elitefts™ Sunday Edition

The Power of "Hope" 

I have to admit, I have always been quite cynical when people tell me that they play the lottery, and unfortunately, my behavior towards them only deteriorates when they start describing, in detail, their plans for their winnings. I hate to be this way, but my practical side considers the lottery's odds and the near zero return on investment as a complete and total waste of time and money. On many occasions, I have passionately argued—even with my senior department managers—that it would be better to invest, save, or even burn the money they spend per week on the lottery. Needless to say, regardless of the strength of my arguments, they always smile, admit that I have some good points, and run out during their lunch breaks to load up on more tickets. This only perplexed me more. My team is composed of many extremely intelligent and practical people. Why in the hell would they indulge themselves in such a futile activity?

As it turns out, the reason why I didn't understand the point of playing the lottery is because I underestimated the power of "hope."

"Hope" is a powerful motivator in people. It is, in fact, so potent that millions of people every week spend their hard earned money on the slightest chance of winning an instant fortune. They know the odds—they realize that there is more of a chance of them becoming the next "American Idol" or dying in a plane crash; however, even a small amount of "hope" is enough for them to religiously buy their $2.00 tickets each and every week.

So...why is this important?

This is important because we—especially those of us in the business community—often dismiss the true power of "hope." We regularly talk about inspiring the workforce and motivating employees to achieve our desired results, and we talk about our vision for the future and how we plan to get there. Yet, we seldom do even a mediocre job of clearly illustrating how the lives of our employees will improve if the company reaches its goals and fulfills its vision. The "hope" for a better future is a largely untapped energy source that at times can inspire people to move mountains single-handedly when harnessed in a proper way. During my career, I have seen multiple examples of "hope" providing the fuel for tremendous accomplishments. Whether it is the single mother of three who works three jobs to put her children through college or a whole organization making the turn from good to great, profound and unyielding "hope" for the better turbo-charges any strategy and can turn dreams into reality.

A Couple of Points:

  1. Dreams are "hopes without action." You can dream about winning the lottery, but you have to actually go buy a ticket to have any chance to win.  The same holds true with employees in an organization. You can cast all the visions you want and present all the strategies on how to get there, but in order to inspire true hope for the better, there must be action behind the words. Hope must be fed by actions in order for it to always burn hot.
  2. Think about this: If a small amount of hope can inspire someone to purchase a lottery ticket against insurmountable odds of winning, what could a more tangible and larger amount of hope do for them? Most corporations do an extremely poor job encouraging their employees to personally work towards a better future for themselves, their families, and the companies for which they work. True inspiration to change and grow has a profound prerequisite of hope.
  3. Any employee, regardless of education level or status within the corporation, can easily detect when a supervisor is attempting to inspire hope without sincerity. Attempting to inspire hope as a form of  manipulation will almost always end in failure. Employees will typically reward genuine supervisors who truly care about them with loyalty and results. This same consideration is seldom extended to those supervisors who could care less.

Now go buy a lottery ticket!

Boys and Battle Axes:

Over the past several weeks, my boys have been very interested in warriors, knights, and medieval weaponry. This is something with which I have always been fascinated, so you can imagine my delight when my four "big boys" requested that we make some wooden swords in our garage last weekend. Being far more interested in doing this than the other items on my to-do list, I told them to come up with some designs and that we would begin the moment I returned from my weekly visit to Home Depot. (New project means new tools!)

The first swords for my two eldest came out beautifully—a long sword for Gabriel and a sabre for Joshua. The moment the glue dried, they took them into the backyard and engaged in a vicious duel that only little boys and fathers can delight in. Next up was my five year old, Noah, who is by far the most like me. He announced that he didn't think that a sword was for him and requested that I make him a battle axe instead. When I told him that I had never made a wooden battle axe before and didn't know if I could pull it off, Noah flashed me a brilliant smile and stated that there was a first time for everything and that he would help me through it.  After a little planning and a considerable amount of trial and error, we were able to construct a beautiful battle axe that met his incredibly high standards. As he ran out of the garage, I did have to remind him that the rules of engagement would have to be a bit more strict when dueling with his brothers given that axes possess a higher damage potential than swords. Again, I got the smile and a nod and off he went to battle his brothers.

Finally, it was Luke's turn. At four years old, Luke has always been the smallest—as well as strongest willed—of all my boys. I asked him what kind of a sword he wanted and, without hesitation, he stated that he didn't want a sword either. He wanted an axe, but it had to be bigger than his brother's. When I attempted to convince him that he was too little to wield such a big wooden weapon, he stood his ground and again affirmed that this was precisely what he wanted and would not be satisfied with anything less. So, I made the battle axe precisely to his specifications. I also spent considerably more time explaining to him the rules of engagement because he, above all my other boys, would be most likely to break them. Then I sent him to the backyard to engage in what had developed into a glorious melee amongst his three older brothers. Fun was had by all with very little injury or tears.

Since that day, Luke's battle axe has not left his side, and remarkably, there have been very few altercations between him and his brothers. Every morning when he wakes up, he comes downstairs in his footed pajamas with his axe on his shoulder and a big smile on his face. Just yesterday I complimented him on his behavior towards his brothers and asked him why his wooden axe is always with him. He looked up from his bowel of Cheerios, smiled, and said, "Daddy, when you're holding an axe, people listen!"

How could I possibly argue with that logic?

A Note of Thanks:

Over the past several months, I have been faced with some of the most daunting challenges of my career. Now that I am looking at the other side of those challenges, I am profoundly grateful for having gone through them. Without a doubt, the experience I gained working through them have forged me into a far better executive and person as a whole. There have been many individuals who have supported me during this time, whether through advice or simply being a sounding board for my frustrations, and I am so very grateful for all of these people's time and caring. One of those amazing individuals was Dave Tate, who provided some much needed clarity when my frustration was highest.

Dave, I just had to say, you are simply the best... thank you for everything.

Thanks for Reading.