Over the course of my career, I have led several teams to great accomplishments and the awards and recognition we received along the way are a bit of a badge of honor for me. Somewhere along the way, I learned an important lesson: people want to be on a winning team, but more importantly, they want to be on a team they believe can win. This has never been more clear to me than a project I was working on for a nonprofit organization several years ago.
Just ten days before we were supposed to launch a new project, we lost a significant pledge that put us short of our goal and left us with less than the minimum funding to make the project successful. Replacing $3,500 in pledges in just ten days was not optional; it was the difference between success and failure. For a small, fledgling nonprofit, this was a lot of money.
Desperate to replace those pledges, we went door to door and people literally laughed at us; they simply didn’t believe the money could be raised. I have no doubt that our own uncertainty was visible. It became obvious: this isn’t going to work; we have to find another way.
With just six days left, we launched a campaign to find 100 people willing to donate $35. Suddenly, our goal was not only possible, but plausible and our progress was measurable. People wanted to be a part of our project and many pledged two or three times.
I learned a valuable lesson over those ten days. People laughed because they didn’t want to be a part of failure and let’s be honest, I was pretty sure we were going to fail. Having a plan is only the first step, however. Sharing that vision and plan with our benefactors was the difference between success and failure. I have no doubt that so many people gave so many times because they believed the dream was possible and they wanted to make it happen. Most importantly, they wanted to be on the winning team.
As managers, we sometimes get caught up in simply demanding performance from our teams. We know the importance of our success; we know the goal; we know the plan. But if we don’t take the time to share these things with our team, they don’t share our vision; they don’t believe success is possible, and they are left laughing at us. On the other hand, if we share the vision, the dream, and the plan, they just might give us two or three times what we ask for.