Hope Actually IS a Strategy

Always Hope

Where to start, where to start.  I have, for the most part, loyally posted a monthly blog for nearly two years on this fabulous and support-my-crazy-blogs site.  But last month?  Nothing.

I know… there was no blog post from me.  My shelves were empty, my inspiration went desert, my fun balloon shot around the room of my head like a firefly in July.

So What Happened?

Why did I not produce? I was overcome by events and overwhelmed by my own Gen X cynicism.  Satirical by nature, with a hint of edge and a full dose of self-deprecation, I can usually laugh things off or cleverly bring to light subtle observations and colorful storytelling about leadership.

Verbose? Usually…  Pointed? Always…  Relevant? For the most part…

On Reflection

WOW, though, May sure did bring on an abundance of real-world worst-practices in leadership.  In my neck of the woods I was witness to a few leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for days. Days!

In the world I observed nothing BUT leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for weeks. Weeks, I tell you!

It seemed that after the May 1st world liberation from Osama bin Laden, which showcased many critical leadership decisions that created the near-perfect trajectory of what will hopefully be the “best practice for decisions” in the years to come, that we had spent all of our good-decisions-by-leaders cards.

I’ll admit, I just couldn’t put it all together.  Usually “the machine,” as I affectionately call my brain, can synthesize enormous amounts of inputs, wrap it all up in a bow, and spit out the right mix of fact and effect to create what I hope to be a bearable read.  May?  Ah, not so much.

So what happened? “The machine” got tired.

Several, Many, and Some of You

  • Now, several of you have offline discussions with me, and many of you know me personally either through conferences or other publications or by the mere happenstance of luck where I get to talk to a lot of my blog readers.
  • Several of you have seen my eyes light up when talking about leadership and how to advance a business through all levels of people.
  • Many of you have felt the temperature go up in a room where I get to talk about people behavior, making bets on how complete strangers will respond to various events.
  • Some of you have even suffered the word-blasting tirades I’ve gone on when talking about the poor judgment and decision-making that so many current leaders practice on a daily basis (I am eternally sorry, though it will happen again… I just can’t help myself).

Well Run Dry

I’m not sure how many of you have seen my well tapped dry, though.  Sure, I was able to muster enough energy to have many discussions with a lot of you last month, but the one topic I just COULDN’T talk about was a single instance of good leadership decision-making after May 1st. (sigh)

Hope in Sight

Hope is Closer Than You thinkI thought long and hard about this and the one thing I came up with was the same thing that so many others look for in leadership: Hope.

Now, relax, folks, relax.  This isn’t about Obama.  That book nearly made it impossible for anyone else to mention “Audacity”, never mind “Hope,” so just try to put that out of your minds for a second.  I haven’t read the book, so any future allusions to it are merely coincidental by nature (I admit, I’m not big on non-fiction).

What I’m talking about is how a single decent—not exceptional, not great, not even GOOD… a mere DECENT—decision by a leader can spark hope, which I have simplified down to the mere feeling that a nice outcome is possible.

May 1st did just that for many, but the continued lack of clear and decent decisions afterward by ANY leaders near and far really fizzled the opportunity to spark what I’m now calling “hope-momentum.”

A few months ago I found myself talking about this to several leaders in an organization that has gone through multiple hands, cultures, decades of change.

My observation about hope continues to be the same:

  • Hope is risky.
  • Hope generates fear.
  • Hope challenges trust.

As human beings, a thinking being, a natural problem-solving being that (at least in this part of the world) struggles to match thinking with feeling, it is nearly impossible for us to think about something good without evidence that it will probably 99% work.

And even then we have our doubts, don’t we. That’s because Hope is hard… and things are hard enough now, aren’t they.

  • We hope that a plan will work out, but most of our thinking remains on why it probably won’t.
  • We hope that a relationship will be great, though it’s difficult not to keep just one inch of ourselves on the outside “just in case.”
  • We hope that our leaders will make the right decisions, though we criticize and complain about every angle throughout the decision-making process… and even with positive and predicted outcomes, it’s likely that we’ll still find some fault.

Thinking With Your Heart

Do you disagree?  Of course not.  You do this just like everyone else.  Why do you think that happens?

Well for starters, we would like to think we’re all brawn and logic, but if we care to look deeply enough, the truth is that it simply FEELS better to work out the bad things, sitting in the “worser” things until proven otherwise.

Personal history and world history alike have taught us that a surprise kick hurts far more than one we planned for.  The only problem is that we waste a lot of time waiting for the kick… and then if it doesn’t happen we often still double over to prove that it somehow still hurt us.

We simply FEEL more about hope than we think we do.

Hope Is a Strategy

If you think of the best things that have occurred in your life, if you look at the voted best American leaders (and this list is 2 years old—let me know if you can find a more recent one), or if you consider the countries that repeatedly make the “best places to live in the world,” and/or if you study the greatest communities of all time, there is one thing they all have or had in common: their HOPE was a large part of their strategy.

Hope sets a tone. Hope sets a mark.  Hope just might be the force that keeps us innocent (or ignorant?) enough to believe in something before any other “thing” can keep it from moving forward.

Now, while I’m an intuitive decision-maker and a strategic thinker at the core (buzz buzz buzz), I rarely make an argument supporting the importance of putting hope in front of facts.

I use the term “Hope is not a Strategy” quite a bit… but I always follow it up with “… but it’s a good place to start.”

Give Hope A Chance

So, in this time of bottom-barrel decision making, from lewd photos to weakened performance indices, to public school systems and private banking fees, I ask everyone to try a social experiment with me: make at least ONE decision each day on the basis of hope, and keep it pure.

Stay clear of attaching negativity to it—it’s only one decision.  Divert your attention from defining or predicting the outcome of mediocrity—it’s only ONE decision.  Grow your hope forward and attach it to some of your decisions, just see what happens.

Possible?  Too mushy-gushy?  Impractical?  Is this something you’d consider?  Why or why not?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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