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This week, a prospective client, the CEO of a small bank, remarked that morale felt low at his company. He cited a list of external reasons as to why that was the case. They were actually good reasons, but ultimately they were out of his control. "Given the rather unfortunate hand you're holding, what's next?" I asked him. "What's your vision for the future?" He handed me a sheet of paper with the company's vision on it. I couldn't believe it. For dramatic effect I crumpled it up and threw it in the trash can. "You've got lions at your door that will keep you from serving clients that desperately need you and you just handed me a sheet of abstract corporate speak. You've got an opportunity to really sell this problem and rally the troops and you're missing it."

Consider this:

People are motivated by a fight. I'm not talking about violence and destruction, but a constructive fight that brings about something good. Every organization holds a tremendous possibility for the clients/constituents it serves. And every organization also faces challenges and struggles to get there. Sell the possibility of getting there. Get others to see it and also feel inspired by it. Use it to frame your challenges. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make in mobilizing troops is not spending enough time on the vision as a tool to contextualize the work at hand. The organization becomes a car without gas and everyone's wondering why it won't move.

Try this:

If you work with others, this should be done with the team

  1. Clarify the possibility of who you are for your clients - get it into concrete and inspiring language
  2. Outline the challenges you must overcome to get there - what's going to keep you from delivering that possibility?
  3. Detail the specific targets you must hit to make the possibility happen
  4. If you don't feel an energy surge, you're not doing it right. Try again or get help from a professional. Over the long term, uninspired organizations simply cannot succeed.

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(1900-1944) French writer & aviator

Doug Sundheim is an organizational consultant and coach based in NYC -