[This is the third part in the series I’ve been writing about how to address the big “now what?” question that comes when you feel call to do something exciting and scary at the same time. See part 1 here and part 2 here]
A powerful context makes you a “possibilitarian.” Norman Vincent Peale said, “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.”
You’re not designed to be confined to waiting for someone else to free you, motivate or inspire you. Free yourself and your team with a context full of possibility.
Here are two parts to creating a powerful context:
1. Get to the heart of the matter for yourself
“What would it mean to accomplish this?”
“What am I deeply committed to here?”
“What will life be like when this is accomplished?”
Try to come up with five responses to each question. As you get to the heart of the answers, it will begin to get more and more difficult. The core answer to each question ultimately will evoke creativity and energy and a “do whatever it takes” attitude.
Most people skip the step of creating a powerful context and wonder why they’re unmotivated and get derailed or that people aren’t following. That takes us to the next step.
2. Create a Powerful Context for Others
When I was a new manager, in my first leadership role, I went to my boss, a seasoned leader who I highly respected and asked, “How do I know I’m really a leader?” He smiled and said, “Look behind you. If you look and there’s no one following, you’re not a leader, you’re just a guy on a walk.” Ever since then I’ve known that as a leader I must create a context that has others following me.
It’s important to remember that those following you are volunteers. Yes, you or your organization compensate them, but that compensation only gets you so much. It gets you the bare minimum of what it takes to get the job done – a part of their brains, their fingertips on the keyboard, their backs, feet or eyes and maybe a little part of their heart. Everything else is completely discretionary and they must freely volunteer those parts – the rest of their brains, creativity, ideas, their heart, passion, energy, effort, commitment. All these can only be volunteered. As a leader, you must create a powerful context for them to want to volunteer all of themselves to the task at hand.
And don’t make the fatal mistake – don’t assume your context is their context or that your context will inspire them.
Early on in my business, I operated from a context that wasn’t very inspiring to me and definitely wasn’t inspiring to my team. My context was “I don’t want to fail” or “I don’t want to have to go work for someone else.” To be honest, I didn’t even share these with my team. I assumed their context was, “I’m being paid so I’ll do the job.” Everyone was doing just enough (including me) and not much more.
Over time, I reinvented my context and created a powerful one that informs how I build my business and live my life. “Serve 10,000 people in the next 12 months and write a $50,000 check from our profits to a cause deeply meaningful to us.”
When I shared this with my most recent hire, I was crying and she said, “I’m more motivated than ever to work hard for you and this cause.”
Create a powerful context for everything you’re trying to accomplish – losing weight, coaching a soccer team or leading a billion-dollar organization. You’ll be motivated and you’ll have people following you.