Companies often ask an important and frustrating question: “Why aren’t we delivering better results with all the talent we have here?” Leaders of these organizations know that both the business and the people are full of potential, but they are failing to unleash it. There are many factors that contribute to businesses that don’t unleash their full potential, but two foundational, trainable skills they often lack are dreaming and courage.
Let’s first tackle the failure of vision (the corporate word for dream). Dreams are the most powerful force on the planet, and yet we rarely treat them as such. Every country, company, brand, service and relationship started as a dream. Companies that are struggling have often lost sight of that dream.
Kodak was founded on the dream of “making photography as easy to use as a pencil.” That vision gave rise to the instamatic camera. When the company invented the digital camera, which truly delivered on the dream, it threatened the profitable film-developing model. They lost sight of the dream, did nothing with their invention and quickly went bankrupt.
A second key issue holding companies back is the failure to build courage throughout the organization. Not only do the leaders lack courage, but L&D has failed to build the “courage muscle” of associates at every level. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of geniuses analyzing your business, defining objectives or articulating strategies; if L&D doesn’t consistently help everyone build his or her “courage muscle,” then your company will fall short of achieving its full potential.
With these two challenges in mind, consider the following thought starters and reminders on how to stay focused on the dream and how to build the courage to deliver that dream.
Change the way you dream.
The root cause of many companies’ and individuals’ failures is that they dream vaguely and dread specifically. Vague dreams are dangerous. Because they are vague, the organization subsequently dreads specifically – focusing on why “it can’t be done,” which paralyzes the company. Kodak couldn’t launch the digital camera, because its leaders dreaded specifically about the threat to their film-developing profits rather than delivering on the dream that had made them so successful.
Flip this problem on its head. Train your leaders and organization to dream specifically and dread vaguely. Be so specific, precise and compelling in your dream that you and your team simply deal with what you dread as it arises rather than letting it paralyze you.
With your company’s specific dream or dreams clear, here are some thoughts on how to build your organization’s courage muscle.
Many companies unintentionally foster a culture of risk aversion. They don’t have the courage to metaphorically untie the boat and set sail. For example, leading automotive companies were talking about electric cars for years, but when they finally got around to setting sail, Elon Musk and Tesla were already in the market with a true “no compromise” electric car. Align your company’s compensation structure to reward those who display courage and set sail, and you will transform your results.
Venture into the unknown.
It’s not enough just to “set sail.” You must build a culture where everyone has the courage to venture out into the unknown – and where leaders have the courage not to punish associates who fail. Think of Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and so many others. They had the courage to venture out into the unknown, and they have literally changed the world.
Keep going in the face of adversity.
If you don’t train your organization to have the courage to face adversity, your company will not adapt to the changing needs of the market and will deliver sub-par results. Kodak had the courage to invent the digital camera but lacked courage when it threatened its profitable film-developing business. It did not keep going in the face of adversity, and it went bankrupt!
Listen and accept reality quickly.
Many of us tend to live in transmitting mode rather than receiving mode. Do you have a capability program that enables all your talent to have the courage to listen and accept reality – good or bad? If not, you won’t unlock their full potential or that of the company.
Get your hands dirty.
Training everyone on how to delegate is critical to unlocking the full potential of any team. However, there are some tasks that you simply cannot delegate, and you must train associates to know what those are. Sometimes, leaders at any level will simply have to summon the courage to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and resolve the problem themselves.
Don’t wait! These are just some of the ways to strengthen the visioning skills of your leaders and build the courage muscle of your organization. Employ them, and your competition will soon be asking a different question: “What are they doing over there that’s enabling them to deliver such consistently outstanding results?”