Create Your Narrative
“What’s the best way to excite my team to charge forward?”
The young entrepreneur asking the question started a new project. He wanted to help students prepare for the ISEE Test. You can check it out at www.iseepracticetest.com. He felt he needed to focus his team’s attention and create enthusiasm about the opportunity ahead. The business started to pull in cash, and he recognized he was presented with a growth opportunity. To seize the opportunity he needed the team to double the effort. His dilemma was how to build focused commitment and excite rapid action. And so he asked: How can I best mobilize the team to accelerate the development of our service?
I was born to guide these kinds of conversations. This is what I do. I help executives and entrepreneurs imagine new futures and accelerate the journey to realize these futures. We engage in a series of conversations. I ask questions that build awareness, generate options and mobilize action.
“If you are wildly successful, where will you be in 12 months? What will students say about learning with the help of ISEE Practice Test? How many students will be using your service next year? What’s the total addressable market and what growth trajectory is available for you? Now that you are expanding into SSAT Practice Test, how will you apply your learning to accelerate the launch?” were some of the questions I asked.
He quickly showed me his excel calculus. The numbers were compelling. My next question was, “What must be true for you to seize this opportunity? And, what must you accomplish in the next three months to deliver on these goals? How must your offerings evolve in order to create the momentum of traffic and revenue growth?”
As he talked through these topics, the picture came into focus. I was getting excited with him. “You are in ‘the forest’ of all that you are doing. All that your team is able to see is the individual ‘trees,’ not the forest. The ‘trees’ are the tasks and activities you lined up for them, but they don’t see the bigger picture that you see. They don’t see the forest and they don’t perceive the journey map you are leading them through. To excite them you need to tell them a story. You need to create a narrative. You need to describe a compelling picture.”
“Give me an example,” he said.
“We are at a crossroad,” is how you begin. It will get people’s attention immediately. Then proceed to describe how you got to this crossroad and what lies ahead. “First we had an idea. We discovered an unmet need. Students who wanted to prepare for the ISEE Test had very limited options. We gathered data and researched the market to validate the idea. That was phase one: an idea with potential.
We then embarked on phase two. In phase two we developed our solution and launched the service. With a minimal budget, we bootstrapped ourselves and launched our service. We hoped to test our hypotheses. We wanted to see if the market will respond and validate our idea by purchasing our offering. And guess what, the numbers surprised us. Shortly after launch purchases started to come in. I’d wake up in the morning and discover another two students and then another three found us, and so on, which is why I believe we are now at a crossroad.
Not only has the market given us a proof of concept. The purchase patterns reflect a significant interest. This means we have an opportunity. A truly great opportunity. But we must change gears. We must realize that we’ve reached a crossroad that requires us to shift from ‘testing the product’ to ‘building a complete solution.’ That’s what the next phase is about. Phase three is about delivering a complete solution with evaluation and additional improvements. If we can climb this hill in the next 60 days, we will be ready ahead of the school year and will be setting ourselves for dramatic growth. What do you say team? Do you believe we can accelerate our work to meet this date-with-destiny? Can we conquer this next hill in 60 days?”
By framing a narrative that shows the journey plot, you convey to your team your appreciation of what they’ve made possible and what you envision going forward. When your team shares the picture of the future and the journey story everything is possible.
Creating the narrative, telling the story of the future is leadership.
© Aviv Shahar