I am an optimist. I believe in hope. In fact, I have a light-up hope sign in my living room.
I am also aware that, as a leader, hope is not a strategy. There are so many folks who said this – former President Ronald Reagan and Benjamin Ola Akande are just two. What does this really mean?
For me, I understand I can’t truly lead my team members to success on just hope. Although I am a fan of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer, ” I know it isn’t a leadership strategy. How does one bring hope, optimism and enthusiasm to a team while providing a tangible plan for success?
Balancing optimism with sound business practices is the key. Project management is essential to achieving hope. One must build project plans and think through scope, time and cost in order to successfully achieve any goal.
One of my favorite sayings is, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal, broken down into steps becomes a plan, backed by action makes your dreams reality.”
How do you make your dreams reality? How do you help your team members “see” your dream and embrace it? And, is this about your dream? Or the team’s vision and dream?
STEP 1 – Team members respond to energy and enthusiasm. According to Amy Cuddy, a TED talk veteran, author and social psychologist, “A powerful leader is one who uses their passion and commitment to inspire their employees.” To convince your team about your dream, you must convince yourself.
STEP 2 – If you are anything like me, I cannot just go with my gut instinct, even though I know it’s probably right. I must influence and convince others who need tangible data. Why? Because many people need tangible data to “see” the dream. I’ve learned how to ensure I balance my instinct with the research and planning needs of my organizational leaders and team members. Yes, it adds a bit of time, but the coalition support that I gain through involving others is essential for organizational success.
STEP 3 – Team members need a collaborative, tangible action plan that clearly describes the “how-to” of the dream. This requires involving team members, internal and external stakeholders and leadership in defining timelines and dependencies – the whole nine yards. One key element is to build success measures at this stage. All plans need measures – as a gee-whiz, this is the “buy-in” stage.
STEP 4 – Words and planning only go so far. Now is the time to put that plan into full-blown action. This is where the rubber meets the road, where everyone is all in. All are working on the action plan and timeline.
STEP 5 – A step that is often forgotten is measuring success and gathering feedback. No plan is perfect. Lessons learned are essential. Those lessons learned need to look at what went well and what could be changed. Without comparing the efforts and data to Step 3’s measures, one can’t determine actual success.
Leaders gain credibility with their teams when they acknowledge that their dreams (Step 1) didn’t actually materialize into the results (Step 5) they anticipated. Leaders lose credibility when every dream is deemed “successful” without any measurable results.
Lessons learned can be the most amazing team-building and growing opportunity you will ever experience. Open your mind. Go into the meeting without your own mental success agenda. Listen to the positives – what went well? Listen to the negatives. Then, what would you change?
Be open. Ask open-ended questions. Most importantly, take action on the feedback.
Hope may not be a strategy, but hope is an amazing motivator. Combining hope, project management planning and communication – you have the recipe to success.
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Rebecca (Becky) Mack Johnson’s government career spans almost 34 years. She’s been an SES executive for over 15 years. Her leadership experiences range from business operations’ positions to the human capital side of the house. Becky’s passion centers around helping people grow and achieve their goals. Becky considers receiving the Treasury Department’s Leadership Legacy Award in 2017 as one of her greatest accomplishments. Becky believes continual learning is essential. To practice what she preaches, Becky completed her Masters Degree in Strategic Public Relations in her early 40s. She is also an International Coaching Federation ACC certified coach and a Project Management Professional.