Thinking big for 2021

Thinking big - sThe moment is here, will you be stepping up?

Over the years that I’ve been writing these articles, I’ve discovered it’s easier if I take the dog out for a walk first, to let my mind relax, wander, and come up with something important that I want to say.

Last week I was thinking about the article for my business leader audience when, halfway through the walk I got a phone call, and that week’s business leadership topic fell right into my lap. I’ve reproduced the article here because, if anything, it’s even more relevant for non-profit leaders.

The caller in question was a CEO from my non-profit community, who runs one of the UK’s biggest volunteering organisations. She is one of the people at the heart of the effort to organise and mobilise the enormous number of trained volunteers we now need, to support the vaccination programme and to help alleviate the wider pressures on communities, social care and the NHS, during this extraordinary Winter.

She hasn’t taken a day off over Christmas or New Year nor, as far as I can tell, for several months before that. But on the call, she was an absolute bundle of energy. She briefly updated me on progress, and we talked through the next steps in trying to bring together and harness the collective firepower of a vast coalition of voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes. And as I hung up the phone, I couldn’t help but think: cometh the hour, cometh the individual.

To say she has stepped up brilliantly to meet an extraordinary challenge is an understatement, and the same could be said for many of her peers in other, related organisations. Raising a volunteer army of that scale pretty much from from scratch is no small ambition, but having to work with so many other organisations to do it, purely on a practical level, makes the challenge even more daunting.

Collaborations are never easy – even in small coalitions, everyone has their own interests, goals, stakeholders and, yes, egos; and dysfunction is only ever one small slip away. In any normal circumstance, that vision of bringing together such a vast array of diverse leaders and their teams, to work collectively and non-competitively, in concert and at incredible pace, would be an impossible dream. But these are not normal circumstances.

This is a one-off. A defining point in time. This is the moment of transition between the pre-Covid world and the post-Covid world. This is the time for impossible dreams.

Because here’s the thing: everything is impossible until someone shows how it can be done. And in this moment of flux, where right across the board we are having to change how we work, how we live, how we think; the limits on what could be possible are at their lowest level in decades.

So, let me ask you this: if you had the resources, if you had the means, if you were guaranteed the rub of the green and the roll of the dice; if all the barriers were stripped away, what could your organisation become twelve months from now?

Forget about the problems, the pitfalls, the reasons why it could never happen. This is not the pragmatic dream. This is the impossible dream. So, seriously, what would your organisation need to become, what would it need to be and do in completely different ways, if it were to genuinely transform your community, your sector, your world?

Think about it. Write it down.

It might feel like the worst time in the world to be thinking so positively, optimistically, dreamily. But now is exactly the right time to start building out that impossible dream; to start working through what it might take, what new solutions, collaborations, partnerships, and ultimately what help you’d need, to make that dream come to life.

Because there’s no question that the moment is here. The question is, will you step up?

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