It's been said that "hope is not a strategy." Yet I'll suggest that the ability to instill hope is an essential ingredient to successfully implementing the most compelling, yet challenging strategy before you.
Paul LaRue defines hope this way:
"Hope is a feeling of trust, an expectation for a certain outcome. It is akin to faith, a confident trust in someone or something. It's ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' Hope intersects the emotional needs that your people have at any given moment. It's not a buzzword or a catchy slogan, but a real genuine feeling of possibility that comes from doing the right things."
In his article, Is Hope a Leadership Trait, Paul makes a sound case for the importance of the ability to instill hope for being an effective leader.
However, it can seem like the ability to instill hope is an elusive skill. Could it be that some people are just naturally more inspirational than others? Well that may be so, but the ability to instill hope can be cultivated by anyone.
A recipe for instilling hope
Here are the three essential ingredients that, when applied together, can give anyone the power to instill hope in others.
1. Care Deeply
The ability to instill hope in others requires that you truly care about the people involved and the work you are doing. The work has to matter to you and so do the people. If you want others to care and put their hearts into something that is hard or daunting then you have to care.
2. Focus on the Possibility
When the going gets tough, skepticism can take center stage. The naysayers will trumpet things like "it can't be done," "we'll never make it," "it's impossible," etc. Trying to prove the naysayers wrong with logical arguments will not get you very far. Intellectual arguments won't win the hearts and minds of people. Instead, you need to fuel their sense of possibility.
Think of John F. Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon speech". He didn't try to convince the naysayers. He simply took a stand for a possibility.
Focus on what really matters and why it matters. In that speech John F. Kennedy clearly connected people to why it matters. He connected us with why we should bother to try. We feel hope when we connect with that part of ourselves that wants to make a possibility a reality.
3. Speak from Your Heart
Many people in leadership positions have been trained to keep their emotions in check. Many corporate cultures even value intellect over emotion. Yet if you want to instill the kind of hope that makes people willing to step outside of their comfort zone, then you must reach them emotionally. People don't take risks based on intellectual arguments. They take risks because the possibility is more compelling than whatever they must put at risk. It is only when you believe in a possibility that you can inspire others to have the hope essential for them to go for it.
Your turn: Where could infusing hope add energy to accomplishing something that really matters to you and your people for the future?