Most people think they should be more positive. Keep away from looking at what is wrong or could go wrong. The norm is that it’s somehow better to be a visionary, or at least hopeful. What if I told you sometimes the very opposite is true?

People Feel It Anyway

As a leader, of course, you want to express what good looks like versus telling people what is missing. Whenever there is some semblance of a shared vision doubts will also arise. Suppressing and pretending such feelings does not dispel the concerns. 

Your colleagues can sense you silently overriding your concerns and start to feel that it is disingenuous. Respect ebbs. People feel unseen when they try to fit in by repressing their doubts or, if they speak them, they feel judged as annoying. 

You can test how a person weakens when they affirm something as positive that they don’t fully believe to be true. Rather than avoid it, you want to find a way to use people’s negativity to your advantage.

Sabotage Session

When I work with leadership teams on creating a shared vision, I usually include a “how-to-screw-this-up” session. I have my clients imagine themselves as a saboteur, whose job it is to screw up their vision royally. If you had magic (or not-so-magic) powers, how could you take this exact team and cause them to fail to fulfill their creative intent? I ask people to think about the mistakes that could be made from hubris, indecision, or misfortune. How might you–as the saboteur–lay traps or temptations to set this team up for failure? 

It is amazing, when unleashed, how skillful people are at being a screw-up!

Once we have surfaced a truly devilish list, we can treat each as a risk for which a contingency can be planned. Eventually, everyone ends up much more committed to the positive vision of the future. As the team faces its potential pitfalls, we all believe we can navigate them. 

And there is no more powerful force on the planet than a team of people aligned around a shared vision.

My Invitation to you today is to bring to mind something you are seeking to create for the future and plan how you might sabotage it! Confront failure directly and feel how much stronger your authority is concerning that vision, how your confidence grows deeper. 

All the Best,

David Lesser