I believe we are all visionary. I’ll admit it’s probably a spectrum—some of us are more earthbound than others. But even if “Visionary” didn’t show up on your Gallup Strengthsfinder during your last team-building retreat, and brainstorming often feels more like sitting through a hurricane in a subway, it’s possibly just because the furthest you can see right now is the next line in your inbox before you feel like you’re behind. The future is for later, we’ve got work to do.
This past Friday, our team ended up in a really difficult conversation about the age old problem of how to balance strategic execution with vision. It sounds so simple. Aim high! Trim the sails! I love the Wallace and Gromit animation where the dog and his tinkering master just build a damn rocket ship in their basement and fly to the moon! Here’s a pretty great clip from the story, A Grand Day Out.
My team had a long week. We just wrapped up some projects, so it’s that free-falling moment where we would like to celebrate a good delivery, but unfinished proposals and other open projects seemed to be punching us in the face instead. My partner had taken the brunt of the work since it was in her area, and she needed to focus. She also wanted some relief from being the main talent being tapped for delivery lately and hoped we would all rally to do more outreach and follow-up to lift some of that burden off her shoulders. In fact we had all agreed to do just that at the meeting only moments before. Instead, I decided to push for more clarity on where we were trying to go. And no, not just for the afternoon, FOR ALL TIME.
When it’s just a dotty inventor and his eye-rolling beagle sidekick as it is for Wallace and Gromit, it’s hilarious watching the dog salvage their adventures from certain ruin as Wallace’s ideas and inventions get more and more outlandish. But when it’s profit margins, relationships, market share, brand recognition, pride, families, and survival itself on the line, it’s just not funny to start talking rocket ships.
Many of us need to recalibrate after a big push. Without this, we might feel like we’re running a dog up a mountain in the dark. The problem is at these moments, I also tend to go off-leash a bit. I tend to see more possibilities than we have the space for, and I’m perceived as a threat to our ability to execute anything. Like at all. Ever.
But I want to make a case for the team member (or perhaps it is yourself!) that seems to go off-leash and starts to get all futuristic like I did last Friday at the most inappropriate moment. Golden retrievers like myself truly connect the future to the present so fundamentally, that it’s the very source of inspiration. We might seem like goofy dogs sometimes, but man can we chase a stick! It’s also how we edit out stuff and ultimately work smarter. I also need that off-leash area just to run a bit, hang with some poodles, and shake off the stress.
In her new book, Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown closes by telling the story about when the great buddhist teacher, Joan Halifax, and herself led a workshop together. They were both tired near the end, but Brown suggested they’d just have to hit the social hour planned for them before the final evening of teaching. Halifax paused and reminded her. “I’m going back to my hotel room to rest. In life, there is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.” (p ?) For me, that off-leash area is where I breathe-in the dream, chase a stick, and maybe take a big...um...breath.