How to Stop Crushing Dreams and Maximize Aspiration
Energize people by speaking into their aspiration.
A young employee says they aspire to become a manager. You view them through the lens of “NEEDS to IMPROVE.” Maybe they need to complain less and work harder, for example.
It’s natural to notice weakness. Train yourself to maximize aspiration.
Maximize aspiration with curiosity:
- Aspiration: Earn a leadership position.
- Curiosity: If you were leading, what would you do differently today?
- Aspiration: Lead great meetings.
- Curiosity: What would be true of you if you were already leading great meetings?
- Aspiration: Coach team members.
- Curiosity: What do you love about being coached? How might you bring that experience to others?
5 ways to maximize aspiration:
#1. Believe aspiration is positive energy.
#2. Don’t rush to fix people when they express aspiration. Everyone falls short of aspiration. They don’t need you to remind them that they haven’t made it yet.
#3. Provide opportunity for people to connect with their aspiration by being curious.
Everything that gets done runs on the engine of energy.
#4. Reject the urge to offer wisdom when someone declares an aspiration. A young leader declares an aspiration to coach their direct reports. You know what they SHOULD do before they finish declaring their aspiration. Stay curious.
Curiosity enables connection.
You seem wiser when you help people explore their own aspiration. Giving instruction before you understand their aspiration makes you come off as arrogant, pushy, and a know-it-all.
#5. Help people accept responsibility to fulfill their aspiration. But don’t use aspiration to bludgeon people into submission.
Aspiration requires courage. When you take someone’s aspiration seriously, they might feel intimidated. Chill out.
It takes time to grow into an aspiration. Ask, “How can I help?” (But never do more for others than they are doing for themselves.)
How might leaders accidentally crush people’s dreams?
How might leaders use someone’s aspiration to energize their performance?
The Four Aspirations of Great Leaders (LinkedIn)
10 Things Successful People Do to Reach Their Dreams (Life Hack)
Once you’ve connected, gotten curious and learned from the Other
more specifically WHERE their aspiration stems FROM (what’s driving it) and
WHAT it can LEAD to (in the future)
FIND an opportunity for them TODAY to practice it in some small, demonstrable Way.
Coach, and lead, at once, TODAY,
with a fierce urgency of NOW.
Toay’s Aspirations are the Self leading the Self to tomorrow’s Inspiration,
which can benefit us all, in a win/won/win scenario.
OUR luck is favored by THEIR preparedness.
Thanks Rurbane. It feels like purpose – that can be expressed today – takes people where they want to go.
A few years ago I just could not connect with one of my grandsons. His aspiration was Paw Patrol (he is older today and does not like to admit his Paw Patrol love). After he went to sleep one night I studied Paw Patrol; like who would of thought each of these characters have a BIO along with a detailed personality. It was a late night for me, I can be a slow learner. I had to get curious about his aspirations; life is not always about people gathering around the leader to learn. The following morning, I raised the blinds to a large window in our dinning room. The window was filled with pictures and a story line. One of those memory making days — good post to ponder as we interact with people.
Thanks Scott. It’s interesting that OTHER people’s aspirations aren’t like ours!! Your great story is a reminder that we have to accept people where they are, if we want to connect with them and fuel their energy. I want to be your grandson. 🙂
Believe aspiration is positive energy.? My most notable observation about others around me resides in whether they aspire with positive energy (I call it passion) or not. I am too often let down when I do not see consistent positive passion regardless of the responsibilities and expectations given to others. I have many discussions with my 25 year old college attending son about this and he says he sees very few who have “passion” and that most just seem to be plogging forward w/o any passion in what they do. Since I’ve raised him to have passion in all that he does he (as is usual) puts their attitudes on this back to their parents (most notably their fathers). Do others see this out there or is it just me?
Roger: Yes, I was an adjunct professor and was so deflated by the lack of passion, it was one of the reasons I decided to end teaching for a while. And, I tried many things to bring back the passion, including activities, informal discussions, etc. But I just got the sense that students are under so much stress, that they were not finding passion in most anything. It was very sad to me. I don’t have the answer, but this is such a critical topic. I appreciate being part of the conversation and hearing what others have added.
Jill Its interesting you mention your college campus experience. My son attends Cal State University Los Angeles here in SOCAL. CSULA is known as a hot bed for demonstrations against pretty much everything (think whatever Soros will fund). It is not uncommon for 1/2 of students in my son’s classes to exit or not show up if a demonstration is occurring. The professors usually ask the remainders “why did you not leave”. The answer is usually “I’m paying for this class or “my parents (think fathers mostly) would kick my ass if I left”. So the passion for just even attending class in some cases is not there. I’m not sure about the stress issue as stress is (IMHO) self imposed contributing, I just believe there are a lot of lost youth who have not been served well by their parents or even the education system itself to develop passion for what you are doing and that after graduation this carries over to work. My son and I talk about this almost daily as he attempts to take the passion I have and put it into his own life. Then again per his peers I am an anomaly as a Dad deeply involved with my son (and my daughter before) and his education.
I am in my early 50’s and I consider myself a late bloomer. Also, I did not take the traditional path to earn my college degrees. I did attend college right after high school in 1985, but took a lengthy break and returned to school in the mid 90’s. The college admission reps did nothing but push “job, job, and job..” into my mind. And I really bought into it that, too; hook, line, and sinker. I truly believed that if I did not graduate with a 4-year degree I would never find a job and be successful. However, I have always wanted to become a professional novelist so I majored in English Literature. Writing is my passion and words are my world. I was an older student and I believed every word the admission reps told me. I can only imagine how someone right out of high school could easily go along with the program and be none the wiser.
Colleges and universities are in business to make money. And these institutions of higher learning are not in the business of encouraging students to pursue their passion(s). That is reality. The workplace is about business and not showing people how passionate they can be about their lives.
Hopefully, in the future people will embrace “passion” and “life.” It is sad to miss out on the beauty of life everyday. The human experience. Humans are free. Humans should not miss out on life.
In the Ten Commandments, starring Charleston Heston who plays the part of Moses, there is a beautiful and heart touching line that he speaks:
“There is a beauty beyond the senses Nefretiri. Beauty like the quiet of green valleys and still waters. Beauty of the spirit that you cannot understand.”
As a pragmatic designer well past youthful passions, I can attest to the beauty beyond the moment … and passion is still … the thing. Thank you, ZK.
Part of this would require that what people aspire to is within your gift to deliver. If you only ever hire leaders/managers from outside, it’s of little value to get your subordinate to aspire to a leadership position.
“Within your gift to deliver”
What a beautiful, pregnant statement.
Sometimes leadership is about labor (sustinence),
as opposed to work (fabrication),
action (deliberate intent), or
Only in the Other do we discover.
I’ve read a few studies that found a reciprocating effect between transformational leadership and emotional intelligence of followers. Employees with high emotional intelligence excite transformational leaderships. Likewise, invigorating your employees can fill them with aspirations to succeed and even exhibit behaviors of organizational citizenship, which is where employees go above and beyond their regularly assigned duties. So, what does this tell us regarding employee aspirations? In order to achieve higher goals, one must feel free and welcomed to step outside of the traditional boundaries of their position. A leader might inadvertently shut that door by not appearing to be genuinely interested in helping. On the other hand, a leader can utilize someone’s aspirations as a point of excitement on which certain transformational leadership practices can now pivot.
Hi Dan, another great and inspiring post! This post reminds me a lot of my relationship with my manager. She is only a few years older than me but has found the perfect balance of boss and mentor. She energizes me by speaking into my aspirations and goals. Before she started her position, she took the time to meet with each member one-on-one to discover our aspirations and long-term goals. She has continued this activity and checks in with our progress regularly. She does a great job of guiding us and holding us accountable. My aspirations are to one day become the leader of my lab. One thing she does that I really appreciate is, when I come to her with a question, she always asks how I think I would respond so we can compare her answer with mine. This gives me practice making big decisions on my own and gives me the confidence and reassurance I need.
One way a leader may inadvertently crush someone’s dream is to continuously berate them for doing things wrong or in a way that they disagree with. Rather than highlighting their faults and essentially showing them why they are not ready to achieve their aspirations, a leader should highlight what they did correctly and talk through how their mistakes can be avoided in the future.