At this writing, we’re coming up on the start of Q4. What questions do you ask yourself about what’s ahead of us all for the rest of the year? Are your visions for the next three months based on negativity bias? Or possibility-oriented thinking? In this uncertain year, we could go either way in our imaginings. So why not imagine the best possible outcome for you, your people and your business? A friend of mine has a favorite question when she’s caught in a whirlpool of unknown variables:
What would this look like if it were perfect?
In her own planning, she has made a list of 11 items that will kick January into high gear. After she was done writing them out, she realized that of the 11, six of the items were entirely within her reach and control. And they actually set the stage to make the other five happen. Sure, she could have gone down the road of fear to a vast array of dread scenarios that might await her. But instead she started with the ideal big picture first and walked it back to those 11 details, half of which are actionable.
Reviewing that list is a much better way to start her mornings than envisioning all the terrible things.
What would these next three months — and well into the future — bring you if you focused on what’s possible, rather than what’s dreadful? That you choose to focus on will make all the difference to you and your people!
Fear is a fundamental part of our nature – it’s what our species has used to stay alive long enough over the eons to eventually result in, well, us. Over hundreds of thousands of years, our brains evolved to fear the lion, to be very sensitive to environmental cues of threat. Dreaming about tomorrow’s patch of savannah grass never saved the antelope. But knowing exactly where that pride of hungry lions was crouching in wait to strike surely saved the more quick-witted grazers. Antelopes and humanoids all got the survival gift of developing brains that are more interested in the worst-case scenario than the possibilities of a brighter future ahead. That’s how we survived into the 21st century where we are now concerning ourselves with global supply chains, whether our truckers feel safe on the highways’ rest stops, how easily we can source raw material from other countries when our main supplier is shut down, and how we explain our latest market performance to our investors.
There’s no getting around it. We’re all surrounded by figurative lions that we hadn’t planned for last year. We didn’t even have a clue they were lurking in the tall grass. These potential threats absorb a huge portion of our attention.
But that focus on current threats is not where tomorrow’s greener pastures can be found. As leaders we owe it to our tribe to hold the vision of a better day safe for them. And to make that vision accessible all the time. We have to paint the picture of where we’re going, even as we lead through where we are today.
It’s been said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Your tribe members may be working hard to avoid the current set of survival threats, but they still need to know what the vision is. What is the dream that will make this all worth while at the end? Managers might keep their people focused on the short-term goals for the next period or payday. But you’re the leader. It’s up to you to paint a more vivid picture of the larger landscape of possibility.
I’ve written a complete article detailing 11 leadership lessons that I have learned during Lockdown 2020. Replace fear with vision is one of the 11. Click here to read them all!