Nostalgia can have an important place with your team or organization. But if you’re not careful, nostalgia can hijack your vision.
“We may be small now, but there was a day…”
“We may not have a lot of impact now, but there was a day…”
“We may be struggling now, but there was a day…”
When you hear these kinds of wistful, nostalgic reflections it’s a warning sign that vision has been replaced by a memory…
I was once part of a team who couldn’t seem to stop wallowing in the memory of how we had rallied to provide community aid during a natural disaster…15 years earlier! Clinging to that memory had seemingly stopped us from moving forward.
Nostalgia had hijacked vision.
The challenge for leaders is that accomplishments of the past are very often the “happy place” for people on the team. People love to relive achievements of a former time and they’ll cling to these memories at the expense of grasping a new, forward-looking vision.
So how do you move people past their former glories and towards a fresh, exciting new vision?
The most effective leaders I know handle this transition sensitively and masterfully with these 3 strategies.
1. Don’t blast the past
It can be frustrating for a forward-looking leader to have to deal with all of this nostalgia. But resist the temptation to cast aspersions on those former glories.
If you begin ridiculing or scoffing at earlier accomplishments you’ll only alienate those you need to bring forward with you.
2. Celebrate the values, not the accomplishments
Remind people of the important values that were represented in those former achievements.
The leader of our nostalgia-obsessed team did just that. Wisely, he began to remind us that what was worth celebrating was not the activity itself, but the value of community impact it had represented.
3. Leverage this value to create forward energy
“We lived out that value before…It’s time to live it out again!”
That was the rallying cry our leader used to build a bridge between the former memory and the new vision.
He created discussion forums where people could openly share their own perspective on what an updated, relevant expression of that value might look like today and in the future.
The point is, effective leaders harness the energy of the memory to provide fuel for a new vision.
If your team has seen the vision hijacked by a memory, embrace these strategies.
“There was a day…” can soon become “I have a dream.”