Have you ever experienced one of those Saturday mornings where you sit down with your kids, plan a great trip somewhere, watch them get super excited as they run around the house envisioning what the day will look like. Then they enthusiastically jump in the car and you get ten minutes down the road only to hear four words that kill every parent’s joy, “Are we there yet?” The worst part is when those words are followed by clamors of how much better it would be to just stay home.
Visionaries: The Kid in the Back Seat
Being a visionary can often feel like being a kid in the back seat of that car. Visionaries tend to live five years ahead of everyone else. The moment they have the next great idea, they think it already exists and cannot understand why the rest of the world does not see it yet.
This is a very frustrating place because in reality, the idea doesn’t exist yet. Turning that idea into reality will be a long journey and the truth is the market is not ready for it for five more years. But, the visionary still feels the now pressure. The real world cannot catch up fast enough to the spinning wheels in our heads.
The biggest problem of it all is that while the idea moves to reality in real life speed, we continue to have new ideas. We see the next market trend. Our last idea becomes old news and our next idea becomes the great thing worthy of our, “Charge!” So, while our team is making progress on making real our last idea, we are so enamored with our next one that their current work begins to lack luster in our eyes. Our clear discontent demoralizes their spirit and, very quickly, all of the excitement we created is deflated.
The leader provides the energy that drives ambition in every organization, so when we lose enthusiasm and move toward a state of disappointment in how long it is taking to get to our envisioned destination, we run the risk of becoming the vacuum that can suck life out of our own effort. When we start shifting from, “Great job guys, let’s do this!” to, “That’s great but I needed it a month ago,” we fail to acknowledge their win, and their mission-driven excitement turns into a dull and unsatisfying job.
Don’t Break the Egg!
Everyone has some golden egg that motivates their work. The golden egg for visionary entrepreneurs is that picture they have in their heads that solves the world’s problems. The golden egg for most others is the work of building it. Entrepreneurial leaders must recognize the difference. As visionaries we often think everyone is like us. Visionaries tend to be excited about what will happen while others are excited to see their part in what has happened. In fact, the difference is so vast that when a visionary looks at completed work, they can become bored and emotionally down; while most team members look at completed work and find internal satisfaction knowing that they contributed to something great.
For visionaries, the golden egg is that for which they hope or dream. For nearly everyone else, the golden egg is the process of seeing something made real.
As visionaries, we need to be as passionate about keeping the team’s golden egg shiny as we are about admiring the sheen of our own egg. This can be one of our greatest leadership challenges. For us, it is so easy for the next idea to tarnish our last one while our team is still chasing after the vision we cast.
When we immediately move our passion on, we run the risk of inadvertently breaking everyone else’s golden egg. It is similar to that feeling we get in our stomach when a new iPhone is announced a week after we bought the newest one – shattered hope.
If we allow ourselves to get so caught up in our next idea that we distract or deflate the team, we will not see ideas move to reality.
It is ok and expected that my son be dispassionate about the ride to Disneyland but it is wholly unacceptable that I let his lack of discipline sink the experience for the whole family.
Here are some simple steps every visionary should take to stay in the game:
1. Take an Honesty Break
You have great ideas everyday. Some are good and some are bad; but, none of them happen overnight. Just because you see where the market is going, does not mean it has arrived. Assess how much time you really have before there is broad adoption. It is always longer than you think.
2. Take a Note
Start journaling your “great ideas” instead of telling them to everyone, even when they pertain to what you are currently working on. Let them sit for at least 7 days. Trust that they are safe in your notebook. When you revisit them, you will have much more clarity regarding how they stack against your current project and much more discipline not to disrupt it.
3. Trust Your Team:
Once you have won your team over to your great idea, they are as excited to see it become reality as you are. If you cannot trust that they are working with your best interests in mind, change your team. They will get you where you want to be.
4. Invest in Your Team
You are not the only person with great ideas. Your team will iterate your original idea far beyond your genesis moment. Don’t just let them, take joy in them doing it. Recognizing their contribution to your idea will not only motivate them, it helps keep the fire alive for you. Now, you can vision together what will be next. You have brought them along and you both win.
5. Revisit the Past
Regularly revisit your start. When you continually go back to the beginning, it keeps your genesis moment fresh and serves as a reminder that you still have work to do.