My exposure to hyperbole started early. I was raised by two people that dreamt boldly. The story of my parents’ wedding day could be made into a Cameron Crowe box office hit. It’s a journey full of twists and turns that ends with their wedding coming to life and their honeymoon including enjoying a performance of “The Man of La Mancha” in London. I grew up hearing them both singing “The Impossible Dream.”
I was recently asked by a team member, “Why do you talk about impossible things? People are wondering why you say ‘we’ll bring impossible things to life’ because, by definition, impossible things can’t happen. Help us understand.” I loved the question. It also caused me to reflect on how critical it is that we, as leaders, stretch the bounds of the collective imaginations of those we lead and serve.
Why invite people to bring impossible dreams to life? Here are six impossible reasons to live a bit more hyperbolically and inspire action:
- Inspiration drives collaboration. A challenging shared purpose and vision bring people together. The intersection of strategy and culture can be the turning point that binds a diverse team together and catapults that team forward towards positive outcomes. A strategy on its own will set the organization’s course. An inspiring, culturally founded strategy paints a picture of a vivid future. People can see themselves there and align on how to make that happen.
- Leadership sets and expands boundaries. As I talk with our team about bringing impossible dreams to life, I share that it is my responsibility to expand our thinking and stretch just how far we can grow. If I say “impossible,” then in a year, we might reach “interesting,” and in five years, we might move to “magnificent,” and by my retirement, we may make it to “impossible.” As leaders, one of our biggest responsibilities is to inspire hearts and minds. Our limits will be taken seriously, and if we wish to stretch those limits, we must make that clear.
- We are stewards of our members’ money, and we function in a highly regulated environment, both of which can stifle creativity and the stretching of boundaries. Credit unions typically begin from a conservative place because we have an enormous responsibility to our members who trust us with their dreams and money. In addition, throughout a credit union, team members often have experienced or witnessed strong negative consequences for mistakes. Over the next week, consider the number of “rules” or “policies” created because of one situation where one thing went wrong. While we cannot operate without consequences and must learn from our mistakes, how we respond when things go wrong will impact how much dreaming we can put into action. It takes time for people to believe we have to skin our knees to innovate.
- Human beings hate change. Even those who frequently encourage and lead change have blind spots to the routines and systems we cherish. When new hires begin at the credit union, I invite them to share all of their ideas with us about things they see that they don’t understand. The early days in a new role are a gift as fresh eyes lack longevity bias. The inspiration of bold dreaming will also be lost without a strong change leadership model and approach that helps bring along the entire organization through shifts that can feel like a loss.
- Dreaming boldly inspires & invites even more bold dreaming. While a leader within an organization has a responsibility to set the bar for imagining an exponential future, over time, as more people gain enthusiasm and feel ownership of shaping that future, even more ideas will come to life. Team members will feel the passion and desire to be a part of something special. In my few short weeks at Community Financial Credit Union, it has been a joy to have team members share their ideas with me. I can see the engagement growing as people begin to trust that our leadership team wants every employee to have a hand in how we shape what’s next.How does one get started to help others dream boldly and feel inspired? According to Harvard Business Review’s “To Inspire Your Team, Share More of Yourself,” by Storms, “it’s becoming increasingly clear that in order to inspire people to follow you, sharing personal stories with vulnerability, humor and humility allows audiences to see you as human and thus be inspired by you.”
- Credit unions form the foundation of dreams. Beyond all the strategic and cultural benefits of inviting impossible dreams to come true, we are in the dream-making business. Our members don’t want a car loan. They want a car that helps their family enjoy vacations and ensures their safe transport to weekly commitments and activities. Our members don’t want a mortgage. They want a home where they can shape a lifetime of memories with those they cherish. Our members don’t want a savings account. They want to fund the epic adventures they’ve planned for traveling across the world. As organizations that walk with people toward their dreams, we are responsible for building our business that way.
The stories we tell last. Those early tales from my parents left a deep impression. We can do the same with our teams. Imagine the potential if even one more human at every credit union in the country pushed even harder to manifest positive change. Our time to engage through inspiration is now. As credit union leaders, we can, with our teams, make impossible dreams possible.