We have grown so accustomed
to the solitary drive of personal ambition
that the power of a shared ambition
is often obscured or forgotten
I had written a previous version of this post, it had some neat quotes, a few insights and some guidance, you know the sort of stuff. I decided not to post it in the end because it felt a bit too flat, too orderly and too tidy. Ambition is something that should be active, that drives us to do things; it spurs us on. It seems to me it is more to do with emotion and feelings than we sometimes recognise. My last post talked about ambition on an individual basis but many of us work as part of a group, whether you are a mighty micro of two people or a multinational of thousands you know that you achieve more when everyone has some common sense of direction.
While I often find myself talking with people about their organisational vision or purpose, it is less common that I hear people talk directly about their collective ambition as a group or organisation – although you might expect that the two things should be inseparable. This may, at least in part, be because ambition can have more negative than positive inferences, particularly for those working in the nonprofit, public or social sectors.
What is your unspoken desire for your group, team or organisation?
Have you ever had the opportunity to express it?
There are a few available resources that provide guidance on building collective ambition, Ready and Truelove’s (2011, HBR) The Power of Collective Ambition being amongst the most widely quoted and referenced. It is a good read and gives really useful examples from their research outlining what they describe as the seven elements necessary for collective ambition. They include the ‘Compass’ that the Four Seasons Hotel chain used to reposition itself as an example:
However, it seems to me there are issues to consider before thinking about the steps to take or the elements to include – trust and hope are at the core of a strong collective ambition. Trust is important because it allows everyone to share their sense of ambition openly, and to recognise and debate the fact that there may be multiple or contradictory ambitions.
Hope is a factor because it can help build alignment and give the group the willpower it needs to achieve its aspirations. Where ambition brings drive, hope brings vitality and courage. It helps us take the pathways needed and to move towards the goals derived from our ambitions.
If I met with your team and asked everyone what they thought the ambition of your organisation was what do you think they would say?
How closely might that align with your purpose, vision or mission statement?