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Thrive PT Article ("The Leader")
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December 31, 2012
|'Thrive PT' event aims to spark connectivity|
Leif Hansen gets excited at the possibilities around him, even with a downturn in the economy that’s put for-rent signs in window after window in downtown Port Townsend.
Hansen is a 40-something specialist in the seemingly unrelated fields of applied improvisation and social marketing. All of his ventures ultimately spring from what he says is an obsession with “the wonder and weirdness of getting to exist.”
Describing himself as "group facilitator, personal coach, professional trainer, community-builder, creativity catalyst and bard" he's setting his sights on firing up the enthusiasm of others Thursday when he hosts a first Thrive PT event.
It’s partly aimed at getting the community to think more positively, partly aimed at connecting people with one another and mostly aimed at sparking interaction between leaders.
“PT needs to go through a re-branding if we want our businesses to survive,” said Hansen, a social-media marketing expert.
Spark Interaction is the name of Hansen’s own entrepreneurial venture, which he says is applied improvisation and getting people to see chaos and threat in a new light. He’s also been a leader in getting the PT CoLab started, creating a co-working space where different people with similar needs can come together, share resources and support each other as needed.
The Thrive PT event at the Cotton Building is free to teachers, business owners, community catalysts, nonprofit visionaries and entrepreneurs – anyone who sees himself or herself as a leader in the community and wants to see Port Townsend “Thrive: Improvise, adapt and overcome.”
Already, more than 55 people have signed up to be part of the first Thrive PT. That’s almost more than Hansen can handle at one time. He’s expecting a few people won't show, which is OK.
He’s so fired up himself that he’s already committed to a second one, Thursday, Feb. 16. There are openings for that free event.
In order to thrive, Hansen says businesses need to improvise and adapt to rapidly changing times, be more collaborative and less competitive, more creative and less afraid.
“It can be easy to feel scared and confused about how fast things are changing,” he said. “I believe a more helpful approach is for us to get collaborative and creative.”
“If retired people want their businesses to be visited and eventually purchased, we need to attract new people and young energy and not lose quaint Victorian town but reemphasize the other qualities of PT such as our creativity, natural beauty and sustainability,” he said.
Although he doesn’t want to give away some of what he will be doing Thursday, he said he will employ improvisation techniques to help people get to know one another and think more collaboratively.
Hansen also has been a part of the emerging Young Professionals Network. He sees young people clearly wanting to band together and work together to build a thriving future. He emphasizes that the essential aspects of "youth" can transcend any age wanting to revitalize their core.
“It’s not so much that we need young people, but we need passion-led people, who often happens to be young people,” he said. “Really, anyone who wants to increase the level of engagement in their communities – whether professional or personal.”
And then there is the question of mission – for business leaders, community leaders, anyone.
“A lot of people are working for organizations or leaders who have forgotten what their core mission is,” he said. “They’ve gotten so wrapped up in their day-to-day work and their fears and meeting their bottom-line goals that they feel ‘blah’ about their work, even hate it, quite frankly, and they are missing out on the original passion that got them into the work in the first place. Without it, they will burn out and postpone joy.”
Fear at work
From where Hansen sits as a personal business coach, fear is what has gripped people and stopped the flow of creativity.
“Fear, in my mind, is the number one problem,” he said. “People tend to go into fight-or-flight mode. The irony is that a fearful reaction is the exact opposite of what needs to happen.”
While some people are focusing on competition as a way to survive, Hansen says finding innovative ways to collaborate can help businesses become revitalized and re-inspired.
He’s interested in helping businesses see what can be possible – whether it’s a band of bicyclists getting text messages and responding to deliver pizza to a hotel room or a business woman opening a space in her shop to educate people about imports she’s selling.
“The starting place is exploring how can you make your business stickier, offering more value to create a community.”
For example, he’s helping Maestrale Imports create an in-store "community" space to educate people about the imports Jennefer Wood buys. Perhaps she’ll also have a place for book groups to meet to talk about the places the products are made.
While the event Thursday will be in-person, Hansen also is very much involved in social media and has a reputation for knowing its advantages as well as what he calls its dehumanizing limits. He was seen on NBC's "Today" show in 2008 and the PBS program "Mediashift" in 2009 teaching a class on how to align tech habits with personal values.
Still working out his own relationship to technology, he said he has set times for being online each day, helping him keep his priority of real-time interaction.
“While you can’t ignore this ‘revolution’ without serious consequences, you don’t need to handle it all on your own,” Hansen said.
“Social media is forcing companies to be more authentic,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether you are going to be involved in social marketing, it’s a question of ‘Why aren’t you?’”
Bad business practices can’t hide on the Internet and good business practices bring in more business.
What people these days are trusting is what Hansen calls unscripted and authentic engagements between people.
“If you don’t find ways to creatively engage with others, you'll miss great opportunities,” said Hansen.
And that’s part of what he aspires to teach in Thrive PT.