“Hope is a great name for a girl, but a terrible word in a business plan.” ~Chad Savage
I had been working as a store manager for a few months with a national retail chain. Chad was the district manager and had plucked me from the jaws of mortgage lending during the recession. Tasked with running a very busy store and leading the team to exceed performance standards we would often talk about how things were going and what I needed to focus on for the coming week.
During one of those conversations he had asked what my plan was for an important metric. I said something arbitrary like, “I hope we will…” and that’s when he uttered these infamous words.
“Hold on Nate. Hope is a great name for a girl, but a terrible word in a business plan. Either commit to it or don’t, but “hope” is a non-committal word. How can your team take you seriously if you won’t decide, but just hope for the outcome?” Chad Savage is a sage beyond his mortal years.
I’ve used this saying so many times now that its become a classic in my repertoire. I catch myself whenever I say hope and immediately reword the sentence. I’ve even caught myself answering questions posed by one of the members of my Board of Directors, saying something about how I “hoped we would”…only to stop mid sentence, decide if I was ready to commit or not, and start over with an absolute.
Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Saying we Hope something will happen is an abdication of responsibility in the statement. We give ourselves an out if things don’t go well, and we guarantee a win if they do. A desire for an outcome is not the same thing as a vision and a plan. Think about the last time you heard “I hope that blah, blah, blah” and then when it did in fact happen that way you hear “I knew it would blah, blah, blah.” If they knew the outcome why did they not make a certain claim in their statement at the beginning?
Leadership isn’t about casting a statement of hopeful wishes to the team. It is about claiming a position as an absolute, a position that you will not give up no matter what, and a point that your team can trust you will lead them to. Hope isn’t a destination (unless you’re going to Hopewell, Oregon), hope is a feeling that will change with the times and a goal that will change with your feelings. Tangible goals are based on reality and vision for the future.
It’s not an easy thing to stop saying Hope when talking about future performance or outcomes. It takes some determined thinking and courage to state a goal as an absolute. But when you can do it, you tell those with you that you believe in the vision and the plan. If you can’t say you will do it, then courage to say you can’t do it is just as important.
I’m not implying hope is not important in our lives. It is very important for a myriad of reason. But hope is not a good word in a business plan. I hope you find this post a bit thought provoking (see what I did there?).