How Hope Enhances Culture
Principle #6 of Foundations of a Winning Culture is HOPE. This is a strong word in that it has lasting effects on every aspect of our lives. If you have a belief in God, you have a hope in a future after you die. If you have a family, you have a hope that your kids will grow up to be successful. If you like fishing, you have a hope that one day you will catch your dream fish! This principle of hope also applies to our career or the organizations we are a part of. Hope is to expect, anticipate, look forward to, and expect the best in others. Hope plays a big part in the culture in which we work.
Roy Otto is the City Manager of Greeley, Colorado. Roy lives out this principle daily as he works with people from all departments of the city to help make the city government the best it can be to serve the people of Greeley at the highest level possible. Here is what he has to say about hope:
Let’s face it HOPE is necessary and it is really hard work. Proverbs states that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” So what is HOPE and how do we grow it in our own lives, the organizations we lead and in the communities we live?
The Proverb and the word HOPE itself implies that there isn’t certainty. The desire may or may not be fulfilled. HOPE is not a wish. HOPE is an expectation of a future reality that is based upon an objective review of the desire and a reasonable plan of action to achieve that desire. HOPE, therefore, has two primary parts. First, HOPE is a vision of a future reality – a dream or desire. Second, HOPE is grounded in realistic reason for believing the dream can come true – a plan. Simply wishing on a star isn’t going to plant the seeds of HOPE that will grow the tree of life. As I stated, HOPE, is really hard work but its reward is life giving.
My life’s mission statement is to encourage and support people, organizations and communities to reach and experience their potential. As a City Manager, I have been provided a great platform to live out this mission and it has definitely given me some insights into HOPE. I would like to share three observations from my experience.
Select the correct seed
When we think about reaching our potential we are gathering HOPE seeds for the tree of life because we are creating a vision or a dream of what it will look like when we are experiencing this potential. When thinking about the potential of individuals, organizations or communities we need to make sure we are gathering HOPE rather than WISH seeds. Each seed grows different trees. Let me give you an example from my life.
I remember when I was approximately 12 years old I had a strong desire to become a professional football player. The vision was crystal clear!!! I had a HOPE seed. Right? The problem was that it wasn’t realistically grounded. You see I didn’t really like contact very much. I wasn’t physically big and strong. Genetically there was no DNA that would indicate I would ever become real big and strong. I was the skinny boy with high water pants. My HOPE was really a WISH. I had a choice to make. I could have planted the WISH seed I had or I could move on and look for a HOPE seed that better represented my true potential. I played one season and started dreaming new visions. Those new visions revolved around how fast and long I could run. Too many times we don’t learn from failure. We keep forcing an unrealistic dream. We choose and plant the wrong seed. HOPE seeds grow the tree of life. WISH seeds grow the tree of despair which is what makes the heart grow sick.
Plant and care for the seed
Ok, once you have done the hard work to select the correct seed you have to plant and care for it. The tree won’t grow by itself and its going to have to be pruned along the way. Let’s face it, nothing of lasting value, of true importance, has ever been created by oneself. Planting a HOPE seed and growing it into a tree of life is going to require you to work with others and that is hard work. In fact, selecting the initial Vision or HOPE seed will have to be done in community. That process should help you determine if we have a HOPE seed or a WISH seed.
As I mentioned, you are going to have to develop an implementation plan if you are going to have a realistic expectation to grow a HOPE seed into a tree of life. Let’s just say I loved contact and I did have the DNA to grow into a physically dominating football player. I would have a HOPE seed. But if my implementation plan was to watch football on TV and eat potato chips that seed wouldn’t grow into a tree of life. I wouldn’t reach and experience my potential and I would probably be in despair. However, if I recognized that the plan was not tending to the seed and young sapling and I created a new plan to achieve my goal the HOPE seed might produce its appropriate tree. Maybe I would start going to the gym. Maybe I could go to a football camp in the off season. Maybe I would listen to my coach and take his advice.
When we set a goal or a priority in our organizations (i.e. selected our HOPE seed) we have to monitor implementation (i.e. planting) and maybe change our pathway to success. Here are some examples I have experienced. Sometimes the person assigned to the project might be struggling. I had to determine if they need additional training to complete the task. In some instances I determined that I selected the wrong person for the job. So I reassigned responsibilities. Sometimes the weeds of ego start to grow. These weeds have the potential to choke the young sapling as people want to take credit for what is about to become the future reality. That required a “we” rather than “I” crucial conversation. I am sure you have other examples of needing to adjust plans. Becoming a master gardener takes a lot of hard work but the harvest is worth it.
Enjoy the harvest
As stated, nothing of lasting value has ever been created by oneself. Once your HOPE seed grows into a tree of life it is time to pick the fruit and share it with those that helped the vision become reality. When people have great experiences they tend to believe they can do it again and want another opportunity to pick a seed of HOPE and grow another tree of life. Celebrating will reinforce the process. I would also suggest you invite others who were not involved in growing the initial tree you are celebrating. They might even want to become gardeners as well. The tree of life produces a lot of fruit. There is plenty to share.
Christopher Reeve said, "Once you choose hope, anything's possible." What can you do to offer hope to the people in your organization?