Here is a guest post from Lisa Edwards, talent retention and engagement expert and co-author of Managing Talent Retention: An ROI Approach. It's a perfect post to kick off the new year. Lisa E. will be monitoring comments, so share your thoughts. I love her notion of creating a narrative that tells the story of what you seek. What's your dream?
- Martin Luther King
Like many people, I’m thinking about 2009 and what I’d like to change. However, I’m not starting with a list of goals. In fact, I’m not even starting with a single goal.
Instead, I’m starting with a dream.
Most people will start out with a goal or a single goal and many people will fail to realize their goal. Why? Because it lacks vision and emotion – the very qualities that make for a dream come true.
Think about it. Many people will have a goal that sounds something like this:
Lose 15 pounds by summer.
Do you feel inspired by that? Imagine if Martin Luther King had tried to move thousands or millions of people by framing his ideals like that. It would have sounded something like, “I have a goal that everyone be treated equal.” Would people have been moved? Would change have been inspired?
Of course not. Instead, he began with “I have a dream…” and he went on to paint a picture and a vision of what his dream looked like. It took 568 words to paint a picture of that dream and his vision, full of emotion and hope for change. But with 568 words, Martin Luther King was able to inspire and motivate people to believe that his dream was possible, and people worked together to begin to make it come true.
Likewise, with your life you must start with a spirit of hope and enthusiasm for something that feels like a real possibility.
Several years ago, my dream was that I would start my business. I wrote out five full pages (in long-hand!) describing what my dream looked like. I included things like: where I lived, who was working with me, how my work day went, how much money I was making, and of course, how I was helping people. I described how I felt every day, what sounds I would hear in the background while I was working, and what I would do after work. I even described what colors I would be surrounded by because when I dream, I like to dream in color! Then, I took my dream and condensed it into one single four-word sentence that I wrote on a pink index card and slipped into my billfold. Every time I opened my billfold, I could read that sentence and recapture the motivation and feeling behind my dream.
It’s no surprise that two months after writing a description of my dream, I realized the beginning of my dream and started my business.
I’m not saying that you don’t need goals. I write goals, too. It’s just that I start with a dream, focus in on a simple sentence and then I create the goals.
Think about our friends who have started off the New Year with “lose 15 pounds by summer.” What if they began with “I have a dream that by summer, I will go to the beach in my favorite swimsuit and breathe comfortably and feel relaxed. I have a dream that I will feel radiant and healthy and full of life and energy and enthusiasm. I have a dream that I will enjoy running and the feeling of accomplishment each day when I run after work. I have a dream that my body will feel energized and healthy when I eat food that gives me energy and nutrients that support me.”
Now that’s something even I can feel and get excited about! It sounds like fun to eat healthy meals and go for a run.
Let’s go further and think about how organizations could tap into this concept and use it to benefit everyone. Most companies come out with a list of goals that are some version of: increase revenues and decrease expenses. Rah. Rah. Who can get excited about that? Is it any wonder that people are unenthused about their jobs?
Now, what if the CEO started describing his or her dream instead? What if the annual meeting of next year’s goals started out with, “I have a dream that all our employees will never again worry about being ‘re-org’ed’ or losing their jobs. I have a dream that all our people will be able to provide for their family with comfort and ease. I have a dream that all our employees will reach their career aspirations within our organization.” Think people could get inspired about that? Think people would feel motivated to do whatever it took to realize this dream?
It takes boldness and strong, visionary leadership to go out on a limb like that. But people who are willing to go out on a limb for their dream, no matter what their dream is, are always the ones who realize something beyond what they can even imagine.
As you look forward to the New Year, before you write your goals, dream boldly. Describe your dream for 2009. Paint a picture for yourself— something that you can see, touch, smell and hear when you close your eyes. Then, capture it into a single sentence and place it somewhere you can see it every so often.
Lisa Ann Edwards is the Founder and CEO of Bloom Consulting Inc., a talent engagement and retention firm providing executive and leadership coaching for individuals who desire to develop or enhance their leadership skills and maximize their natural talents. Edwards has co-authored Measuring ROI in Coaching for New Hire Employee Retention: A Global Media Company published in ROI in Action Casebook (Pfeiffer, 2008) and Managing Talent Retention: An ROI Approach (Pfeiffer, 2009). She is working on her third publication, a research-based approach to personal engagement.