“For anything to happen there must be a dream. And for anything great to happen there must be a great dream.”
— Robert K. Greenleaf
Every day as servant-leaders we bring to life the vision, mission, and values that define who we are and why we exist as an organization. Through the stories we tell and the actions we take we are continually working to instill great dreams in everyone our organization touches. And if we are not intentional about capturing our dreams so that others can share them, we have no idea where we’re going, much less how to draw others to join us on the journey.
Having articulated our great purpose, we can expect our people to ask, “How will we do this?” It’s a reasonable question. Our people need skills, tools, and training so they can do their jobs well. They need tactical direction and operational resources. But sometimes jumping too soon to “How will we do this?” tempts us to skip past the meaning of what we do. “How will we do this?” can also mask uncertainty, doubt, and fear. Servant-leaders must address the practical questions concerning what works and the emotions that like just beneath the surcate. But first they guide us through the profound questions of what matters. That’s how great dreams are born and become reality.
Here are five ways to reframe How will we? questions so that we are always keeping the organization’s great dream before us as our North Star*.
(1) ‘How do we do this?’ becomes ‘Should we be doing this at all?’
When we seek to bring great dreams into the world, knowing what NOT to do helps us determine what truly creative venture we should pursue because it captures what really matters. Servant-leaders know when to say “No”.
(2) ‘How long will this take?’ becomes ‘What commitment am I willing to make?
Great dreams require great commitment. We will always make time for what we are truly committed to. Servant-leaders shift the question of time to the question of importance.
(3) ‘How much will this cost?’ becomes ‘What is the price I am willing to pay?’ We have to determine what this great dream is really worth. Why? Because the true value of something that really matters is not just economic. It’s also emotional, psychological, and spiritual. The heart precedes the wallet.
(4) ‘How do I get others to change?’ becomes ‘What is my contribution to the desired outcome I want to see in the world?’
By starting with our own accountability for the great dream, we model inside-out change. Taking responsibility for our own transformation we ensure that the decisions we make contribute to well being of the people who will be affected by the change.
(5) ‘How are other people doing this successfully?’ becomes ‘What do we want to create together?’
What has already been mapped out is important; benchmarks and best practices matter. But this reframed question directs our energy toward what is still to be discovered. Pursuing the great dream drives us to solutions that may not even be on anyone’s radar yet.
These five questions boil down to one essential question
“How will the world be better tomorrow as a result of what we do today?”
This is the question every servant-leader asks herself every day. There are no easy, simplistic answers. But getting the questions right is what sets us apart as leaders who serve the greater good.
Here’s to dreaming great dreams!
*Adapted from The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters, Peter Block, Berrett-Koehler, 2003.
(Copyright © 2019 — Chris Alan Thyberg – The Serving Way. All rights reserved.)