The first step in achieving any dream, any goal, is sincere and fundamental belief in the reality of what you’re setting out to do. There can be no room for doubt, even, perhaps even especially, in the face of obstacles and difficulty.
Stop saying that next year is going to be “your year”, or that next month is going to be “your month.” Today is right here. It’s brand new, and it has you written all over it. Grab it. Use it. Earn every last second of it. Go home tonight exhausted and tired and finished and smile when you look in the mirror knowing that today showed up and you made it yours.
Today is your day. What are you going to do with it?
Every person who works hard to serve their community will, at some point, face a situation that calls into stark illumination the nature and character of their integrity. They will be tested by the misdeeds of others, by the failure to adhere to moral rules, and by the willingness of lesser men and women to bypass acceptable business practices for the sake of a short-term gain.
Relish these opportunities.
When your integrity is tested by the fire of another’s lack of character, you’re given a golden opportunity to shine as a light to your sphere of influence. Nobody operates on an island, and while you may feel isolated in the midst of an attack, remember that you’re being watched, that others around you are waiting to see how you will respond. Be strong, be right, and be heard. Be willing to find your voice and call misdeeds for what they are. Actively pursue the high road and willingly sacrifice the momentary desire for retaliation on the altar of your character, knowing that the long-term benefits of an intact reputation will gain you far more. This is your opportunity to lead. Lead yourself, and be true to the strength of character that is your foundation.
This is your moment.
Vision is the leader’s greatest tool for unification. Take a team that is fragmented, disassociated, and disillusioned, and you will most often find at it’s core a lack or loss of vision. Fundamentally, a lack of vision is the easiest problem to solve. The group that has never been brought together for the sake of a common goal finds itself inspired and quickened when presented with a clear and focused purpose. Like people thirsty for water, they will spill themselves into the current of a vision for what they can accomplish together.
Altogether different is the body of individuals who have had at one time or another enjoyed the soul-inspiring motivation of a clear vision for their future. When that vision shatters or melts away into broken promises and failed commitments, reigniting this team can be one of the most difficult challenges a leader can face. Motivating this group will take determined leadership and focus.
1.) The Vision must have a clear goal.
See the End. You, as the leader, must be able to clearly and plainly see in your mind’s eye what the culmination of the team’s vision will be. See the finish line. See the final score. Know without doubt what success looks like. Your team will need to understand the purpose in their efforts and it will be your responsibility to show it to them. You’ll need to give them a clear picture of what the end looks like for the team, the value in the group’s arrival at the destination, and the motivating force drawing them as a group toward that end. Leader, you must also be able to paint a picture individually for each member of your organization. Be able to communicate why it is vital that EACH of them be a part of the success, and be able to share what success will look like uniquely for each of them.
2.) Don’t Force the Journey
Seeing the End will ensure that you are constantly moving in the right direction, but the road will be fraught with obstacles. The visionary leader is able to focus not on the obstacle immediately delaying progress, but on the goal that the team is moving towards. In finding your way above the fray to see clearly into the distance and maintain your hold on the End, you can guide your team around the unknowable journey. If you plan each and every step, and give yourself no room for flexibility, knowing that the End remains the priority, you’ll be hopelessly delayed and bogged down.
3.) Remain ABSOLUTELY Confident in Success
Know in your deepest heart that you will reach the End. Before you can lead, before you can challenge, and before you can motivate, you must find that place within yourself where you are completely convinced of your team’s ability to reach the End, and you must live there every day. Find confidence in the skill and ability of your people, be strong in the success of your systems and challenge the status quo daily, but in all, remain steadfast in your personal knowledge that at the conclusion of the journey, after every obstacle, you and your team will arrive at the End. Communicate this confidence every day. Make it part of your vocabulary, shape every thought around that piece of absolute truth – we will succeed.
An old leadership analogy says that the effect we have on people is like tossing a pebble in a pond. The initial splash of pebble creates waves in the water that grow and extend far beyond the size of the pebble that created them.
It’s a timeless and salient lesson; one we should remember often. Thinking on this object lesson, it occurred to me that it doesn’t translate perfectly for one, unchangeable reason: human ripples aren’t identical. When a small stone breaks the surface of the water, one of the fascinating results is that the ripples created by the small splash radiate from the point of impact in perfectly concentric, identical circles. It isn’t until these tiny waves encounter an obstacle, such as a plant or a piece of debris, that they are altered and begin their own course.
When we translate this analogy into the sphere of human interaction, the underlying principle is that a single action can have far-reaching and on-going effects on the world around us, even if those consequences are unintentional. The foundation is sound, but I want to look at the human aspect of this. Every person is different because of personality, culture, upbringing, ideology, and countless other variables. The ripple effect in our social, professional, and personal circles takes on a very different hue when we realize that because of our differences, the ripples we create are each completely unique of each other based on the person we create them in.
If I toss a pebble into a pond, through scientific and mathematical processes, I can determine exactly where and how the ripples on the surface of the water will be created. I can know their expanding width, speed, and future termination. I can know all of this ahead of time, because the scientific laws that govern the physics of this simple experiment are fixed and constant.
When I toss a figurative pebble into the pond of my sphere of influence, everything is relative. The impact of my words, the effectiveness of my leadership, the influence of my vision – all of these ripples are dependent on and reflective of the unique personalities and character of the people I’m dealing with. One might say that as a good leader, I could know my people well enough to make an educated decision about how certain tactics will impact them, and that is very true. But as the ripples continue to distance themselves from the point of impact, the ability to maintain any control over their evolution is lost. People are just all too different.
Those difference are what makes our teams strong and viable, they bring creativity and innovation, and they create dialog and conversation that is impactful and productive. As leaders, understanding the ripple effect makes it incumbent on us to feed our teams with material that creates a positive impact as the ripples spread and grow. We must be encouraging and positive, we must build and foster independence, and we must take responsibility for the waves that we create in the lives and minds of our people. As we influence those closest to us, we need to do so in a manner that will allow them to have an equally positive impact when their pebbles hit the water.