Leaders must plan, but it’s more important that they inspire others and have a dream.
— May 7th, 2017
All things that are materially accomplished have to be mentally accomplished first.
Winners become winners before they have won. They imagine vividly the rewards of success and holding that trophy aloft. They imagine the final few minutes of a lengthy battle in which they are victorious.
They can smell the grass that they would be playing on, or feel the warmth of stadium lights, or the cheers of the crowd.
Children don’t play at cowboys and Indians, they are cowboys and Indians! Sportspeople are the same. They allow their mind to become the best practice arena in the world.
Having worked with some of the best sportspeople in the world, I notice that one of things they are able to do, is to picture future success and achievement with great accuracy.
In business I find that we take a different viewpoint on how we construct our view of success. We see numbers, and talk the language of margin, volume, market share, and jobs completed. We formulate plans and talk about objectives, and you know what….all of these things are valid. We do do need to know what a good job looks like, and it is true that what we can measure we can manage. However, do we do all this at the sacrifice of allowing ourselves to dream of glory?
Growth mindset and outperforming the markets can only come from daring to dream and having an emotional connectivity based upon what we are trying to create, rather than what we are trying to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already stated that plans and strategy are essential. However, our ability and that of our teams, to execute them is dependent on how inspired we are to achieve them.
As Helmuth von Moltke said 100 years previously, “No battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy” Another way of saying that single outcome predictions and plans are pointless, Moltke was himself drawing on work by Napoleon 50 years earlier when he wrote that “Plans are usually useless but time spent planning is invaluable” a reference to the benefits of scenario planning for the variety of different possible outcomes which may befall. Our teams and business need a direction, but the energy and pace in which we move in that direction is determined by our enthusiasm to get to the end point.
As leaders our job is not just to set strategy, and make sense of the numbers in a way which creates better plans. The answer, particularly in this age of disruption, is not just to ‘peddle faster’. We must create a business which genuinely champions purpose maximization over profit maximization, with that purpose being the motivation of all our team members.
I’ve heard a few people reference the fact that Martin Luther King never stood at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said “I have a plan….”
If we are to create organizations and teams that are goal orientated, agile (able to move outside of plans to take advantage of opportunity), resilient, flexible, and engaged let’s believe that we need to work on getting more inspiration into our people, rather than more perspiration out of them.
And that can’t happen - won’t ever happen - without clear and effective communication. Nobody can realistically expect inspiration or engagement without it. Martin Luther King was inspiring and engaging because of many things: his vision and bravery, his tenacity and passion, but primarily because he was an exceptionally brilliant communicator.
We can’t all be Luther Kings, of course, but we can learn to lead, to inspire and engage through ensuring that the message we want to get across is the message that actually gets through to people.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but frequently very large companies can ‘do’ communications with their employees better than organizations a fraction of their size. Then again, it shouldn’t be so surprising since there’s a strong financial imperative for doing so. Research over many years has proven that companies with highly effective employee communications outperform their peers by a factor of 3.5. It’s why many of the world’s most successful companies allocate significant resources to their internal communications.
They are also acutely aware how difficult and tricky communications can be, that it’s not about simply disseminating information to their workforce - no matter the number and variety of channels at their disposal, whether it’s email, or video, or intranets or social networks.
They will know precisely what the writer and social commentator J.B.Priestley was warning about when he said that the more we elaborate our means of communication the less we communicate.
They will instinctively relate to playwright George Bernard Shaw’s wise observation that the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Someone once said information is giving out; communication is getting through, and how accurate that still is.
Thankfully for those who see leadership through invoking inspiration instead of demanding perspiration, and with communication central to getting their message through, any guesswork around cut-through can now be a thing of the past.
The unique technology that has been developed by employee communications specialists Poppulo would no doubt have intrigued Bernard Shaw. It not only enables distribution to the right people in the right place at the right time, it also removes any guesswork about effectiveness by precise measurement of engagement with communications across digital channels.
If he were around today, Shaw would have lived to see his illusion observation square up to hard data - and there’s only ever going to be one winner there.
And as someone who had little time for the Latin alphabet, who knows what he might have made of the fact that the creator of this software, Poppulo, took inspiration for its name from the Latin for people.
There might even have been a play in it….