Today I decided to write about an inspiring person who is part of the Virgin family, who has shown me leadership in a different way. Of course she hasn’t just done it for me, but many others too. She is Nicola Davis, who has worked for Virgin Holidays for the last 25 years.
She has used her life to really gain the extraordinary out of circumstances that to others might be seen as negative; she has a gift to be able to turn situations into amazing opportunities for herself and others.
Nicola won our Star of the Year award in 2012, after coming up with a fantastic idea that benefited lots of people and screwed business as usual too. She explained it to me when we spent the day together recently: “At Virgin Holidays we make holidays accessible to those with physical and other health related challenges, no more so than in my Special Assistance team.”I was determined to make the Caribbean’s beaches as accessible as possible for everyone who uses them. My husband and I first used a Beach Wheelchair in the USA just after we met in 1998, and I wanted other people to not miss out.”
I knew we’d got it right when I got a letter from a newly married couple thanking Virgin Holidays for making it possible to walk down the beach together on their honeymoon.
Nicola provides inspiration and leadership in a dignified and humble way. Her gift, she tells me, is being able to understand people in a way that they don’t even understand themselves.
Clients regularly tell her that she doesn’t know what it is like to be in a wheelchair or have a disability – what’s amazing is that she rarely tells them that she uses a wheelchair too.
She just goes on to give them what they need quietly, with compassion, dignity and humility and helps her colleagues provide a service that is second to none around the globe.
Her message is quite clear – she points out that most of us have some challenge or another to live with – whether it’s arms and legs that won’t work, or something smaller and less obvious like anxiety.
She shows me you don’t need to start feeling depressed, down, or negative, but that you can do amazing things to change people’s perceptions and to screw business as usual. That’s a philosophy I’ve been working to all my life.
It’s about saying to people all around the world: You can do something amazing with the gifts that you have.
While it’s great to share these inspiring stories, we also need to help make things easier for people like Chris and Nic. Despite Nicola’s success, she still faces basic obstacles in her life and we have to do what’s right and make life as barrier free for them and others. That’s why the Virgin Group are going to lead the globe in removing barriers, in every aspect and walk of life.
Who inspires you to change people’s perceptions?