Whether or not you consider yourself a marketer or a salesperson, one way or another you’re telling stories all the time. It happened the moment you traded in your college rucksack for that nice Kenneth Cole leather briefcase; it happens each day when you talk (or don’t) in meetings, when you speak (or don’t) about topics that are a stretch for you, when you write an email (or don’t) in a voice that stands out from the crowd.
Your organization is also telling stories all the time, and the easiest, most obvious water-cooler scuttlebutt is about your story-reality gap: how the software suite that your company just touted in a $3 million, 30-second Superbowl ad is just a mash-up of so-so apps that were just rebundled and re-branded; how the ink wasn’t even dry on the financing plan when it was put in front of your Series B investors; how you don’t have everything just right yet, so how can your CEO be talking about the next phase of growth?
Here’s a dirty little secret: that gap is supposed to exist, it has to exist, it’s the gap between where you are now and where you’re going. And without this gap, you might never get there.
If your organization isn’t living this gap then it’s going too slowly, it’s dreaming too small, it’s getting too comfortable in its little sandbox. This doesn’t mean you always have to grow fast – in terms of revenues, employees, customers – but it means that you have the potential to teeter on the edge of exactly what you know you can deliver today and what you dream of delivering tomorrow. Daring to dream out loud is just the first step.
Never lie, and never ever make promises to your customers that you can’t keep (nothing spreads faster than stories about broken promises).
But the world understands that five-year plans are aspirational. You’ll never rally the troops with small dreams.