Our job as leaders is to connect people to the future. Today, with fear and uncertainty spreading faster than COVID-19, connecting people to an effective, positive future is more important and possibly more difficult than ever before. Connecting us to the future isn’t simply about creating a clear picture of where we are going. We also need to build the bridge that is going to get us there.
1. Create a picture of the future
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s defining moment in the civil rights movement was his “I Have a Dream” speech. The focus wasn’t on the here-and-now, but where we wanted to be in the future. The speech created the replacement picture that we all needed to see, so that we could move toward it.
2. Communicate the Strategy for getting there
Sir Ernest Shackleton was captain of a 27-man crew, who lost their ship in Antarctica in 1915. All survived and were self-rescued within 18 months, relying on the strategy of “5 miles a day.” An effective strategy is the way a leader helps the team understand how the impossible becomes possible. It is a simple, cause-and-effect set of actions.
3. Focus on what is working
When Apollo 13 let Houston know, “We have a problem,” Mission Control started reporting all of the problems with the service module. Gene Kranz refocused the room to what was working, and pulled the team together to use what was available and working to get the mission home. Problems do need to be solved. However, reframing from the endless list of problems we now face, to what is working, moves us from helplessness to action. Knowing what can be leveraged helps people to understand that the strategy can work, and the future gets clearer.
Today, more than ever, as a leader you need to Connect The Dots for your team, as well as your organization. Create a picture of where we are going, a strategy for how we are going to get there, and then provide examples of how we are already on our way.