronger. And this takes bravery. To be the fittest city in the world is a brave vision. It’s something we can all learn from.
By living by the values that you espouse you can achieve great things. Because with great culture and a can-do attitude you can set challenging yet smart objectives. And they will be achieved.
Reda Raad is chief executive of the communications powerhouse TBWA\RAAD
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