How can we nurture visions?


I often talk about leadership as the art of facilitating energy: and I mean your energy and that of others.

A short time ago, I facilitated a conversation amongst some of the Arts community. I am not at liberty to say what the project is, but as I prepared for this high-level conversation, I was mindful of three elements to ensure that we nurtured energy to carry everyone forward. These elements are:

  1. Being big, bold and beautiful.

  2. Being inclusive.

  3. Letting the “How” emerge over time.

1. Being big, bold and beautiful

Limiting ourselves to goals that are readily achievable plays it safe and is frankly uninspiring. Energy and excitement increase when people have the opportunity to consider something big; something that is beyond what they could achieve by themselves. So often we are tempted to limit ourselves to what we think is realistic, but can we bring ourselves to dare to dream? There is boldness in this approach because as we commit to the big and bold, we don’t know how we will bring it into being. We may not get it right. We may not measure up. But beauty inspires, and once everyone sees the beauty of the bold vision, we feel committed to and excited by the vision, even if we don’t know how we’ll get to the end result. Maybe even because we don’t know how we’ll get to the end result!

2. Being inclusive

Often when developing ideas, we are tempted to evaluate one idea against another. But what if we could make the idea bigger and more significant by including all ideas? Going even bigger instead of reducing down adds energy as it enables us to meet the needs of all parties through an inclusive approach. Just as mature natural ecologies such as tropical rainforests grow and thrive when all parts of the ecology are nourished, so too are social ecologies sustainable when the self-interest of all the parts of the system are negotiated and met. How could we expect to have a stakeholder’s commitment to a project if they don’t stand to gain anything through their involvement? So, to aggregate energy, include ideas and go bigger rather than reducing down to manageable sizes or pandering to one person’s ego.

3. Letting the “How” emerge over time

Our society places significant value on knowing how to deliver projects. But an important point to make is that a vision is not a project. A vision is a picture of what may be experienced in the future; it is the “why” of what you are doing. A project may arise from it as a way of attempting to bring the vision into being. But all plans are experiments. We experiment to see if we can bring the idea into being in this way. Overplanning limits us to what we already know, and there may be comfort and safety in that, but there is little excitement. Allow the experiments to emerge from the process. Don’t try to “nail it” all upfront. Go with emergence instead. Emergence is a quality of a living system; we could think of it as the very essence of change as the system responds to the world around it and the novelty of new ideas within it. This natural response is the essence of life – it is pure energy.

I wonder how you are facilitating the energy of your people? Are you mindful of their energy and your own? Working in this way generates ambiguity, and that can feel quite uncomfortable. I am managing my levels of anxiety around the sense of uncertainty that surrounds my upcoming meeting. But unless I sit in that uncertainty, I will shape a space for others that deliver a specific outcome but reduces the possibilities regarding deliverables and their energy and commitment.

If you would like to discuss your current situation and the possibility of support through it, please contact me. As always, I will shout the coffee!