In praise of Hope
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 45 seconds - about the time it takes to boil the kettle and find the nice teabags
Andrea McGeachin, Amack’s CEO, on why hope springs eternal for her, both at work and at home
Hope is everywhere (thankfully!). It’s written about in poetry, in novels. It is the central theme of many a film. In times of crisis, hope is where priests and politicians turn, and it’s little wonder. For Emily Dickinson, who wrote that “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all”, the best thing about hope was that it asked for nothing back: “Yet never - in extremity it asked a crumb of me.”
Over the last couple of years, we’ve heard a lot of talk about ‘hope’. While the pandemic raged, rainbows appeared in windows all over the country, a reminder that better times were to return; a symbol for everyone from Noah as he looked out over the flood, to Dorothy who dreamt of a magical land over the rainbow. As always, hope asks nothing of us, but is simply there when we need it - the first step on the path to achieving our dreams.
Hope is something that has always been important to me, though. In fact, I made ‘hope’ one of my goals when I thought about what I wanted for myself and for my business at Amack. You might expect a businesswoman to choose something a little more measurable, specific, even cut-throat, perhaps, but I believe that hope is the starting and central point for all achievement. Let me explain.
As Simon Sinek points out in his Ted Talk (it’s one of my absolute favourites - have a listen here), our brains are biologically wired to make belief central to all we do. As customers and clients, some of us will be persuaded by the ‘what’ a company is offering us (the product and the service), and more of us will be persuaded to invest by the ‘how’ (the way they do business and the steps to getting there) but if you want real customer loyalty and, more importantly, true buy-in from your team, too, you have to appeal to the ‘why’ part of the brain which deals in beliefs and hopes. Truly successful people and small businesses do well because everyone got on board with their hopes and dreams.
This isn’t business psychology; it’s biology, it’s how human brains are formed - the limbic system controls thoughts, feelings and memories. It’s why so often we make a decision ‘with our hearts’ rather than our heads or choose to go with ‘a gut feeling’, even though sense looks as though it ought to prevail. It’s why, out in the wild, zebras are able to group together and move territories safely as a pack, even taking giraffes and wildebeest into their group for the ride. They don’t have a plan or a USP or a pitch; they just have hope and a shared belief, and that allows them to work collaboratively towards what they all want. I’m a bit of a zebra fan for that reason - you can read more about what we can learn from zebras on our website.
It’s this shared hope that we always try to get to with our clients here at Amack, way before we begin to build a plan. As Simon Sinek says, “Martin Luther King had a dream; he didn’t have a plan”. If you have the hope and the belief, your team and your customers will work with you because they have that same hope and belief, not just because they want the end product, and that’s the outcome you want.
When we first speak with a new client at Amack, we always ask what their ‘hope’ is. We often get a nervous laugh and a tilt of the head, but always, the answer comes. We look not just at what their hope is but why it’s worthwhile and necessary, why it matters, why it will improve the world, why others should buy into the belief, too. The incessant ‘why’ might sound like a four-year-old but I tell you, four-year-olds know a thing or two about hope. They know that anything is possible if you really want something and that you have to ask questions and get all the information to help you reach the thing you dream about.
Once we know what and why the hope is, we like to visualise the hope a little. What will it look like? How will it feel? What will the achievement be? It could be as big as a new product launch or expansion into another country, or as small as a new, streamlined process that makes life easier for a business. The size is not important here - small hopes are just as valid as huge hopes.
The time we spend on all this is time well spent. Once we understand what your hope is, and you understand how you can get your teams and key stakeholders to hang onto that hope, too, then (and only then) is it time to make a plan.