September — Unity and Sir Clive Woodward!

5 min 17 October 2023

By Harleen Singh Flora

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting on FSP’s annual Unity event, which was held in September at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. And you know what that means … I decided to write a blog about it!

In the lead up to Unity, there was a soft buzz around the office. It got me, and I’m sure others who hadn’t attended a Unity event before, curious as to what was special and different about it. It was described as “emotional”, “moving” and “inspiring”. Aside from this, one of the main things that intrigued me was that this event focused on connecting with each other’s personal experiences. This wasn’t about FSP’s numbers, growth or strategy. This was purely about our people, values and purpose.

Unity epitomises FSP’s commitment to creating a culture of belonging. And as Lara Walker said at Unity 2021, “we make the culture!” (Now I know why this is on the wall at FSP’s Thames Valley Park office!)

From adversity to opportunity

We kicked off by hearing from two colleagues who shared their very personal experiences about hardships and challenges they have faced throughout their lives. They stood up in front of the 180-odd crowd and spoke from their hearts for 30 minutes each, under the spotlight, and in some detail about their personal journeys that were riddled with adversity. What stood out most from their stories was how they turned those troubled times into opportunities for themselves and others — moving and inspiring. The authenticity was invoking empathy, and what I’d been hearing about Unity in the lead-up was real.

Living our values

We also heard from different colleagues in a panel discussion about how their experiences aligned with FSP’s core values, centred on the following:

  • Culture of true belonging
  • Excellence everywhere
  • Creating opportunity

This was a lighter session, probably because we had some undiscovered comedic talent on the panel! Among the humour were some honest messages about how we can live the FSP values in our own lives. On the panel, we had a colleague who had relocated from India to Reading with his family to pursue his career with FSP, a colleague who had raised more than £30,000 to provide relief and aid on the ground in Lebanon, and a young, talented colleague looking to inspire other neurodiverse women in technology through her unique career journey.

But it didn’t stop there. All of those who live and breathe FSP’s values outside work were also recognised. I hadn’t appreciated how many FSP colleagues make a positive impact through volunteering their time within their communities. This altruistic nature among FSP colleagues definitely shines through in how we operate and interact with each other and our clients.

Sir Clive Woodward’s winning behaviours

The grand finale was brought about by our guest speaker, Sir Clive Woodward, who many of you will remember as the coach of England’s World Cup winning rugby team in 2003. Yes, that drop-kick … 20 years ago! I’m a big fan of sport, but it isn’t actually the sport itself that I enjoy most. The main things that attract me to it are the levels of determination, discipline and skill that elite athletes and coaches possess. So for me, it was proper fanboy, edge-of-the-seat stuff to hear Sir Clive speak (with quite some intensity!) about how he created winning teams, whether it was in his role as England’s rugby coach, as the Team GB Director of Sport, or in his own leasing business.

I won’t be able to do Sir Clive’s speech justice, but to heavily paraphrase, he constantly referred back to how integral “teamship” and “winning behaviours” were to the success of his teams. He also shared unique experiences where a huge element of success was down to each and every team member buying into the same values and behaviours, regardless of the team’s size or an individual’s role within it. That’s what made it relevant to all of us at FSP. Sir Clive praised FSP’s commitment to our values and told us how impressed he was by what he’d heard from colleagues who took the stage before his session. I don’t think any of us knew he was sat in the back row for most of the afternoon listening in!

Inspire or be inspired? Or both!

While reflecting on the Unity experience, I made a few pledges on the topics that inspired me the most, and maybe one day I’ll inspire those around me to do the same.

1) Re-engage with activities outside work that positively impact my community. I’ve been more active on this in the past, before I started to think that work was more important. Unity proved that making a difference in and out of work is equally important.

2) Create my own winning behaviours. And start to introduce this concept to the teams that I work with so that we can create winning behaviours together. Discipline and consistency can take us a long way!

3) In every interaction, be conscious that our past experiences make us who we are. I used to think the ‘work-me’ and the ‘non-work-me’ were different. They’re not though, are they? And surely they can’t be, either? The sooner we realise this, the sooner we can all connect and achieve something bigger together.

Simon Walker (Executive Director, FSP) reinforced this in a recent conversation: “The whole person creates FSP; not just the work-bit of them”.

Leading by example

And on that note, kudos to the FSP leadership team, who continue to give us space and opportunities to connect with our people, values and purpose. Stepping away from time to time to reflect on what we’re actually about is refreshing. These events put a spotlight on Simon Grosse’s (CEO, FSP) passion for our values, and they speak volumes about how serious the FSP family is about belonging, excellence and opportunity.

I’ll sure be one of those people contributing to the soft buzz around Unity next year!