Hope Floats (but it’s not a method)

I hope I get promoted. I hope I get invited to deliver a session at the conference. I hope I get selected to be on the Board. I hope I get some time to talk to my boss about this issue. I hope this decision we just made doesn’t blow up in our faces. 

Hope is not a method. According to Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr., it might float, but it’s definitely not a method. 

As I work with teams and leaders operating at all different levels of functionality (think “firing on all cylinders” all the way to “dysfunction junction”) there’s a very specific mode of operation the great ones have in common: intentional action. They’re not hoping their way into anything. 

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that everything they do has a 10-year strategic plan, extensive performance metrics, and was pre-approved months before action was taken. They deal with the same fires to be put out and last-minute requests and chaos that everyone else does. It’s their approach that’s different. 

For me, an intentional approach is grounded in four key aspects:

  1. It’s always seated within the key values of the individual, team, or organization
  2. There’s an identified trajectory (even if it’s loosely identified!)
  3. Deliberate and strategic actions are being taken
  4. Success is defined independent of outcomes

The difference between trying to hope your way to an outcome and being intentional about it starts with knowing what’s most important. What are the values you’re trying to uphold or embody as you navigate the situation? This will help guide you towards – and sometimes away from – action steps. 

Next, while I don’t believe you have to have a 97-step plan with every imaginable action step and possible scenario fully planned for, there does need to be some directional orientation. Are we trying to move up in rank? Pay? Scope of responsibility? Move to a different organization? Engage people? Resolve a problem? Even a loose definition will do so that you have somewhere to aim. This makes sure you can evaluate action steps against “Will it get us there?” – regardless of where “there” is. 

Intention without action won’t get you very far. This is where #3 comes in, but with a heavy emphasis on STRATEGIC actions. This is not the time or place to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. Instead, it’s about making intentional moves that are strategic in nature to advance you closer to your goal state. 

Lastly, while it would be lovely to attain each specifically identified desired outcome that is targeted, success is defined independently of this. Success is based more on asking, “Did I/we do the things necessary that could have moved the needle if it had been possible?” This focus on the inputs will ultimately drive not only motivation but real results, too. 

- Nicole



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