It is most difficult to see beyond our current circumstances when so many walls and ceilings block our view…
And yet, just raising the roof is not enough…sometimes we need a breakthrough if we are going to take ourselves, our leadership, and our organization to a higher level.
As a child and as an adult I never lost my love for Charlie and his wonderful adventures with the zany Mr. Wonka within the fabled Chocolate Factory. Mr. Wonka showed us that we could make our imagination come to life…and Charlie taught us that we could turn our dreams into reality. They breathed possibility into our lives.
Stories that provide us lessons for life…and leadership. Wonderful stories such as Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
“We must go higher!” said Mr. Wonka. “We must go tremendously high! Hold onto your stomachs!”
Leadership requires risk. Especially if we are going to do something bigger and bolder than our current circumstances. Easier said than done. One of the most difficult pieces of leadership is being able to not only see the bigger and bolder…but being able to crash through the roof that holds us back from achieving it. The ceiling that we often create and place upon our own leadership and organization.
For Charlie…the ride in the Great Glass Elevator was all about risk…and chance. Would the elevator break through the roof? Or would it shatter into a million shards of glass? And what would be on the other side…so many questions and so many unknowns. So much risk. And yet, so much to be gained…
“Mr. Wonka!” Charlie shouted. “Don’t you think this is about high enough?” “Very nearly,” Mr. Wonka answered. “But not quite.”
As leaders, we often limit ourselves…and our potential. It is often easier to remain under the safety of our ceiling. We all feel safer when we have that roof over our head. And even when we have the confidence to risk punching through in our own Great Glass Elevator…we often allow the concerns of others to hold us back…to keep us grounded.
“That,” said Mr. Wonka, “is a chance we shall have to take.”
Which has to become our leadership truth. Sometimes the risk outweighs the possibility of failing…especially if we are ever going soar. If we ever hope to punch through to the next dimension of our leadership. We have to be willing to take that chance…knowing it is better to try and fail…than to remain and regret.
“Don’t talk to me now, please. Don’t disturb me. I must watch things very carefully at this stage. Split-second timing, my boy, that’s what it’s got to be. You see this green button. I must press it exactly the right instant. If I’m just half a second late, then we’ll go too high!”
As a leader, the most difficult place during times of change and risk is right before it actually happens. The moments before impact. There is anxiety, chaos and turmoil. A time when you constantly question what you are doing…and whether it will work. And just like Charlie, we are scared and we worry…whether we have the speed, whether we have the momentum that will carry us through to other side…
At which point many pull back and become risk averse…deciding to live under the roof and the confines we have created. Which is why it is important that we weigh what we are trying to accomplish. We have to determine…if what we are trying to do is worth the risk? Is the vision great enough to push us through the roof?
And very often, the higher and faster we go…the more frightened we become…of the impact to come, and what lies beyond.
That is where we embrace our greatest gains…as a leader and as an organization.
“My dear boy,” Mr. Wonka answered, “It’s not easy to punch a hole in a roof of the factory. It’s not easy to punch a hole in a roof as strong as that.”
Breaking through is not just about risk…it is also about momentum. It is hard to perservere and break through when we lack movement and momentum. We seldom punch through to a new dimension from a stop. Momentum is vital…if we are ever to gather the speed necessary to push us through to the next stage. As it was for Mr. Wonka…not only did he see the need for speed and momentum…it was also his unwavering belief that carried them through.
“You amaze me,” said Grandma Joesphine. “Dear lady,” said Mr. Wonka, “you are new to the scene. When you have been with us a little longer, nothing will amaze you.”
And the more often we are willing to punch through our current reality…the easier it becomes. It becomes less of an event and more an ongoing process of growth.
What roof in your organization is keeping you grounded? What roof is it time for you to punch a hole through? And what Great Glass Elevator do you need to put your trust…and your leadership in if you are going to soar?
“We must hurry!’ said Mr. Wonka. ‘We have so much time and so little to do! No! Wait! Strike that! Reverse it!” -Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator