Marketing today is not for the weak or faint of heart. It’s an extreme sport that would make Shuan White pause. Its white water rafting for the first time on class 5 rapids. It’s being left alone in a pitch-black lava tube with a baby-size head lamp after just having seen the Descent, a movie about women being trapped in a dark cave – and eaten by warped humanoids.
Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad and I’m still just still perturbed by my last spelunking experience (my Significant Other forgot some camera equipment in the car and thought it was perfectly fine to go back to get it even though I had already descended into the cave!).
But that momentary feeling of impending doom I had in that cave? That’s real and entirely too common among people tasked with transforming their organization’s marketing. They know they have to do it or the organization will fail to thrive – or worse – but they can’t imagine a positive outcome.
And they have reason to fear. According to the book Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, 70%of business transformations fail. So, intuitively, and based on that data, it’s really hard to imagine is being in the 30% that succeed.
Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re weak. My Significant Other is a firefighter. Firefighters say that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s understanding that there are things more important than fear. Fear is normal but it’s not everything. You can get past it. Stop imagining the worst. I know it’s hard but you are not a firefighter. You are not entering a burning building. If they can stop imaging the worst and do what needs to be done, so can you.
Imagine you’re Buzz Aldrin. Be him at that moment when he’s safely landed on the moon and is walking around, planting flags, posing for photos. Life was awesome for him in that moment. He had sucked it up and strapped himself to an exploding gas tank (aka “rocket”), floated around in the black, and dropped on to a dead, airless rock hurtling around the sun. He overcame his fear so he could help America achieve its goals in beating the Soviets in the Space Race. He was, and still is, a hero of epic proportions. Be Buzz Aldrin!
Performance coaches always tell athletes to imagine the ball going exactly where they want it. They have to trick their minds into believing they can do things that they had never done before, that no one had done before, in some cases. I’m sure Buzz and Neil and the others visualized taking those first steps on an airless, freezing rock floating millions of miles away from the rest of humanity. This is the same thing. Visualize what your success looks like and do not give up on that vision even when things get bumpy and you’re wavering on whether to stop or scale back or just cry.
If you can visualize results, you’ll be more aware – both consciously and subconsciously – of the inputs required to reach your goal and implications to other parts of the business of your changes. Having this knowledge of what will happen also makes the transformation process a lot less scary for you and everyone you need to explain it to. This is especially important in overcoming fear of change, low uncertainty tolerance and inertia, several key human attributes you’ll have to face later on. We’ll talk more about that change management process but know now that it all rests on a clear vision of the future.
Having a leader who has a vision also makes for an incredible motivator. Remember that St. Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V? That was crazy. The odds would have been tough even for Navy Seals halo-jumping from atop Targaryen Dragons. Even still, those Englishmen did as their King commanded. If they followed a vision of heroic immortality into almost certain death, just imagine how excited your team will be to follow you into a vision of success!
Things may not work out exactly as you had planned but, if you have a clear and concise vision of the outcome and stick to it, you’ll end up a lot closer to your goal than if you didn’t have a vision of the end result. You’ll also be a lot less terrified of the great unknown and a lot more likely to take that giant leap forward into a better future.
Comments welcome, especially if anyone has examples to share of how envisioning led to a successful outcome.