3 Key Points in this Article:
- The importance of having a dream when you are a leader.
- The mindset you must develop to be a leader that dreams.
- The three keys to transitioning into a leader that dreams.
To build a better business I believe that leadership is the foundation. I also believe that leaders must pursue big dreams of making a real difference in the lives of the stakeholders in that business and the community it is a part of.
Those stakeholders are the customers the business serves, but also includes the employees, suppliers, lenders, and investors the business forms partnerships with. I discuss this at length in episode 75 of the Build a Better Business Podcast.
The community that the business serves is the place the business calls home, this includes the city or county, the province or state, the country, and the continent. Yes, the world itself.
It’s fitting then that I share with you my dream.
You see, I have a dream where every business is contributing to making the world a better place.
I have a dream where the leaders of those businesses are chasing big audacious dreams of their own. Things like repairing our environment, managing technology in a way that puts people first, taking care of children, protecting the elderly, eliminating diseases, and enhancing the experience of the people who are making the most contribution to the economy – the average working adult. These are but a few of the things the leaders of these better businesses will pursue.
They would also focus on fixing vehicles honestly and correct the first time, building high-quality homes and renovating homes honestly and correct the first time, and showing up on time to perform whatever service they provide for their customers.
They would manufacture products that enhance the life of its users without manipulating them or damaging the environment. They would leverage technology to help the user without exploiting them with addictive components that enslave the user instead of setting them free.
Well, you get the idea.
I want to invite you to join me and the growing community of people who are dedicated to the dream of a world filled with better businesses. A world where people come together to create, build and innovate products and services that make things better, not worse.
The Importance of Having a Dream
Why is it so important to have a dream?
Being a dreamer is one of the fundamental personalities of the successful business leader, the entrepreneur, the titan of industry, the guy or gal who is responsible for the whole enterprise.
Without a dream that is big enough, you can’t inspire others!
Without something meaningful to aim at you can’t move people to enough action to really change anything.
To illustrate my point, I would like to invite you to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech:
Okay, you’ve just listened to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
How do you feel?
Equality for people of all colors and a better world for their children.
Isn’t that a beautiful dream?
Don’t you just want to go do something right now to support that dream even though that speech was more than 55-years ago?
Now you might be thinking that you own a landscaping company or a mechanics shop, or you manufacture widgets for some not very interesting product, or you are a just a solopreneur just starting out, or you are a c-suite executive and you’re afraid of what the board will say, and besides all you sell is software, your not a civil rights activist, your not in the business of changing the world.
That my dear reader is what I call a fatal assumption.
You think therefore you are.
You think you can’t make a difference but that is an assumption that leads to not making a difference and it is an assumption that will be fatal to your business one day.
What if you think you can make a difference and then you do!
What if you believed and you dreamed, and you shared that dream with your customers and they got excited and you told your employees and they got excited and things started to change, one lawn at a time, one car at a time, one widget at a time, one software installation at a time.
What if your customers became better because you inspired them to be better by your example and they did something for someone else, and that starts a ripple effect of good in the world?
What if your employees got fired up and developed something revolutionary and came to you and said, “let’s make the environment better one lawn at a time” or “let’s eliminate pollution one car at a time” or “let’s make our manufacturing processes carbon footprint reverse the carbon effect every time we manufacture our widget” well you get the idea! I want to caution you about something before we go any further.
Once you start down this path it is going to change you forever.
Once you embark on this journey you will be on it for the rest of your life.
There are consequences and a cost for being a dreamer and pursuing that dream with everything you’ve got. Not everyone will understand, some people will try to dissuade you because they are scared, or jealous, or flatly don’t want you to succeed.
For this to work, you’ve got to believe, you’ve got to believe in your dream, in yourself, in your customers, employees, and in the process.
You’ve got to believe that the cost is worth it.
You’ve got to believe that by being a leader who dreams you will have managers that lead and employees that care, and that will make you build a better business and that will start to change things very slowly at first, imperceivably at first, but soon it will begin to accelerate and the impact will begin to be felt.
Right now, I want you to say, first in your mind, then in your heart, “I have a dream!” and I want you to keep saying it until you feel it in your body and in your soul. After you finish reading this article, I want you to keep saying it until you formulate that dream and you can tell others about it and they can feel it too.
The dream is important because it is the vehicle by which you will inspire others to act, it will make customers want to buy, managers will start to really lead, employees will care and the sum of all that action will change everything.
That is why it is so important!
The Key Elements
One of the biggest challenges facing most businesses is the issue of hiring and employing “good” people who are engaged in their work and contributing to the business profitably.
Think about this:
Every human has 24-hours a day.
Let’s go through the average work day.
The average human spends 7-hours a day sleeping.
They spend 1-hour getting ready for work and then 1-hour commuting.
That’s 9-hours gone.
They spend 8-hours at work and 1-hour commuting home.
18-hours is gone.
Upon arriving home there is time preparing and eating a meal which takes on average 1-hour.
19-hours is gone.
The final 5-hours are usually split between home and family responsibilities and watching Netflix or being on Social.
That is the average working person’s daily routine.
Then that person spends half their weekend doing household chores and other tasks like grocery shopping and laundry.
For some one-day a week is dedicated to worship, recreation and rest.
That is the mind-numbing daily and weekly routine of the average working person. Those days blend into weeks and months and years.
That is your employee’s experience and we have the audacity to question why 70% of employees are not engaged in their work.
As leaders of our businesses when we don’t pursue a dream, we are perpetuating this tyrannical monotony that consumes people’s lives. Strips them of their dignity and reduces their very existence to nothing more than a terrible pattern of uninspired redundancy.
Therefore, I believe that “people are suffering in quiet desperation waiting for someone to come along and give them something to believe in and care about.”
The key elements required in every business to make employees care are straightforward. The fact that they are simple concepts is one of the reasons why we discount them. But that is a mistake because keeping things simple is one of the fastest ways to succeed in life and business.
The elements required are:
- Have a dream that resonates with your customers and employees.
- Empower your managers to become leaders and accept nothing else from them.
- Encourage your employees to contribute to the development of the dream and the implementation of new ideas to realize that dream.
Do these three things and people will (metaphorically speaking) break their backs for you to achieve the dream because it will no longer be your dream, it will be their dream!
Identifying Your Dream
But, how do we as leaders identify which dream, we should chase?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this dream is not about you and what you personally are hoping for in your life. I discuss this subject in detail in episode 78 of the Build a Better Business Podcast.
No one would have been inspired if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a dream that one day I will become rich and my children will have all the advantages my wealth will afford them. I have a dream that my children will be judged, not by the color of their skin but of the content of my bank account.”
That is not what Martin Luther King said and that was not his focus. He dreamed about making the world a better place for millions of people. His dream resonated with so many people because it was what his audience wanted as much or even more than he did.
So, identifying your dream starts with identifying who your audience will be. In other words, who your ideal customer will be.
The next step is to find out what those ideal customers really want and need. Don’t confuse preference with needs, in fact, your ideal customer may not know what they need and may be confused about what they want. They may need you to combine two things in a way that they never would have thought of as part of a solution that they didn’t know they want and don’t appreciate how much they need until you first tell them about it and second, they experience it for themselves.
How will you know when you have found the dream you should pursue with everything you’ve got?
When your ideal customer stops what they are doing, leans toward you, and basically says, “tell me more.”
Your job is to brainstorm different ideas, connect those ideas to something you can do, and then test the idea with your ideal customers getting their feedback.
It can be this simple:
“I was thinking about this problem and we have been trying to develop a solution because we think it is important that someone solve this problem.
Would you mind giving me some feedback on our idea?”
If this gets a positive response from a large enough group of your ideal customers, then you know you are on the correct path. Keep going with the idea and use the feedback you get to flush out the details. Pay attention to the details, that’s where the Devil is, and stay focused on the impact this dream will have. The impact must be substantial enough that it both inspires people and moves them to act in support of it. They will want to adopt the dream because it isn’t your dream, after all, it’s theirs because people just like them helped develop it.
Becoming a Leader That Dreams
To become a leader that dreams you must shift your thinking in two very important ways.
First, you must change the way you think about the purpose of your business. The business is not there to provide you with a job. The business is not there to provide you and the other shareholders with a great profit statement alone. It exists to serve a greater purpose – namely the fulfillment of the dream that will have the greatest impact on the lives of the people it serves.
Second, you must change the way you look at return on investment. If you are purpose-driven and you have a dream that resonates with your ideal customer and has the potential to have a profound impact in those people’s lives than you have an obligation to maximize profits and the return on investment in every way you can.
The profit will benefit the shareholders of the business this is true, but it will, more importantly, empower the business to take care of its employees and even more importantly be able to fulfill its purpose to a greater degree.
Making as much money as possible will be paramount because the more money you can make the more impact you can have. Growth and profitable expansion will be the order of each day and a primary focus.
One word of caution: There is an ethical balance to this, which means that you must attempt to make as much money as possible to empower your business to make as big of an impact as possible without violating or harming something or someone else. If you do people will see through your hypocrisy and you will eventually be asked to render account and on that fateful day, you will lose your ability to continue to make an impact.
Let me illustrate.
Let’s say your dream is to empower elderly people to stay in their homes longer which helps them maintain better health longer and restores their dignity. That is a great dream but if you rip off your suppliers to reduce the cost to your ideal customer you won’t be in business long.
To be a leader that dreams you must be committed to making things better, not worse.
So, are you ready to embark on this journey?
Your assignment is to start the process of identifying your dream by brainstorming ideas and validating those ideas with your ideal customers. There is no time to waste so get started today!
Making the Transition
The key to transitioning your business from where it is today into a purpose-driven business that is pursuing your dream is communication.
But communication with whom and how do you go about doing it effectively?
According to a global 2013 survey, the success rate of major change initiatives is only 54%. The costs are high when change management is ineffective and those costs surpass just the immediate financial impact of wasted resources and lost opportunities. You can listen to the rest of this blog article in episode 80 of the Build a Better Business Podcast.
As you can imagine the impact on your customers and employees can range from confusion and diminished enthusiasm for your business to anger and the total abandonment of your business if you fail to successfully transition your business.
Here are three guiding principles to help you transition your business to a purpose-driven business pursuing your dream:
First and foremost, you must start internally by communicating with your leadership group, managers, and employees. Everyone must understand clearly what the dream is, how you intend on achieving the results that dream is designed to achieve, and finally why it is so important.
Second, you must communicate externally with your customers, suppliers, and other partners. They must understand what your dream is, how it will impact them, and why they should care. You can use the same approach as we discussed in the Blueprint of a Great Business Series in episode 63 where we discussed the importance of providing emotional reasons and rational justification.
Third, you must develop a system for measuring results and adapting to new information. This involves ongoing communication with all the stakeholders in the business so that when the inevitable problems occur you work through them together.
Transitioning to a purpose-driven business pursuing a dream is no easy task especially if you have deeply ingrained habits and ways of thinking and doing things prior to the introduction of this new way of doing business, this new reason for being in business altogether.
Engaging with everyone involved and communicating effectively is of supreme importance if you want to be successful. Other than communicating though, what other things must you do?
Earlier we talked about how important communication is when trying to transition your business from where it is today to where you need it to be to realize your dream and have the impact you desire to have on your most important customers.
But, if your all talk, you will fail no matter how well-intentioned. There is a level of action that is required. The first thing you must do is identify the gaps.
Identifying the Gaps
The process of identifying the gaps is straightforward.
Let me illustrate it this way:
Imagine that you are trying to learn how to become a better tennis player and you have hired a coach to help you. The first thing a coach would do is take you out on the court and play a game with you.
This would allow the coach to observe you in action. Those observations would give the coach a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. The coach would be able to see when your techniques were good and when they were not, and the coach would be able to assess your overall athletic ability or lack thereof.
You need to be just like that coach.
You need to observe your business in action and take careful note of when your business and your people are doing things that are moving you towards your dream and when they are doing things that are moving you and your business away from that dream. You should also get someone credible to observe you as the leader in action and make those same notations.
Once those observations are noted, and I do mean noted as in fully documented you will be ready to move to the next step.
Creating an Action Plan
As a team, you and your employees must review the areas that you are currently succeeding and the areas that you are currently falling short. You need to then develop an action plan together.
Remember, this would not be happening without you being there, but the fact that you are there is insufficient to fully realize your dream. Your people, your managers, and your employees must be fully on board and engaged in the process.
A note of caution: Don’t be too serious when you are going through this process. Of course, it is serious business, but don’t take all the fun out of it by being domineering or a micro-manager. You will know you’re on the right track when everyone is working hard, but they also are having joy in the process of pursuing this dream, the dream that is no longer your dream alone but has become their dream as well.
Once you have an action plan in place and everyone agrees with the assigned tasks, objectives, and contingencies, the final step is to validate one last time, that what you propose to do, the dream you have and the way you plan on achieving it resonates deeply with your ideal customers. My advice is to go to your top 3 customers and discuss your plan with them and seek honest feedback. Once they have given you the green light you can start the process.
I want to conclude by saying this, “I am proud of you, the fact that you have read this entire article and listened to the accompanied episodes means that you are a Leader That Dreams, and I am very grateful that I can play a small part in your journey. Once you have done everything recommended in this article and you are ready to pursue your dream, I want you to do so with everything you’ve got!
The source material for this article was originally aired on the Build a Better Business Podcast.
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