Hope is a strategy

Hope is a strategy

This is not a post about sales methodology.  This is a post about hope.

I remember quite clearly walking into the office of a struggling startup as their new Vice President of Sales.  Among the detritus of downsizing, the empty cubicles, extra chairs and office equipment was a bookshelf.  On this bookshelf were a dozen or so copies of a book by Rick Page, published in the early 2000’s called “Hope is not a Strategy, The six Keys to Winning the Complex Sale”.

This was a clear sign to me that they suffered from an out of control sales process and were trying to figure out how to fix it.  The basic tenants of Rick’s methodology are that sales is not some magical thing run by magical people, but is a quite understandable process that you can learn to manage and predict.

Rick’s point and the point of all the speakers and politicians who have used this phrase to effect is that no amount of magical thinking is going to solve the problem.  You should figure out what is wrong at the people, process and technology level and start to fix it to get better.  In this context, “Hope is not a Strategy” simply means “stop wishing and start working”.

I agree with Rick’s premise and most of his methodology points but I was always bothered by the title.  Hope is not a strategy?  That bothers me.  If not hope, then what?  Hopelessness?  If I logically follow the phrase don’t I end up with “there is no hope”?

That I can’t agree with.

Hope is one of the essential elements of any successful person, company and culture.  The belief that things can and will get better enables people to weather storms, to get knocked down and get up again.  The power of hope is what has driven humanity from the branches of our prehistoric trees out to explore the universe.

Hope is essential.

Hope begins with feeling like you are in control and you make a difference.

One of the key elements of hope is the belief that we have control over our lives through our thoughts and actions.  The primary thing that enables any of your employees to get out of bed in the morning is the belief that their actions and their efforts will make a difference.  If they feel like they are mere puppets in a dance they don’t control, if they feel like their efforts make no difference, they lose hope.

You don’t want that to happen.  Once they lose hope they stop trying to make a difference.  They may hang around and pick up a paycheck but they become the walking dead once they lose hope.

Hope is purpose.

Part of hope is the belief that you can make a difference, and hope is amplified if you believe that difference you are making aligns with a higher purpose.  Whether it is helping you company win, helping your customers be successful or making the world a genuinely better place, hope leads to purpose.

One of the tricky questions I’ll ask executives at companies I’m working with is “What would you say your company’s mission is?”  If you ask five different executives and get five different answers you know that the company is misaligned.  No one knows the ‘why’ of the organization.  As Simon Sinek famously simplified in his TED talk – It starts with ‘why’.

If you have purpose in your organization that your people can align their personal contributions to then I would argue that you have a very hopeful organization.  An aligned organization is also going to be very effective in its strategy, tactics and execution because everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Hope is the ability to be resilient.

Hopefulness in your organization.  The belief of your employees that their efforts make a difference.  The alignment of every asset with a known and well-communicated purpose.  These things will also make your organization resilient.

What makes business people suspicious of hope is that Pollyanna nature of the concept.  The inferred belief that everything is going to go well. They see that as unrealistic.  Any experienced business person knows that not only will there be rocks in the road, but the road is mostly rocks.  They think that hope is counterproductive because it ignores that fact that business by its nature is hard and full of challenge.

They miss the point.  Hope-less people and organizations give up when there is adversity.  Hopeful organizations have the ability to roll with the punches.  They expect things to get better.  That doesn’t mean life is easy.  It means that you are always looking beyond the challenge to how you can learn from it and how to grow from it.  Hope is future focused in a positive way.

As Viktor Frankl proved so well in Man’s Search for Meaning, hope can keep you going when everything else is gone.

Hope is cultivated in a positive environment.

Hope is cultivated in inherently positive environments.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t adversity.  Employees will still be fired and customers will still sue you, but that doesn’t mean you slouch through life expecting to be punched in the gut at every corner.

What is does mean is setting and cultivating a positive, future-focused tone in the organization engenders hope.  It’s not so much “Everything is great!” as it is “We are all working to make thing great, every day.”  Hope is a cultural expectation of positive results.

Hope, is a strategy.

No amount of false and empty positive messages or inspirational posters on the wall can create hope.  You can create an environment of hope by systematically shaping the culture of your organization.

  • Do your people know that their efforts make a difference?
  • Do your people know the mission of your organization? Is everyone aligned behind a common purpose?
  • Does the organization embrace challenges with a desire to get better?
  • Have you cultivated a positive, future-based culture?

I agree that magical thinking and foundationless optimism will lead to poor results.  Hope, without process is a recipe for failure.  But if you combine the basic, human, powerful seeds of hope with rigorous strategy, tactics and execution you’ll create a world-beating organization.

You can connect to Chris professionally at his LinkedIn account –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/cyktrussell/

Chris approaches everything with a thirst for adventure and an internal fire to make an outsized positive impact on the organizations and people he leads.

In his career, Chris has worked his way from the warehouse to the executive office. He has filled roles of consultant, presales, sales, director, vice president, president, founder-principal, mentor and strategic advisor. He has a wealth of successful experience in Sales, Services, Technology, Supply Chain and Marketing, Globally across verticals and industries.

 

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