August 28th marks the anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in history. While most people associate Martin Luther King Jr. with the words “I have a dream,” I think the words he spoke in his introduction were just as impactful. In this short section he speaks about how activists should proceed:
“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
With these words, Dr. King set the tone for the values and behaviors that he felt were needed in order to achieve success. He emphasized the culture for his civil rights campaign.
When you look at your business, what’s your campaign? Have you articulated and shared your dream for the organization? But even more importantly have you defined the values, the building blocks of culture, which are essential to get you there?
I’ve done that exercise several times in my own corporate career, and I continue to do it today with my clients. What brought us to today’s situation, even if it’s a pretty good culture, won’t sustain us into the future. First, more and more people are stepping up to address the culture in their organizations and if you don’t, you’ll get left behind. Second, the demographics of our workplace are changing with millennials sweeping in. And finally, our customers truly hold our future in their hands, or more accurately in their fingers. With a touch of the keyboard an unexpected customer experience can end up going viral, crushing our dreams.
Try this exercise:
Pick up a pen and paper. Yes, pen and paper!! It’s been proven that using pen and paper is much more effective than typing on a keyboard. At the top of the page write “I have a dream.” Now start describing everything you dream about for your organization. It should all be positive and not just moving away from the negative.
I have a dream that in 5 years my company will be….
I have a dream that my office space is filled with….
I have a dream that my co-workers are……
I have a dream that the work I’m doing is…….
Be as detailed as possible, describe as much as you can about the picture you see in your mind as you’re answering the questions. Just keep writing for 15 minutes.
Now that you’ve described this awesome workplace, what are the behaviors or values in this workplace that make it so special? Dr. King asked for the high plane of dignity and discipline, for creative protest, for a rise to majestic heights and the use of soul force.
Take this exercise and share it with your teams. Together, you can create a powerful vision of how you want your workplace to be. Just like Martin Luther King’s dream, your vision needs be more than the outcome you seek to achieve. It needs to be fueled by an inspired group of activists who share your dream.
Turn up the heat on your dream – dream big. And even more importantly, ignite the values and behaviors of your people. With them at your side, you can reach majestic heights!