Running Through a Tunnel of Fire

In my book, Saving Organizations That Matter, I talk about the notion of leaders and staff “running through a tunnel of fire”… together. Sometimes, groups will do so. Sometimes, they won’t… to the ultimate detriment of their organization and future prospects.

Here is a direct excerpt from the chapter entitled Tunnels of Fire. Here I talk about the importance of Vision. From there, I go into Storytelling the Mission, and then, finally, I discuss how best to Prioritize. Here is the section on Vision:

I have long believed that an individual or group will agree to run through a metaphorical dangerous “tunnel of fire” under two conditions.  First, they must believe and trust in what lies on the other side of that tunnel, and second, they must trust those running alongside.

Change processes are tunnels of fire in that they can feel dangerous to all those involved, most particularly the change rejecters and even embracers.  The instinct to remain on the seemingly safe – or at least safer – platform and not lunge forward into greater vulnerability and risk will be very strong.  The antidote, the cure, will be to begin to “storytell the mission,” which I detail in the next section of this book.  Part of this includes reminding everyone about the purpose of the organization, why it exists, how it was founded, and what you believe lies up ahead, just beyond the fire.  This is the vision.  One of the most important roles of leadership is to not only have a vision but also to be able to articulate it in a way that is clear and motivating.  

That vision must be believable and feel achievable.  It must be complete, to the extent possible, in that it captures the imagination of all those working to transform the organization.  The impulse will be for those at the organization to wonder about their own interests and how these changes could impact them.  They will begin to consider leaving the company and might even begin a process, albeit informally and slowly, to scan the environment to see what other opportunities might be available to them.  These wandering eyes could become an issue for the organization as it will create distraction, and perhaps some of your most valuable staff and managers could actually be offered other positions and leave.  The vision works against this wandering eyes phenomenon by not only giving the individuals an enticing view of the future if they stay, but they might find it more attractive, appealing, and thus recommit to the work.  Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, a great comeback, and being part of the team that achieves what may have once seemed impossible is thrilling.  

I’m happy to report that my book will be coming out as an Audible audiobook soon!

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