Hosts: Sara Moore and Wayne Alexander
Prior to Cranfield University, Stephen worked on projects for the oil business before moving on to work at Virgin before working directly for a global CEO as head of Project & Programme Management Strategy. He has experience of Project and Programme Management in almost all business sectors from banks to oil and from construction to law firms. He has lectured and consulted globally and is highly experienced in presenting ideas in a way that bridges different cultural and organisational differences. He is an Honorary Fellow of The Institute of Risk Management and an Honorary Fellow of The Association of Project Management.
[Wayne] Our mindset is one of the biggest determiners of our success and is perhaps the biggest determiner of whether or not we achieve our dreams and ambitions.
[Sara] I’m Sara Moore [and I’m Wayne Alexander] and this is Ambition. Unleashed.
[Wayne] In each episode of this podcast we’re going to explore a different mindset shift to consider making if you want to identify and achieve your biggest, boldest, most breakthrough ambitions.
We’ll also hear from thought leaders who are experts in - or from extraordinary individuals who have lived experience of - making this shift in their life, leadership or work.
[Sara] Together we’ll explore a conventional way we as humans find ourselves thinking. And introduce and invite you to think in a more unconventional way - what we call breakthrough thinking. Sharing some of the insights we’ve had over the many years we’ve being coaching and consulting with some of the world’s most extraordinary leaders at many of the worlds biggest companies.
[Wayne] We’ll give you the fundamental aha moments you need to make you more innovative, more transformational, and more capable of delivering breakthroughs and ultimately smash any ceilings that only the way in which we think can put in our way.
[Wayne] Possibility. A word that is very familiar in the English Language, but our hope is that by the end of this episode it will have new meaning for you and be key to truly unleashing your ambitions.
In this week’s episode we’re going to discover the forces that can cause even the most ambitious people to strive for what they think they can have versus what they really, truly want.
[Sara] We’re going to unpack why redefining your relationship with possibility is important if you want to make ambitious changes in your work or life.
And we’ll explore how and what you can do to shift your thinking from a perspective that may limit your sense of possibility to one that unlimits your sense of possibility.
Also today we are going to be hearing from Stephen Carver – an engineer by background, who now runs a hugely successful project management consultancy that advises many of the world’s largest and best known businesses, as well as being a senior lecturer to MBA students at Cranfield Business School.
Stephen holds a somewhat unexpected and unconventional view of “what’s possible” versus his typical industry peers and it will be great to hear his insights in just a moment.
[Wayne] So what is Possibility? Most of us if we try could remember moments in life when the future in front of us or the opportunity that we saw was full of possibility – however fleeting – it was there.
Maybe it was that day that you got a phone call to say the job was yours and you walked down the street to the local shops – on familiar pavement but the world seemed much brighter and full of possibility.
Or maybe it was when you got that qualification that guaranteed new opportunities or doors open to you and in that moment you had that feeling of more possibility for you and the impact you’d have.
In those moments, possibility can be accompanied by a gut feeling that all will be well, or a high of some kind.
But when we speak about possibility today, it’s a leadership move we can make often in the face of no apparent possibility. It’s a move that occurs when the phone doesn’t ring, or the qualification is out of reach. It’s a muscle that every one of us has available to us and it’s a hallmark of transformational leaders.
[Sara] Because at the heart of unleashing your ambition is the ability to increase the possibility that is seen and held by both yourself and anyone you need to impact along the way.
Even when circumstances are against us and their gravity seems to diminish or kill what’s possible - the ability to generate possibility remains.
Possibility has been described as like opening the fridge door and realising the grand canyon is in there – so much more options than we expected to find. Possibility is in our hands and we get to create and generate it.
[Wayne] We might ask why this shift is important? The world that is here as we record this in 2022 is complex and challenging. There are many headlines that understandably cause us to be fearful or anxious, but there is possibility to be seen and generated, and that leadership move is needed more than ever so that we can cause genuine breakthroughs to happen.
There are two things possibility is distinct from:
[Sara] So lets get into todays interview, Stephen Carver is an extraordinary story teller, he’s a champion of challenging convention and pushing possibility. Especially in industries that have a tendency to “play it safe” and “stick to the status quo”. We spoke to Stephen a few weeks ago. We started off by asking him about some of his earliest aha moments in his career that made him realise the importance of challenging - ‘what conventional wisdom tells us is impossible’.
Stephen Carver Interview
[Stephen Carver] I came out of university, fairly conventional electronics engineer. Um, by pure accident, I fell into the oil business, which at the time was saving the country as opposed to destroying the country. This is the late 1970s. Yes, I'm seriously old. And I remember working on several jobs with some of the big companies like Shell and BP. And it was all very process-driven and you had to fill out the right forms at the right time.
But then in 1985, I worked on a job which just turned it all on its head. To cut a long story quick we had to build three gas platforms to save Christmas. Would you believe that the UK was going to run out of gas? So the government said can anyone build three gas platforms in 18 months from a blank sheet of paper?
The answer of course. Absolutely no way. It takes four years, but I fell into a job that said, yeah, we can do it. And it completely changed my way of thinking. Instead of being driven by procedures and protocol and governance, it was leadership. It was teamwork. It was creation. It's what we would call agile nowadays.
And we did it with a day to spare would you believe and that completely changed my.
[Wayne] And what? – Stephen that was fascinating - I guess you can never have predicted where you've ended up, but what are you most passionate about in what you're doing today?
[Stephen Carver] So whilst I'm a fellow of the Association of Project Managers and a Fellow of the Institute of Risk Management, the message I really push nowadays is for goodness sakes, can we all get over ourselves and get on with managing change?
At the moment, people are frightened in companies of change. They're frightened of change, which I understand, but they're even frightened of initiating change because there's so much governance and procedures and protocols and they just feel way down. We have a whole generation of learned helplessness in organizations.
So we're killing change by bringing in more process. So what I'd like to do is, uh, basically unleash the change managers and there are a few people around the world doing that and making a phenomenal success of it.
[Sara] So Steven, I'm sure you've got experiences and stories that you can tell us that really, will help our listeners to think about this shift from limited to unlimited possibility.
[Stephen Carver] Yep. And if you want the big example that exists at the moment on planet earth, of course, it's good old Elon Musk and you can love him or you can loath him. And I do an equal measure. But basically there's a man that just goes for it. You know, he just keeps on innovating to the point where it must get up people's noses.
And you think in most companies you get fired for that. It's as simple as that. “Excuse me, we want to risk minimize, we'll have to have procedures and protocols. And then if anyone messes up, we're going to be able to prove that it was them that failed” And you think, well, yeah, but that's why you haven't got any innovation and that's why Elon Musk. Can you imagine, you know, his initial story was he was a kid in the right place at the right time, made billions on PayPal. I'm not dissing it, but yeah, there were a lot of them out there. But then he said: “yo, I'm going to get into solar.” And you can imagine the experts in solar power saying “okay Elon, what do you know about solar power” and the answer was: Nothing! Well he now has the largest solar company on planet Earth. Next thing was: “what are you gonna do next?”
“Oh, I'm going to build cars.”
“Oh sure you are Elon, yep. No doubt. Young boy. You want to build sports cars? Oh, it's sports colours you want to build, oh, electric as well, oh that’s nice. What do you know about building cars then Elon?”
Well, Tesla is now the largest, most valued car company on planet earth. And if you add up the five next down the list, the Fords, the Toyotas, add up their total capital, it still doesn't actually equal the value of Tesla.
They must be thinking: “How did this boy do this?”
And then when he said: “I'm going to go into space” that even I, I'm an engineer, you don't mess with space. You get a single calculation wrong, everyone blows up, they die. And you know, “What do you know about space then Elon?”
Well, now he has basically the largest space company on planet earth. Unbelievable.
[Sara] And so, you know, it's apparent in that, that people get hindered by something, you know, they get stuck by something. What would you say limits the average person you know, what is it that stops them being like Elon Musk?
[Stephen Carver] It's fear of failure, simple as that! On a personal level, and also in most organizations on an organizational level, it's very sad to see. I go round lots of companies and they talk about innovation and staff engagement. Just let people unleash the talent. You, you bought these people in because you believed in them. Why can't you just trust them to get the job done? Now I'm not an anarchist. I'm not saying throw away everything in terms of procedures and governance. I'm just saying for goodness sakes, look at the companies that succeed. They unleash people. Uh, but most companies, unfortunately, shackle people.
[Sara] So this is a leadership topic?
[Stephen Carver] oh yes
[Stephen Carver] Yeah. And you're absolutely, you've nailed it in one. It's the difference between management and leadership. Now at Cranfield at the moment we run a big course for the civil service for the cabinet office, people that I never thought I'd work with because they're kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum from the way I think about the world, but I've actually learned to respect them because. They actually have a very difficult job to do – their Lords and masters the politicians tell them what to do and they have to make it happen.
But we are running a major course for them. And it's not project management, we take them through leadership. And there is a huge difference between change management and change leadership and you’re right Sara, most companies just do change management.
[Wayne] So Steven what would you say to the average person listening to this, they've counted themselves as a leader, but in the conversation we're having so far, they might be thinking: “actually I could be being a manager here” , how would you coach that person to make that shift from management to leadership so that their teams can step into this fearless way of working that your describing?
[Stephen Carver] Well, the first thing is you don't have to be one or the other. Okay. So let's be a little bit more sophisticated about what we're saying here. Sometimes I will be a manager – at the moment I'm having to manage moving my house and most of it is management – it's literally putting things in boxes. If anything goes desperately wrong then I'll have to be a leader. And certainly trying to get into the situation I'm now in – I’m moving house, a lot of leadership was required. So it's situational. Let me give you an example, do you remember the landing on the Hudson, the miracle on the Hudson? Do you remember Chesley B Sullenberger III as he landed an A320 on the river?
[Wayne] I can't bring myself to watch that film yet Stephen because I fly in planes too much.
[Stephen Carver] oh, well, in that case you are going to so love this. Okay, so let's have a look at flying then. I always say that a change project is a bit like a flight and I'd like you to think about the last time you flew? Did you want the flight [Wayne - Yes.] No you didn't, what did you want? [Sara – oh to get to the destination]. Well done Sara. So it's all about, um, people want the destination, they want to meet friends, they want to go home, whatever it is their flying for. The flight itself is a pain in the backside and I always say this to change managers: “you're nothing but trouble” What they want is the benefits of your change, not the change process itself. That's nothing but expense, hassle, irritation. So let's use the flying example. Um, last time you flew, you got into a thin metal tube on three wheels packed full of liquid high explosive taken to the end of a runway, accelerated up to 120 miles an hour [Wayne - I'm sweating], thrown into the air at 550 mph to 10,000 meters above planet earth, flown towards another piece of concrete, God knows where, de-accelerated from 550 mph down to zero. And you probably said: “argh, British Airways were three minutes late. Last time you flew, what was the name of the Pilot? [Wayne – yep] [Sara – no idea] [Wayne – good point] Did you thank the pilot? Did you even check there was a pilot on board? You see, they did a job, they did management. They took you from where you are to where you want to be. And it was very dull. Do you want exciting flights? No you just want to have your gin and tonic or whatever and arrive on time. So that's a conventional change management process.
[Sara] You obviously fly in a different class to me Stephen
[Stephen Carver] Please, I’ve spent most of my life in British Airways planes, I'm pleased to say I'm not anymore, but that's not British Airways, It's just I'm fed up with flying. But if we take the Hudson landing there he was doing everything by the book and they'd been trained and there's checklists and there's governance and there's protocol and quite right too, but then of course something happened and he stepped up from being a manager pilot to a leader pilot. And there's a wonderful YouTube video worth watching about 20 minutes, and he said the first thing that happened - because the birds basically hit the aircraft and got sucked into the engine and stopped both engines, statistically impossible by the way, it's trillions to one that this could happen - so he now found himself in an aeroplane packed full of liquid high explosive, very rapidly falling towards the ground. And the ground was Manhattan. Now, everyone admits that if he'd followed the procedures exactly and the protocols and the governance, everyone would have died because there wasn't time to do it all by the book. So he had to step up to be a leader. When you watch the video, um, he went through the normal transition, which is: “This can't be happening. This can't be happening to me. This isn't fair. I have too much to do. I can't do this. I'm going to die.” He said that took about 10 seconds. He said that’s the normal physiology as your adrenaline. And then they had to say, well, what can I do in this situation? And what he then bought to bear was basically 30 years of experience of pushing planes to their limits because he used to be a fighter pilot and all of those 30 years were distilled into the next 208 seconds and he did everything right. But if you watch the movie - which you should - as you can probably tell by this story, they tried to blame him for everything that happened. They tried to nail him and the same happens on projects, by the way, if people move to leadership, if it all goes well, even then they'll say you didn't follow the books exactly. And you think, well, I hadn't got time, I had to make leadership decisions so a lot of people in a lot of companies, even when they move into leadership, project leadership, change leadership mode, they just don't get rewarded. In fact, again, they just get blamed.
[Wayne] It’s pretty clear that the pilot had an intrinsic motivation there, but what you're drawing out is actually, the leader having an outcome or something that they want to see happen, even if it risks you know, the, the criticism or the naysayers around them.
[Stephen Carver] Or their career, because that's the other thing, most people are too scared and I understand it. In most companies everyone wants to hang on to their jobs - got a mortgage, kids, whatever, and so if you break the rules in any way, you're more likely to get shovelled out, or if you're trouble, you're going to get shovelled out.
And so to actually create an environment where people are willing to take the risk, uh, it's really quite a hard thing to do. So yeah, he had an intrinsic, as you said, motivation, which was to live for the next five minutes. But I would say that that probably wasn't his key motivation. What happened was him was he was determined to get the plane down safely because that was his job.
[Sara] Yeah and Stephen you described in that story, about, you know, the moment where they would have shifted to, right: “What can I do?” And I think, you know, we often talk about transformation if you like, or, or possibility change, it can be generated by a catastrophe where most people might switch from limited possibility to, you know, unlimited, which is okay, what can I do? But there's also generated and that's where, you know, Elon Musk is self-generating this paradigm, if you like, of unlimited possibility and smashing the conventions.
Where have you seen that cultivated within groups of people and how?
[Stephen Carver] So, um, the first thing I've got to say is, and it ties back to what we talked about earlier. Um, you have to be passionate about the change. Ghastly word, passion, I really hate it, but they are, uh, Elon Musk. Do you know what his passion is? Do you know what drives him? Everything he does? [Wayne & Sara – No] three words. GET. TO. MARS. That's it. That's his whole life. That's all he wants. How's he going to do it? He needs money. How do I get money? Uh, I'll do solar. Fine he does solar. How can I make more money? I'll do cars, I'll do cars. Um, and then he finally moved into SpaceX, but even then SpaceX, as you know, he's now building the world's largest telecommunication system called Starlink, and again, why did he do it so that he can earn lots of money. He aims to get 1% of the total internet traffic within the next few years. And as he said, that will make me $1 trillion a year. And that's just about going to get us to Mars. And you think, so everything in your life is just get to Mars. The answer is yeah.
Most people haven't got a vision like that. Their vision is to get to the end of the week without getting fired, which isn't really a vision that's just survival. And unfortunately companies encourage it. The other thing I'd say is that he doesn't care about failure. He bet his entire company a few years ago down to the last cent and almost lost it. They reckoned he was days away from total global bankruptcy. And he was asked about it afterwards and he said, “I didn't really worry too much, because if it had all gone bust, I built a new company.” Now, most people don't think like that and people say, well, it's allright for him, but it was his own personal money, he would've been personally bankrupt as well. So he's willing to put it all on the line. Most people won't. And that's why, I guess he's a great leader. He would encourage others to actually join him on that journey. And they'll take the pain if it all fails. But again, in most companies, most people are bothered about continuity. They're bothered about control. They want to know that we'll get paid at the end of the month. And so being charismatic and being a leader and doing real change really is incompatible with those things.
[Wayne] When I was a kid, Stephen, uh, if you've mentioned the word space, I would have said I would've said NASA. I think if you said to children's today space, I wonder what they'd say, whether they'd say SpaceX or Elon Musk or so what, what do you think NASA is doing in the face of this innovation or the sort of provocation that Elon Musk is the way he's doing it?
[Stephen Carver] Well, funnily enough, they were brilliant leaders in the Apollo years after JFK made his speech.
When he go to the moon. They then did everything, Elon Musk did, which was basically chuck all the conventional systems in the bin, get in lots and lots of very young people, average age 24, onto the Apollo mission. And they'd been given an insane deadline by JFK, you know, do it by the end of this decade, lunacy, impossible, it should take 20 years that's due at night and they did it. But interestingly enough, once they'd done it because they didn't have a vision that moved them on, they then became very moral bound. At NASA there was a guy called Gene Krantz. If you've ever watched Apollo 13, he's the mission controller. He's a real guy, amazing character. When he retired he made this speech - I've got it here so I'll read it word for word.
“NASA has now become just another federal bureaucracy beset by competing agendas and unable to establish discipline within its own structure. Although NASA has an amazing array of technology and the most talented workforce in history, it lacks top level vision. After the shuttle accidents NASA began its retreat from the inherent risks of space exploration. And during the last decade, its retreat has turned into a rut.”
Now that's from, you know, the great hero of NASA, not dissing his organization, but just saying: “No vision” And if you have no vision, then basically, yeah, you become a federal bureaucracy. And so a lot of kids don't want to go and work for quote, “a federal bureaucracy.” And that's why Elon Musk basically hoovered up all the smart kids coming out of university because he said, come and join me. And there are no guarantees, but I have vision, we’re going to Mars and apparently lots of them, they joined SpaceX and they kind of burn themselves out after a couple of years having a hell of a good time, but then say, “Hey dude, I'm going to go off, you know, um, surfing for two years” and it's like, yeah, “Hey dude, go for it.” This whole idea of progression through the company isn't conventional at all. People just come in, have a ball, make a change and then go away, invest a bit, possibly come back, possibly not. This is not a business model that most of my clients, conventional clients, are interested in, they want to see career progression and staff retention figures and all those sorts of things they want control.
[Sara] Yeah, so Stephen, you know what I'm taking from what you're saying is that limited possibility is solely around this fear for failure, survival, and protecting yourself, getting your pay check at the end of the day and doing what's needed. And you're saying to counter that, the antidote to this is actually true leadership, and have everyone buy into, you know, or be passionate about, uh, a vision that's actually big enough for them to give up the game of survival, protecting themselves, then that goes a long way to teams, groups of people, being able to create unlimited possibility. Would you agree?
[Stephen Carver] I would agree 100% Sara I really would, but its how do you do that? And it's only by example. Gerta a great German philosopher he said; “you have to take the first step, even if you haven't got all the details, take the first step because boldness has power and genius in it.” Um, and I would say that that's what more people have to do.
[Sara] Well I was interested in your link with the Institute of Risk Management, you know, this must be a fundamental paradox for you with your two worlds?
[Stephen Carver] Well, yes, and it's interesting when you talk to really good people at the Institute of Risk Management, you know, they understand this, and in fact, a lot of them say; “oh God, you know, in many ways we've created a monster all about don't take risks.” And of course the answer is no take risks. Um, but it's how you manage the risk. Um, as Erica Young, once said in one of her novels: “the trouble is we don't risk anything, you risk even more.” And I would agree with that. Most companies don't, they, they minimize risk. Um, and instead of trying to maximize the creative side of risk, uh, and the Institute Risk Management keep on saying this, but no one listens. They say, no, you're all about minimizing risk. No we're not. It's all about taking advantage of this in a positive way.
[Wayne] Steven, I know we've got a couple of minutes left of your time, so we're going to ask all of our guests this; what breakthroughs do you know of currently, that's not your own, about a person, business or non-profit that's giving you excitement or hope at the moment?
[Stephen Carver] Okay. Um, I'm working with a pharmaceutical company and they've found a way of scaffolding people's spines. A way of strengthening people's spines. And it's just a tremendous thing. It's a leap of faith and it could revolutionize the world and I see phenomenal leadership there, but each time we try and move the organization on, there are a lot of people who are scared and say, this could all go terribly wrong. I think, yes, it could. We could lose the company, but let's do it because it will transform the lives of millions of people around the world.
[Sara] So Wayne, you can really see how this possibility is the foundation and why we're starting with that shift in this podcast is a bit really interesting conversation we had with Steven about this.
[Wayne] What a brilliant storyteller. I bet his students really enjoy his, uh, his lectures.
[Sara] Absolutely. He brings it to life doesn't he. I enjoyed listening particularly to his experience about what he learn’t about leadership and how that distinguishes from management. You know, people who just get on, make it happen and come off script.
[Wayne] Yeah, somewhat provocatively we sometimes say that managers are reasonable and leaders are unreasonable. And I think he really brought that alive by sharing how it's leaders that can challenge the predictable or the well-trodden ways of doing things in that way being unreasonable.
[Sara] Absolutely. And interestingly, how he puts that, what limits possibility is mainly about fear, fear of failure, fear of change itself, fear of instigating change
[Wayne] Yeah and we'll get into some of that in the subsequent episodes won't we Sara? [Sara – yeah, absolutely]. Okay, so there are three things that we want to draw out that are crucial elements of this shift in thinking, moving from limited to unlimited possibility, and the first one is that the size of the ambition that we have. When we talk about unlimited possibility, we all have different radars of what is possible. Some could see further than others can for themselves and one another, but often people cannot see the real possibilities because of their perception.
[Sara] Yes, this is like that Elon Musk example, you know, what he really, really, really wants is to get to Mars and everything else that he, he is doing, whether it's cars, electric cars, uh, you know, is a means to getting there another way to look at this is if you imagine someone that's really unhappy about where they're living, they're living on a grind floor flat, and you say to them, okay, so where would you like to live?
And they say, wow, you know, uh, fed up with living on the ground floor flat because everybody passes me. You know, people that live above me, the noise levels and everything. I'd really like to live on the top floor. Yeah - the top floor be really good. As long as the lift works. Uh, you know, I won't have the noise of people on top of me. Nobody's passing my door and I'd have these amazing views. But we can already feel that sense of limitation there. So we've press a little bit further, then we ask. Okay. But you know, is that what you really want? Is that really where you want to live? Hm, no. I don’t think this is really where I want to live. I'd like to be in a village, you know, those older, lovely houses with the old stone work and all the old features and all that sort of stuff. And. Okay. You, you, you know, is that where you really want to be? Oh, well I'll think for a moment. No, actually I'd really like to live by the sea. Why is it that people need to be pressed and pressed and pressed to uncover what it is that they really want? Because it's important that the action we take is in, you know, it's entirely different when you say I want to go to the sea rather than getting to the top flat. So this act of leadership, getting out of you, what you really want, even if others have never heard it before, if you can't see it, you can't act on it. And also I would add, if you can't say it, you can't act in.
[Wayne] The way we think as humans isn't always fertile ground for possibility, because what we see as being possible is constrained by our past, our assumptions about what is true or not, and our predictions about the future, the mischief here is that the same dynamic has got us to where we are today and therefore much of it has been helpful in some way or another, but the successes we've had today also set the code of what's possible and how things should be done. The little voices, those inside our heads, are unbelievably strong in determining what possibility we see, the actions available for us to take, and how we judge the situation or person.
And it happens in an instant through that voice that we have in our heads. And we do this, we all do do this. It's like a judging machine operating all the, all the time about ourselves, our circumstance and others that impact the size of ambition and the possibility that we see. An example of this is as people thinking around their careers, stepping logically a well trodden career path, based on the norm or decisions they've made about, about what is possible for them or, or not possible.
But if you ask them, what do you really want? What are you really good at? What impact do you really want to make that maybe answer something it's highly different along with quickly a story about why they can't do that or why that role is out of reach, the possibility being out there unattainable. Where the existing mindset might be deciding, well, I'm just not old enough, I'm not experienced in that yet, I don't have enough credibility yet, et cetera.
[Sara] Most people think leader is a job title, the second point we want to draw out is true Leaders are those that generate possibility and ambition. Possibility can be come from from 2 sources. One from a crisis or circumstance (a pandemic, a financial crisis, an illness, a budget reduction) or possibility can be generated as an act of leadership, invented, dreamt from within. Creating results that we previously might have felt impossible.
Creating the results we want because ‘we say so’, its our vision, off script, offprotocol! Like JFK wanted a man on the moon within 8 years, despite this conventionally agreed that it will take 20 years! Again, What do we really want?
I was with someone just last week with a new role, leading an important strategic priority – when I asked him, what impact he really wants to make with this, he replied yes I need to think about that, but I pressed him and I could feel him in that possibility space, with no limits and 2 or 3 really authentic breakthrough ideas came out that didn’t exist – I felt his leadership in that moment.
[Wayne] That’s brilliant Sara, brilliant example. It’s vital that we can generate possibility and vision because without it we are likely to be constrained. Or we just simply wont take the quickest route
I think there are 2 schools of thought here, one that says to get bolder results we change the current set of circumstances or change the existing processes and structures. Which is very likely to cause predictable results and incremental gains.
Our view is that genuine transformation is enabled by creating a different possibility, a different vision, through declarations of the future, which actually alters who we are being, its like we’re on a different playing field and the chance for results we didn’t think were possible because a whole new set of actions and options show up. Most of us don’t take the time out for this re-imagining and we just kinda keep working at it.
[Sara] Oh, I've got a great example of that Wayne with, uh, an organization that, um, had had several partners for, to meet their travel needs. Um, but they still weren't happy with the existing partner that they had and they were about to start yet another search for a new partner and to change that and a new organization to partner there.
But what we did with them is looking at – “What is it actually you want here?” Yeah. “Do you want to change partners again?”
It's like, “oh no, not really. You know that that's such a difficult task, you know, we'd have to go through everything again.”
I said, “okay. So what is it you really want?”
And they said, “you know, a partnership, you know, where we're working together you know, the quality is great where the problems are solved quickly” And they started to describe what a partnership looks like. And when you take action from there, what they did then was actually have some very straight conversations, relationship management, all that good stuff, but, you know, they wouldn't have done that.They wouldn't have helped the partner grow. They would have just, you know, checked, swap them out for another, you know, another partner. So I think describes, you know, the point.
[Wayne] Leadership will always require both, but without a leader generating possibility or vision being declared, its like we on mass resort to the process or pre-defined pathways, or lets just change the partnership like a default, ticking boxes, assuming compliance to the rules achieves the outcome that’s needed, probably because we like certainty and do what we always do! Once however ambitions are clear, spoken – either within ourselves or from leaders - it attracts people to play full out – these ambitions wake us out of the grooves we get stuck in.
[Sara] there is a watchout here - the moment we generate an ambition, if we start to relate to this as a MUST WIN, we must achieve it at all costs, like our lives depended upon it, then it becomes a burden that causes us to constrict, our identity gets caught up in making sure we win – and we lose this ‘freedom to be’ freedom to generate the ambition as a possibility and discover ideas, curiosity for other views. We’ll explore this further in later episodes about how our identity and playing not to lose constrains possibility.
[Wayne] The ability to generate possibility is leveraged if we can really be present to others and the numerous possibilities presented to us every day, we call it really listening for possibility. If we hold ourselves as a strong expert this can feel paradoxical, as we will need to have that beginner’s mindset at the same time. Ultimately though we create a more powerful, resonating ambition for others.
[Sara] I love that, also we don’t want to limit our ambitions to what we already know how to do, which probably leads us to the third point. We want to draw out is what stops people role modeling leadership. That fear of failure and taking risks.
There is a distinct shift here in our relationship to fear and risk. With clear ambitions, we would say breakthrough thinking is what naturally arises - risks become something to take advantage of, risks point to what needs handling, not something to avoid. This I think is often mis-understood, at work we often hear people raise a risk and its like the whole conversation stops, the possibility ends and we look for a different path.
[Wayne] It is perfectly normal to have those little voices of doubts and fears, especially when we consider these types of bold ambitions, what it is we really, really want it. They're almost like a sign that we're in the good territory, that fear of failing that we'll be held accountable for something, you know, why, why did we go off script? Why did we start making it up in order to reach. But I think Steven reminded us. This is exactly what leadership is dropping. The, the well-worn scripts deviating from the process, the conventional the thing that got us results in the past, I think he said leadership is just get on and do it.
[Sara] So the fear of failing here is essentially the fear of relying on ourselves and not what we've been told to do the process to follow it. This is the leadership that of course lies within all of us discovering. We are all capable of doing that.
[Wayne] So we've covered a lot of ground today in this first episode, moving from limited to unlimited possibility, it's a foundational mindset shift. And let's begin thinking now about your week ahead, thinking about expanding what we might say, your radar of possibility, listening for possibility, challenging your current context of what is possible and not possible in your particular set of circumstances.
[Sara] Ask yourself, what do you really, really want? And yes, I am talking the Spice Girls here. Are you in that beginner's mindset or limiting yourself already to what you already know? Challenge yourself to bring your leadership, speak your vision, and start telling people and others around you about it
[Wayne] And do this in the knowledge that others will have little voice. When you speak possibility, it will cause others to have an internal or external dialogue about it, by design. Our job as leaders is to stay nonreactive and help people to navigate their little voices through to maybe seeing the possibility you see, perhaps for the first time by surfacing the assumptions that are present the beliefs, the myths, and together creating a new picture of what's.
We want to end this week with a quote by John Shaa, which really brings alive possibility. “The future is not someplace we're going, but one we're creating, the paths to it are not found but made and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”
Well, Sarah, that was fun, episode done.
[Sara] I think we can get used to this, I'm learning a lot already. Thanks for listening everyone. I hope this starts you thinking about unleashing your own ambition. For more information on this episode, there is a link in the show notes and to our website, don't forget to hit follow to catch future episodes. And of course, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Wayne] See you next time.
[Wayne] Our mindset is one of the biggest determiners of our success and is perhaps the biggest determiner of whether or not we achieve our dreams and ambitions.