Hope is a Wonderful Thing

I said it yesterday that hope has two edges. Hopelessly believing things will get better without changing them, I think, is a terrible thing — both as individuals and as organizations.

I cited one example from 9-11, and perhaps a bit harshly. I was trying to make a point that there are times we need, no matter how difficult, when clinging hopefully that a missing person from one of the Twin Towers is somehow alive prevents you from moving on with your life. Yes, with a big hole in your heart, but move on we must. The one hope is that our lost ones are with God, that death is a lie. That is a good side of hope and faith.

Another good side of hope is when it actually spurs positive action. That it converts us from “lost” to become a “difference-maker. The company in a seeming death-spiral normally fails to come out of the tailspin. But people from the bottom to the top can resolve collectively to turn their hope into impact.

Readers of this blog will know that I am a convert to the concept of delivering as near a perfect customer experience as is possible. Companies that fail to do this in today’s economy are ramming into a concrete wall. Truly, they are the ones hoping against hope and become examples of hope being a terrible thing. Positive impact comes by changing negative situations into positive situations. The base of faith and the base of delivering a great customer experience have common ground: Serving others.

Customer experience is based on serving customers better than competitors care to. It becomes a roadmap, a picture, a portrait that everyone in the company sees as vividly as their own reflection in a mirror.

It has been many moons since I last wrote about one of my favorite words: CONTEXT. If you happen to see me driving along the expressway, you will see my license plate says CONTEXT. People often ask me why I have that word on my license plate. They want a short snappy answer, but instead get greeted with about 5 minutes where I try to help them see the importance of understanding context to their own lives. Context is the sum total of conditions that surround any particular relationship or circumstance. You cannot have a positive impact on any situation unless you take the time to understand the context of what you are dealing with.

A company in a downward spiral. A company totally focused on the current quarter’s profit. A company where the culture encourages in-fighting. A company that fails to allocate scarce resources properly. A company focused on the CEO’s agenda to the exclusion of the employee’s needs or the customer’s needs. These companies have not looked around to understand the context of their situation.

Unless you are seized with the notion of serving others, your future as a company will fail to become what it could have been. Context requires observation, listening and the wisdom to see the heart of the organization. When you know the needs of others, you will create better products, you will have a brand that delivers true value to customers, you will have an environment where employees look forward to working in. There will be a spirit of celebration.

This spirit is the energizing force that can enable any organization to reach up and out. That can turn context into a powerful competitive advantage. Where everyone locks arm-in arm to achieve greatness — by serving others.

So you can look back ten years at a New York City amidst gloom, anger, loss. You can look back at flight attendants, firemen, police, people flying out of buildings at the action taken by an organization that failed to see the real context of New York or of America. Today, I heard the mayor of New York claim that almost twice as many people work in New York as did a decade ago.

This is a context of positive hope enabled by positive impact to make things better. Loss sure! But not defeat. So that’s the two sides of HOPE. One terrible. One wonderful. It depends upon the context.

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